NRW2023: Voices for Generations
Engadine Uniting Church share how they formed a choir to raise their voices for reconciliation
May 31, 2023
When the call was put out for singers across the country to contribute to National Reconciliation Week by recording themselves singing From Little Things Big Things Grow by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody, Engadine Uniting Church jumped at the chance. Sue McKinnon, Chair of the Church Council, and Loraine Holley, choir leader, share how it was a moving experience for everyone involved.
“As individuals we are very tiny but by playing our tiny part together we can make change."
What inspired you to make a NRW choir?
We were planning how we would get involved in Reconciliation Week through our social media and our church services and we saw the callout for Voices for Generations asking for choirs to participate in this project. We decided to bring it to the attention of our book clubs which meet monthly under Loraine's watch. People expressed an interest, so from there, we were off and running.
What was the planning involved? Were there lots of rehearsals?
Our brilliant pianist Leanne jumped in to coordinate the collation and distribution of the sheet music as well as soundtracks, making her own where necessary and emailing out everything to everyone who signed up. I advertised it in the church bulletin and in church, so other people in the congregation signed up. We did our best to persuade people to come along despite their claim to no singing ability. The first rehearsal was after church on Sunday 7 May, and it was at that point we worked out that the arrangement was far more challenging than any of us expected.
We knew we needed extra help, and so we asked a friend of Loraine's, a local music teacher, if she would come along to the rehearsals and the recording night to train and wrangle us into a functioning choir. Although Andrea is not a member of any church, she came along to support us and brought with her incredible energy, infectious enthusiasm, and a great deal of skill in managing adults whose response ranged from nervous and unsure, through to confident and unmusical.
What did the group get out of it? How has it inspired?
There was SO much energy in the church hall on the night we were recording. Everyone dressed exactly as instructed by: red, yellow or red top, with black from the waist down. Loraine made "Yes" badges and distributed them; family members of choristers helped out with tripods and recording. Andrea not only coached us through the timing and pronunciations, but really focused our attention on the drama of the text and the most important culmination of the song: "THAT was the story of Vincent Lingiari, but THIS is the story of something much more: how POWer and PRIVilege canNot move a People, who KNOW where they stand, and STAND in the law".
There was more than one of us that was quite moved, even awed, by this realisation, and sang with tears in their eyes. Comments afterward included, "I haven't sung in a choir since primary school" and "I've never sung in a choir" followed by "...but this was so much fun!". There was a lot of "I didn't think I could do anything like that but I'm glad I did" and "I really enjoyed that even though I can't sing" and "That felt so good, I think I'd like to join a choir now, are there any around here?" Andrea told people about local choir options, and in turn decided to join one of our book clubs.
It's been a most exciting three weeks and the joy of working together with friends to make this choir a reality has been overwhelming. The song and the singing plus our energetic conductor really touched our lives in a positive and beautiful way.
What are your hopes for this year’s referendum, and what actions have you planned?
Since the beginning of the year, our leadership team has been looking for opportunities for our congregation to do what we can, where we can, to support the 'yes' vote on the referendum. We are now in the process of engaging deeply with materials produced by both Common Grace and Together Yes, working out how, when and where we can use their resources to engage with our own congregation, other UCA congregations in the Presbytery, other churches in the Sutherland Shire including our friends at the St John Bosco Social Justice Group in Engadine, family and friends of congregation members and those who use our premises for after-school care or the many clubs or groups that use our halls, and the general community. We hope to model a respectful, safe atmosphere for listening and learning and act as a counter and unifying force against wilful confusion, negativity and racism. We want to bring Christians along with us to listen to the calls of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for justice, through Voice, together with Treaty and Truth-Telling. We want to demonstrate to the general population of Engadine and the Sutherland Shire that people in the church care about fairness and justice rather than their own comfort and growth agendas, and that we share values with those people in our community who care about those things too.
As Andrea said, as individuals we are very tiny but by playing our tiny part together we can make change.
Engadine Uniting Church was one of 500 choirs that took part. Watch their video below as well as the NRW compilation.
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