i popped into our synod meeting last night, to meet some friends for dinner. i no longer go to church meetings, so after years of being firmly enmeshed in synod meetings this felt like a bizarre cross cultural moment. While i was there i found out that a few weeks ago Vince Ross was named Aboriginal Male Elder of the Year by NAIDOC – the committee that oversees the recognition of Aboriginal and Islander culture throughout Australia. This is such a rich, rightly deserved honour for a remarkable person.
Vince works with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), which is part of the Uniting Church. He has the job of communicating indigenous culture to an audience that’s keen, but pretty thick (i include myself in that!), and of creating space for a relationship of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people. I can’t imagine a more difficult job. We’ve worked together over the last 15 years on leadership training, cross cultural stuff, on countless children’s and youth ministry events and camps, and in presentations to synods and presbyteries. Last year we planned worship together for reconciliation week. In all of that, we’ve shared lots of meals, stories, gossip, laughter, songs around the campfire, tears and silence. Vince has the kind of simple faith that can only be found on the other side of a lifetime of struggle and deep complexity. It confronts my own faith every time I spend time with him.
The reason i write all this is to say congratulations to Vince, but also to say that every time i see him I remember that my most important work will never be alternative worship or emerging church… it will be to begin to embody the kind of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Australia that Vince talks about and lives.