Whitefellas barefoot

On Sunday, along with many other churches around the nation, we remembered the impacts of white colonialism on First Peoples. Our prayers included a smattering of Keerray Woorroong; we addressed God in pidgin; we listened to Aboriginal Christian leader Brooke Prentis speak; and we reflected together on what small steps we could do to increase our understanding both of the impact of colonialism, and of the country on which we live.

In our discussion, we acknowledged the importance of truth-telling, especially regarding the real history of white settlement, and we recognised that this includes learning about and repenting of the massacres and other violence across this region, particularly those atrocities carried out by church-goers on Sunday afternoons from the hill which is now Warrnambool College. It emerged that many of us are learning about Indigenous plants by growing them, tending them, eating them, and learning more by going on tours such as those offered at Tower Hill. Many of us are trying to learn the proper place names in this region (for why, read this article). And of course we are continuing to pray with and for Indigenous Australians.

We acknowledged that we have a responsibility to keep listening to Indigenous voices. One small step is to read Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia by Anita Heiss (ed). Some of us will reflect on this book together on Saturday 23 February at 10am over coffee and/or brunch at Rough Diamond; let me know if you would like to be part of this conversation.

The photograph above was taken at the request of Indigenous Christian leaders through Common Grace. Across the nation, churches have been photographed barefoot in symbolic acknowledgement of the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand, and with whom we stand for justice, healing and reconciliation. Our photo, along with many other churches’ photos, will be shared via social media on 26 January with the hashtag #ChangeThe Heart. You are welcome to share it too, but, in accordance with our church safe policy, do not tag people in the photograph by name.

On Saturday, we held our first yarn. Thirty five people gathered in the hall – some well-known to us all, while others were new and lovely faces – and together we listened and told stories about our personal epiphanies. One person realised that, in the face of a child’s wonder, he must never explain things away; another, that we are called to ordinary life. Someone discovered that the kindness of strangers runs in families; someone else, that affirmation and love might not come from our own families, but we do our work anyway, and take affirmation from wherever it comes.

Meanwhile, a traveller had realised how much there is learn about other people and other places, and how that journey never comes to an end; a volunteer, that helping out rewards body, mind and spirit; a protester, that there are times when adults must stick up for vulnerable children. One man had discovered the domino-effect of saying ‘yes’; a mother, the way parenting choices can be contested space; and a daughter, the healing potential of sharing an insight at a critical moment. It was a time of generous sharing and listening, and most people hung round talking long after the stories had been told. Thank you to everyone who came, and told stories, and listened, and brought a friend. Our next yarn will be on Saturday 16 March at 7pm; the theme is ‘Wilderness.’

Finally, at our final youth group gathering for 2018, our young people reviewed the year just past, and told us what they hope for in 2019. Together we worked out a program of longer gatherings less often, with a new format of dinner, movie, discussion and some form of challenge rooted in the themes of the movie. More details will be sent separately to the youth group email list; for now, Term 1 dates are below.


PS – Don’t forget to share our photo on 26 January with the hashtag #ChangeTheHeart!

Emailed to Sanctuary 23 January 2019 © Alison Sampson, 2019. 

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