Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ministers Conference Alice Springs

Last week about 60 Uniting Church Ministers gathered at St Philip's College in Alice Springs for a Conference focussing on two themes: 'ministry in a time of transition' and 'life for indigenous Australians in the Centre'. It was a very rich program. If anything we probably had too much 'input' and not enough processing time but I suppose indigestion is better than starvation!

The input on the local theme came from a variety of people ranging from a public health professional citing heaps of statistics and research about aboriginal health (some positive trends for life expectancy, infant mortality etc and shocking statistics and stories on the social and health effects of alcohol abuse), some Pitjitjinjara women reflecting on their life, a Pitjitjinjara man telling his story of renal sickness and urging the church to support the campaign for more accessible dialysis treatment in the Centre, hearing about a retreat centre in Alice called 'campfireintheheart' which offers retreats combining the riches of the Christian contemplative tradition with indigenous spirituality; we heard from a Lutheran pastor who has been chaplain to the town camps in Alice for 15 years - most of what he does is conduct or attend funerals...

During the week we were there the Federal Governent's 'consultation' about the Northern Territory Intervention came to Alice. It seemed the locals didn't know about it. A few from our group attended the hearing and were not impressed. The Northern Synod will soon be reaching out to the wider church asking us to do what we can to draw attention to the debilitating aspects of the Intervention (including the name!).

Jenny Tymm's input on ministry in 'liminal' times had many resonances with the local theme. In many ways the First Peoples in many parts of this land inhabit liminal space - this uncertain, difficult historical space between 'invasion' and the prospect of reconciliation and justice. 

(Photos by Rev Ji Zhang)

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