Dear Friends,

Last Sunday we held Aboriginal Sunday, a day Yorta Yorta man and Aboriginal leader, William Cooper, called on the Australian Church to observe, on the 26th January 1938, to be in solidarity with Aboriginal peoples. And yesterday, on Australia Day, Common Grace sent out a list of the 10 best ways to engage on January 26.

It’s a thoughtful list, but the one that most struck me was #5 – Observe 65 seconds of silence, one second for each thousand years. It was interesting how last night’s news coverage of Australia Day spoke of the power of silence as part of the ‘Survival Day’ protests. As Common Grace contributor Rosie Shorter reflected:

Pausing for a minute of silence does not diminish or destroy these days. It enriches them. It creates space to reflect on the past and to hope for the future. We are silent to remember those who have died, to acknowledge the catastrophe of war. We are silent to honour the value of human life. Similarly, a minute of silence on the day I grew up calling ‘Australia Day’ would not diminish January 26. It would enrich it.

A minute of silence on January 26 would open space to recognise and respect First Nations peoples. It would recognise and respect those who have fought for, and continue to fight for, their country, their people. It could recognise First Nations people of the past. Heroic warriors and strong leaders: Windradyne, Truganinni, Multuggerah, Pemulwuy and Jandamarra. It could recognise the work of 20th century and contemporary leaders, activists, poets, writers and politicians: Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Evelyn Scott, June Oscar, Anita Heiss, Bruce Pascoe, Marcia Langton, Linda Burney and Lidia Thorpe. A minute of silence is a mark of respect. On January 26, a minute of silence could be a moment to pause and imagine what this day is like for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It could be a first step (or your 100th step) in recognising and acknowledging the truth of stolen land, stolen children and stolen wages

If you haven’t had a chance to do so, can I encourage you to take a minute – or even 65 seconds – today or tomorrow and  be in silence and reflect or pray for this land now called Australians and its people.

Taking time to think and reflect is something we do at the start of February each year at Canberra Baptist. We reflect again on our church goals: Led by the Spirit we will explore together what it means to follow Jesus today, build an inclusive caring community and share God’s love and justice in words and actions. This year I am starting February in a slightly different way – working through a series on Baptist Values, from material prepared by Australian Baptist Ministries. However, the themes of this series; Discipleship (being centred on Jesus), Community, Mission and Freedom line up very closely with our goals!

As an opportunity for further discussion, and building friendships, if you are not part of an existing small group there will be two ‘pop up’ groups discussing the series in February. One will be taking place after the Sunday morning service – from 11:30am and meeting over lunch – and the other will be Sunday evenings at 6pm – on Zoom. These groups will be meeting February 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th. Sunday, February 6th is not that far away, so please contact me (or the church office) if you would like to join either of these groups.

This is a timely series for us as a church. It is timely as we respond to the challenges facing our denomination, centering on questions of Baptist values and identity. It is timely as we continue to welcome people to our church from other Christian denominations and faith traditions. And it is extremely timely for all of us to be reminded of our values as Baptists – discipleship (being Jesus-centred), community, mission and freedom. Understanding our values will empower us as a church to be vibrant, healthy and focused on the mission to which God has called us.

Not unrelated to theme of discipleship, on the 6th Feb, the first Sunday of the series, straight after the service, there will be a short (15-20 min) volunteer induction for anyone wanting to volunteer in an activity at church.

And one final reminder! This Sunday is the last Sunday for giving to our Christmas Offering – money that goes to work here in Canberra mong women leaving domestic violence situations (‘Starting Again’), in Cambodia supporting a case worker helping people leaving situations of sexual abuse, trafficking and exploitation (Hagar International ) and to improve livelihoods and wellbeing in Northern Bangladesh (PARI).

Grace and peace,


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