We asked Murrumbeena Uniting Church’s family ministry coordinator Tai Alphred to tell us a bit about herself and ministry.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
My name is Tai (pronounced Tay) Alphred. I was born in the USA and grew up in California. I am married to a wonderful Australian and we have two beautiful children.
What’s your religious background?
I was baptised as an infant as a Catholic. Most of my family members were Catholic but not many were practicing Catholics.
I was blessed to have a father who took me to church every Sunday. This was our special father/daughter time and I always looked forward to getting dressed up and going to church together. This, I believe, is what cemented my faith from a very young age.
I was also blessed by my godmother, Aunty Gerry, who was incredibly involved within our church and was such a great role model for me as a child and teen.
What led you to Murrumbeena Uniting?
When my son was in grade 1, I saw an advertisement for a Christmas craft program at Murrumbeena Uniting Church called ‘Countdown 2 Christmas’. I was excited about this three-day program which included crafts, cooking, drama, music, so I signed my son up.
He came home with such amazing crafts to hang on our tree – which we still have – and lots of wonderful Jesus stories that by Christmas Eve I couldn’t wait to see the children’s service. Murrumbeena Uniting Church had a band playing, puppets and costumes for the kids to participate in the real story of Christmas.
I thought:“This is what church should be like” – fun and relevant and embrace everyone, especially young families and children – so I began bringing my children.
What led or called you into ministry?
I had been coaching gymnastics for a few years and suffered an awful back injury, which sadly forced me to resign. I remember journaling to God and feeling quite emotional about this loss and asking Him: “What am I going to do next?”.
He gave me my answer. I wanted to continue working with children and I was pushed by God to become a CRE (Christian Religious Education) volunteer at my children’s school.
My next great blessing in my ministry journey came when our children’s and families pastor asked if I would be interested in working with the families at our church in a 10-hour per week role. I was over-the-moon! This again was God, planting His seeds. I said yes immediately. And now, six years on, I’m still loving it.
Tell us about your role as Murrumbeena UC’s Family Ministry coordinator.
I work with the families within our church and with families from outer communities who come to join in our events. I organise monthly family events like FEAST (Families Eating and Sharing Together), craft days, movie days, board game days, Countdown 2 Christmas, etc. I encourage spiritual formation through conversations and coffee catch-ups. I also facilitate Toolbox Parenting Courses.
The highlight of my role are the two sessions of mainly music that I facilitate every week. The mainly music program is designed for under-fives and their carers. Through music, God-songs, dance, rhyme time, instruments, prayer, and fellowship we worship our beautiful God.
How many families are there at Murrumbeena?
We have about 10. Our mainly music family numbers average between 10-15.
What are the main challenges of family ministry?
The most obvious would be trying to figure out how to get families to bring their children to church more often.
At Murrumbeena Uniting Church we try to be as creative as we can, to be all- inclusive, intergenerational and make church fun and enjoyable for all ages. But we also fully recognise that for today’s modern family, church does not necessarily have to be on a Sunday.
For instance, with our mainly music families, what they experience through the beautiful Holy Spirit on a Tuesday morning is their church day. In our own way we are worshipping God through God-songs, prayer, an interactive reflection/prayer area, and offering support and encouragement to each other in a loving and Christian way.
Can you nominate some key things you have learnt about family ministry?
I have learnt the importance of connection – that everyone needs to feel connected. God wants us to build relationships with each other, and ultimately, to love and support each other with no judgments made.
From all children and my own, I have experienced the true and amazing flow of the Holy Spirit – an overwhelming sense of joy which is God. I have also learnt that ‘God Speaks Through Children’ and what wonderful life-lessons they can teach us.
Children make me laugh, they teach me, they show me God in daily conversations, they reveal the Holy Spirit through their ideas and excitement. I could go on and on!
My ministry with families and their gorgeous children is one of the biggest gifts in my life. I truly feel incredibly blessed!
How is your study going?
I am currently studying the Graduate Certificate in Children’s and Families Ministry course through Pilgrim Theological College.
My next unit will be the Spirituality and Nurturing of Children intensive with Dr Vivienne Mountain, which runs from 28 November to 5 December.
What will you learn in this unit?
It explores the historical and current interest in the spiritual life and development of children. It examines links between scripture, theological thought, spiritual and psychological development and neurobiology in relation to ministry with children. I cannot wait!
Can you tell us about the Working Women’s Bursary?
I was told about the bursary by (Children’s and Families Ministry co-ordinator) Chris Barnett. He said the Uniting Church could offer me this as my ultimate goal is to obtain a 20-hour per week position as a Uniting Church Children’s and Families Pastor. I have now been blessed with a partial scholarship. I will finish a required third unit (of my own choice) next June and complete my course.