What a beautiful church we have

People gathered for a time of talanoa at the lunchtime session for the Being a Multicultural Church Circle.

The room was filled with people representing the rich cultural diversity of the Uniting Church and a space was created for sharing and listening to one another.

Rev. Salesi Faupula and Rev Amel Manyon were invited to share stories of identity and belonging and the Canterbury Uniting Church Tongan Choir led people in song and worship.

Salesi, the Minister at Canterbury Uniting Church, shared how he spent time during his childhood in an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory before moving to the Northern Beaches of Sydney. His father was a Tongan-born minister in the Uniting Church.

“I didn’t know what community I belonged to,” said Salesi. “I was struggling at school and I told my father to send me back home (to Tonga) to learn about my history and realise my identity. Then I remembered I didn’t speak Tongan!”

“It didn’t take me long to become fluent, and I gradually gained a sense of who I was. I was part Aboriginal, part Anglo and part Tongan - I was all of it.”

“I enjoy being in the Uniting Church because it attempts to become a multicultural church and it wrestles with diversity, and I think that is important.”

“It is important for the next generation and those are come. We are formed by the diversity of our context and each of us has a story.”

Rev Amel Manyon, the first South Sudanese female minister in the Uniting Church, spoke about her journey coming to Australia from war-torn South Sudan and finding a place in the Uniting Church.

Amel said she was initially reluctant to join her husband at the Uniting Church, choosing to attend a Pentecostal youthful church. However, wanting her family and children to attend Church together, she persisted.

In the Uniting Church, Amel found the encouragement to get involved and to take on roles of leadership. This led to her journey of discernment and candidature.

Amel started a community for Dinka-speaking South Sudanese in the northern suburbs of Adelaide and has ministered there for the past six years.

“My story reminds me that whenever we are searching for a place to belong, God is also preparing a place for us.”

“The Uniting Church has a name I have never heard anywhere before - the multicultural church. I was amazed to hear that.”

“What a beautiful church we have and what a privilege to be part of this community that has a place for me and recognises my identity.”

The session closed with prayer led by Ira Budiono in Indonesian and Leviana Tuiloma in Fijian.

Register to join the Being a Multicultural Church circle and continue the talanoa - sharing your stories of hope, belonging and welcome.

Tomorrow the Seeking Common Ground Circle will be joined by guests from other churches and other faiths for a conversation about encounter and dialogue.