I found my voice in this church only in the recent past. I had become frustrated with the huge gap between the rhetoric (‘the Uniting Church in Australia is a multicultural church’) and my lived experiences.
It’s not easy for some of us to find our voice and tell our stories in a multicultural church, where the default setting is that of the dominant culture.
As well as learning the dominant culture’s language, one needs to learn its polity, governances and modus operandi.
Are you telling your stories? Are you afraid that no one will care? Do you hesitate with the false belief that there are thousands of other people out there with the same story and message?
The theme the Intercultural Unit has chosen for 2017 is ‘Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Stories’.
We believe there are many unheard stories within the multicultural church we need to hear. By telling these stories, the church will be enriched and transformed.
The healing story of Mark (7: 31-37) tells us of a man who was deaf and had trouble speaking. Jesus called to him “Ephaphatha – be opened” and he heard and “spoke plainly.” We are told the man’s voice was returned to him. The people marvelled at this and noted, “He has done all things beautifully. He makes the deaf hear and he makes those who do not speak, speak.”
The last line of Greek can easily be translated as giving voice to the voiceless. In most cases, someone like the deaf man would have been pushed aside. In our world it is the strongest – the most powerful and most vocal – that gets a hearing, while the weak and powerless get pushed to the margins.
Own your story and you own your life.
Oral storytelling is one of the best ways to find, explore and develop our voice.
Stories are powerful things. They don’t just explain who you are and where you’ve been – they can set the course for your future.
Silence is not a neutral position, it automatically supports the status quo. Silence inevitably means colluding with the dominant voice. You create an empty space that another voice – a dominant voice that knows no boundaries – is only too happy to fill.
One way to encourage the voiceless to find their voice and share their stories is for those of us who have found our voice and the place to tell our stories to listen more. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. James says “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak…”
What makes us uncomfortable might be just what we need to hear. Often the stories that make us uncomfortable have the potential to enrich and change us, challenging us to explore why we are feeling this way. If we continue to avoid that which makes us uncomfortable, we will miss the powerful opportunities for growth, self-awareness and learning that such events offer, both individually and as a community.
Rev Swee Ann Koh
Director of Intercultural unit
To find your voice and share your stories contact: SweeAnn.Koh@victas.uca.org.au