Last night I was invited to see the Baptist Theological Collage chance it’s name to the Vose Seminary to honor a great man that who has been so good to me and the Peace Tree Community over the years, Noel Vose.
For those who don’t know Noel, you should. 🙂 He is a wonder, wise, prayerful and humble servant of Christ who I am honored to have as an elder in my life. It was a wonderful evening but I felt a little under dressed (just me or are suits the equivalent of Baptists liturgical robes? :)) But I was pleased I brought my thongs so I wasn’t bare footed. 🙂
My mate Thomas Day thought it funny that a middle aged man in a lovely suit who was also waiting to say hi to Noel, couldn’t stop staring at my feet. Tom said he went in to near shock and his mouth wouldn’t close when Noel excused himself from a conversation to come over and gig me a big hug. Tom said afterwards that people would think Noel more wonderful because of how he embraced the homeless looking guy (I wasn’t that shabby!).
A friend who lectures there commented to me that he thought the only thing that would have been a lovely touch to the night was to mention the traditional land owners, the Noongar peoplem, when telling the history of the collage. I’m interested if others think this important for us as the church to acknowledge? I recently wrote this for Sojourners that people might be interested in:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/godspolitics/2008/02/australia-says-sorry-this-is-h-1.html download to hell and back dvdrip
Acknowledging Noongar country is a way to say ‘we dont own this, we have in trust for our grandchildren and their grandchildren’ (and we avoid the colonial assumption of superiority). To acknowledge country is to see the earth in its long lineage of time, and we take a humble place in that stream of humanity. IT takes a strong friendship with indigenous people to see how thoroughly whitewashed our vision is, how we take control without being asked, assert our knowledge as superior and in fact do not even see their brilliance – talk about leaving only footprints! IT is strange to some to talk like this, because in the western world we are caught in our own goldfish bowl and dont know there is an ocean.
An apology consists of 3 things:
1. I’m sorry
2. It was my fault
3. What can I do to make ammends?
Making ammends is vertually impossible in this case because it involves human lives. Love, relationship, social justice, education, equality are small steps toward wholeness.
I used to work with a Noongar guy who was raised in the baptist home in Katanning some 40 years ago. He has a really positive relationship with the college because the college assisted him in accessing some of his history and in particular photo’s of him and kids he grew up with that had been taken at the home.
I guess for me an a welcome to country would be particularly meaningful in this case because in would acknowledge the journey we have been on and our commitment to continuing the journey. People who identify as baptist and who have had strong affiliations with the college played a role in the lives of aborginial people and children. I have no doubt that aboriginal people and children played a important role in the lives of many Christians including those affiliated with the college.
Yes jarrod, I believe it is important to acknowledge the Noongar people, the traditional landowners. Hardly any of us know about the importance of the land here and the dreamings of this place. As a christian I have a better understanding of God through the stories of beautiful aboriginals I’ve been blessed in meeting or knowing. Walking today in Walyunga National Park was a joyous embrace with the land and sharing the stories of the land and dwellings with friends that had no idea.
With acknowledgement comes further learning, understanding, closeness to God and desire to know the people and land and so much more I don’t have words for as I’m knackered from hiking the great beautiful land of the traditional landowners.
My folks & i often dream of the English acknowledging the Scots…. that is another page another day.
Oh and jarrod please keep being you and if you have to wear a suit one day add your own artistic touch and proudly walk the ground bare foot, holy ground.
Sojourner – I’m wondering … we can still be sorry, even if it wasn’t our fault, your point 2?
Jarrod – your point about acknowledging who’s land is it? – requires some thought, at first, I think great idea, but now am not sure, I’m thinking through this whole concept of ownership and it’s relationship to the Early Church, I’m leaning towards ‘acknowledge the early caretakers’?
from my understanding of the Nyungar creation dreaming (as retold by Noel Nannup) – humanity was designated by the rest of creation to be the care takers of all things. Implicit in this notion of care is balance and harmony, giving and receiving – it is all cosmically interwoven like a magnificent tapistry..
As a student at Vose, I agree not acknowledging the original land owners/caretakers may have been a missed opportunity.
In retrospect perhaps asking an Aboriginal elder whether they feel such an acknowledgement is appropriate and, if so, how they would envisage it taking place would have been a good starting point.
Yes my point too. Community or corporate responsibility and apology.
Our meetings begin with the opening Seeds (http://www.seeds.org.au) statement, “We acknowledge that we meet on the lands of which the Wurundjeri people have been custodians from time immemorial. We honour this history and commit ourselves to care for the land with them. May our worship and our service be work for reconciliation with people and with God.”
