More than 30 South Sudanese Uniting Church members from Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne were united in faith and a joyful love of God at their national gathering in Melbourne over the weekend (22-24 September).
“First be Reconciled” (Matt 5:23-24) was the theme for the third South Sudanese National Conference of the Uniting Church held at Hoppers Crossing Uniting Church in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
Rev Amel Manyon from the Northern Suburbs Dinka-speaking Faith Community in Adelaide was the first South Sudanese woman to be ordained in the Uniting Church.
She said the coming together of diverse South Sudanese communities was a show of peace and reconciliation among their communities.
“It is a great time to be together as South Sudanese Christians and as South Sudanese people to give thanks and praise to God,” Ms Manyon said.
“We are gathered together from all areas of South Sudan, different languages and diversity and we want to give thanks together as the people of God.”
Uniting Church president Stuart McMillan’s message at the opening worship on Friday night entitled “Christ’s love compels us” drew on 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2.
“Paul was writing to the community in Corinth that was experiencing division and dispute and he sought to encourage them, to exhort them, through Christ’s love for them, to not live for themselves but for Christ,” Mr McMillan said.
“My sisters and brothers, your community here in Australia shows us, the members of Uniting Church, how to be witnesses to Christ’s love by striving to be a fellowship of reconciliation.”
Young people from the Nuer-speaking Faith Community in Brisbane led the opening worship with singing and dancing which continued throughout the weekend.
Anglican Bishop Right Reverend Lindsay Urwin led a session on Saturday reflecting on the messages of reconciliation in the Bible. Bishop Urwin has served in South Africa and spoke with affection of his relationship and experiences with the AmaKhuze Tribe.
Ideas were shared on practical ways to bring about greater unity among the South Sudanese communities living in Australia. Breakout sessions were organised for men, women and the NextGen members (aged under 30).
Other sessions were led by national consultant Rev Dr Apwee Ting and Megan Calcaterra from UnitingWorld.
Ms Calcaterra spoke about the work undertaken with church partners, the Presbyterian Church of the South Sudan (PCOSS), to equip church leaders to be ambassadors of peace. She also spoke about the emergency response to the famine in South Sudan and the longstanding impact of the PCOSS’s midwifery school addressing the high rates of post-natal deaths and of mothers dying during childbirth.
“We thank God for the passion and commitment of those gathered in Melbourne to strengthen the South Sudanese network in Australia, firstly within the Uniting Church and also ecumenically,” Mr McMillan said.
“They are also focussed on supporting and growing their younger members as followers of Jesus.”
Young people under 30 will make up three of six positions on the new executive for the South Sudanese National Conference.