Monday, 11 December 2017

Joyful Welcome

Rev. Dr Ji Zhang and Rev. Dr Apwee Ting have been formally welcomed into new roles in the Assembly at a joyful service in the Melbourne suburb of Glen Iris.

Friends, family and colleagues gathered from across Melbourne and from interstate at St Andrews Gardiner Uniting Church, as the two men were formally inducted into their respective roles as the Assembly’s Theologian-in-Residence and National Consultant in the Assembly Resourcing Unit.

Rev. Ayub Yahya from St Andrews gave the welcome and call to worship. St Andrews’ Indonesian Choir and the Chinese Zion Church choir performed beautiful items, and also led the service in the hymns God is Love: Let Heaven Adore Him (TIS 153), Brother, sister let me serve you (TIS 650) and God gives us a future (TIS 687).

Rev. Dr Geoff Thompson, Professor of Systematic Theology at Pilgrim Theological College in Melbourne led prayers of the people.

The Moderator of UCA Synod of Victoria and Tasmania Rev. Sharon Hollis preached on Isiah 61:1-4, 8-11 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, describing Paul’s vision of wholeness as self-giving as another image for the mission Isaiah holds before us.

“This is about unrestrained action,” said Rev. Hollis.

“It is about the shape of Christian life that is not contoured in measured apportionment, one part giving prayer, one part giving praise, one part full of spiritual fulfilment but in unreserved and all consuming self-giving, when we pray and praise and give thanks we are giving ourselves over to God and to God’s way with us.”

“Ji, Apwee, Assembly Resourcing team - each one of us – we will know we will have been faithful to this particular calling if our lives are marked by a self-giving that brings wholeness to those you minister to and with and amongst, if it brings wholeness to the world in which we live, and if it brings wholeness to you.”

Rev. Dr Zhang served as a Minister of the Word at St Andrews Gardiner from 2009-2012 and in his response he recalled warmly how the congregation had ‘loved him into action’.

“You have changed me with your love and you cared for my family,” said Rev. Dr Zhang.

Rev. Dr Zhang reflected on his new role across the Assembly and its agencies, saying “Instead of looking for the power of one over many, I will be one with many relationships.”

“I believe God’s mission is calling the Uniting Church into a future which will have many sets of relationships,” said Rev. Dr Zhang.

“With UnitingCare Australia we are no longer in the world which only does mission to the gentiles. We are in a world where we do mission with and also in the margin with gentiles.”

“Connecting the Church and also the services, we are serving the people in the margins – the poor, the vulnerable and those needing our help.”

“With UnitingWorld our partnership is not only about giving. We are in a world in which we need to learn to receive.”

In his response, Rev. Dr Ting reflected on John 12:24:

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (NRSV)

‘The whole image of God that we know in Jesus Christ is to live for others and willingly to surrender our life for others,” said Rev. Dr Ting.

“This is the God that we follow that we know through Jesus Christ and this is also the mission and the ministry of the Uniting Church in its diverse communities – more than 26 different languages. We are all bound by this mission and ministry – that it is not for us but others, particularly those who need it most.”

“The Assembly, all the six Synods, Presbyteries and Congregations across the country are all working together in a space of grace,” added Rev. Dr Ting.

“We are all coming from different perspectives, different life experience, different expectations, but in this space of grace we listen to one another and we support one another, because we are not looking at what is important for me, but what is important for us – in order for others to live faithfully and fully.”

Rev. Dr Ting was formerly the Assembly’s National Director for Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry, a Minister of the Word at Dandenong Uniting Church in Victoria and Chairperson of the UCA’s Indonesian National Conference.

Rev. Dr Zhang was formerly the Manager of Church Partnerships (Asia) for UnitingWorld.

The final National Consultant position in the Assembly Resourcing Unit, Rev. Charissa Suli will commence her role in January 2018. Rev. Suli is Minister of the Word at Dapto Uniting Church in the Illawarra Presbytery and the longtime coordinator of the NextGen program at the UCA’s Tongan National Conference.