From today I am off to Australia for a six week trip. I'm taking time off from Corrymeela to do some speaking at conferences, some speaking about poetry and books, and some speaking about faith, story and the spaces in between us.
I lived in Australia for four years before and have been back a number of times, working with the Uniting Church in Australia, particularly the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, and particularly with Cheryl Lawrie. The Uniting Church in Australia was formed in the late 70s when most of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches of Australia joined together. They chose "Uniting" rather than "United" because they knew that they would always all be joining closer. Their initial constitution was of its time and timeless. It was timeless because it spoke of the justices that they believed in that would transform both them and their surroundings.
In 2009, the Uniting Church, in partnership with Congress, the association of Indigenous Peoples within the Uniting Church, released a rewritten pre-amble which could be considered a long applied study in the practice of repentance. Recognising the damage done by early settlers from Europe who believed that they had brought God with them, the new preamble recognises that the arriving Europeans were entering a land nurtured and sustained by God through its First Peoples in their laws, customs and ceremonies. It's a piece of public repentance that tells the truth and sees the God behind the God behind the God of conquer.
While in Australia, I'll be doing some pieces at the Sacred Edge Festival, speaking at the Anglican Parish of Darlington-Bellevue in Perth , helping at the Spiritual Care Australia conference doing some work with Brunswick Uniting Church, speaking at the Commission For Mission's Gathering, their Sri Lankan Reconciliation Project (an article about that project here) and at the UC Vic/Tas Synod. I'll be the Feast of Corpus Christi lecture at St. John's Camberwell and engaging with the beautiful people of Freedom2Be in Melbourne. Along the way, there will be friendships renewed, coffee drunk, red earth honoured and generations of custodians of that vast continent remembered.
A beautiful tradition in Australia is to begin a meeting with a "Welcome to Country" - acknowledging the custodians of the earth, their lives, and their ancestors past and present. It honours the millennia of human presence on the land, and the complications and gifts created when we seek to live with and alongside each other. The revised Preamble to the Uniting Church is worth reading in full. It's linked here and is also down below. It's one of the most extraordinary pieces of public repentance and theology I've ever witnessed.