The Advocate for the Being a Multicultural Church Circle is Rev Dr Matagi Vilitama.
We asked Matagi to tell us about himself.
My full name is Matagi Jessop Don Vilitama
What I’m doing now: working with the young people to organise the very first Niue National Youth Conference.
My greatest achievement is being married for 28 years with 6 plus children.
My parents and grandparents always taught me to love and respect all people.
Someone who inspires me is a child.
My favourite books of the Bible are Psalms and Philippians.
The last thing you watch on TV was ABC’s Q&A.
The future of the Uniting Church is interesting.
Why I am passionate about this Circle:
The other day I was having the very first Bible study with the English Conversation Group who are using our church hall. The study was arranged by their leader who is a Cantonese-speaking Chinese member of our local church. There were nine of us altogether: six women and three men, mostly from Asian background. I was the only Pacific Island person.
I was concerned about the adequacy of my preparation for the lesson on Jesus and the Bible. I did not feel that I was well prepared for the level of comprehension of a group who have English as their second or third language. I was mindful of how language is a way into culture and that much of another’s culture lies hidden from those who do not belong to that culture. However, during our sharing I found myself astounded. I was reminded again of our common humanity and also our common citizenship and discipleship in Christ. We are richly diverse and yet how very similar we are as human beings. Assumptions often times deceive us.
I see the role of the Being a Multicultural Church Circle as working beyond the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities. It needs to permeate the boundaries and scope of the other Circles and vice versa.
Raising awareness, promoting and resourcing the aspirations of the UCA as a diverse church that seeks to serve the multicultural kingdom of God will involve working cross culturally at all levels. It is not enough to make pronouncements anymore and pay lip service to the statements and claims that the Uniting Church has made.
We are reminded again and again by important statements of the past that cultural and linguistic diversity is very much in the DNA of the church. This vision is not something that belongs to some privatised, sectional or spiritual sphere. It is not something we ‘ought’ to be. It is the reality of the church now – and has been for some decades. Insisting on structures that work against this reality is not being true to where we are in Christ Jesus.
It is my hope that this Being a Multicultural Church platform will provide an opportunity for all within the UCA – and beyond – to converge and share the richness of God’s love with each other and all the world.
My new Bible study group are not UCA members. I don’t have any intention of making them become so. Some of them have not read the Bible but I am called to love them and respect who they are as brothers and sisters. I came away from the study learning more than I had expected. I am willing to learn just as much as I am to share my faith.
How much more we will learn through sharing our stories within and outside the newly identified seven Circles of the UCA Assembly. I am grateful to be part of this circle of Being a Multicultural Church and indeed looking forward to sharing with you all on this journey.
More to know about Matagi
Trained in Niue and New Zealand, Matagi began his ministry in the Ekalesia Kerisiano Niue (EKN) serving for 12 years in a number of roles including President. While at EKN he was a member of the Pacific Conference of Churches, involved in cross-cultural, multicultural and ecumenical programs. Since moving to Australia, Matagi has served in the UCA for nine years at Carlton-Ramsgate Uniting Church in the Georges River Presbytery in the Synod of NSW/ACT. He has a PhD in ecclesiology from Charles Sturt University.
Panel Members of this Circle are:
Rev Angie Griffin
Rev Bryan Gilmour
Rev Emmanuel Audisho
Hee-jeong Sylvia Yang
Rev Jason Kioa
Rev Kisoo Jang
Rev Viniana Ravitali