big, big day


Big, big day here at Assembly in Adelaide, Australia – here since Sunday; we finish up after lunch this Saturday. Back home in Brisbane dinner time that day.  Three matters have well-and-truly occupied my mind and heart and I pray, action.

Earlier in Assembly, the 25o of us gathered from around Australia unanimously passed a resolution expressing speaking out against the non-consultative manner of the Federal Government’s Stronger Futures legislation – the second iteration of their N.T. intervention strategy.  No one (including the Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress) is under any illusions about the complexity of issues surrounding the health and well-being of the First Peoples of this land … but clearly as Congress person after Congress person shared, the Government has done a lamentable job of appropriate consultation, listening and partnering.  Lamentable.

So lament we did. The whole Assembly walked silently to the steps of the South Australian Parliament House, whereupon we took part – standing as one, in a Prayer Vigil.  I’m there to the right above the Assembly banner. As reported in the lead up to this …

Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Rev. Rronang Garrawurra and the new President of the Uniting Church Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney will stand shoulder to shoulder at the prayer vigil.
“They have taken our land and now our humanity is taken away by this new law,” said Rev. Garrawurra, speaking through an interpreter in his native Yolngu language.
“The Uniting Church mourns another lost opportunity for true reconciliation with the First Peoples of Australia,” said Rev. Prof. Dutney who assumed the presidency of the Uniting Church last Sunday.
“The passage of Stronger Futures legislation without adequate consultation with Indigenous Australians is a lamentable development.”

I found the whole experience incredibly moving and humbling.

Have I ever done anything like this?  I recall only once – decades ago at the height (if that’s quite the word) of the Bjelke-Peterson government in Queensland, and when electricity workers were being laid off … or something like that … I recall going to a public event in Albert St, Brisbane.

Here I found myself demonstrably in solidarity with my indigenous brothers and sisters … something I struggle to express in my local living and ministry context. It was moving singing Robin Mann’s song of lament: How long

How long will your creatures
Be trampled, degraded forever?
How long must we cry out
’til justice rolls down like a river?

It was moving singing Like a Candle, written by my friend Craig Mitchell and others .

We are called to live the passion
Hope stands strong against the pain
For it’s only in the burning
That the candle shows its flame.

But there’s more. This afternoon – and Assembly has known this has been coming all week – we began hearing, discussing and reflecting on three proposals concerning marriage, including seeking clarity on where the Uniting Church stands on same-gender marriage, We’ll discuss and discern some more on this tomorrow – a facilitation group will review these proposals, having heard views shared in debate and will bring a report for us to discuss some more tomorrow.

I’m far from blind (but admittedly so ignorant) as I’ve said about the complexities and the struggles surrounding these two big issues today – but glad that I’m part of a church which is prepared to enter the struggle for truth, understanding and shared future on the likes of these – ultimately discerning the promptings of the Spirit.  I’m glad (though it’s scary) to be part of a church that calls us as disciples of Christ to step beyond my treasured comfort zones.

That’s not all – these days I’m significantly involved in two Assembly music projects – Songs That Unite – an online facility offering downloadable (at low cost) home-grown contemporary worship songs – backing tracks, lyrics, score, the lot – to enhance congregational singing … all the while seeking to share song with strong theology and inclusive lyrics … I have about 30 songs as part of the 100 or so available on line.  This is an honour.  Always great to have one’s writing recognised by the wider church and indeed muso peers.

The other one is songwrite – the first national Uniting Church songwriters weekend – to happen in Christian community in Canberra 15-17 February 2013. Sharon Kirk and I have been invited to coordinate this special boutique event (as I describe it).

We’re calling songwriters from around the country to this – especially (but not only) those whose worship songs by-and-large rarely find an ‘audience’ beyond their own local context.  So with the help of President Andrew Dutney (a great songwriter and muso in his own right) and iconic South Australian songwriter Robin Mann, songwrite is something to look forward to.  Attendance costs will be subsidised, and the whole event will also involve coaches, mentors, experienced songwriters and thinkers.

We were able to promote both songs that unite and songwrite at Assembly today.

No wonder that a “big, big day” produced a big, big blog.



1 Response to “big, big day”

  1. 1 Craig Mitchell July 19, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    well said. thanks.

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