The Psalmist sings, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (Psalm 30:11)
My mother says there is a lot of bitterness about the Christian church. “They came here and totally disregarded our beliefs of the Creator who created all things. We didn’t have Jesus but we had a lot of other beliefs. We have to acknowledge, though, that in reality, we would have been wiped out if it wasn’t for the churches. But now the church is changing. It is more accepting of Aboriginal traditions. Some churches invite our elders to do smoking ceremonies—our traditional way of cleansing—in the church. And many of the clergy talk about one God for all people now. Deacon Boniface Pridot, he’s a tribal man from Daly River, he’s in the Catholic church. He brings together the two beliefs so beautifully.”
My Aunty Val sums it up pretty well, I reckon. She says, “The whitefullas were preaching to us what we were already practising, only they couldn’t see that.”
I do a lot of work in Catholic schools. Every year I go to this very posh school and each time it comes to the dancing I ask the teachers to get up and dance, too. At that school they wear what I call Batman suits, those black capes; I think they call them academic gowns. I’ve got two or three hundred boys, Years 7s, 8s and 9s sitting on the floor in the hall. Everything is very strict. It is hard to make them laugh. I tried everything, some of my funniest lines and yet no one even smirked.
So, now it’s time for the teachers to dance, and I yell out, “Okay, you fullas, it’s your turn. Take all those Batman capes off and get out here.” All the students just about broke their necks trying to look at their teachers to see what kind of reaction they would have. These fullas just threw off their capes, grabbed the branches and were out in the middle of the floor shaking their legs. That finally broke the ice and the boys started to relax and the room was filled with laugher. Phew!
I was having a chat with this young fulla who was taking me to the staffroom after the show. I asked him what he thought the highlight of the show was. He said, “Father so-and-so smiling.” He said he had been there for a few years and this was the first time he’d seen Father smile.
I was invited back the year after. One of the teachers said that after my last visit, Father so-and-so was doing his usual Sunday morning service in the local church and this fly was buzzing around his face. Suddenly, he grabs this thing with the tassel on it and shakes his arms around like he’s shaking the gum leaves in the Honey Dance to chase the black and yellow bees away. He goes, “A aah, a aah, a aah, a aah.” He puts the tassel down and returns to the service he is conducting as if nothing happened!
My mum is right. The church is changing! Ω
Reflect: Where have you seen unity emerge from a place of fracture; life from a place of death; joy from a place of sombreness or mourning? Who helped bring it about? Was there a joker, a trickster, the Risen Christ who slipped through the defences and let the light in? Give thanks for resurrection and the superabundant presence of the Risen Christ, who fills the world—even you!—with holy breath!
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent. This year’s theme is Fruit of the Spirit. Why? Read this. #Lent2022. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent © Sanctuary, 2022. From Boori (Monty) Pryor, with Meme McDonald. Maybe Tomorrow. Ringwood, Vic: Penguin, 1998: 187, 189-190.
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