Thirty Korean leaders from across the Uniting Church were renewed in spirit and faith over four days at the annual Korean Ministers National Conference.
I was privileged to join with ministers from South Australia, Victoria, NSW and Queensland at Holy Spirit College in Bellambi in North Wollongong from 3-6 July.
The theme for Conference was ‘Your Story, Our Story’ based on John 4: 29, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
Korean National Conference (KNC) Chair Steve Lee emphasised the importance of sharing our personal story in the light of the Gospel story. He drew this theme from the Gospel Yarning Conference organised by Synod NSW/ACT.
Steve said each story is unique and contributes to building a healthy congregation and community.
I know how important it is for CALD leaders to tell their story in their heart or mother language because what they are sharing is so important in their spiritual life.
Some of the Korean Ministers present who are serving in an English-speaking context told me how this gathering is so important for their faith journey. It’s refreshing and energising for their spiritual life because they can speak in Korean and share from their hearts.
Former Principal of the United Theological College Rev. Dr Clive Pearson was one of the presenters at the Conference.
He began by offering a comparison.
“When I was a student there were 20 of us in our year, 18 were male, 18 were pakeha (Anglo), 18 were going to be ordained.”
“When I taught the same class 13 years later, there were 50 in the class. Half were men, half were women. Half were pakeha, the other half were a mix of Pacific, Maori and Korean. Only six were candidates for ordination.”
Clive suggested that in the past theological beliefs had been formed by ordained men from western cultures. He then asked how many in the room would fit into that category. There were only three.
It led to a deep reflection on how uneasy it might feel to have someone else determine your beliefs and practice.
I shared about the importance of missional, ministerial and intergenerational stories in the life of 12 national conferences within the UCA.
The missional story is the heart of most migrant communities. They strongly believe that their migration to Australia is primarily about God who has led them coming to this wonderful land of opportunity and blessing.
The ministerial story is the migrant communities’ answer to God’s calling in their life to serve God in the new land. This calling is for the whole family. This is their life-giving offering to God.
The intergenerational story is a commitment and recognition of the need for the community to prepare their next generation of leaders. For many migrant communities within the UCA, developing leadership in the second generation is a key focus.
Levon Kardashian from Middle East National Conference shared his personal story as a Christian Arminian who lived in Lebanon and now in Australia. He spoke about his experience living with the Muslim community in Lebanon.
President of the Uniting Church Stuart McMillan was present on the final day of the conference.
It was noted that Korean women leaders were unable to attend the conference and share their stories.
Steve Lee said ‘I know there are wonderful Korean women ministers and leaders. As the chair of KNC, I feel sad that our sisters were not able to attend.”
In seeking to encourage more women in leadership within the Church he asked, “Please pray and support that ‘yours and our’ Korean sisters feel encouraged to participate not only in KNC but also in the wider church.”
For the first time, a number of second generation Korean leaders attended the conference. They are smart, bold, faithful and committed to sharing the Gospel story in Australian context.
It was wonderful to see the ways the KNC Ministers gathering provided a space for grace for those present to share stories, to be uplifted in spirit and to be rejuvenated in their UCA journey.