Faithful witness to Christ

By Rev Dr John Squires
Director of Education and Formation & Principal of Perth Theological Hall, Uniting Church WA

Posted in Culture

“Be a witness in your family! Be a witness in your church! And be a witness in your community!”

This was the striking challenge from Moderator of the Northern Synod, Rev Thresi Mauboy, at the opening devotion of the 2017 Indonesian National Conference held in Perth from Friday 5 to Sunday 7 May. The theme of this year’s conference was “to be a witness”, and Thresi spoke of the importance of making sure that all our words and actions are consistent in our personal lives and relationships.

Over 30 Uniting Church members from around the country gathered for three days, marking the first time many had travelled to Perth or participated in a National Conference.

It was the second time that the GKI Perth Congregation hosted this important conference for Indonesian language-speaking congregations within the Uniting Church. The GKI Congregation was formed in 2001 through a memorandum of understanding between the Uniting Church and the Indonesian Christian Church, or GKI (Gereja Kristen Indonesia). It is one of nine Uniting Church Congregations in Australia which worship in Bahasa Indonesian.

Representatives came to the conference from the Philadelphia Congregation, the Indonesia Missionary Church, the Living Water Congregation in Darwin, St Andrew’s Gardiner Uniting Church and Caulfield Indonesian Church in Melbourne, and GKI Uniting Neutral Bay, which also has links with the Wentworthville Uniting Church (Indonesian Language Service), in Sydney.

Greetings and messages were delivered by Rev Dr Apwee Ting (National Director for Multicultural Ministry), Ade Padmo Sarwono (Consul general for the Republic of Indonesia in Perth) and Rev Steve Francis (Moderator of the Synod of Western Australia).

Elder Bosta Pratama from GKI Perth led a Saturday morning Bible Study in which he encouraged members of the conference to celebrate diversity, pursue unity, and prioritise continuity in the life of their congregation. He reflected how multiple generations can exist in an active congregation, especially in a multicultural congregation.

Rev Jotje Karuh, General Secretary of the GKI West Java Regional Synod, gave a stirring and impassioned address to the conference exploring ways that minority cultures might relate to the dominant culture. He affirmed that the mission of the church is grounded in God and requires a response from people that is positive, active, critical and realistic. We need always to ensure that we are prepared “to be a witness”.

Jotje closed with reference to Ephesians 2:10, stressing that God has created us in Christ Jesus “for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life”. The presentation led to a spirited and engaged discussion amongst conference participants about the shape and direction of their ministries in contemporary Australian society.

Rev Dr Apwee Ting then reflected on what it means for Indonesian Christians “to be a witness” in the multicultural Australian context. He gave an overview of the history of the Uniting Church, and explored the complexities of the “interconciliar relationships” which are at the heart of how the Uniting Church is structured.

Apwee provided a snapshot of the multicultural nature of the church, and outlined the development of the Uniting Church’s commitment to being a truly multicultural church, from 1985 to the present.

Rev Dr Emanuel Audisho, the WA Consultant for Multicultural Ministry, also addressed the conference, referring to recent multicultural developments in Western Australia. He indicated that a focus of his work in 2018 will be to equip and encourage second generation leaders within their roles in the church.

The place of the second generation in church life was a lively concern for the congregations represented at the conference.

Thresi urged those present at the conference to encourage the younger members of their congregations to attend national events, like Yurora and the National Young Adults Leadership Conference, to gain a sense of the gifts and diversity of the wider Uniting Church.

Two sessions of the conference were allocated to enable representatives of each congregation present to report on their own life and activities. While some congregations reported particular struggles, the overall picture was one of hope and joy!

A planning session was held at the end of Saturday, during which the outgoing executive was thanked and a new executive was elected for 2017-2019. A Steering Committee was also formed with membership drawn from each state with an Indonesian congregation. The conference attendees placed their hope on the Steering Committee to work with one another to build bridges and solve some of common problems, particularly Indonesian-language minister resources and second generation connections. 

The conference closed with a lively worship service from the GKI Perth Congregation.

The next Indonesian National Conference will be held in Melbourne in 2019.

This is a shortened version of Rev Dr John Squires’ article on the National Indonesian Conference. The full article can be read on the Assembly website here.

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