Called to serve with Jesus
The Uniting Church is celebrating the formal admission of Rev Mark Kickett as a Minister of the Word in the UCA. Mark is the National Interim Chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC).
In a joyful occasion for the UCA, a Service of Admission was held at Adelaide West Uniting Church on Saturday 18 September.
Welcoming Mark’s formal admission as a UCA Minister, UCA President Rev Sharon Hollis said, “We thank God for the ministry of Mark in the Uniting Church and in UAICC. The whole church is gifted by his deep faith and love for Jesus. We give thanks for his leadership of UAICC and in our covenantal relationship as First and Second Peoples.”
For Mark, it is another step in a deeply-felt call to serve Christ and share the Gospel, particularly in the context of Congress and the UCA.
“I am extremely proud. I think it’s a validation of the journey I am on and consolidates a long and significant relationship between myself and Uniting Church and the role I am playing with Congress. It is a continued affirmation of God’s call on my life to ministry,” said Mark this week.
A Noongar man from south west WA, Mark was ordained a minister in the Baptist Church in the 1990s. His ministry has taken him from Brisbane to Perth, Broken Hill and Kalparrin near Murray Bridge in South Australia.
Mark has long had a passion for empowering young Aboriginal people to grow their faith and leadership. Throughout his ministry has been connected to the work of Congress through his relationships with key Congress leaders, including Denise Champion and the Lester family. From 2016, he served as the State Development Officer for UAICC in SA, and in April 2020 was appointed UAICC National Interim Chair.
However, a call to ministry was not always on the cards for Mark. In his youth, Mark was far more intent on a career on the cricket pitch or football field than inside the church.
Born in Narrogin in the wheatbelt region of WA, Mark spent his early childhood “living off the land” among family and community. But his life took a turn when he was placed in foster care in a white middle-class family in Perth.
In retelling his call to ministry for the President’s Conference this year, Mark said his first experiences of racism were as a child, and they left a deep mark.
“The whole issue of racism was real, it was hard and it was challenging for a little six-year-old boy.”
“Racism for me within the church was very blatant. I often thought, what is this, having to be a Christian and walking with God when these people proclaim one thing but live another way? So it didn’t resonate. It didn’t ring true.”
He recalls when his evangelical Christian foster parents told him of a dream they had in which Mark was a preacher. At the time he was embarrassed, far more intent on playing cricket for Australia, but he says, “that conversation never left me. From that night onwards, I struggled with it. I went over it time and time again. The course of my life developed, and the world started to take a different shape and focus.”
Towards the mid-70s, rights for Aboriginal people in Australia began to change.
“My mother was able to challenge what was then called the ‘native welfare’ and challenge for us to be returned to her care.”
This was also the time that Mark’s personal journey with Jesus began.
“It was about the time of the revivals that came from Elcho Island down through Yolngu country, into APY Lands, through the Goldfields and into WA, when Aboriginal people started to come to life in this whole new way of knowing Jesus. We were hearing and seeing Aboriginal pastors.”
“I remember being an Easter camp at Mogumber Mission where Uncle Ben Mason was sharing, and he challenged the young people. I was probably 15 or 16. And I heard that call again. Very clearly. And it was at that time that I finally responded in an affirmation that I would follow Jesus.”
The sense that Jesus walks with him continues to guide Mark in his call to discipleship and ministry.
“One of the beautiful texts from the Bible that really speaks into my heart is the story where the disciples are leaving Jerusalem, walking away on the road to Emmaus. Their hearts were broken. Their whole life had been shattered, in turmoil. And Jesus himself drew near and walked with them on that journey – in the struggle, in the turmoil and what seemed to be the defeat of their life.”
“And that’s been my story, that I know that Jesus has come and he’s walked with me and continues to walk every day with me.”
“Sometimes you feel like you’re kicking and screaming, resisting where God is calling, but somehow God speaks a way into your heart that changes and transforms.”
Congratulations and welcome to Mark as a Minister of the word in the UCA!
Photo credit: Thanks to the Synod of South Australia for the above photos from the Service of Admission for Rev Mark Kickett on 18 September at Adelaide West Uniting Church at the conclusion of the SA Synod Expo.