(see also resources on Reconciliation Week on this website)
Creator and giver of life,
You who spoke and all things came to life,
Word that became flesh in Jesus,We praise and worship You in all things.
Enable Your Word to take life among us this day.
Give us voice that we might honour You,
and witness to the transforming life of Jesus, living Word.
Forgive us for cheap and careless words, or deliberately harmful words,
for words of war rather than peace,for words of exclusion and words that make enemies, rather than words that build neighbourhoods and welcome.
Forgive us when our words make others silent, or when we refuse to listen to other words.
Forgive us that we belong to a community which has in so many ways robbed First Peoples of their languages, culture and sense of the world.
May we support efforts to reclaim and re-learn languages.
Hear these our words to You. Amen.
Prayer of Intercession
God of all, we pray with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
We pray for those who are imprisoned –
through injustice, prejudice, violence, selfishness and illness.
As your family, we pray for all your children.
Show us where we can bring your justice.
We pray for those who hunger –
for democracy, justice, acceptance, respect, self-awareness and wellbeing.
As your family, we pray for all your children.
Show us where we can bring your grace.
We pray for those who are unseeing and unbelieving –
to abuse of power, valuing the other, a fair go, understanding the breadth of your creation, to faith in you and to knowing your realm.
We pray for your realm, O God, to be known in this time.
As your family, we pray for all your children.
Show us where we can bring your peace and Light. Amen
(Author unknown, published on Churches Together SA email July 2021)
Words of mission and dismissal
Go out into the world,
to the place where you sustain the creation.
Allow others to speak their words of life,
and speak gently your words.
Tell and live the story of Jesus.
May the Creator who called forth life by speaking,
Jesus who bore the Word for the life of the world,
and the Spirit whose breath makes language possible
sustain you in all ways. Amen.
May the God of creation warm your heart like the campfires of old.
Bring wisdom and peace as shown to the first peoples of this land.
Shake off the dust from the desert plains by the refreshing rains
followed by the glow and warmth of the sun.
Let the light of God show us the right path
and stand tall like the big river gums
drawing life from the ever flowing waters.
(Source: Uncle Vince Ross)
This beautiful prayer is by Aunty Rosemary Rigney, a Ngarrindjeri woman who lives at Raukkan on the lakes near the mouth of the Murray River. Together with her husband Clyde, she is actively engaged in conversations that point to the promises found in God’s word and encouraging us all to work toward reconciliation. #BecauseOfHerWeCan
Creator of all, Heaven and Earth
As we celebrate NAIDOC 2018 this week and the important theme of “Because of her we can”…
As we remember and honour those who have gone before, are here now and are to come…
Across this nation from every clan….
As leaders and trailblazers, politicians activists and social change advocates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have fought and continue to fight for justice, equal rights, our right to country,
for law and justice, access to education and employment
to maintain and celebrate our culture. language music and art…
We remember that they are and have been our mothers, our Elders, our grandmothers, our aunties, our sisters our daughters
In many areas they are the invisible, the unsung, or diminished.
But they have been carriers of our dreaming, our songlines, language and knowledge
They have done all this because they have desired a better way of life, greater opportunities and equal rights for our children, our families and our people.
Their achievements, voices and unwavering passion gives us strength and has empowered past generations and paved the way for generations to come
We pray for words of encouragement, refreshing and restoring of strength,
caring wisdom, grace, love and vision for us now and for future generations of women all across this land…
We pray for a country where our people and our land thrive, with systems that are restorative and just.
Lord God renew our spirits and cleanse our hearts
Renew our minds and transform our lives
Renew our communities and cities, our towns and our homelands
and rebuild our ruins.
Renew our world and our country
In your name we pray
(Source: Aunty Rosemary Rigney, on TEAR website)
Psalm 23 – Aboriginal Style by Uncle Rev Ron Williams
My big fella boss up in the sky is like the father Emu.
He will always look after me and take me to green grass,
and lead me to where the water holes are
full and fresh all the time.
He leads me away from the thick scrub and helps me keep safe from the hunters, dingoes and eagles.
At night time when I am very lonely and sad,
I will not be afraid,
for my Father covers me with his feathers
like a father emu.
His spear and shield will always protect me.
My big fella boss always give me a good feed
in the middle of my enemies.
In hot times he makes me sit down in a cool shade and rest.
He gives me plenty of love and care all of my life through.
Then I will live with my big fella boss like a father emu:
that cares for his chicks in good country, full of peace and safety
For evermore and evermore.
There are, of course, many passages in the Scriptures that are concerned for language and speech. Here are four that might be helpful as you reflect on this theme.
Genesis 11: 1-9: The Tower of Babel
Too often this passage is used as a counter-point to Pentecost. The assumption is that multiple languages is not God’s intention, and Pentecost fixes that issue.
Yet, there is another way to read this story that depends on the second account of creation in Genesis 2: In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground (2:4b-6)Life is relational. Human beings depend on the earth from which we are made, and the earth needs human beings to care for the earth. To do that we need to be part of an related to the land.
In Genesis we are told that the people sought to build a city and a tower, so that they would not be scattered across the face of the earth (11:4). The people want to build a city, and surround it with a wall, so they are cut off from others.
