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Through the Lens of Culturally and Diverse Intelligence

Sophie: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Cyrus: Hey, I’m Cyrus. I am second-generation (second-gen) Chinese Australian. I grew up in Adelaide on the mean streets of the eastern suburbs. I’m married to Tansy; we have a dog named digger and a home stay at the moment. I like cars and I like thinking and wrestling with ideas.

Sophie: What did you study at Tabor? What was the experience of studying from a Chinese Australian perspective like?

I studied a Bachelor of Ministry. It was definitely a rich experience; I loved my time at Tabor. It showed me a completely different world of how to understand faith and theology. It challenged my black and white understanding of what theology was. Rather than starting with the question “what do we think?” we wrestled with “how do we think about things well?” Critical thinking played a really big part.

From a Chinese Australian perspective, often I was trying to find how to translate what was going on in class back into my own context. David Turnbull’s subjects gave language to some of the cultural things I was engaging with. But there was always a tension there of how does what I am learning translate into the Chinese church? What does this look in a second-generation space? I was equipped to think critically about this, and I had the cultural understanding and motivation, but some of my understanding in how to engage in theology culturally was lacking and there wasn’t always space for this. Post-Tabor I have seen how important critical thinking is in handling diversity. This was translated from the way Tabor focuses on theological diversity rather than specifically cultural diversity, but it has definitely helped me navigate the diversity space.

Sophie: What have you been up to since graduating? Tell us about the ministry you are involved in. 

Cyrus: I’ve been involved in a number of second-gen Asian ministries and Chinese churches, along with City Soul and the Experience Café, exploring missional communities, and the Surrender community exploring justice. I’ve found my place within the Uniting Church and am currently one of the pastors of CityView Uniting church. I am passionate about creating a space that holds all of those previous ministry experiences together. A mainline church that is trying to do missional church stuff in a multicultural way, looking at justice while still holding evangelical perspectives. That is the church I want to be a part of. That’s the church for the 21st century.

Sophie: What part of your ministry are you most passionate or excited about?

Cyrus: It’s seeing all those things come together. A lot of that was picked up at Tabor. The missional church, culture engagement, evangelical nature were all things that were embodied at Tabor.

Sophie: How are you seeing God at work in your ministry context?

Cyrus: In lots of ways! I think in seeing people engage with each other that never traditionally would have. And those peoples’ understanding of who God is changing as they are meeting other people who have a different understanding of God. It is the passing over, the sharing of story.

The lead pastor, chairperson and I were driving to a synod meeting after work and the pastor asked, “When are you going to eat?” I said, “When I get there.” To which he replied, “What! You are going to have your food at a business meeting?” I’ve never been to a church business meeting that didn’t have food! We talked about it back and forth the whole way there. I come with my ideas of how we’ve always done things and who God is and others come with theirs. When to eat food might not be a deep theological issue but being in community is seeing that God works in these spaces too. And if we can listen well to each other and get it right in those spaces maybe there is some hope to talk about the big theological and cultural differences that are there. It’s the exchange of ideas as we live life together. God is living in that space; he is a living God who we are all engaging with.

Sophie: How did it resolve? Did you eat in the meeting?

Cyrus: The chairperson pointed out we were early and could eat before we went in. The story is a great representation of different cultures but also a representation of what a great chairperson should look like.

Sophie: How has Tabor contributed to your ministry journey?

Cyrus: Aside from all I learned, the ongoing conversations and support have been helpful. Being a pastor and having young people thinking about ministry, I believe Tabor has the skills to engage in this cultural space that people going into ministry need for their formation. Tabor is engaging the CALD space well because they are looking at it through David’s diversity and Cultural Intelligence lens.

Sophie: You are studying again at the moment. What are you studying and what is the focus of the research? 

Cyrus: I am currently doing a Master of Ministry at Uniting College. The research is around leadership of second-gens in Australia. It is an auto-ethnography exploring the ways the hybridity or hyphenated identities of second-gens adds to leadership in Australian churches in the 21st century? How can the Australian church learn from this in-between culture?

Sophie: What resources would you recommend for people wanting to engage in this space? 

Cyrus: A few significant books for me have been Soong-Chan Rah’s The Next Evangelicalism and Prophetic Lament. And also, Jung Young Lee’s Marginality was really helpful from the perspective as a migrant living in Australia, the whole stuck in between two cultures experience.

Sophie: Any final thoughts?

Cyrus: I’ve been playing around with the word “invitation.” Inviting and accepting hospitality is language I picked up at Tabor. Hospitality is mutual, about receiving as well as giving. What does it look like for the Tabor community to continue to both invite and accept hospitality in the multicultural and diversity conversation?

Sophie Gerrie 16

Sophie Gerrie, Lecturer Faculty of Ministry, Theology and Culture

Read more about Sophie here