Lord, we weep
for these blood-drenched lands
and these exhausted peoples
who have seen too much suffering.
We weep for families separated,
for peoples torn from their land,
for the death of language,
for the loss of culture.
First Peoples, invaders, migrants, refugees:
together, we weep.
Show us what we have in common.
Grant us the humility to listen,
the willingness to learn,
and the courage to act
in solidarity and compassion.
For we are a broken people
yearning for healing;
the healing which only love brings.
This is a hard week, poised as it is between Aboriginal Sunday and 26 January. There are some great resources online outlining what makes 26 January so painful and what positive steps people can take; I highly commend Greg’s interview of Mark Yettica-Paulson on this issue, which you can read here.
As a white settler church, our liturgy on Aboriginal Sunday (19 January) focussed on confession and repentance. We acknowledged the violence of dispossession, the continued suffering of First Peoples, and our silence in the face of it all; and we asked God to give us the courage, compassion and conviction we need to turn our passivity into action. Then, during our time of reflection, we identified a number of small practical steps we as a congregation could take to better acknowledge that we worship, work and play on stolen land.
This coming Sunday, we will begin to put several of these suggestions into action. We already acknowledge First Peoples in our liturgy, either in our gathering prayers or the prayers of confession, and we will continue to do this. However, the liturgy has been amended to include some local language. Many of our kids are learning Keerray Woorrong at kindergarten, and we will reinforce this learning (for them and for us) by introducing some simple words and phrases. So be prepared to say Ngata! (hello), Korr (yes / amen), and Wurruk! (goodbye) as part of our worship. We will also add some simple images to our creation prayer station. These will include local animals and their names, and the true seasons for this area — did you know there are six?
Again and again, Indigenous leaders ask white settlers to have conversations with racist people, and this came up on Sunday. From time to time, most of us find ourselves with people who are making racist generalisations or statements. As white people, it is easy for us to roll our eyes and stay silent; but as followers of Jesus, we would like to encourage one another to gently and lovingly challenge people when this occurs. Perhaps we could have a session naming the things we hear said, and think together about how to respond; that way, we can be better prepared next time it happens.
There were a number of other suggestions made (e.g. an excursion to Budj Bim; a local walk with an Indigenous guide; a sign on the building acknowledging the traditional custodians; using our church email list to advertise Indigenous public events; commissioning a local Indigenous artist; etc.). These will be written up, and we will revisit the list annually. Each year we will review how we’re going and decide what our next steps will be.
As bushfires continue to rage and the effects of colonial arrogance and destruction become ever clearer, this particular January 26 is, perhaps, especially painful. Many of you have expressed to me new depths of hopelessness and despair. This Sunday, we will reflect on whether Jesus has good news for a colonised people, and if so, what that might entail.
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