As part of our continuing commitment both to Walking Together with First Nations Peoples and to inter-faith relations, it was particularly good to come together on the International Day of Peace this year to receive and affirm the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including the Voice to Parliament. Not least we were blessed with Charles Prouse, author of One the Voice to Parliament, and a Nyikina man from the Kimberley, Western Australia, with over 20 years' experience in Indigenous affairs across Australia. My own words on this occasion, including my video version of a keynote prayer for all faiths can be found below...
Acknowledgment of Country
Let us begin by acknowledging we gather on the land of the Gadigal people, who have cared for this particular country for tens of thousands of years. We acknowledge their elders past and present and all First Nations people, particularly those present here today. It is especially good to acknowledge Charles Prouse, our keynote speaker, who will share with us after the prayerful contributions of the groups who have helped create this gathering.
As Minister of Pitt Street Uniting Church, I give thanks for this wonderful opportunity to gather together, and, on behalf of the Pitt Street Uniting Church community, I offer the warmest welcome to each and everyone here tonight. For we come together at this time in solidarity to open ourselves to the true Spirit of this land and its first peoples. Whoever we are, and from whatever tradition or other land we hail, we affirm our commitment to walk together for a just society in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices may be fully heard, further empowered and gain their true place. The wide multi-faith and multi-cultural diversity of this gathering is a sign of the future we seek to share.
In the first part of our gathering, after a call to prayer, we will hear from the contributing groups, who will each read a passage from the Statement from the Heart and offer a brief response, bringing a candle of hope and signing a card of support for the Voice to Parliament. After each group has contributed, there will be then be a concluding prayer and a song, during which anyone who would like will also be able to light a candle and sign a card. We will then hear from our distinguished guest.
May we know that we are surrounded by the spirits of those who have gone before us in this land. And as a part recognition, you will see four cloths around us:
Mina Mina Dreaming (up by the organ) by Jeanie Npangardi Lewis
Water Dreaming (left of the organ) by Ada Nangala Dixon
Frog Dreaming (to right of the organ) by Thomas Jangala Rice
Bush Possum Dreaming (on the table) by Judith Nungarryji Martin Manuji
May we open ourselves to the deep wisdom of the Spirit of this land, which was, is, and will always be, Aboriginal land – and may we strengthen our shared resolve for voice, treaty and truth.
Closing Prayer & Blessing
Great Spirit of all Creation,
present in every age and place.
We give thanks for this time together,
for your wisdom expressed through the vibrant diversity of our various voices,
and especially for the lives and gifts of First Nations peoples.
May we, and all people of these lands,
respond warmly to the invitation of the Statement from the Heart,
be strengthened to learn from and love one another,
and give a resounding YES to all that offers hope.
This we ask in the name of all we experience as sacred. Amen.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.