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A Destiny Together

The Basis of Union is that document which sets the platform for how the Uniting Church conducts itself, outlines the roles of the various councils of the Church, states the central affirmations of the Christian faith, and is a guide to what is central in the life of the Uniting Church. Section Three of the Basis of Union is titled “Built Upon the One Lord Jesus Christ”. In that section you will find this paragraph:

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 a fellowship of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself. The Church lives between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and the final consummation of all things which Christ will bring; the Church is a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal; here the Church does not have a continuing city but seeks one to come.

We are called to be a fellowship of reconciliation. As a pilgrim people, we are on a reconciliation journey. This journey is still happening, because we have not yet fully achieved reconciliation between Australia’s First and Second Peoples. We continue to seek a destiny together, praying and working for a fuller expression of our reconciliation in Jesus Christ. And today, the day after Australia’s national day, we are exploring the concept of reconciliation through the lenses of lament and mourning, of grace and hope, of justice and peace.
The Uniting Church has sought since its inception to treat Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, cultures, histories and beliefs with respect. The Church is in covenant with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, and that covenant encourages us to place our relationship with Australia’s First Peoples at the heart of all we do.

The 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church affirmed Australia’s first peoples as the sovereign peoples of Australia. Our church recognized that sovereignty is the way in which our First Peoples understand themselves to be the traditional owners and custodians of the land. For our Western minds, we see sovereignty as a formal, legal term. But for our First Peoples, this concept of sovereignty is a spiritual one.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of meeting, talking, listening and deciding are valued and honoured in our meeting procedures through the process of deliberation and discernment. We are challenged to listen, pause, seek to understand, look for commonalities, be open to the leading of the Spirit, ensure that everyone’s voices are heard and make a decision with consensus if possible, or high-level agreement if not.

That’s a brief history of the reconciliation journey of the Uniting Church in Australia. And as reconciliation journeys in Australian institutions go, I’d say we are doing pretty well. We are working hard at a national level to make sure that we have made clear “the hidden things, things from of old- what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds
of the Lord” (Ps 78, 3-4).

But is this enough? No. An easy example of how this isn’t enough can be found in the “debate” about the date of Australia’s national day. I’m not here to tell you what to think about the date of Australia Day. I am here to suggest that there’s no point talking about changing the date until we change the nation. Because our covenant with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, our valuing and honouring of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures, histories and beliefs are not enough. (Slide 7) We need to find a destiny together, and to do that we need to continue our reconciliation journey and bring the rest of Australia along with us. We can’t be “a stubborn and rebellious generation” on this.

To quote Luke Pearson, a Darkinjung man from the Wyong/Gosford area:

“A country that is content with Indigenous incarceration rates sometimes going up to as high as 100% in individual prisons, even though we represent 3% of the population,
is not one I really want to celebrate anyway, regardless of what date it is on.

Especially not when you look at those incarcerated often dealing with issues of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, severe hearing loss, intergenerational trauma, or abuse at the hands of the state.

Many people whose only real crime is being poor; poor in a country made wealthy of the backs of Indigenous peoples’ dispossession, exploitation and exclusion from the opportunities created within colony.

We acknowledge the traditional owners at events, but we don’t acknowledge what
happened to change them from ‘owners’ to ‘traditional owners’.

How many of us even know what happened right under our feet to make that change? In detail. Do you know the names? Do you know the sacred sites and the massacre sites?

How can we acknowledge what we don’t even know?

That is not to say that there aren’t amazing and beautiful people, places and actions all across Australia that are worthy of celebration, but most of those things for me exist in spite of the colonial project, not because of it.

There are the lies Australia tells itself, not to aspire to a greater future, but to deny our past and our present. This is why we changed the International Day of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and made it Harmony Day instead. Not because we had eliminated racial discrimination, but because we wanted to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

This is what Australia does with its symbolic gestures. It uses them to pretend that no further changes are required.”

