Photo: Karina, one of our keynote speakers at this years Collective, followed God’s call to the inner city for a ministry of urban engagement.

By Emily Ferguson

Karina Kreminski is one of those people you could sit and learn from for hours, coming away with an overflowing notebook and a mind brimming with possibilities.

Born in Argentina to a God-devoted, Slavic-background family, Karina grew up with the impression that God would only be happy with her if she did the right things. But an experience of God’s love in her early 20s broke through all that, and since then all she has wanted to do is share it with others.

“I went to Bible college and ended up becoming a minister, ordained in Community Life Church Cherrybrook,” she recounts. “I was there for 10 to 12 years as an ordained minister, and I led the church as the Senior Pastor for some of that time.”

But her desire to make Jesus known and relevant to those outside the church would not stay silent, and her doctorate in missional formation reminded her of her original call.

So, she finished pastoring and began lecturing in missional studies at Morling College, where she still enjoys teaching, and followed God’s call to the inner city for a ministry of urban engagement.

“Urban engagement is about looking at the urban place itself – what’s different about it and what values and spirituality come from it – and then thinking, ‘Well if that place is quite different and has certain characteristics, what does engagement look like in that space?’

“For me, it looks like embodying the love of God in a very practical, embodied and grounded sort of way, and connecting with my neighbour. I originally moved to Surry Hills in order to start a church, but when I moved in I felt like God said, ‘Don’t do that, don’t start a church, just love the community.’

“So, I connected with the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre. I started running a course called the Happiness Lab, and we started up a website called Surry Hills and Valleys where we interview the locals of Surry Hills. Through that I connected with a whole stack of people in the area and basically just came alongside them and embodied the love of God to them without preaching to them.”

Karina and her husband, Armen – who were married not long after Karina moved to Surry Hills – recently started an initiative called Neighbourhood Matters to train and equip churches to think about how they are expressing the love of God in their own neighbourhoods, and to reorient Christians from focusing primarily on the church to focusing on God’s mission in the neighbourhood.

“I think Christians recently have moved more towards the suburbs in a kind of an escape from the city – thinking the city is a bad place, a dark place, a violent place. But the Bible clearly shows that while there are challenges with the city, it can be good. When the universe is restored we will see a city coming down from heaven; we’ll be living in a city. So, cities are good, but the people of God do need to work with God for that redemption.”

Karina will be one of three keynote speakers at this year’s Fresh Hope Collective and will be running an urban engagement facilitation with Armen, who has a background coming alongside people who are marginalised.

“I’m looking forward to connecting with others at Fresh Hope Collective – particularly Christian leaders who are hungry to know what God is saying these days. And I’m looking forward to hearing from God through others and their ministry experiences.”

Read more stories of Fresh Hope here.