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Levon Kardashian, the Multicultural Project Officer for the Presbytery of South Moreton. Photo: Megan Haryanto

When do we feel that we really belong in a church?

As part of Queensland Multicultural Month, Levon Kardashian, Multicultural Project Officer for the South Moreton Presbytery reflects on the heart’s calling, and his faith journey.

A community or a congregation is formed through relationships. Discerning the direction God is calling a congregation to go, who they are or what they want to become are some of the questions people seek answers for when they first consider joining a congregation. These answers are usually found in the stories of fellow congregation members with different worship styles, professions and ways in which God has transformed them, among others. People will be drawn to the stories that speak to their heart. 

Different communities provide answers to different questions. People may get confused in deciding which community to belong to, or which one will help nurture and develop them.

Sometimes, the heart’s calling is the community’s, rather than an individual’s heart. The calling then becomes the calling of the community and the person takes on that calling and contributes to it. For migrants of these cultures, the change of community is at best confusing and at worst a loss of that calling. While they may find a community where they can be nurtured and relate to the heart stories, the development of their calling will have taken a different direction from that of the new community. They often struggle to find a community that takes on and continues their cultural community’s heart calling, and when they do, they feel they have either to abandon their cultural community, or to abandon the calling to remain in the familiar community of their culture.

I came from an Armenian congregation in Lebanon that treated me like family. I was involved in the ministries of that congregation, and I had initiated or helped in a few of those ministries. The congregation encouraged and supported me during my candidacy and later in my first part-time placement.

I remember on one Sunday I was not feeling well and did not go to worship service. The service started at 10am and before 10.15am I received a call from the church where several people had been concerned why I was not at the service.

When I migrated to Australia, I joined an Armenian congregation that was rooted in the same tradition as my home church, and was also a member of that church as well as the Uniting Church. However, none of the ministries that gave meaning to my life and defined me as a member of the congregation existed in this new community. I struggled to find my place; I tried to initiate ministries that would create that relationship between the congregation and myself but was not successful.

In the end, I decided to leave the Armenian congregation and join a different congregation which is mainly Anglo but provided some of those ministries that for me build relations. The decision was not easy and took a long period and some discussions. I felt that my cultural community had abandoned me because they had not provided me with the relationships to support me. In turn, they felt that I had abandoned them and my identity because I did not take on their heart story and stay with them.

For me, this congregation did not really represent my culture, even though the language, food and many of the cultural aspects were the same. I did not feel that I belonged to this congregation. Three months after I had left the Armenian congregation in a conversation with one of the leaders, I mentioned that I had started attending another congregation’s worship service. The leader was surprised and had not even noticed that I had not been attending worship for three months.

The theme for Queensland Multicultural Month 2019 is “We all belong”. To find out more, visit the Queensland Multicultural Month website.

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