Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? ~ Desmond Tutu
Are cultural traditions important? Should we try to save the old ways, the unique styles of worship or dress that have been an acceptable part of our nation’s life? Or do we feel that an influx of people with different ideas might change our comfortable habits?
Our church has been celebrating the worship traditions of the various members of the congregation: the Indians, Africans, Filipinos, Pacific Islanders, Sri Lankans and others who’ve joined us and contributed to our church’s rich life. I’ve wondered if we would also have an Australian Cultural Night. Would there be enough of us in the church to show our uniqueness or our contribution to the mix? What customs do we have? And how would we demonstrate them? The other groups had set such a high standard when they’d presented their own joyful worship! I could think of a few things to do…but enough to fill a whole Sunday evening?
As for myself, I could contribute by baking something for the supper. A batch of Anzac biscuits, some Lamingtons and a couple of Chocolate Ripple cakes! I could wear a top with native flowers on the front and hope to be recognised as an Aussie! Fortunately we have many people among us who are full of good ideas and they organised a great night.
We sang ‘The Great Southland’ by Geoff Bullock, the song said to be about Australia’s other name, The Great Southland of the Holy Spirit. With those words resounding throughout the auditorium, my heart thrilled at our deep Christian heritage.
There were also moments of laid-back Aussie humour! When it came to the church announcements, Strine, Australia’s nasal language of innovative sayings, was used instead of the normal English. All the activities on the church calendar were expressed in words such as blokes, sheilas, cobbers, ankle-biters and fair dinkum; even dunnies! And rhyming slang featured heavily! I wondered if those who’d only been here a short time would need a special dictionary to understand it! These days, we don’t use many of those terms ourselves; our unique speech has become obsolete in some quarters. But we had some good laughs, though occasionally the ‘announcer’ had to explain herself!
The part of the night that touched me most was when we sang our ‘unofficial’ anthem: ‘I Am Australian’, written by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton. Tears came to my eyes at the chorus, ‘We are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on earth we come’. I watched as a line of people climbed the steps and joined the soloist on the platform. Her casual clothes contrasted well with their lovely saris and the gorgeous fabrics of their bright garments. The scene spoke to me of my beloved country: relaxed and welcoming. Yes, each one of us has an important national contribution.
I couldn’t help but think of the amazing way God planned for everyone to be citizens together in his land. He provided a way for all of us to become his children by sending his only son, Jesus, to die in our place, so our sin wouldn’t separate us from him, our heavenly Father. Whoever believes in Jesus will never be turned away. And it won’t be boring in heaven! From all the lands on earth, God’s children will mingle together and enjoy his company!
As Paul of Tarsus wrote in a letter: …we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ ~ Galatians 3:28. So wonderful!