A Matter of the Spirit

The poems narrated with animation and conviction engrossed the audience.

One lamented pollution, the land, water and air, choked; another cried over animal species lost forever; another, the death of human rights in West Papua.

A drama depicted social media ills, the songs, of things traditional and cultural of living gifts going extinct.

They also prayed. It was a different experience for the congregation, families and friends of the Pacific Theological College youth group, integrating worship and advocacy of all things contextual to them.

Pastor Billy Wetewea said the PTC youth group used the platform of a church service at the College Chapel on the evening of September 8 to promote awareness about climate change and related environment issues.

‘Our climate change focus falls under this year’s advocacy theme – Climate Justice,’ Pastor Billy said.

‘We are also aware of the suffering and the violation the human rights of our brothers and sisters in West Papua because it is our God given duty to shine a light into the heart of darkness,’ he added.

Integrating church worship with advocacy is certainly a novel approach and can unsettle those inclined towards traditional worship in the sense of a church being for songs and prayers alone. For the traditionalist, such advocacy issues occupies another space, outside of the church walls.

Pastor Billy says Pacific youths live in a changing, challenging time and feel the need to speak up about issues that affect their future and challenge their spirituality.

‘The main message we are trying to share is that humans are at the center of all the issues that plague the region, from climate change, environment damage to the abuse of West Papuans,’ he said.

‘These go to the core of our spirituality as Christians, the way we treat others, and the natural gifts God bestowed us with so these go hand in hand with our worship.

‘We were connected to nature from the very beginning, in the Garden with Adam and Even, there was an integral connection with nature.

‘The things that are happening today calls us to reflect on our behaviors, our mindsets and try to see what aspects of our life is contributing to all these issues.

‘And the implication of taking it into a place of worship is that we acknowledge we need God’s strength in dealing with these issues, in restoring severed connections with nature and with our humanity.’