A destiny together – Rev Dean Whittaker

Making sense of what is happening, or not happening, with A Destiny Together
– week of prayer and fasting for Justice for First Peoples
Uniting Church in Australia.
 

by Rev Dean Whittaker, Adelaide Congress Minister

Why does it matter to me?

·        I see the desperate state of Aboriginal people, particularly those who live remotely or regionally, or who have limited education. 

·        I see the threat to Arnhem Land and APY Land and other Aboriginal land – for non-Aborigines to take over more and more control. Places where culture is nearest to being held on to are the places which seem under most attack… and those which have been willing to stand against the government’s directions.

 

·        At Assembly the Assembly heard Aboriginal people saying they need help.  I was delighted by the response.  The time of prayer on the steps of Parliamnet House was fantastic, as lone as it continues into something more.  I was excited that the Assembly decided to have a week of prayer and fasting. 

Aboriginal people are not against seeking help but they want it on their terms not the dominant culture’s.

·        I believe it is a good witness for well meaning dominant culture people, in this case the church, to be saying “Well we’ve tried everything within our power and it is not making a positive difference”. 

I think it is very significant to be calling our church to take a moment to stop and reflect and pray and fast and lament and repent, and do it with, and on behalf, of the Aboriginal people and do it with, and on behalf, of the church, and do it with, and on behalf, of the nation.

·        Lord there are some good things happening in the Aboriginal community and we give you thanks, but there are many things that are a mess and getting worse , in many ways. In remote areas and in regional areas and in cities.  In education, in employment, in health and in jails things are terrible.
Lord Aboriginal people and their control are being dishonoured, disempowered and removed through this latest wave of colonisation.

Lord many Aboriginal people are hurting, and grieving, broken and addicted and dying, yet we know they are your precious people.  They may be suffering but we see them as gold and treasures that you want  to have in a place of honour and importance, and healthy standing in this nation.  You gave Aboriginal people this land from the beginning. You had this place called the great south land of the Holy Spirit before any Europeans had come here.

·        Lord things are a mess and getting worse in the Uniting Church, in many ways.

Lord, so many congregations have lost a sense of hope and are mono-cultural, mono-generational  clubs which are ageing and somehow separate from the rest of their community.  At the same time many churches seem so comfortable with the feel of the community they imagine themselves in that they have nothing to say that makes their word different than any other local community club. Many of our churches have no idea how to bring life, renew and reconnect.  Our church is waning and yet we seem unable to find a way forward.

·        In this context I find the Assembly’s decision to call for a week of prayer and fasting for justice for Aboriginal people remarkably life-giving.  

·        It is a moment where four of the major divisions in the church are brought together in a creative way.  The solidarity and justice folk are calling for people to pray and fast.  The more evangelical pray-ers and fasters are valued and needed and praying for justice.  People who go to church but rarely read their Bibles or pray are invited to pray and fast and do what they can.  And Aboriginal people can both take a lead and see that there is a deep felt commitment from the wider Uniting Church that moves beyond just words.

·        To me the creation of Congress, the covenanting statement, the reworking of the preamble and all the smaller covenanting activities and the call from the Assembly for this week of prayer and fasting all point towards the week of prayer and fasting being a significant, important and symbolic moment in the life of our church.

·        If our leaders and our church treat it as just a nice, or out of date, or simplistic doing of something for appearances because there is nothing else we can do, then I think we are profoundly mistaken.

·        It would be a foolish error for leaders and members to see the Week of Prayer and fasting as just a last ditch response, which deserves a minimal involvement from a few leaders… 

·        I believe the week of prayer and fasting is one of the most exciting God-given moments that God and our Assembly has given to us – if we can only see –  and act in humility in prayer and fasting.

·        I would hope our members, our congregations, our presbyteries, our synods and our assembly would make it a top order issue… a sign that we confess our own inability to fix this, and that we do need to come before God in confession and brokenness, and cry out in lament and cry out for His intervention at the same time as doing all we can to help the whole nation see the seriousness of things.

