12th Assembly 2009

Covenant celebrated, grief reaffirmed

Assembly 2009’s first full business day began with a moving celebration of the Covenant between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous branches of the Uniting Church in Australia.

The Covenant was established at the 1994 Assembly after extensive consultation.

Jill Tabart, Assembly president in 1994, returned to this Assembly to repeat her expressions of sorrow and commitment made to the Indigenous peoples 15 years ago.

She acknowledged the destruction of traditional culture and the countless deaths — both unwitting and wilful — caused by the invading European culture. She accepted that this took place with the Church either complicit or standing by silently.

Those words were received in 1994 by then Congress Chairperson, Bill Hollingsworth, now retired. Recently-elected Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of Congress, Ken Stanley and Roberta Stanley, then reaffirmed Pastor Hollingsworth’s 1994 response.

They acknowledged the profound hurt caused by the dispossession by the dominant Europeans. They then accepted the expression of commitment to the Covenant.

Assembly members read together a statement affirming grief over past actions and promising continuing efforts towards restitution and healing.

The Rev. Rronang Garruwurra from Elcho Island read a passage from Luke’s gospel in his Djamburrpuyngu language.

The celebration concluded with Communion. The call to participate was expressed in several Indigenous languages.

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