The Uniting Church Assembly is encouraging UCA members and congregations to mark and take part in National Reconciliation Week from 27 May – 3 June. The theme this year is "Reconciliation takes action" and we invite you think about concrete actions you can take, and to mark the week in worship with the resource prepared by Tarlee Leondaris in the Synod of South Australia.
From our leaders
There is a sore that hasn’t been healed. It’s a deep cut, it’s deeply painful and it’s been covered over and over and over. For me there needs to be a real healing, a cutting away of the deep hurt, and a whole renewing of Australia. In the Uniting Church, it is about living out our commitment to the call of covenant upon our lives, the commitment to the relationship with our First Nations and to begin in an intentional way to go about that.
- Pastor Mark Kickett, Interim National Chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. (Hear more below.)
I encourage UCA members to embrace this opportunity of National Reconciliation Week to affirm our covenant relationship as First and Second Peoples. This week, we acknowledge the wrongs of the past and the present and commit ourselves to take action towards the process of reconciliation. Inspired by the reconciling and renewing work of Christ, may we shape new communities of mutuality, dignity, care and compassion, and a respectful and deepened relationship with this ancient land and her First Peoples.
- Dr Deidre Palmer, UCA President
Moving from Safe to Brave
Stuart McMillan, National Consultant Covenanting.
“In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”
The final paragraph of the Statement from the Heart encourages a movement, First and Second Peoples together, the people born of this spectacular and ancient land together with all those who have migrated here, declaring a new way forward, announcing the rightful place of First Nations voices - a new way shaped by truth telling and treaty.
Reconciliation Week 2021 begins on 27 May, the anniversary of the 1967 referendum and concludes on 3 June, the day in 1992 that Eddie (Koiki) Mabo won and the lie of terra nullius was laid bare in the Australian High Court. This was not a land without people, and the sovereignty of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples was never ceded, they were never conquered, the lie now exposed.
This year’s theme is ‘More than a word – Reconciliation takes action’. As Christian community the Uniting Church understands ‘reconciliation’ in the terms of paragraph 3 of our Basis of Union: “The Church as a fellowship of the Holy Spirit confesses Jesus as Lord over its life, it also confesses that Jesus is Head over all things, the beginning of a new creation, of a new humanity. God in Christ has given to all people in the Church the Holy Spirit as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation. The Church’s call is to serve that end: to be fellowship of reconciliation.”
Christ’s love compels us, sisters and brothers to be that ‘fellowship of reconciliation’. For us, the community of Christ, reconciliation is more than a word, indeed it involves action. The 2021 Reconciliation Australia report on the State of Reconciliation is subtitled, ‘From Safe to Brave’.
The Uniting Church has bravely and rightly entered into a binding covenant relationship in 1994 with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). On 26 May every year we remember to our nation's shame, Sorry Day, and we believe in a hope filled future. The UCA apologised in 1996 for our part in the tragic histories and present realities for families who had been traumatised by what has been called ‘the stolen generation’.
In 2009 we celebrated the Assembly decision to place a new Preamble in the Uniting Church in Australia’s Constitution which recognises God the Creator in this ancient land and with her peoples long before any colonisers came.
We declared we had a ‘destiny together’ and together in 2014, fasting and praying and acting in solidarity, opposing the NT Intervention and speaking out for justice for First Nations Peoples.
The 15th Assembly 2018 declared First Nations Peoples were sovereign and quoted from the Statement from the Heart to describe that co-existing sovereignty together with the 'spiritual' nature of sovereignty under the Creator God.
Some Second Peoples, who seek a softer, safer way forward, raise objections and have suggested that First Nations Peoples first need to reconcile amongst themselves. Some First Nations Peoples have asked how there can be reconciliation with Second Peoples when there was no relationship to begin with. Friends, within the Uniting Church, Christ’s love compels us to remove the plank from our own eye. We have so much to do to live out our covenant commitment, to change the way we operate and to walk in deeper relationship, as a fellowship of reconciliation.
This year’s theme, ‘More than a word – reconciliation takes action’, reminds us that fine words and wonderful resolutions are hollow without action. The writer of James said: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”.
How will your community mark Reconciliation Week this year and what actions might you take in the year ahead?
A worship resource for 2021
The Assembly is encouraging all congregations to use the wonderful worship resource prepared by Tarlee Leondaris, Covenanting and International Missions Officer in the Synod of South Australia.
The Resource has intergenerational ideas for worship and includes an adapted sermon by Tarlee from Rev Dr John Squires and Rev Elizabeth Raine.
We suggest you adapt the prayers and music for your particular community’s life. If you are able, invite a First Nations person to conduct a Welcome to Country. We’d encourage you to do this rather than use the Acknowledgement in the resource. Take time to get to know them and invite them to take part in your worship service as a sign and expression of your Walking Together in covenantal relationship.
This interview with Ps Mark Kickett was shared at the President's Conference in Adelaide in April 2021 in a session titled A Vision for a Just Australia.
Acknowledge the First Nations Peoples of your area
Order a display banner from the Assembly.
Undertake a Walking On Country opportunity
Hit the button for details of contact people in each state.
Take part in NAIDOC Week Activities
You may want to join a planned event, or host your own.
Join the Assembly's Walking Together Circle of Interest.
Be a part of the ongoing work of covenanting and reconciliation.
Take up a study resource as a congregation or community
Register your interest in Living Covenant Locally.
Donate to grow UAICC young leaders
Contribute to the development of young UAICC leaders nationally.
National Reconciliation Week website and resources
Reconciliation Australia - Karen Mundine provides a Youtube Introduction to this year's theme (1 Minute)
Stan Grant YouTube video, Our History, Our Story, Our Future (2 minutes)
Resources from Australians Together
A reflection from Alison Overeem: Sorry Day, Reconciliation Week, Mabo Day and NAIDOC Week