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2007: Indigenous Theology and Spirituality Conference

Casino_banner_printThe inaugural Christ and Culture Conference was held at Noosa in July 2007.

The conference was an initiative that we had longed to do for some time and we were excited that it was such an outstanding success. We had ninety participants, the majority of whom were Indigenous, from all around the country and who were representative of many different denominations. We also had participation by other Indigenous peoples, Maoris, a Sami and a Dalit.  We were particularly pleased that we had eleven teenagers who accompanied their parents, but who also participated fully in the conference program.

Participants found the conference to be a particularly enriching and invigorating few days. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with participants feeling empowered, challenged, inspired to action and who are returning to their communities with many new ideas taking shape.

There were fifteen workshops centred on the conference themes which were:

  • Our Life in Ministry - what is it to be Indigenous and Church?  What does inculturation and the Churches mean for us in our faith journey?  How do we minister to fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in specific locations?
  • Search for Meaning - Indigenous culture and how it relates to the bible. Who is this person Jesus through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eyes?
  • Justice and the Gospel - Jesus came to bring good news to the poor and set the captives free; in our Australian context how does the gospel speak to us of Justice?
  • Covenanting - God calls us to be one, what does this mean for the Churches today in Australia and how can we make this commitment to one another.

Following is snapshot of some of the themes and outcomes that arose from the conference:

  • Relationship and family was a very strong theme, this came through in many of the workshops, the importance of family and of guiding the youth. Many of the families presented together and it was felt that it was a strength of the conference to have the different generations participating together. It was also felt that there was a greater need to support the women, encourage the men to participate more, and to provide opportunities to the youth to participate and develop more fully.
  • The use of story was a powerful component of many workshops and there was much discussion about the need to use stories about the things around us, to help us explain God and to let our stories be our theology. Several presenters shared their own stories, which showed their struggles, courage and initiative to overcome various hardships and to explain how they explored and experienced their relationship to God and their churches.
  • Throughout the conference we were reminded that we shouldn't get "hung up" on a White interpretation of Christ; that we need to trust in our own interpretations as we know that God was here before colonization. We need to be freer with our celebrations.
  • Culture and language was also affirmed to be vitally important, particularly in the area of weaving gospel and culture together. It was particularly uplifting to hear from those who minister in their own language and to know that they have been able to develop Indigenous language resources to support their ministry.
  • Participants also expressed some challenges which they thought the 'mainstream' Churches need to engage with:
    • That mainstream church needs to learn more about Aboriginal and TSI life which can be used to show Jesus.
    • That Christian and Aboriginal religion can mix, but there still needs to be a rethink about the old mission style of ministering.
    • Also expressed was the view that Indigenous peoples are not listened to and they need to be more actively encouraged and supported to take a stronger lead within their churches.
    • Several people would have liked there to be more Heads of Churches attending the conference.
    • A particular recommendation was for the churches to develop schools programs to provide Indigenous youth with free schooling in the Church education systems.
    • Other recommendations that arose were to convene a women's cultural camp and a request to develop a collection of Aboriginal women's stories linking to scripture and social change.
    • Overall better training and formation is required.

The youth also had the opportunity to present at the conference and as part of their presentation they put forward a list of recommendations to the conference:

  1. All the youth agreed that they needed more travelling opportunities. To have youth camps where the youth from all over, and from different denominations, can meet and learn more about Christ and to share in our stories.
  2. The youth would like to ask Churches to make Church more user friendly and to accommodate people of all ages.
  3. The youth also asked that the ministers interact with everyone, so that they get a better understanding of the word of the Lord.

This conference was a huge success with all participants expressing a desire to attend another and to make it a regular event.

Artwork by Casino Public School.

More in this category: « 2009: Christ Through Culture
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