Today, the Sunday before Australia Day, the Uniting Church (UCA) will hold special services to “reflect upon and lament the effect of, the invasion and colonisation of this nation upon her First Peoples.”
Despite the national day falling on a Sunday this year, the UCA services remain on the Sunday before Australia Day. As the UCA website explains, the peak council of indigenous people in that church – the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) – chose the date.
“Rather than seeking a change to the date of Australia Day as some propose, the UAICC asked the Church, in the spirit of the Covenant between us, to declare the Sunday before Australia Day as a Day of Mourning.”
Unlike other churches, the UCA has a special body – UAICC composed of first Australians – in relationship with the church.
UCA National President Deidre Palmer describes the worship service material as “an opportunity for us to listen and learn of the hurt that has been passed down through generations of First Peoples and the ongoing disadvantage and injustice they still experience.
“Importantly it is an invitation to us to follow in Christ’s way of justice, healing and reconciliation, building relationships of truth and healing in our own communities and in our nation.”
Here is one of the key prayers provided by the UCA service plan for today.
“Give us the courage to
accept the realities of our history
so that we may build a better future for our nation.
Teach us to respect all cultures.
Teach us to care for our land and waters.
Help us to share justly the resources of this land.
Help us to bring about spiritual and social change
for all peoples in our communities,
especially the disadvantaged.
Help all young people to find true dignity
and self-esteem by your Spirit.
May your power and love
be the foundations on which we:
walk together as First and Second Peoples; and
build our families, our communities and our nation.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Some other parts of the UCA service, such as an acknowledgment or welcome to country, have been controversial at Eternity, especially as part of a church service, but readers are urged to take time to reflect on this prayer, or a similar prayer you might compose yourself. Free of the politics of Australia Day itself, today is a good day to think and pray about our nation’s relationship – and our churches relationships with the First Australian.