12th Assembly 2009

A blessing to the nation

At the end of an emotional few days of discussions and decisions that will have wide-reaching consequences for the Uniting Church’s covenanting relationship with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, Assembly members were helped to understand the blessing their decisions had given to Congress, to the church and to Australia.

After the approval of the final section of a long and detailed proposal, Congress members came to the front of the meeting room and Aboriginal Elder Bapa Ken presented President Alistair Macrae and General Secretary the Rev. Terence Corkin with branches of gum leaves.

The Rev. Shayne Blackman, said it was hard to express “the joy of acceptance and inclusion in the church”, which came as a result of the historic decisions which they believed were “a challenge to the rest of the country”.

He smiled saying, “It’s making it much more difficult for us not to be a part of the church, that which has happened. We might have had some excuses and now it’s much more difficult to not be a part of what you have done today.”

He said, “It’s made us truly happy, your willingness to discuss this and to seek God’s direction and to come to the resolution you have and we want to say thank you for that.”

Mr Blackman expressed his joy by showing a lighter side of himself than had often been evident during the meeting.

“I’ve been asked if I’m going to do a dance; that may not happen,” he joked.

As members of Congress sang, “Let there be love shared among us,” Bapa Ken led the President, General Secretary and the Rev. Dr Chris Budden (chair of the working group that had helped shape the proposals) in a ceremony of blessing in which every person in the room was touched with the eucalyptus leaves.

The Rev. Ken Sumner, Chair of Congress, then spoke, saying the decision told the world something about what it means to be the body of Christ.

“When one part of your body hurts or is in pain, you take a Panadol or stick a bandaid on to sooth it, to heal it,” he said.

“Part of the body had been hurting for a couple of hundred years. We’ve put a bit of ointment on to comfort, to nurse it. But this does something much more. It helps set us free.

“We as Aboriginal people, we need freedom,” he said.

However, he also said non-Aboriginal people also needed freedom.

“We’ve made some decisions today to help that. To set you free, so together we can be a free church.”

Mr Sumner then asked everyone who was able to get on their knees for prayer.

“We get on our knees, we put our faith and trust in our Lord, because this is a new journey for us.

“We don’t know what’s going to be before us,” he said.

“But it’s wonderful to start afresh.”