16th Assembly renews the Covenant
May 6, 2022
The reconvened meeting of the 16th Assembly began with a historic renewal of the Covenant between the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), reaffirming the place of this relationship at the heart of the UCA.
Uniting Church President Rev Sharon Hollis led a liturgy of renewal together with UAICC National Interim Chairperson Rev Mark Kickett during the worship at the commencement of the reconvened 16th Assembly.
It was a time of both a celebration of this important commitment and a time of confession for the ways we have not honoured or lived up to the vision of the Covenant.
In gesture of deep humility, those Second Peoples who participated in the worship and all who were watching online, were invited to kneel as an Act of Confession. In reading this confession, the President said,
“Before You, and before our Congress siblings, we confess anew that we have been and continue to be complicit in the oppression of First Peoples. We took and continue to take land from its rightful custodians. We chose and continue to choose violence, subjugation, prejudice and patronising charity. We have turned a blind eye to the continued desecration of sacred places across our lands. Australia’s justice system continues to discriminate against First Peoples, and the ever-increasing numbers of Indigenous deaths in custody show us that justice is yet to roll down like waters.”
“And so, before You, our God, and before our First Nations siblings, we humbly seek forgiveness.”
All were invited to continue this confession.
“We pray that our commitment to this Covenant will be renewed and enlivened. Kindle in us a flame for justice and equity in these lands known as Australia, and remind us to work in solidarity, shoulder to shoulder, with our First Nations siblings. May we defiantly choose love and justice over racism and fear, every day, in every decision, in every action.”
The Uniting Church first entered into a Covenant with UAICC in 1994 when Dr Jill Tabart, President of the Assembly, and Pastor Bill Hollingsworth, Chairperson of the UAICC, read the Covenanting Statement at the 7th Assembly meeting. Tonight 16th Assembly members were invited to read this statement again.
Rev Mark Kickett responded to the renewal of the Covenant outlining its significance for and appreciation from Congress members.
“Today we remind ourselves of the renewing and healing that can only begin kneeling at the cross of Christ,” Rev Kickett prayed.
“The Covenant that we so readily entered into must once again shine into our hearts as a beacon of hope, renewal, healing and justice and thus we begin a new journey of hope full of the promise of a God who reconciles and renews.”
“Thank you for the Second Peoples whom you have allowed this new journey to take shape. We seek forgiveness for a lack of faithfulness and commitment to remain true to the Covenant you call upon our lives, and thus we seek a new beginning and a renewal of the Covenant that we share.”
A song was led by Northern Synod Moderator Rev Tony Goodluck and members of that Synod in Djambarrpuyŋu, Kriol and English, I Can Do All Things, written by Rev Dr Maratja Dhamarrandji.
A video was played from Aunty Rev Dr Denise Champion sharing an Adnyamathanha story about two gum trees that become separated on a road which offers a point from what it means to journey together.
In reflecting on the significance of the renewal of the Covenant ahead of the meeting, the President shared her hopes that the renewing of the Covenant would give renewed energy to local relationships between First and Second Peoples.
“I hope it is an invitation for those congregations and communities that have relationships with First Nations people to deepen that relationship, and for those that don’t, to consider how they might respectfully explore the possibility of developing connections with a local First Nations community or organisation.”
Read more about the Uniting Church’s Covenant story
Living the Covenant Locally
In an exciting new initiative, the Assembly’s Walking Together as First and Second Peoples Circle is inviting people to commit to living the Covenant locally. Living the Covenant Locally is a movement, made up of congregations, faith communities, schools and agencies, who are committed to growing their understanding and deepening relationships to faithfully live out our covenant relationship as First and Second Peoples. Stay tuned to hear more about this during National Reconciliation but for those who are interested, go to the Living the Covenant Locally page on the Assembly website.