The Opal Stone Journey

There is something special about intentionally wanting to become a multiethnic church that feels so new and invigorating but at the same time wonderfully challenging. It’s been hard to put into words what the experience is like for us at Trinity Lutheran Church, Pasadena, in Adelaide, with our relationship with our Indonesian community but I often like to picture our church to be on a journey to become like opal stone; a church which is a collage of rainbow colours where it is hard to see where one starts and the other ends. These colours represent the diversity of people from different cultural backgrounds all integrated together in the rock of Christ.

What we are doing at Trinity, and other churches across Australia, is embracing something that has been done before in the church’s history. The early church of the book of Acts, in a very diverse and multicultural environment in the Roman world, strove to make a church of all nations and cultures; the love of Jesus went beyond what people looked like or their origins, but united them all together as Christ’s body. At the moment in our LCA, God is drawing people from other cultures and backgrounds into our church family and, of course, that will have a big influence on our thinking about worship, theology and pastoral care; how we hold in tension all of those different expressions of our love in Christ.

I think though it is a wonderful problem to have. My experience as a new pastor over the last two years at Trinity is being exposed to working with a rich and lovely Indonesian community, working so closely with Pastor Ani Sumanthi an LCA lay worker with her long experience pastoring congregations in Indonesia has hugely changed my ministry. Being with us now for eight years, both their community and ours have become increasingly close to one another. In worship, the Indonesian community brings a spontaneity, freshness and joy. They are all so incredibly musical, respectful, and generous in their hospitality. We too as a community have changed. We have incorporated their language into parts of the Lutheran liturgy, sung multi-ethnic psalms, enjoyed their musicians playing in our services, and us attending their fortnightly Indonesian language services.

Although this is all truly wonderful, the presence of the Indonesians has done something else very important. It has help opened our eyes to people from other cultures too. In my first year of ministry, I had the privilege to baptise an Iranian Muslim into the Christian faith. One year later, this encounter has grown into a little Persian community of 15 members. They are such beautiful people with a rich expression of the faith and love for Jesus. We also have a small number of people from Tanzanian, Nigerian and other ethnic backgrounds.

One reason that other cultures feel welcome at Pasadena is that they see quickly that we are not a solid monoculture church of people of one ethnic background. When they see Indonesians being welcomed, they know they will be welcome also. And so, the greater our sense of invitation to make Pasadena a spiritual home and the more open to other cultures we become, the more the mission of our church begins to change.

Last year we formed a multi-ethnic choir consisting of people of all ages from all our different communities who sing songs and praise music at the Pasadena Green shopping centre. This is a great witness to non-Christians and an absolute joy to do. This and other initiatives such as learning language phrases and cultural differences gradually will help us to be much more confident to minister, for example, to people from the Muslim faith. But having some greater cultural intelligence will also mean that we will deliver the Gospel, and the gems of the Lutheran faith in a way that really connects with those cultural groups, resulting in learning the most effective way of preaching the Gospel to them.

We thank God that he has taken our community on this amazing learning journey and he will see it to completion. But for now, as we grow in our worship together and love for each other, we are continually being reminded of that wonderful text in Revelation; the vision of people from all cultures before the throne and the Lamb which is a vision of heaven that we are just beginning to taste here on earth.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9,10 (NIV)

About the Author

Pastor Matt Huckel

Pastor Matt is pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Pasadena in Adelaide South Australia.

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