Culturally diverse young leaders in the Uniting Church gathered in Sydney last week for three days of sharing and learning from each other.
The Inter Synod Next Generation Leaders meeting brought together 15 people from five UCA synods – WA, SA, Vic/Tas, NSW/ACT and Qld – at Uniting Theological College in North Parramatta.
Ten different cultural backgrounds were represented – Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, Iraqi, Korean, Taiwanese, Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian and Filipino. Six of the 15 in attendance were born in Australia.
Synods have brought Next Generation leaders on staff in the past few years in recognition of the importance of engaging this demographic in the life of the Church.
Intergenerational ministry within a multicultural church is one of the most important ministries, but at the moment not every synod, presbytery or congregation has suitable resources.
For most of these gifted and capable young leaders, this gathering was the first time for them to meet personally and work intentionally with other synods.
On Sunday, some participants also joined the Parramatta Leigh Uniting Church Fijian congregation with Sam Chan, 2nd Gen Pastor at Glenunga Uniting Church in Adelaide doing the preaching.
The idea of bringing them together was proposed late last year by Pastor David Busch of the Queensland Synod.
David wanted to send Noah Kim – the Multicultural/Cross Cultural Next Generation Project Officer with the Queensland Synod – and his team to visit NextGen colleagues in NSW/ACT and Vic/Tas Synods.
The concept was expanded by Assembly Multi/Cross Cultural Ministry into a gathering for all Synod Next Gen leaders to share resources together.
Emele Feao, a second generation Tongan from Brisbane was very glad to be part of this gathering. She told me that she has learned lots of ideas from others.
Joshua Ocampo, a second generation Filipino from Melbourne also appreciated this opportunity to share and learn from other synods.
Here are some of the priorities that the NextGen leaders believe need to be considered by the wider church in the next few years:
Leadership Development for 2nd/Next Generation. One of the important strategies is to achieve this is mentoring. Mentoring is culturally appropriate in a multicultural congregation.
Cultural Intelligence is needed for leaders who work within a multicultural church. Understanding a particular context of community is so important in ministry, including children’s ministry.
Worship for NextGen groups is based on forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation – and we need multilingual aspects, signs, symbols, non-language-specific resources and intentional inclusion of young people’s input.
All believe that ‘what connects us is our passion for Christ in spite of our diverse backgrounds and opinions. It’s our love for Christ that brings us together’.
Our love for Christ creates a space of grace where each of us belongs.
And everyone is really looking forward to our next gathering.