They built the tower to defend themselves against ‘the other’. It is a sign of the greatness of the city. Despite our usual assumption that the tower challenges God in heaven (and so is an act of pride), heaven is not where God resides. The heavens are the place where people do not belong, for they belong to the earth. As Ellen van Wolde says: “The building of the tower and the city expresses the desire of these human beings to dissociate themselves from the earth and to concentrate on each other (‘us’) in their enclosed and fortified area”.
Human beings are striving for one place and one name, and one language, and for separation from the earth which they are meant to care for. This story is less about the tower and human pride, than it is about God’s desire that people live across the earth. From the view point of the earth this dispersal is necessary, and the removal of the one language removes the block to that dispersal. The languages are entirely what the earth needs.
If this reading of the Babel story makes sense, then we must ask ourselves what happens when we help destroy languages, and what need we have to encourage the renewal of those languages.
Acts 2: 1-13: The Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
The important issue in the context of NAIDOC week is simply to note what is common wisdom: people heard the message in their own native language (2:6). This event is an affirmation of the diversity of language and culture, not its obliteration, in the life of the church
Matthew 26: 69-75: Peter’s denial of JesusIn Luke’s version of this story (22:54-62) the people around insist that they know Peter is with Jesus because he is also a Galilean (verse 59). How do they know this? Matthew makes that matter clear – “for your accent betrays you” (Matt. 26:73). Peter’s way of speaking gives him away. His language tells people where he comes from, what land he connects to, and what people shape his life.It seems that there was some discrimination about the way people from Galilee spoke. It was considered to be a rough and unsophisticated accent, one shaped by a multicultural history and the existence of a number of languages. It was not considered good enough to lead worship.
Do we encourage languages and accents and difference, or – particularly in church – is there a ‘standard English’ that we prefer?
John 1: 1-5: The Word became Flesh
This very well-known passage has the powerful image of the word or speaking of God taking form in the world in the life of Jesus. God’s voice acts in the world. Language brings things into being, as Genesis 1 makes clear. God speaks and the world emerges.
Even human language brings things into being – shaping relationships, influencing the way we see and understand events around us, expressing laws and delivering judgments, making agreements between peoples.
To be mute is not only to be speechless, but it is to be robbed of one way to shape the world. When a people’s language is destroyed they are robbed of one of the ways they have control over their life. Imagine what it would mean for the church to have no language to celebrate the sacraments, and no words to share the story of Jesus.
Now imagine what it means for First Peoples to reclaim and relearn their languages.
 Ellen van Wolde. ‘The Earth Story as Presented by the Tower of Babel Narrative,’ in Norman C. Habel and Shirley Wurst (eds), The Earth Bible Volume Two: The Earth Story in Genesis (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), p. 150.
Thoughtful article by Stan Grant, in Sydney Morning Herald, April 2018
Identity Politics traps the indigenous mind in cycle of grievance.
- Uncle Mark Kickett, Interim National Chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, was part of a panel on ABC’s God Forbid talking about the work of healing for Country, especially in institutions like the church.
- Listen as Brooke Prentis and Aunty Rev Dr Denise Champion talk on ABC Soul Search about culture, faith, and their recent trip to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia to walk on Adnyamathanha country.
- Watch some of Aunty Janet Oobagooma and Ps Kirsty Burgu’s story on ABC Compass, as they talk about the sacred connections they make between culture and faith. Kirsty is the only Indigenous Uniting Church pastor in the Kimberley.
IN OUR CHURCHES
- The Synod of Queensland has shared a video reflection from Rev Roberta Stanley, from Babinda River of Life Church, on what the NAIDOC Week theme Healing Country means to her.
- Nathan Tyson spoke as a guest at a Special NAIDOC Week Service held online by Eastwood Uniting Church on Sunday 4th July 2021. Nathan is Manager, First Peoples Strategy and Engagement with the Synod of NSW/ACT.
You might also like to read the sermon shared by (former) Assembly’s National Consultant Covenanting Stuart McMillan at Unley Uniting Church on 4 July, titled, A Foretaste of Something More
2016 NAIDOC Theme: Songlines –The living narrative of our nation
Songlines are the oldest living narrative of our nation, and will be the focus for the 2016 NAIDOC Week celebrations. It will highlight the importance of Songlines to the existence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the Dreamtime describes a time when the earth, people and animals were created by our ancestral spiritual beings. They created the rivers, lakes, plants, land formations and living creatures. Dreaming tracks are sometimes called ‘Songlines’ which record the travels of these ancestral spirits who ‘sung’ the land into life.
2017 NAIDOC Theme: Our Languages Matter
It is hard to overstate the importance of language. It shapes our experience of the world – it shapes our relationships and what they mean for us, expresses our values, describes what matters, offers nuances around culture that are not quite translatable into other languages. Languages shape our identity and sense of belonging.
As a people who speak of Jesus as the Word of God and who value Scriptures, Christians should understand the importance of language, and of each person being able to use their own language. Why else do we spend so much time and energy ensuring that our Scriptures represent the very best translation of the original languages, and supporting translation into many other languages and dialects?
As the NAIDOC Week web site says: The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song. Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named variations would have run to many hundred. Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.
National NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair said… “Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge about everything: law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food. Each language is associated with an area of land and has a deep spiritual significance and it is through their own languages that Indigenous nations maintain their connection with their ancestors, land and law,” Ms Martin said.