Lutheran Church of Australia’s Cross-Cultural Minor Grant funds a multi-cultural, multi-generational community Harmony Feast held at Nazareth Lutheran Church, Woolloongabba on Sunday 24th September, 2023.
Nazareth Lutheran Church’s Harmony Feast brought together 60 participants, including members of the Nazareth congregation, and local Fijian, Ethiopian and Finnish congregations and their Pastors, who conduct their regular worship services in the Nazareth church or hall complex.
The Harmony Feast successfully connected members of all four congregations, as well as a member of Nazareth’s recently commenced Mums and Bubs Playgroup, which aims to bring together local asylum seekers.
Participants gathered in Nazareth’s downstairs hall and courtyard, with each participant bringing a plate of food to share from their culture.
Before the meal, they joined around the buffet table to pray together in their native tongue, with the Finnish congregation sharing their grace through song.
Our guests were warmly greeted by our Nazareth volunteers who worked together with our guests preparing food, tasting each other’s cooking, sharing recipes and cleaning up afterwards.
Such a glorious day was had, we’ve received requests from the other congregations to make the event a regular occurrence.
The LCA Cross-Cultural Ministry’s grant support for this cross-cultural fellowship opportunity has allowed the Nazareth team to develop a successful ‘template’ for future events, and allowing more input from the other congregations so the event can truly be owned by all of us, for all of us.
Grant funds were spent on catering (alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments) and a 20-litre urn, as well as catering for a planning meeting morning tea with our Harmony Feast volunteers.
Engaging volunteers in pre-event planning makes for a better event
Before the event a volunteer morning tea was organised to brief six volunteers on the event’s purpose, initial plans, to talk about safety issues and to get input. This group of volunteers has lots of knowledge from hosting many events over the years and their ideas made our event better. We spoke about the role of Greeter/Welcomer being to help people to mix so that the event was not just groups of people staying in their own congregations.
The role of Greeter/Welcomer proved important: where it was clear key people from each congregation hadn’t yet met, our elders and volunteers introduced them to each other. This kind of event does need team leaders, elders and volunteer helpers to make that kind of conscious decision, to play a kind of ‘connector’ role, to help people stuck tight in their groups to mix it up a bit and make new friends. Our volunteers did a great job of mixing with people they had not yet met, and helping others to do likewise.
Community and the value of connecting
“It was so good. We sat down with each other. We shared. We talked.”
-Pastor Romuluse of the Fijian congregation.
While almost all the attendees worship on this site, prior to this event most of the interaction between our congregations happened at a higher level: between pastors or administrative staff. This event allowed our various congregations to break bread and share fellowship together. Where once there may have been perceived barriers, as we ate together we began to live out Acts 4:32 as we ‘had everything in common’. Many of those who attended shared their earnest desire for this fellowship to continue.
There was a lot of sharing of recipes and attempts to track down the cooks of lovely food. Sharing recipes forged great connections between members of different congregations. Participants suggested that, next time, we put tags near the food that is shared, with the name of who cooked which meal, country of origin and if the recipe is available – this is a great learning for next time, as it increases connections between people from different cultures.
Participants also asked that we provide name tags, next time. It’s always good to call someone by name. Our greeters and welcomers overcame this obstacle to some extent, but we will include name tags for future events of this nature.
Participants asked for the event to be run again in 2024. If such an event can happen at least once or twice a year, relationships are likely to deepen, going beyond basic practical issues relating to hiring of spaces, that were hitherto our main link.
Engaging participants in pre-event planning drives higher engagement
The process of developing this event opened additional opportunities to reach out to all congregations worshipping on our site to discuss and develop ideas such as bringing together the Pastors of each congregation to join our Pastor in saying a brief grace/blessing for the shared meal, each in their own language. This ensured deeper engagement, and it worked beautifully on the day – the Finnish congregation even sang their blessing. The shared blessings in languages drew everyone into the hall around the buffet table, praying together, a beautiful moment in the event, as we each said Amen after each other’s words to our Lord.