8 December 2023

Tarneit church plant connects with those who have fled persecution

Dr Kezhalezo Angami, with his wife Zhano and daughter Avi. Picture: supplied.

Jenan Taylor

19 April 2023

A western suburb’s church plant launched in response to a rapidly growing multicultural population has drawn increasing numbers of people from refugee communities.

The Tarneit church plant, established by Reach West Epiphany Hoppers Crossing in October 2022, is conducted from a private house but has engaged a growing number of regular worshippers, the majority of whom are refugees from Pakistan.

Authorised senior lay minister Dr Kezhalezo Angami said a large concentration of people from Hindu, Muslim and Sikh backgrounds were settling in Tarneit, and that the aim of the plant was to engage with as many of them as possible by providing multilingual church services.

Dr Angami said many of the new arrivals in the area were Pakistani families who had come via Thailand where some endured “illegal” resident status for up to 10 years.

Read more: Christians face rising hate as India’s anti-conversion laws unleash violence

He said 27 Pakistani congregants including children had started worshipping only in the last two months, but that more than 80 people had attended the Easter services so he expected that the number would double by the end of the year.

Dr Angami said he ran the services along with a Pakistani pastor and that worship, including many of the songs, was conducted in English, Hindi and Urdu to make them feel comfortable and welcomed.

“Most of the refugees who have come to the house church are from a Christian background, and though all have different stories, they’re related to being persecuted for their beliefs,” he said.

Dr Angami hails from India and served as a missionary and a theological lecturer before coming to Melbourne.

He completed doctoral studies in missiology at the University of Divinity in 2018, then settled in Tarneit with his wife and young daughter to work with Epiphany Hoppers Crossing as a church planter.

He said the Tarneit plant, a foodbank and an electronic magazine were some of the tools through which the church was connecting with the community.

Dr Angami said he was considering ordination but, in the meantime, now that the house church had young families and new members were arriving, he was looking forward to being able to establish a children’s ministry at Tarneit.

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