With a week full of worship, song, dance and social justice, mixed in with a healthy dose of yuróra, how could we not be performing the word of God?
Yuróra was the theme for the 2014 NCYC, a biannual event held by a presbytery or synod of the Uniting Church. It means ‘passion’ in the Dharug language. As more than 1000 delegates and volunteers pulled up outside the Centre for Ministry, Parramatta, it was clear their yuróra was calling them.
And it was with this passion that the Parramatta Nepean Presbytery and the NCYC committee brought together a diversity that members of the church rarely see in their day-to-day life.
There was a wide range of speakers and events, with delegates bustling about the Centre for Ministry and Tara School attending events from ‘The face of poverty: why God cares and you should too’ to ‘Honouring Australia’s First Peoples’.
Delegates attended worship held by different community leaders from the Church, including the United Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, theological colleges and multicultural congregations.
But what was most exciting was the Indigenous presence on Burramattagal land.
From the thousand delegates registered, 150 of them were Indigenous, coming from far-flung locations such as Port Augusta (South Australia) and Elcho Island (Arnhem Land). Bradon French, NCYC chairperson, said this diversity was an integral part of the theological basis for Yuróra.
“The Uniting Church’s Basis of Union tells us that we should seek to be inclusive – of men and women, young and old and of all our different gifts and skills,” Mr French said.
“It’s this inclusion that has driven the yuróra spirit; bringing together people of different cultural, theological and linguistic backgrounds to worship and praise God together.
“It’s amazing to see, and a humbling privilege to be part of.”
For young people from Indigenous backgrounds, the vibrant mix of cultures and languages was just as exciting for them as it was for the NCYC organising team.
“I’ve really enjoyed meeting new people,” Dre Ngatokoruo of Port Augusta said, “especially meeting a range of people from different cultures and backgrounds.”
For Dre, it wasn’t just his own learning that was so important to him.
“I will try and take back the things I’ve learned here to all the kids that weren’t able to come, so I can teach them the same things.”
A public rally on the final night of the conference affirmed this multiculturalism and insistence for the common good that is so ingrained in the Uniting Church psyche.
Heartfelt speeches from young Pacific Islanders demonstrated their willingness to use the church and their community to keep young people out of trouble and on a path to purposeful life through their program PI Ignite.
PI Ignite, a program supported by Uniting Church Pacific Islander congregations, the Sydney Alliance and Youth Action, is using the multicultural church as an organising and community base for the common good. The program is working to give young people from the Pacific Islands the courage to maximise their education, to keep their brothers and sisters out of juvenile correction and to celebrate and serve God together.
But it wasn’t just the formalities that brought people together. A game of volleyball, football on the oval and coffee at Café Commons gave delegates and volunteers from all walks of life the chance to tell stories, share experiences and exchange details.
If Yuróra is the future of our church, then it looks to be one that is multicultural, inclusive and diverse.
By Tilly South