Preaching the Word in an Aboriginal context
McCarthy, A. (2015). Preaching the Word in an Aboriginal context. AJL: Australian Academy of Liturgy, 14 (4), 161-172.
The theme of the Australian Academy of Liturgy Conference in Brisbane, 2015 was “The Word in Worship”. One of the keynote sessions, facilitated by Dr Carmel Pilcher RSJ, was presented by three Aboriginal women: Dr Christine Black (Darwin), Thelma Parker (Mt Isa) and Dr Anne Pattel-Gray (Brisbane). During the panel discussion the three women told their stories, which challenged those members present at the conference in many ways. The stories were rich but contained deep sadness at times because of the effect that the efforts to Christianise their families and communities had on each of their personal circumstances. In many instances difficult relationships developed throughout Australia between the various Aboriginal nations and the Church groups who wished to Christianise them and train them to live in what the colonist mentality considered to be ‘civilised’ ways. Many Australians are aware that the history of the last 200 plus years has seen great injustices perpetrated upon Aboriginal nations around Australia. While in some instances the missionary efforts were very destructive, there were also good people trying to do what they considered to be the work of God among the indigenous people where European settlements had taken place. Part of the drive to do this was their experience in other parts of the world that had been colonised and Christianised within the same social process. Many countries in the world bear both the scars and the advantages given by colonisation. The Benedictine community at New Norcia was established as part of the Christian tradition ‘to carry the comfort of the faith to the four corners of the earth’. The results of those efforts since the middle of the 19th century have been mixed, and the reports of their endeavours are not always balanced in the view of community members. Two monks who have spent much of their lives as part of the Benedictine community of New Norcia were asked to provide their understanding of what unfolded in their experience and association with Aboriginal people and the mission of ‘preaching the word’.
Aboriginal Australians, colonization, Christianisation, Christian mission