Rev Phillip Zamagias (close friend of CMS and former CMS staff member) shares his reflections on the recent Katherine Christian Convention – a dangerously inspiring event!*
A near record crowd assembled at Morrow’s Farm in Katherine in the Northern Territory for the 49th annual Katherine Christian Convention (KCC) over the May Day long weekend.
Indigenous and non-indigenous people travelled thousands of kilometres to be part of what has become the premier Christian gathering in the Top End. With an emphasis on sound Bible teaching and a focus on unity across cultural and denominational affiliations, the conference once again demonstrated true reconciliation as found in Jesus Christ.
This year’s theme was “Grace and Law” and keynote speaker, Jono Wright, delivered five talks from the Bible. “It’s not what we do that makes us right with God,” said Jono. “It’s what Christ has done and trusting in that alone for our relationship with God; so, grace, through faith.”
A major challenge for a speaker at KCC is the diversity of the audience, many of whom speak several languages while English may be their fifth or sixth.
Dr Jude Long, Principal of Nungalinya College, had this to say about the talks: “The messages have been clear, contextual and practical. How do you cope when people sin? How do you welcome people back while keeping people accountable?”
Nungalinya College, based in Darwin and responsible for training most of Australia’s Indigenous Christian workers, was the featured mission at KCC this year with Jude, staff and students encouraging people to study the Bible there.
Lisa Mumbin Brumby, a local Katherine woman, was again the MC. “I believe the strength of KCC is bringing everyone in as a child of God and to be part of God’s family; I believe that,” she said.
Lisa is keen to have more visitors from “Down South” sharing in the convention. “We are all ‘One in Christ’, it doesn’t matter who we are, what language we speak, what colour we are,” she beamed. “When we accept Jesus Christ into our life and get to know him more and more, we become a great family. So if you don’t have any experience of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, make your way up here and visit us. Join us and experience our way of living and learning and growing in Christ.”
Each year KCC takes a lot of planning and effort on the ground. Simon McKee, the KCC Committee Secretary, said: “We expect the unexpected but overall we are extremely pleased with how KCC went this year. We’ve got a great number of volunteers from down south who have helped us stage the convention.”
Sadly, this is the last year that the convention can be held at Morrow’s Farm because Bruce and Janine Morrow, who have donated their farm as the convention centre for two decades, need to pass on the baton.
The committee is working hard to find a new venue. “We have some options but the issues are complex,” Simon said “But, God willing, there will be a KCC in 2017”.
The committee values the practical support of volunteers who travel to KCC in time to prepare the venue and serve by running the canteen, cleaning toilets, helping with children’s and youth programmes, crowd control, security, parking and other vital tasks.
Some come as individuals but others come as church work parties. Gavin Poole first brought a team from Cherrybrook Anglican Church in Sydney’s north to help with the youth programme in 2008. They had a team of 12 people who would work alongside local missionaries to run Bible studies and events for young people.
“It was good for our church. It helped us to look outwardly and helped us train our young people in youth leadership. We have definitely reaped the benefits of it and the programme continues now with local indigenous youth leaders,” said Gavin.
His colleague from Sydney’s Glenquarie Anglican Church, David Ould, came to KCC for the first time this year with a small team from his church.
David had several reasons for making the trek to KCC. “We at Glenquarie are looking for a CMS missionary to support because our previous one retired,” he said “and we thought we would like one who was closer to us so that we could be more involved and supportive.
“We are also aware of our local indigenous people in Sydney’s south west and wanted to be better informed. We also want to get our church excited about mission in the NT so that when we hook up with a CMS missionary we can get some real engagement happening.
“I’ve been astounded by the distance people will travel to come to this convention. It shows you how much they value it.”
When asked why people should consider coming to KCC, David sounded a warning. “You should consider coming to KCC because it is downright dangerous. You will get a broader view of ministry, a glimpse of what you could contribute your very short life to. There comes a moment for every Christian where you have to ask, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ The NT is crying out for all kinds of people. Why not come and have a look?”
The Indigenous Church is under-resourced yet growing in strength and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. KCC is a unique gathering which helps encourage Christians in the walk with the Lord but more could be done.
Could God be calling you to serve in North Australia? Contact your local CMS branch or click here to find out more.
*This article was originally published by Eternity News. It is published here with permission.
Rev Phil Zamagias also formerly served as the Development Coordinator at Nungalinya College, where several of our CMS missionaries are working. Phil is now Rector of Fred’s Pass Anglican Parish, NT.