New Moderator-elect: ‘All I have I offer to serve’
The Rev. Myung Hwa Park has been chosen as the next Moderator of the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT, 2014–2017.
She will be installed as the Moderator at the Synod’s next meeting in September 2014 and serve the church until April 2017.
Ms Park is the fifth woman and the second person from an Asian background to be elected Moderator of the Synod.
Ms Park is minister of the word at St Columba’s Uniting Church and Canberra City Uniting Church in the ACT and also works as a chaplain at ANU (Australian National University) and the University of Canberra.
Born in Il Shin Hospital, Busan, in the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Ms Park studied at Ewha Women’s University, taught hearing impaired children for two years and then served in Pakistan as a Methodist missionary from 1984 where she ran a centre for disabled children.
Ms Park came to Australia to reflect on mission at Pacific Mission Institute then began theological training at United Theological College in 1988.
She was ordained as a Uniting Church minister in December 1990.
Ms Park has served in cross cultural ministry in the Georges River Presbytery (1991 until 1996) and as a parish minister in Lakemba (1996 – 2002) and Auburn (2002 – 2004).
In 2005, she moved to Ireland and worked as a full-time community worker for intellectually disabled adults through Sunbeam House Services, Arklow, County Wicklow.
She returned to Australian in 2008 and most recently has been working to establish a “Safe Shelter” for homeless men in the city of Canberra.
Ms Park was married to Brendan Kennedy (an Irish Catholic Missionary) from 1992 until his death in 2011. The couple had two daughters, Sinead and Ita.
Ms Park speaks four languages, Korean, Urdu, Tongan and English and sustainable living is her passion.
On hearing the news that she had been chosen as Moderator-elect by the 400-strong Synod of New South Wales and the ACT meeting at Knox Grammar School in Wahroonga, Ms Park said she was thankful for the opportunity to serve God and the Synod in the role.
“Like the boy who offered only small things — five loaves and two fish [to Jesus to feed the 5,000], I don’t have much but all I have I offer to serve.”
Ms Park said it was her passion and commitment to God, the giver of life, and the church, the body of life, that had led her to this point and it was her faith in God that that equipped her for the challenges ahead.
“I need the body of Christ,” she said. “I am part of you and you are part of me.
“If God has led us to this point I am sure that God will bring us through to the future,” she said.
Of her faith journey, Ms Park says:
I am exceptionally lucky with having lived and been influenced by four major world religions in my life. I was born and raised in a Buddhist family, became a Christian while I was seeking reason and ideas, and worked among Muslim and Hindus.
My Christian faith is a lifelong love affair with God and people who constantly fashion me to be who I am, and what I am, now.
The Chinese word “‘In’ means person” which is symbolised by two people supporting each other. And when I encountered Christianity, I realised that being a person means more than being with others but to love others as Jesus did.
My faith journey is a series of experiences, challenges, risks, transformations and amazing rewards.
Over the years, my faith matured as I have matured with age and experience.
Now my faith in God, this incredible life giving force, gives me a greater appreciation of everything from small and insignificant things to a vast and beautiful world.
My journey of faith has helped me to accept differences of others. It has also enriched me so that even I feel whole and holy. I am willing to take any part while God is weaving my faith story.
Of what inspires her, Ms Park says:
Simplicity and generous hearts and minds of people — especially those who are open to differences and willing to face changes and have grateful hearts for even one simple thing.
Many people inspired me and one of them was my mother.
My mother had hardly any formal education but she was a wise woman. She lived all her life to educate us, supporting us and respecting our differences. Even though she herself was a Buddhist she was most delighted when I became an ordained minister of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Furthermore, she was deeply grateful when I became a minister in the church which had sent a missionary to Korea [Dr Helen Mackenzie and her sister Catherine, Presbyterians who founded the Il Shin hospital in Busan] to set up a hospital for women and children which helped my mother to give birth to her children safely — including me. My mother never forgot the help she received from that Australian doctor and midwife!
I was inspired by the prayer written by a member of my old church, who recently passed away. At her funeral, her daughter read out her prayer which she had written some time ago, “God, please protect the handicapped children and the migrants and refugees and people of other faiths especially Muslims in our community.” To many of us church folks, this woman was a quiet and lovely lady who was at church every Sunday, at every church occasion, hard working for the church fete, making cups of tea for the fellowship group, a faithful church member, but her openness and concerns for the refugees and people of other faith inspired me more than anything she ever did. She was a genuine disciple of Christ.
Of the questions Ms Park has, she says:
How can the Uniting Church respond to climate change and population growth?
If we truly believe that God is the creator of universe, what is our response to the people of other faiths and other living creatures?
Of the things Ms Park sees God at work in, she says:
Everything! — And this includes my recent efforts to set up a safe shelter for the homeless people sleeping rough in Canberra. Although people thought it was a great idea for the unused church hall to be used for community service, turning a church hall into a shelter for the homeless people was not as simple as it sounded. A small number of committed people believed that something had to be done for the people God cares about deeply. I saw God working, mysteriously and undetected through the faith and working hands of his people. God works beyond our measure and imagination.
I also saw how God cares deeply for the abused woman who carried deep pain for many years. As it is written in the scripture, “He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smouldering wick, until He has led justice to victory”, through the advocate and helper, God was working to bring justice for the woman. I saw the woman was healing from her painful experience and begins to believe that she, too, is a child of God who is worthy of understanding and respect.
The role of Moderator
Key features of the Moderator’s role in the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT are:
- To hold the vision of God’s people before the Synod, the Standing Committee and Synod staff.
- To offer pastoral and prophetic leadership into the life of the Synod at large.
- To support the Synod to hear the Spirit and articulate a vision for the future.
- And to act, if necessary, as an agent of healing and reconciliation in the life of the Synod.