Over four consecutive weeks, I went to the 25th, 145th, 150th and 170th anniversary services of four churches in four presbyteries in our Synod. Between those churches, that’s a total of 490 years of God’s blessings! It was an incredible opportunity for me to witness God’s amazing grace and also to be a part of the history of those faithful people in those amazing places.
While sitting in those churches, I heard people recollecting “the good old days” of church pews filled with people, Sunday School halls crowded with children, many gatherings for fellowship and fundraising events. But it is different now!
Over the years, the neighbourhood around the church has changed and so has the culture of our society. The market-driven world has made churches alien places in their own neighbourhood. Also, new ways of communication have escalated individualism and pushed people further away from the practice of faith.
Looking back to move forward
In a divided world, anniversary services come like a gift from God, reminding us of those good old days and thanking God for them. Anniversaries also provide us with a special momentum to renew our discipleship, so we can witness Christ’s ministry of healing and reconciliation and continue to add more years to those 25, 145, 150 and 170 years of church history.
Along with Easter, the most significant anniversary we celebrate is the joyous season of Christmas. The anniversary of Christ’s coming into the world once again reminds of God’s faithfulness! It also — like the anniversary services of a church — should renew our discipleship. Christmas and anniversary services encourage us to be confident rather than apologetic or shy about the good news. We can be bold and courageous about our faith in God through Jesus. Knowing that what matters the most to our soul also matters to others, we need to speak about the basic truths which have enriched our lives with others around us.
Another form of remembering and inspiring I have been involved with is Utalk events, with ministers in our Synod. I also had separate UTalks with lay pastors, the members of UAICC (Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress) and with young adults.
Keep your light on
When Jesus asked Simon Peter “Who do you say I am?” he answered from his heart, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) In a similar way, many at UTalk shared the moments of enlightenment which made them confess Jesus is the Lord, a guiding light for their lives. I have been involved with sixteen UTalks and I am confident to say that we all have a moment (or moments) of enlightenment which sustain us — and also enlighten others when we share it, so that the world becomes a better place.
Recently, I went to a conference of Overseas Korean Churches held in Toronto. The theme of the conference was “A Diaspora Church”. At the conference, I shared my reflection on the Uniting Church as “a diaspora church of multicultural communities in Australia”.
The Basis of Union states that “the Uniting Church affirms that it belongs to the people of God on the way to the Promised Land” (paragraph 18). As a national church which was formed almost 40 years ago, we are constantly reminded to be on a journey to the Promised Land. We are a diaspora community in our own backyard, here to be the light for everyone so others will not walk in darkness but will share in the light of Jesus, the light of the world.
My sincere greetings to you and prayerful wishes that every one of you be the recipient of the wonderful message of the angel, “Do not be afraid, for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
Rev. Myung Hwa Park is Moderator of UCA Synod of NSW & ACT