I want to cultivate our connection with our first Australians, the indigenous people of our land. I have many reasons for this. Not the least because we are Australians together, and therefore must learn to live together, for the good of all. For me, it is also very personal.
In my younger years, I grew up in a predominately Aboriginal church. My parents served as Pastors among indigenous people across South Australia. Our primary connection was with the Ngarrindjeri down at Raukkan, the $50 note town near Meninge. These people have had a profound impact on my life. I have had an incredible experience of extended family, faith, joy and sorrow. I learnt to play the guitar by ear. The hymns I know remind me of sing-a-longs with the Aunties. These were great and challenging times.
I thought I would minister among Aboriginal people. This was the world I knew, and one I wanted to serve in. God has taken me on a very different journey from working in Universities, pastoring young people, serving Baptist churches and now here at Unley Park. I have often wondered what God might do with those formative experiences and relationships. I recognise I have been shaped in character and I can still play the guitar by ear! But did God have anything more?
Over the past few years, God has given opportunity in our Baptist movement to increase relationship with Aboriginal people. The timing has been God-given and I have been in wonder at how God has used relationships and experiences from my early years. I currently chair our Baptist Churches Reconciliation Action Plan committee to ensure we remain faithful with these opportunities. At a local church level, I know we have many things we hope to do. I am aware also Unley Park is not the first place to imagine serving with Aboriginal people. I don’t know yet how we participate, but I would love it if you joined God in this journey of blessing and renewal too. I honestly believe one sign of the health of our church will be found in the health of our relationships with our first Australians.