By Rev Dr Matagi Vilitama, Being a Multicultural Circle Advocate
In a world characterised by globalisation and increasing inter-cultural interaction, it is critical that we engage other cultures and the differing perspectives they offer in our daily experiences both inside and outside worshipping congregations. We trust the work of the Holy Spirit in the weaving of the Uniting Church in Australia – God’s multicultural and cross-cultural community.
Welcome to this issue of the ‘Being a Multicultural Church’ newsletter. I am pleased to share a few thoughts with you about the Circle and what we are called to do.
Being the Advocate for this Circle, I would love for all who engage in this platform to make a commitment, or a recommitment, to diversity and being a Multicultural Church composed of different communities from different cultural and linguistic diverse backgrounds (CALD).
During the recent Niue National Youth Conference, the opening song was an invocation of the Spirit of God as found in Acts 2: “Agaaga na e, fakakite mai haau a finagalo; fakapuke mai ha malu tau loto – kia eke a mautolu ma haau.” (O Spirit, reveal us your will; fill our hearts – may we be one in you”). It is in the Holy Spirit that we find unity in all our diversity. The Spirit moves us through the “cross” of Christ – across the boundaries that divides us and help celebrate our diversity.
In the midst of our diversity the Spirit will not allow us to forget about God, because “through the pouring out of the Spirit, God effects a world-encompassing, multilingual, polyindividual testimony to Godself. In this way God attests to Godself in a process that unites people in a way that causes them both wonderment and fear” (Welker).
The range of human differences matters in our being church and in the world.
Through the theological lens of Acts 2, the event of Pentecost reveals that human speakers and hearers are needed for “God’s deeds of power” to be known.
The Spirit embraces the cultures of humanity.
During the introduction of the Niuean Youth Conference I noticed that almost all youths cannot speak their ancestral tongues. Most noticeably, the majority have English names for their first names. This moved me to think about the light of God’s multicultural household (Acts 2:9-11). Our unique ethnic and cultural gifts are blessings to be celebrated.
Being a multicultural church reminds us that we should not be ashamed of our names, our languages, our cultures, our skin color, our hair texture, the color of our eyes, the shape of our bodies, our identities. We should not forget God has created us to suit our needs and comforts and opinions. God made all of us with our own native tongue and proclivities.
When we are tempted to do away that which is different, it is a challenge to God and God’s collective body. We will be all the poorer for appeasing the demands for uniformity and sameness.
We relish in the fact that every Sunday the UCA worship in more than 30 languages apart from English, and not including the First Peoples languages. There are more than 195 groups in the UCA who worship in different languages. Within these worship services are many styles and cultural vakas (vessels) that provides expression to the one faith.
Recognising the need to support communities of same ethnic cultures within the UCA, national conferences were created. There are currently 12 national conferences doing wonderful work ensuring the survival of cultural identities and the vitality of their unique expressions of Christian Faith. It is pleasing to see amazing images of recent conferences events being shared on our Circle Facebook page.
As we celebrate our diversity and seek to live out our life and faith cross-culturally – I encourage the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups and all who participate in these colorful events to share your images (photos or videos), thoughts, prayers and reflections on our Circle Newsletter or/and Facebook page.