Friday, 26 October 2018

Listening to Next Generation Voices

Written by Rev. Charissa Suli, Assembly National Consultant

I was privileged to attend the Samoan National Conference (SNC) Leadership Weekend on 19-20 October at Lidcombe Samoan Uniting Church in Sydney.

About 50 Samoan Uniting Church leaders came together from different parts of the country to be enriched by the unity of their faith, to share in the joys and challenges of ministry and to explore how they can better serve their community.

Fellow National Consultant Rev Lindsay Cullen and I shared in joyous singing, rich devotions and Samoan hospitality. There was space given to talk through difficult issues such as domestic and family violence.

I was particularly inspired by the space created for emerging leaders. One of the two days was committed to listening to their young people.

“It’s time for adults to stop saying we know our young people and start listening,” said Rev. Kili Mafaufau, Chairperson of the SNC and Minister of the Lidcombe Samoan Uniting Church.

Second and third generation Samoan young people growing up in Australia experience intergenerational challenges of life, faith and culture. 

They begin to question their identity and where they belong. Some ask, ‘Why even be a part of this group, of this community, of this family, if I serve no purpose and see no future?’

The SNC began a process of talanoa (storytelling) with ministers and key leaders present listening to their young people.

The emerging leaders shared their hopes to work collaboratively across the nation on matters relating to worship, faith and culture and to name a vision for the young people of Samoa who are living in Australia. 

Listening to the stories of the second-generation Samoan young people resonated with my own story as a second generation Tongan-Australian.

I have experienced barriers of language, age and culture. 

Thankfully the Uniting Church embraces diversity and culture in our faith and takes seriously intergenerational ministry. There is always room to ask these hard questions and help the next generation know that they are very much a part of the mission and ministry of God in the Uniting Church now.

Through various workshops and conferences in the Uniting Church, I have found tools to help build bridges and close the gap that often exists in the Church. 

However, there is still so much work to do in building stronger, healthier generations of those who follow Christ.

As a Church, we must continue to find ways to resource both parents and young people to appreciate and operate within both their culture of heritage and Australian culture.

This starts with a deeper understanding of the cultures within our Church.

The SNC is committed to finding new and fresh ways to equip and resource their young people who are so passionate about being the Church.  There is much we can learn from their willingness to stop and listen to our young voices.