Custodians seems like a better word than owners, because, as I understand it as a (very) white Australian, the indigenous people considered themselves more owned by the land than the other way around. I like the idea of ongoing commitment to a particular place and participating in processes and practices that leave the land better than we found it. And seeing indigenous reconciliation as part of wider reconciliation with our enemies, other broken relationships, and with God, and as *part of* our worship and service rather than separate.
It takes work for this to be more than just something you say each week, but the constant reminder forms you in such a way that it’s easier to make it part of what you do rather than something you forget to do.
I don’t think every meeting should start with it, but yes when recounting the history, which the Vose Seminary night was doing that night.
Tying the acknowledgement to the reason for meeting might avoid the ‘ugh’ effect.
BTW I don’t think the ‘ugh’ effect is just because people don’t like to be reminded. I think we don’t mind being reminded if we’re clear on it’s relevant to the meeting, not just someone being a slave to political fashions.
And can we think of another word besides ‘acknowledge’? It sounds kinda patronising to me, I dunno why.
And whilst I’m ranting, what about our current responsibility to care also. Can we tie together the relevance, our responsibility, and honor of the original caretakers under God, all in one sentence that doesn’t sound weird. Meets with an ‘ah, yes,’ instead of an ‘ugh.’?
Thanks Jarrod, I’m also a student and I have had chats with lectures about this subject for that night, but also doing something on campus which is dedicated to reconciliation. Which I would love to see, I don’t know why it did not happen.
What makes me mad is that we have no aboriginal students, no classes on ‘Aboriginal Theology’ a very small number of Aboriginal people at events like sportsfest and in churches. Where is reconciliation and the coming together and learning from each others culture, The Christian community (Vose Seminary) should be leading the way in reconciliation. This is what makes me mad
(Respect to the people and places where this is happening)
I can really hear you passion mate, and I share it.
A number of years back God gave me a vision about the Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. It took me a while (I’m a bit slow) but in it God revealed to me that he wanted my response to all the injustice, compromise and apathy with tears, not anger. I think for this position we can find the plank in our eyes and start to make changes which encourages other Christians to do the same.
So maybe you and I can meet with some elders I know and start an Aboriginal Theology study group. I think people at Vose will be very interested if we start something and see there is interest.
grace and peace brother,
I have been reading about CMS involvement in Arnhem land aboriginal mission. “Wish we had done more” John Harris is the book. It describes the failure (and some success) of CMS Christian mission in Arnhem land.
It is a tragedy that 18 Century Enlightenment anthropolgy drove white thinking about Australia’s indigenous peoples. The white missionaries were captive to this European culture. In CMS case there is no doubting godly motive and godly intention (with the exception of a few shameful cases) but it was misinformed. An indigineous expression of church was discouraged and ignored thinking it was a child race or a dying race
We have much to say sorry for…
Margery Harris a missionary in the 40-50’s
“Experts were forever measuring Aboriginal people’s heads in those days. …I just told myself we were all made in the image of God and none of us had more of his image than others did”
We are organising a trip to Groote Eytlandt as a fact finder to help us be better informed…
The Other Gav
Jarrod that sounds great!
I have been reading books on Aboriginal Theology but I can’t ask questions of a book. There are many areas that watjala Australians could learn from and have a much fuller Theology if we take the time to listen.
I’m very interested in your idea, it has to start with me.
here are links to quotes from the Rainbow Spirit Theology what I think in one of the most exciting books of Indigenous Theology.
Let me know what ya think 🙂
I just read it last week,very good. Since than I have read (Gondarra, Djiniyini. Series of Refections of Aboriginal Theology. Darwin: Bethel Presbyery, 1986.)
This is also a helpful booklet.
After reading these books and others I have started to understand When my granddad said “The whole of this land is sacred to aboriginal people”
And I think I am starting to see the sacred land, the spiritual side of land as I walk it.
I am keen to learn more on this topic!
Jarrod – I have been wondering about when it is appropriate to mention the traditional land owners and when it isn’t.
I am unfamiliar with the practice so feel a bit at sea with it.
When we were at your home the other night with Tom Sine I half expected we would do something of that nature, but we didn’t.
So i am wondering if its the nature of the occasion, the venue, the type of people gathered that makes it legit? I’m a bit lost
Help me out here mate!
I reckon it’s best to ask mates who are Noongyar not a wetjella like me. 🙂 Our mates who are often round would feel funny if we brought it up each time they came round for a cup of tea. But I think if it was a formal deal they’d really appreciate it. Esp. if you are talking aout the history of a place.
Does that help?
A bit 🙂
Still sounds a bit arbitrary and vague.
For someone like me who didn’t grow up with that part of my heritage I don’t feel the need to do something like this as strongly so I guess I am chewing it all thru
What about the case in point Hamo, telling the history of Vose Sem when they talked about the history of the land but left out the traditional land owners? That’s the context of the discussion.