I was born and lived the first stanza of my life on Guringai country;
I moved to Dharawal country, as a Youth Worker, while studying as a candidate on Burramattagal country;
my first placement was on Wiradjuri country in the west;
I then moved to Ngunnawal country in the south;
I have lived for the last sixteen years on Gamilaraay country in the north-west, and the Synod Office where I base my work, stands on Gadigal country, part of the Eora nation.
At the 2019 Synod in Session, I learned a formal way of introducing myself and acknowledging country, which is to step out each of the chapters of where I have lived. It helps all those to whom I am paying respect to know my history, and all those by whom I am welcomed to see where my feet have walked.
It places me in context; not just my name, but my pilgrimage. It has been an invaluable lesson; about country, about respect. I am learning more about myself.
These weeks are full of acknowledgement and celebration and, might remain only that, if we fail to recall how we arrived where we are. Sorry Day and National Reconciliation Week call our attention to our First Nations community and the fraught, costly path we have walked and continue to walk.
As we mark the Week, in worship and school and our community, we risk only looking at this week, this moment. Neglecting the past is a grave mistake. The wounds people bear cannot be discounted, nor the way we have begun to listen to the stories. Once we have learnt to pay attention, we move to reconcile with each other – seeking forgiveness, which is one of the first signs of justice, hallmarked by hope.
Reconciliation Week always dovetails into Pentecost, followed by our Uniting Church anniversary.
We live in some tensioned space, our Church. The worry of where we are and the fear of where we might be headed; the challenge of the Church’s place in our world, and our role within it.
There is a strong inclination to manage our way through this. We are tempted by business models and the language of leadership and review which is caught up in profit and success. We reframe the story which shapes us to suit these fraught times and neglect the steps which have brought us here; it is an illusion.
We need to remember the origin of our hope, and call each other to remember.
The Uniting Church acknowledges that the Church is able to live and endure through the changes of history only because its Lord comes, addresses, and deals with people in and through the news of his completed work.[Basis of Union, Para. 4]
I was asked, recently, if I am optimistic; I said no. I told the consultant that I am a person of hope, found solely in Christ. I have no time to waste on optimism.
I do not believe we can manage our way out of the mess in which we find ourselves, whether it is the political playground brawl being decided as I write, or the plethora of other challenges before us – as large as history, and as personal as people’s battles with mental illness, domestic abuse, or addiction.
At the recent Assembly, I spoke from the floor for the first time. Part of what I said was,
“In this Easter season, the risen, crucified Jesus charges the disciples – no ifs, buts, or maybes – to make disciples. The power of proclamation, the integrity of witness, the wonder of forgiveness are deliberately and directly commanded in the Gospel resurrection stories.
How able are we to disciple people?
Where is the call to articulate the gospel in such a way, that people are invited in hospitality, into community, into faith, into discipleship – in Jesus Christ?”
We must remember who we are, and in whom we belong.
We are not called to save the church, the world, or anyone; we are called to bear witness to the One who has saved history and creation, and to invite people to follow, with us, in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
May the Spirit at Pentecost, and every day, breathe new life into you, and your community of faith.