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Q&A with missionary priest, husband and father, The Rev’d Sam Sigamani

Spotlight Q&A

Meet Sam Sigamani and find out about his faith journey, early ministry, childhood, what makes him nostalgic, and his favourite scripture and book

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Where do you currently live and where do you worship?

I live in Wynnum with my wife, Minnie, and daughter, Natanya, and we worship at St Peter’s, Wynnum where I am the new Priest-in-Charge. We arrived in Australia in late January and I started ministering in the parish two weeks later.

How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church and in what roles?

Before I moved to Australia this year, I was a part of the Church of South India, based in Chennai. The Church of South India is part of the Anglican Communion and comprises Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations. I was ordained a priest in 2014 after serving in a number of roles, including Sunday school teacher and youth group leader.

The Rev'd Sam Sigamani was ordained a priest in 2014

The Rev’d Sam Sigamani was ordained a priest in St George’s Cathedral, Chennai in 2014

What is your current role, and what does your role involve?

I am currently Priest-in-Charge of St Peter’s, Wynnum. I undertake Sunday and weekday services and I visit congregation members in their homes. I also assist with St Pete’s Pantry, Pandora’s parish op shop and SAILS at bayside, which is an outreach ministry focused on youth at risk.

St Pete's Pantry

The Rev’d Sam Sigamani and St Pete’s Pantry volunteers at The Parish of Wynnum on 29 March 2023

What projects or activities are you currently working on in your?

Our main focus is our parish’s ongoing ministries. These also include initiatives that address food crises and the needs of people experiencing homelessness by partnering with Rosie’s Friends on the Street and Mobile Laundry Shower Bus, which drives a mobile shower and laundry service to the church so rough sleepers can shower and wash their clothes.

What has been one of the highlights of your time as a priest so far?  

In 2013 in the first parish I was placed in as a deacon, we had a community of tribal people living next to the church. I used to visit these tribal people with two of our young adults who were in their early 20s. While visiting them, I discovered a significant school drop-out rate. The tribal people were considered “outcasts” by the wider community. So over a period of a year, the young adults and I helped 13 children resume their studies at a primary school run by the parish. This generation of young tribal children is the first to access schooling, so literacy rates among this tribal people are very low and there is a high rate of teenage pregnancy, which compromises the health of the teenage girls. This is why schooling is so important.

What are your parish plans and goals for the next 12 months?

It’s too early in my parish ministry yet to make long-term goals. We are in our final year of our Mission Action Plan so we will need to formulate a new one in the next 12 months or so. Some of our short-term goals are to what I call the three L’s – to listen, to learn and to live with the people of God. I have scheduled the first three months of my appointment to listen to and get to know my congregation.

Can you tell us a little about your Christian faith journey?

I look back and see certain milestones in my faith journey. Before starting theological studies, I was a very religious layperson. Theological studies broadened my horizons to see more social realities, such as caste discrimination and the gaps between haves and have-nots. Parish ministry gave me an opportunity to live alongside people.

The Rev'd Sam Sigamani as a young boy

The Rev’d Sam Sigamani as a young boy in the early 1990s with his mother, father and sister in South India

How does your Christian faith inspire you and shape your outlook, life choices and character?

The Good Samaritan story and the teachings of Jesus, which are based on love, show us how to stretch ourselves. My Christian faith has taught me to empathise rather than just sympathise, so I understand how people feel and understand them and take action rather than merely feeling pity.

What is your favourite scripture and why?

Luke 4.17-20, especially this text:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

This text shows me how to translate faith into action.

What person of faith inspires you the most and why?

One of the most in modern times is German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was inspirational because he was committed to pastoral ministry and he risked his life opposing Hitler’s oppressive and violent regime.

What does Lent mean to you?

Preparation and renewal.

What are the primary strengths of the Church and what is the best way to make the most of these for the benefit of our communities?

The primary strength of the Church is its people – the people of God. This is because the people carry out the God’s mission.

The Rev'd Sam Sigamani and parishioners in South India

The Rev’d Sam Sigamani with one of his congregations, Purisai Village, near Chennai, in 2013

Why are the Uluru Statement From the Heart reforms, including the Voice to Parliament, so important?

As someone new to Australia I cannot comment much on this. However, as a Christian believer, I strongly feel that the church is called to help amplify the voices of those who are vulnerable, and take up responsibility in establishing justice for all, especially for those whose voice has not been heard for a long time.

Why is it important for Christians to celebrate National Reconciliation Week?

Reconciliation needs to be one of the visible characteristics of the Christian life. To observe a week like this is to participate in the committed process of reconciliation: as our Lord himself has been the centre of reconciling us with the Father.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?

One of the best pieces of advice I have received in relation to parish ministry is when a senior minister said to me, “When you go to the parish, go to the people and sit with them, listen to them and talk with them and then you will know what God wants you to do.”

What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?

I play with my daughter, such as the card game Uno or hide and seek in the garden.

The Rev'd Sam Sigamani and daughter

The Rev’d Sam Sigamani playing Uno with his daughter, Natanya, in March 2023 in Wynnum

Where do you do your best thinking?

When I wake up in the morning.

What’s your best childhood memory?

As a teenage boy sitting on the wall of a well chatting with my friends about life while sharing the contents of our lunch boxes.

If you are having a bad day, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

I sit quietly and close my eyes and contemplate.

What makes you nostalgic and why?

My teenage years, especially being careless and fearless and wanting to explore.

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would that be?

Fruit, especially jack fruit, mango and watermelon, and biryani rice. I love my food.

What book do you recommend the most and why?

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer because it has taught me to understand that discipleship is about living out gospel-centred life and that the mission of God is responsible participation in social realities.

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