Sunday 20th January 2019 was declared a Day of Mourning by the Assembly of UCA and all congregations were encouraged to hold worship services that reflected on the effects of colonization on Australia’s First Peoples and our identity as a nation. The Day allowed us to stand together in remembering the truth of our history, and honouring the culture of Australia’s First Peoples.
Manningham UC decided to hold its service as a combined service at Westerfolds Park on Sunday 27th as part of Australia Day weekend celebrations.
About 100 of us collected at Red Stringy Bark Picnic Area in Westerfolds Park with our hats, suitably sun-creamed up, and bringing our own chairs, on a delightful, comfortably mild morning. Some wonderful folk had arrived very early to reserve the spot, erect signs, and assemble audio gear so we could all hear.
Our service, led by both Lucas and Claire, used some of the suggested order of service provided by the Assembly. Participants ranged from the young to – let’s face it – the old! We sang a few songs led by Nate on guitar and Marion and Natalie as song leaders. We had various prayers, including a prayer of Lament and Confession.
We had opportunity to discuss issues with a small group around us as well as coming together as the big group. A choice was then offered for ‘the sermon’ – sit and listen, engage in craft activities, or go for a walk and engage with nature.
Lucas led the thoughts for those who chose to remain sitting, on the importance of ‘reconciliation’ rather than ‘renovation or restoration’. This involves not just restoring a flawed model, but acknowledging our history, the pain caused, the injustices perpetrated, and going forward from there.
The ‘Crafties’ worked with the metaphor of crumpled newspaper. They tried to restore it to its original smooth surface, but found that impossible, so worked out alternate ways of reusing it – papier mache, packing, cardboard etc – ie recycling, making new out of old.
The nature walkers found various ‘treasures’, the highlight being Daisy finding a small painted rock planted by a group called Vic Rocks ‘to spread happiness’. Shaz took a photo of Daisy with the rock with all of us in the background and sent it their Facebook page. Others found interesting pieces of bark, coloured leaves, evidence of regrowth from fire damaged wood.
Some of us remained and shared a picnic lunch together.
I came away feeling inspired to find ways to engage with our First Peoples and thankful for the wonderful care they had taken of our Country over so many millennia, long before our arrival.