Thursday, 12 September 2019

Building bridges with joyful song

Written by Rev. Meredith Williams, St David's Uniting Church Dee Why and Susitina Suli, Northern Beaches Combined Uniting Church Choir

By Rev. Meredith Williams, St David's Uniting Church Dee Why

The youth and young adults from three congregations on the Northern Beaches of Sydney combined voices to "sing and make melody to the Lord" at the Youth Parliament of World Religions on 8 September.

This was one of four interfaith gatherings of young people in the Sydney region commissioned to write 'The Sydney Statement" - in part a message of encouragement to our leaders in building bridges between world religions. We collaborated to articulate a youthful vision for a faith-filled, inclusive, compassionate, open-minded and respectful society. 

As members of the UCA Synod of NSW and the ACT, our group was asked to provide a musical segment. We sang for justice, we sang with hope, we sang of change from the inside out, and we sang for the pure joy of praise and fellowship, one with another and one with the many beautiful young people and religions present in that large hall. 

We also took our part in a roundtable discussion of three significant questions about our lived experience of being young people of faith in a loud and fast modern city, our vision for the future and how that might be achieved. 

At my table we were Hindu, Bahai and three branches of Christian. We spoke of the challenges of living and practising our faith in the work, educational and social environments, and of the frequent misunderstandings and stereotypes we encounter. We shared the sense of both belonging and individuality our faith affords, and the joy and meaning that faith brings to our lives. 

I was moved by expressions of hope for genuine curiosity about other religions, constructive building on similarities rather than focusing on differences, creation of more spaces like this for dialogue and interaction, and being aware of our surroundings and the needs of others. Mention was made of the need for prayer into the chaos, busy-ness and misunderstanding around us.

My takeaway piece of wisdom, offered by one passionate young man was that "religion is not about studying ancient documents but about transformation of the heart". 

 Thank you to Rev. Charissa Suli for bringing our youth groups together and for facilitating our participation in this constructive and happily diverse forum.

Fruitful dialogue, sharing and laughter

By Susitina Suli

When society tells you no, God tells you yes! What a fruitful event of dialogue, sharing and laughter.

I am one of the young leaders of the Northern Beaches Combined Uniting Church Choir and the youth group I attended Youth PoWR with, had the honour of singing and sharing our gifts of music to the participants of the event.

It was great to witness people of different faiths, beliefs, cultural backgrounds and walks of life come together and share their experiences and struggles of sharing their religion with their communities and beyond.  I thoroughly enjoyed the speaker who led our table talk discussions. He was succinct, engaging and was positive throughout the evening at Youth PoWR.

My youth group members enjoyed the atmosphere of just being able to share openly without being judged. And for this, the organising team of YouthPoWR should be commended.

They created this safe space to share about anything and allowed the voiceless to finally speak.

Not only did this platform help build bridges of faith and interfaith dialogue, but it brought my Tongan community even closer than ever, which is a beautiful feeling when you see God working through it all.

I look forward to seeing what else Youth PoWR can do with this great platform and hope other young believers around Sydney or even the world, are encouraged by the work of Youth PoWR, just as I am.