I had one of those frustrating days yesterday. I was looking at the Common Grace materials for National Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June), and their call to those who took part in the Walk for Reconciliation in 2000 to send in photos and stories for the 20th anniversary of that event (today – the 28th May 2020).
(Photo: Rick Stevens, Sydney Morning Herald)
And I can see my photo clearly! In it is my mother and I pushing a one-year-old Miriam in a stroller across the Sydney Harbour Bridge as part of that incredible crowd on that incredible day. (An estimated 250,000 people walked the bridge that day – still the largest gathering of people in Australia’s history!) But I cannot find that photo! I’ve searched through Miriam’s baby album and all our other albums. I even pulled out the box of old film negatives and looked through every packet for the year 2000.
Convinced there had to be a photo, I rang my mother, who reminded me that neither of us had mobile phones in 2000 (it is hard to imagine that!) and she did not have a camera either, so it was very possible that there was no photo. It is just my imagination, my memory of that day.
Those memories are vivid! Arriving at North Sydney station and realising how incredible the response to the event was, the unending stream of people pouring off trains and making their way to the bridge, and the incredible feeling of being on the bridge in that crowd, the combined strength and solidarity and commitment to the ongoing work of reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider Australian community.
The Common Grace site goes on to ask, “What has changed in the last 20 years and what are you presently doing for Reconciliation?”
Its a challenging question. There is much work still to do. But as I look at my daughter, who is no longer one-year-old, but 21, and as I listen to her talk about her university subjects on Aboriginal culture and care for the land as well as the truth of our history, (and while everyone’s been doing school online, hearing her help Zach with his work in this area!) I am aware of how much more information our children now have. I hear Aboriginal languages being spoken, and I am overjoyed to see more and more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being able to contribute in all areas of Australian society. These are things I want to continue to support and celebrate.
The final question Common Grace ask is, “What is your vision of Reconciliation for the next 20 years?”
My vision, as we move from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity into National Reconciliation Week, is that our commitment to truth telling and vulnerability and courage and reconciliation, in our church and across this country, in our own relationships and in our relationships with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait brothers and sisters will continue to grow. My vision is that as we celebrate this Sunday the day of Pentecost, the pouring out of God’s Spirit on all people, for all people, we will commit ourselves again to #StillWalkingForReconciliation.
Can I leave you with the blessing that Brooke Prentis, CEO of Common Grace, gave to us when she preached at our church at the start of NAIDOC week last year:
May our footsteps, on these ancient lands,
remind us of creation and connectedness, in our search for truth.
May the Gum Tree, from it’s roots to it’s branches,
remind us to dig deep and reach high, in our action for justice.
May the Eagle, who soars in the sky,
remind us of the power, in our call for love.
May the expanse of the lands and seas, of the sky and stars,
remind us of God’s timing in our faith in hope.
May the Holy three, Creator Spirit, Lord God, Papa Jesus,
remind us of community.
So with grace, mercy, and peace, go in truth, justice, love and hope.
Amen. May it be so.