The Unitarians of Indonesia are an inspiring part of our global faith with tremendous commitment, good organization, an evangelical attitude, and a strong focus on ministry with youth and young adults. It was a pleasure to visit with them for 4 days in April 2013.
Gereja Jemaat Allah Global Indonesia (JAGI) – the Unitarian Christian Church of Indonesia, was founded in the mid-1990’s by Rev. Aryanto Nugroho and currently has around 500 members. Rev. Nugroho has published highly regarded theological books, and is very well connected in interfaith circles and with national leaders.
JAGI is headquartered in Semarang, where the church owns and operates a large building that houses the sanctuary, classrooms, offices, a library, and space for a future NGO. A maternity clinic – Bhaki Ibu – operated by the wife of the founder of the church sits across the street from the church building; Mrs. Nugroho estimates that she has been a midwife at more than 200,000 births.
JAGI is administered by a National Leaders Board that includes a Council which supervises a Board of Elders and an Executive Board (responsible for daily operations). JAGI has 8 ordained ministers and an executive director. It consists of 4 Churches (Semarang, Jakarta, Solo and Sukorejo-Pasuruan) and 3 Mission Areas/Fellowships (Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Klaten). Semarang is the most established congregation and at the center of JAGI.
Worship services are held on Saturdays, in the Sabbatarian tradition, with charismatic and engaging worship leaders. Sabbath begins with a prayer service, followed by religious education in age groups, followed by an intergenerational worship service. After worship, the community gathers for lunch. And, after lunch various church activities take place. The Youth and Young Adults meet each Saturday afternoon for 2 hours.
JAGI’s Unitarian theology is based on strong monotheism and relies on Jewish and Christian scripture. JAGI doesn’t celebrate traditional Christian Holidays (Christmas, Easter), but does celebrate Passover and the Lord’s Supper (2x/year). JAGI recommends a kosher diet for its members, but does not enforce this strictly.
Ministry with Youth (including Young Adults): JAGI is realistic about its future – its leaders want to build strong Unitarian families whose children will become committed Unitarians. They hold terrific activities for their youth – including annual camping excursions. And, the youth have strong bonds – in fact, the entire Unitarian community is closely bonded and committed.
Ellen Kristi, the Religious Education Director, is well versed in cutting-edge educational practices that she uses for the Sabbath School classes. She hopes to eventually establish a Unitarian school. JAGI is now familiar with UUA RE curriculum and plans to mix/match pieces of it that can help their Sabbath school. The older Youth – university students – are very interested in creating connections with Unitarian youth in other countries.
It is exciting and inspiring to know that JAGI is growing our global faith in Indonesia.