Image: Ruth Harvey with Uncle Pastor Ray Minniecon and Wellspring Community Members at Scarred Tree Ministries. Credit: Iona Community/ N.Austin
Postcard 5: 20th – 26th October, Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country (Canberra) and Warrang, Eora Nation (Sydney)
We have been accompanied by many birds on this pilgrimage. We’ve met Ibis and Lorakeet, Kookaburra, Magpie, Black Swan, Crow and Pelican among others. Each time we’ve met a new species, someone in the team has told a story, shared a dreaming, or pointed out a characteristic of that bird that we may learn from. The crow squawking throughout one introduction was clearly understood by our host as having an important part in the conversation. Other birds from my world have travelled with us: the dove speaking peace, the wild goose snapping – keeping us on the move, flying in formation, roles adapting and shifting according to the climate.
First in Canberra, then in Sydney, it’s been a week about faith meeting politics.
In Canberra around 40 of us were hosted by the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture where we heard the pleas of Torres Strait Islanders Christian Leaders to listen to the heartbeat of the Creator through the experiences of local indigenous peoples whose homes, livelihoods and whole islands and populations are threatened by rising sea levels. A throw-back to the Polkinghorne Oration from our last night in Adelaide, where Rev James Baghwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, presented on the topic ‘Oceans of Justice & Rivers of Fairness – A Pacific Voice in the Wilderness.’
Brooke Prentis showed us again the Climate Scarf, illustrating stitch by stitch the last hundred years of climate statistics. This time she brought with her the next scarf, showing the next one hundred years of climate statistics. The future seems bleak. We spoke and prayed in the chapel which is orientated to face Parliament, where a mural of the White Owl, symbol of the holy spirit, adorns a wall facing in the same direction. Words, prayers, learning, actions travel between people of faith and people with political power, holding one another to account.
Later we joined the congregation at St. Stephen’s Uniting Church opposite the parliament building in Sydney. We heard about the Sydney Alliance, a network of political, citizen-led and religious organisations mobilising for radical change across a range of issues in the city. Later that day Uncle Pastor Ray Minniecon welcomed us to Scarred Tree Ministries, “a community where Indigenous people can integrate their rich heritage and culture into their walk with Jesus,” supported by the local Anglican Church.
Uncle Ray spoke of the disappointment he felt while a representative of First Nations people at COP26 in Glasgow. The last-minute wording changed in the final resolution saw India win a proposal to alter the wording from ‘phase out’ to ‘phase down’ coal and other fossil fuel production. He spoke of the horror he felt as this gave Matt Canavan and other Australian representatives the green light immediately to proceed with sanctioning a new batch of coal mines in the name of industrial and economic progress. The British Westminster Parliament must also be held to account as their proposal for a new coal mine as a sign of progress in west Cumbria continues to move through the courts despite the best efforts of environmental activists like XR.
Uncle Ray has an infectious laugh and a warm welcoming presence. He also has a badge-festooned hat including a pin of the St Andrews flag. He admitted coyly that he has some Scottish blood coursing through his veins! During the New South Wales Ecumenical Council gathering north of Sydney at the Armenian Apostolic Church I presented Uncle Ray with a wild goose badge from our Community Shop to add to his hat. He pinned it on immediately, with glee! (Below, hear how Pastor Ray Minniecon describes caring for Creation, and check out the badges on his hat!)
Just before the close of our public conversation in north Sydney Uncle Ray grasped my hand and invited all present to bow our heads in prayer for the people of Gaza and of Israel. Through all the turmoil of the climate catastrophe, including the massive bio-diversity loss, through the desperate need to raise the voices of the First Nations communities, there is a deep bond that unites us across political and faith boundaries – it is the bond of our common humanity that sees injustice and grasps the hands of those around us as we learn, pray and act for a more just and peaceful world in the name of Christ. The dove, the goose, the white owl: may they all keep us learning, keep us praying, keep us moving.