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"The Church is much more diverse, accepting and welcoming than I thought it was"

Reflections

Three young adults, who recently became involved in our Diocesan community for the first time by volunteering, reflect on their insights about October’s On Earth Festival, including how volunteering changed their perspective on the Church and spirituality and gave them more confidence and new connections

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Three young adults, who recently became involved in our Diocesan community for the first time by volunteering, reflect on their insights about October’s On Earth Festival, including how volunteering changed their perspective on the Church and spirituality and gave them more confidence and new connections

“Volunteering at the festival, I learnt that the Church is much more diverse, accepting and welcoming than I thought it was. The Church has its beliefs, while also being open to changes in society and being responsive to that change. I am not a religious person, but I felt that the festival was a safe space for people to be themselves” (Santana Schmidt)

Santana Schmidt – Sound engineer volunteer

Growing up, I didn’t go to church. We spoke about God in my family sometimes, but I never paid that much attention to the details. So, I found it interesting going to an event where I could find out about the Franciscan way and about the Taizé meditative style of music.

The highlight of the event for me was experiencing how broad and accepting the people were at the festival. Sometimes there are stereotypes about the Church and whom the Church accepts. For example, I was really moved when performance poet Boy Renaissance got and spoke about how they felt welcomed into the community and accepted for who they are after previously being shunned in a church.

The Yeronga Parish South Sudanese dancing kids were so cute – they were so enthusiastic and stoked to be there. It blew my mind that the Church could have so many subcultures of people that are all celebrating the same thing – all there for a common reason.

Volunteering at the festival, I learnt that the Church is much more diverse, accepting and welcoming than I thought it was. The Church has its beliefs, while also being open to changes in society and being responsive to that change. I am not a religious person, but I felt that the festival was a safe space for people to be themselves.

This learning has taught me not to be so narrow minded towards the Church. I have always had the opinion that people of faith can be stuck in time, unable to see beyond their own views and focused on pushing their views on others. This festival showed me that people in a Church can have different views and that that’s ok.

I think it’s important for diverse people to come together to celebrate the arts, justice and spirituality because no two people are the same and it’s important to appreciate everyone’s differences.

“As a volunteer, I’m deeply touched by every attendee’s goodwill. The event was the result of many people’s efforts” (Chris Yi Zhong putting up festival signage, pictured with fellow Justice Unit work placement student, Sayesha Dahl)

Chris Yi Zhong – Justice Unit work placement student

Volunteering at the On Earth Festival had a huge influence on me. Living in the modern concrete jungle, we tend to live our own lives, working on achieving our own goals. Individuality is much emphasised in the busyness of our lives.

However, On Earth Festival created such an inclusive and peaceful space. It gave me an opportunity to connect with nature, to find peace in my soul, and to bond with a community that everyone can belong to.

On Earth connected people with nature and people with people, heart to heart. The shared values and beliefs of the community members at the event are what spirituality is about. The shared spirit of love, kindness, benevolence and collectiveness brought people together in solidarity.

As a volunteer, I’m deeply touched by every attendee’s goodwill. The event was the result of many people’s efforts, especially of event organiser Peter Branjerdporn’s resourcefulness and devotion. That Bishop Jonathan Holland stayed until the last minute with us volunteers to help us pack up truly demonstrated “servant leadership”.

I feel very honoured to have been part of the amazing event.

“A key highlight for me was making new connections with people whom I have not met before, including a West Papuan Christian. He asked great questions at the forum and said that he thought the song I performed about West Papua was well written. His feedback meant a lot to me” (Franz James)

Franz James – Singer-songwriter performer, Spirituality and Sustainability Forum panellist and Food Not Bombs burger stall volunteer

There was a beautiful atmosphere at the festival during the whole day. There was a lot going on, with all of the performers, workshops, stalls and the panel.

A key highlight for me was making new connections with people whom I have not met before, including a West Papuan Christian. He asked great questions at the forum and said that he thought the song I performed about West Papua was well written. His feedback meant a lot to me.

The festival is the first time I have run a Food Not Bombs barbeque with such a long line of customers. All proceeds went to supporting newly-arrived refugees from Afghanistan. Food Not Bombs was started by a group of people in the 1980s whose main goal was to provide free food at rallies that protested poverty and war, hence the name. The concept spread as a global movement of people running Food Not Bombs street kitchens. The Brisbane Food Not Bombs stall has been run by the Catholic Worker movement for the last seven years.

As a Spirituality and Sustainability Forum panellist, I got valuable experience speaking off the cuff on the spot. I found it easy to speak on the panel and I hope to take this confidence into future radio interviews, especially with the pending launch of my first folk album.

The festival was a great opportunity for young Christian artists to get more experience and make new connections. Festivals like On Earth also provide a way for people from all different backgrounds to connect on the same level.

Editor’s note: Franz James’ first album The Heart and The Fight will be released on 20 November. His album will explore spirituality and justice. Check out his singles on Spotify. Contact Franz for more information about the album launch on 20 November via: franzdowling97@gmail.com or follow Franz on Facebook.

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