(originally posted on the Uniting Church Assembly website)
First Nations leaders from Nungalinya College led Bible Reflections on Day 2 of the 16th Assembly.
With support and co-ordination from Rev Michelle Cook, eight leaders from Nungalinya* shared on the Assembly theme “Dwelling in love”. (*Nungalinya is an ecumenical training college located in Darwin equipping First Peoples for leadership in churches and communities. It is supported by the Anglican, Uniting and Catholic churches of the Northern Territory).
In preparing for the study, participants washed each other’s feet and thought about the connection between serving and being connected to Jesus.
The study opened with an introduction to the Yolŋu worldview from Rev Deacon Maratja Dhamarrandji, a leader of the Northern Regional Council of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and former chair of the Nungalinya Board.
“To honour God and respect culture is a policy of Nungalinya College and it fits well my voice and theology,” said Maratja.
“I’m a Yolŋu man and a Christian man. I’m not an individual that can be introduced alone. No Yolŋu person is ever alone. A Yolŋu is always in relationship to someone and something else.”
“A Yolŋu is always a ‘half’ of another ‘set’ of Yolŋu. This understanding may be contrasted from the Latin American saying that it takes two to tango; in the Yolŋu worldview, it takes more than one to be Yolŋu.”
“In the double parts of my cultural heritage, I am also body soul and spirit. I am connected to the past, and now and the future. I am of those at once, I am never alone.”
Marlene Boko, from Aputula (Finke), who is currently studying Christian Ministry and Theology shared on the context of 1 Corinthians 13.
“Paul was talking to the people in the Church at Corinth and he’s telling them about the most important way to live, to live loving each other and loving God.”
Wangarr Dhamarrandji from Galwin’ku shared in the Djambarrpuŋu language on the importance of leading in love.
“If we change our thinking to the way Jesus thinks, that love of Jesus will show in our thinking.
“If we see God’s creation, looking closer to our surroundings and we see closer to God’s creation we also see God’s love in that creation. And that is yindi (great, very big).”
Further reflecting on the texts through their own art, Troy Mardigan from Nauiyu (Daly River) and Uncle Jo Cuttabut spoke about reconciliation, resurrection, the Holy Spirit and God seeking to be closer to us.
Joanne Baker, from Miliŋimbi, and Maurice Karui, from Wadeye (Port Keats), reflected on what it means to act in love.
“How I show love in the community is to walk with those people who are broken in spirit,” said Joanne.
“Love is action, love hurts, love brings people together. It has to be the way Jesus taught us. When we have that integrity of the Lord inside us, your love shows clear.”
Maurice shared how he had experienced God in the opening of the water lily flower.
“When I saw that flower with my own eyes, and I felt that God’s spirit was in that flower, I opened my heart.”
The last reflection, ‘Speaking in love’, by Yurranydjil Dhurrkay, was recorded for the UCA Queensland Synod Bible study on Ephesians 4:15-16. She reflected on how we build one another up as the Body of Christ.
“That way I am able to work with you, and build you, as a part of Christ’s body. I’m helping you to find your place in Christ’s body, and you and me will both grow in love. And then we will become strong and know that Christ is the head.”