Lenten Reflections 2021 - “Walking Together”

A series of Studies for Lent (and other times)
To help Tasmanian Anglicans, and others,
To explore how we build and foster meaningful relationships with the Original inhabitants
Of lutruwita/Tasmania

Following the meeting of the Anglican Synod of Tasmania in May 2019, the Anglican Aboriginal Relationships Working Group was formed to help resource Tasmanian Anglicans, and others, to acknowledge and lament past relationships with the palawa peoples, and to journey together towards building better relationships.  As that Group has met, the focus has been around six key words or phrases: Understanding God’s heart, Learn, Listen, Admit, Connect, Seek Justice.

As part of the resourcing process, the AARWG has produced this series of Studies/Reflections, designed for use during Lent, or at other times.  Members of the Group each produced seven readings and reflections – one for each day of a week, with each week focussing on one of these themes.  Each reflection draws from one or more passages of Scripture, with some questions/comments, and a call to reflect and act.  Some weeks also have a separate short introduction.  We hope you find these Studies helpful in your own journey.  May the God who is relationship help us to build better relationships through them.

Week 1 - A True Fast After God’s Heart

I was not taught anything about Aboriginal history at school. I grew up believing that Tasmanian Aboriginals were extinct along with many other widely propagated myths about them. It was not until I started to educate myself through reading and listening that I discovered a terrible history that I knew nothing about. I felt the weight of injustice experienced by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community, even today. I also felt more than a little peeved that I knew nothing of the ancient foundations of the land and waters that I call home.

Why is our church heading down the path of Aboriginal justice? Is it not just a distraction from the gospel? We are not unique in trying to find the right balance between social justice and evangelism, Christians have grappled with this balance for a long time and some have got it wrong. Done right though, seeking justice can be a powerful and tangible witness to the reconciling work of our God through Jesus. Aunty Jean Philips, one of Australia’s most senior Aboriginal Christian Leaders declares that “it’s only the cross – the Christian gospel – that will bring healing to our nation.” I invite you to see the ‘Big Picture’ of what God is doing by stirring our hearts towards acknowledging and lamenting our shared past and seeking restored relationships with local Aboriginal people in Tasmania.

Week 1 Studies prepared by Bonnie Bonneville.

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Week 2 - Learn

The dislocation of 2020 was shocking, leaving us suddenly without recourse to a force that invaded our lives, threatening us and our families, our lifestyle and our livelihoods.

A year after Alison and I returned to Australia after 13 years away, we attended Surrender Conference which included a ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony. We were surprised and delighted to realise that we were finally home. Afterwards, thanking Aunty for leading the gathering, she asked “who are your people?” Smiling at my confused response, she encouraged me to “go find them”. I have been around the world, proudly calling myself Australian, but I have not learned who I really am until I “know my people”. I pray that this week of reflection helps you connect with your people right here at home. This learning takes time and is a core work in our being reconciled to ourselves and to others – putting to work the work of the cross!

The attitude we learn is as important as the information we gather, so I invite you to reflect on these couplets of formation and information each day

Learning about the first peoples of this land can lead us into a compassionate engagement with their experience, and a coming to know for ourselves; but first we need to hear how palawa lives were disrupted. Follow the blue underlined links to discover more!

“May the God of all wonder who set the stars in the sky,
bless you with relentless unsettledness -
that drives you to seek truth.” - Brooke Prentis

Week 2 Studies prepared by John Stanley.

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Week 3 - Listen

I came from a far off land that was invaded, conquered and settled multiple times, over hundreds of years of its history. I listened to those stories, mostly in lessons at school, and marvelled at the complexity of life for both the victor and the vanquished, and what eventually came through it. From there, I came to this land as a young man in 1963, with the eyes, prejudices and a history of colonialism, assuming we were right, simply because we were, and we were here, and my school atlas had Australia in pink along with all the other ‘colonies’. This was a country that, in those days, had a ‘White Australia Policy’ for immigration.    I enjoyed the very good fortune to work in the bush. I learned new skills:  look, observe, listen, hear, see, feel, smell the outback, become one with it.   Listen, you can hear the wind in the trees, but can you hear the story? Story and country are one, underfoot. Listen. They have no fence lines, no shearing sheds, no windmills, no boundary pegs and God’s grace has none of these either.

Week 3 Studies prepared by Alexander and Carole Withers.

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Week 4 - Connect

“Uncle Tongue, Uncle Tongue….”  This was the confusing cry to me of two Gamilaraay kids some years ago.  We were living in Boggabilla, on the Qld/NSW border.  It was my first ‘solo’ Parish, and we were living in a small country town that was pretty much 50:50, Black and White.  Just across the border in Qld was Goondiwindi, scene of the 1984 race-riots, and numerous other racially-motivated ‘incidents’.  Our time there was certainly not without experiencing some of the prevalent ‘social issues’.

I say the cry was confusing at the time, because I was not related to these kids, and yet they were calling me ‘Uncle’.  I knew lots of ‘Murri’ members of the community were termed ‘Uncle’, or ‘Auntie’, but here these kids were, calling the White Anglican Minister in town, ‘Uncle’.

Though I’d had some experience working in Aboriginal communities previously, when I went to Boggabilla, I was still really a novice in terms of Aboriginal culture, and my own lack of racial awareness.  But I was keen to learn.  As much as possible, I tried to mix in with the local people, and just to sit and listen and experience – trying my best to ‘Connect’.  When we were leaving the district, one of the local land-owners in the Church commented that I was the first minister they’d had who really tried to relate to the local Murris.  And I guess that had borne results – I was not ‘related’ to these kids, but we had come into ‘relationship’.  Slowly but surely, a degree of connection had grown between myself and the local community.  I had been accepted – and become – “Uncle Tongue”.

Our Heavenly Father calls us into ‘Relationship’ with Himself, through Jesus Christ.  The commencement of this process can be almost instantaneous, but still, it takes time for that relationship to grow and develop, as we spend time together, listening and learning from each other.  And the One with whom we grow in that relationship is the ‘Lord who made from one blood all the nations of the earth….’ And He is about bringing all people together in Christ.

Week 4 Studies prepared by John Tongue.

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Week 5 - Admit

Admission is a confession usually following an accusation. Australian society and the Church in particular stands accused of being complicit in the disadvantage of first nation  peoples. For most people that complicity is accepting the status quo and failing to act to rectify the inequity still experienced by Australia’s first peoples.

Jesus said Love God with all our heart and love your neighbour as yourself. Mark 12;30-32

As Church and individuals we need to hold that teaching in all areas of life.

The charge of complicity results from many aspects which include ignorance of history and culture, complacency due to our own relative comfort and affluence, The complexity of the race relation situation in  ‘Australia. It can be just too hard to engage mentally and physically with the complex matters involved. The risk of fracturing relationships family and friendships due to strongly held positions. Structural racism both historical and current as well as underlying racist attitudes held by many people. Perhaps most importantly, separation from God as we reflect on the first and greatest commandment Jesus taught.

Week 5 Studies prepared by John Middleton.

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Week 6 - Justice

Lent is a time of self-reflection, repentance, and renewal. As we pray, give and fast together, let’s remember Jesus’ victory over sin and death, and call on his saving power to bring about justice for the first peoples of Australia.

Week 6 Studies prepared by Luke Campton.

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