National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Learning from each other

June 2020

by Greg Schiller

There is a significant number of people originally from Papua New Guinea (PNG) who live in Cairns in Far North Queensland and our Trinity Lutheran Church community is finding more and more ways to engage and connect with them.

We include PNG elements in our weekly worship services. Tok Pisin – one of the official languages of PNG and the most widely spoken – is incorporated into regular Sunday services. Everyone in our congregation has learnt to respond to our Tok Pisin blessing at every service with ‘i tru’, meaning Amen. We regularly sing Tok Pisin songs in worship. Sometimes these are translated verses of hymns and songs that the congregation already knows. I have also translated some PNG songs – written by PNG people with local tunes – into English. We all know ‘Our gracious and loving God’, which is a translation of ‘Long marimari bilong God’, and we love to sing it in both English and Tok Pisin.

PNG members at times hold fellowship purely in the Tok Pisin language. They meet together around food, song and Bible sharing. There are also special times to come together to support each other, such as when they are in mourning.

PNG Christians are extremely active at Trinity Lutheran and include a retired pastor, pastoral assistants, a congregation secretary, lesson readers and service leaders. They provide morning tea, clean the church, arrange flowers, and are synod delegates.

Papua New Guineans have special styles of celebrating – with processions and songs, and symbolic actions and our members participate in PNG community events in Cairns. Every year there is a special worship service to thank God for the gospel coming to PNG. In 2019, PNG women led us with the theme: ‘PNG women sharing the Good News’.

At special services such as confirmations, we include the PNG style into our congregation’s celebrations. PNG members decorate the church and prepare special meals and sing PNG-language songs.

Our Trinity congregation secretary Masio Nidung attended the cross-cultural conference hosted by the LCA/NZ in Melbourne in March 2019. She encourages us to continue to create an openness to diversity and acceptance of the cross-cultural diversity in our congregation, to ensure all people are included and to build relationships across cultures. ‘The challenges of different cultures, different languages, and different perspectives increases the need to create tolerance, acceptance and understanding of different people’, she says.

Insights from this conference prompted Masio and a team of others to plan a special event encouraging social interaction with food. So the Cairns Trinity Lutheran Church, in association with the local Mama Coco Café, held a PNG cross-cultural dinner and information event. Members and friends learned about the challenges of health problems in rural communities in PNG and to appreciate the work of the Lutheran hospital in Finschhafen.

It’s great that we learn from each other and appreciate each other’s gifts and blessings.

Pastor Greg Schiller serves Cairns Lutheran Parish in Far North Queensland, which also includes Our Saviour Atherton.