·        I believe where   our members, our congregations, our presbyteries, our synods and our assembly do make this high priority and act that we will see breakthrough of some type occur:

– breakthrough in our relationships with Aboriginal people who will appreciate our commitment to them and willingness to be standing with them… acknowledging their God given sovereignty in lament and in hope… 

– breakthrough in specific places where the politics and directions of Aboriginal policy will begin to be talked about and change as God acts and opens up opportunities for change.

– break through for many in our church who are trapped in “whiteism”, opening up to wider culture and hope than they have been living in.

– breakthrough in our church as people grow in their confidence in prayer and fasting as appropriate and effective ways of building their relationship with God and increasing their effectiveness in ministry, evangelism, community development and solidarity work.

– breakthrough in worship that changes the hopes and expectation of people, this is real confession, and repentance, it is about covenant grace.

– breakthrough in our nation as God responds to the more appropriate ways of relating to Aboriginal people and others.

·         I would love to see mobs of churches really take the week of prayer seriously and have as many folk seriously fasting and praying as possible.  

I am praying that the week of prayer and fasting is an expression from the grass roots not just a few leaders and the “usual suspects”  standing up and speaking out.  I would love to see churches all across the nation putting out banners and signs about the week of prayer and fasting out side their churches , which expressed our heart feelings  and calling for people in the wider community  to respond.   

 I would love to see all ministers, pastors and leaders  in our church and our members grab a hold of what the week of prayer and fasting offers and make it real in every sphere of influence they have.  It would be a great shame if this is a wave of the Holy Spirit that somehow we miss, and we later look back with regret.  

·        I believe that as an Australian church the President, Moderators, Chairpersons of Presbyteries, ministers, pastors, and leaders in our church should be exploring to the highest degree what they can do to drive this.  

·        Very importantly while I believe the leaders  should be highly committed and driving this event, it is of no significance unless members in local churches actually get a glimpse of the glorious opportunity that it is and look at how they can fast and pray and show signs of it in their local community.  

·        Most importantly, it is because I believe that God’s Holy Spirit is very much at work in this event, and that it represents a continuity with what has been happening over the long term with Congress , and at the same time is a new sovereign move of God to bring more significant change, that I think our church should step out with Jesus and see where it leads…

 

·       To me the week of prayer and fasting is church core business

·       Our Church lives within, and out of, the sovereign grace of God.

·       Our Church confesses that Jesus Christ

o   is head over all things,

o   the genesis of a new creation,

o   the beginning of a new humankind!

·       Our Church confesses Jesus Christ as Lord over her own life.

·       God in Christ has given to us 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.

·       Our Church is a fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

·       Our Church is a fellowship of reconciliation.

·       Our Church a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole.
 

·       Our Church is an instrument through which Christ works and bears witness to himself. 

·       Our Church is a church where the poor in spirit receive the Father’s love.

·       We are the church, a pilgrim people, always on the way towards the promised goal: here we do not have a continuing city but we seek one that is to come.

·       In our church Christ feeds us with Word and Sacraments.

·       In our church we have the gift of the Holy Spirit in order that we may not lose the way.

·       In our church our Lord comes, addresses and deals with us in and through the news of his completed work.

·       In our church Christ, is present, and as He is preached among us He is the Word of God. 

·       In our church

o   Christ acquits the guilty,

o   Christ gives life to the dead

o   Christ brings into being what otherwise could not exist.

·       In human word and action, in the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ reaches out to us, commands our attention and awakens our faith.

·       In our church Christ calls us into the fellowship of his sufferings.

·       In our church in his own strange way Christ constitutes, rules and renews us as his church.

·       

 

Dean Whittaker

0409090824

Adelaide Congress Minister

deanadelaidecongress@gmail.com

17 Bedwin Street, Salisbury North, SA 5108

 PO Box 109 Whites Road, Salisbury North SA  5108