I am going to give you a minute to reflect on the points that Luke Pearson has made. I encourage you to pray (silently) about something in what he has to say that you have found challenging.

Are we, here at Tuggeranong Uniting Church, guilty of using the national symbolic gestures of our church to pretend that no further changes are required? Can we just pat ourselves on the back because we participated in the National Day of Mourning called for by the 15th Assembly, as requested by the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, and because we have finally managed to fairly reliably acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we built our church? Well, given that we couldn’t even get around to participating in the National Day of Mourning on the day that was set down by the Assembly (Sunday 20th), I don’t think we can.

We can do better than this. We must do better than this. Because Christ has “committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5: 19) What can we do in this new year, individually and as a church, to advance our journey towards that promised goal that is reconciliation?

For us as individuals, we can learn more about and from the First Peoples of this nation. I will put up a list of books, websites, facebook pages and twitter feeds that we can explore – the first one is John Squires’ blog ‘An Informed Faith’, which you will find if you do a search using the terms “John Squires wordpress”. We can find out on whose lands we were born, and on whose lands we have lived. We can learn about the history of massacres and the frontier wars. We can join with Christians around Australia in prayer, and in working for justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

As a church, what can Tuggeranong Uniting do? We can seek to journey together in the true spirit of Christ and explore what it means to be bound in a covenant with First Nations people. We can start the process of deliberately building a covenanting partnership with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Congress. We can pray that God will guide us, together with our First Peoples brothers and sisters, in developing a covenant to walk together practically so that the words of our statements may become tangible expressions of God’s justice and love for all creation. We can remember that Aboriginal land is now sustaining us by God’s grace. We can explore the creation of a Reconciliation Action Plan and build relationships with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Tuggeranong Valley.

And as we do these things, we can continue the process of becoming a new creation, where the old has gone and the new has come! All of this is from God, who reconciled us to himself in Christ and gave us this ministry of reconciliation. Thanks be to God.

Responsive Activity

On the tables at the side of the church there are some slips of paper and some pens. On the screen there will be a list of some personal acts of reconciliation. On the paper stuck on the cupboard doors, there’s a list of some possible acts of reconciliation that TUC could consider.

Please take some time to think about what personal act of reconciliation you can commit to, write that down on one of the slips of paper, and place that paper onto the basket on the communion table. I will be making a reconciliation tree for display, and our commitments will be the leaves of that tree. Make sure that you set yourself a measurable goal!

If you would like to provide some suggestions for Church Council on what acts of reconciliation you would like to see TUC commit to, please put a sticker against that option on the list. If there’s something not listed that you think should be there, please write it down!

Possible personal acts of reconciliation

• Explore works by First Peoples – what type and how many?
• Explore works about First Peoples histories, cultures and experiences.
• On whose lands were we born and on whose lands have we lived? What are some words from those languages?
• Massacres and the Frontier Wars
• Acts of prayer – how often?
• Acts of justice – how often?
• Other – what can you think of?

TUC Reconciliation Actions for 2019

Explore a covenant
partnership with UAICC
Acknowledgement of country – all services and meetings
Reconciliation Action
Relationships – e.g.
Gugan Gulwan or other
Other – write your


Megan Watts

Megan has attended TUC since 1988.  She has been an elder, a Sunday School teacher and is currently deputy chair of the church council.  Megan assists in leading Rainbow Christian Alliance.

Megan lead's worship at the later TUC service most Sundays, where she is blessed to be able to share her gifts of music and song with the congregation.

Quote for today

...But you know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you. John14:17

About Our Church

Our faith community began in 1975 as a small ecumenical gathering of people who settled in the new Canberra township of Tuggeranong. We have grown with the Tuggeranong Community, and our parish centre is the hub for our work, as a place of worship, of gathering, fellowship and ministry.

We come together for authentic and Christ-centred worship. While we worship in a variety of styles, we share a common focus on faithfully listening for God’s Word and sharing His kindness and compassion with others. We express our love for God and others through a range of ministries, and connections with our community.

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