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Queensland Synod moderator, Rev David Baker. Photo: Ben Rogers
Queensland Synod Moderator, Rev David Baker. Photo: Ben Rogers

Faith and courage on Mornington Island

At time of writing, I’m sitting on the veranda of the Mornington Island manse with the sound of carpentry tools in the background.

The carpentry work is the complete renovation of the Mornington Island church. The renovations are costing approximately $700 000.

Most of this comes from funds the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in Queensland—the Calvary Presbytery—has accumulated over time. Some of the cost also came from Faith Works Uniting Community, incorporating the congregations of Norman Park and Coorparoo. Calvary Presbytery has developed a plan to renovate and maintain its buildings right across the state.

This work is part of the four Key Change Initiatives—being present in strategic locations, and that the First Peoples know themselves as integral to the life of the church in Queensland.

If you’d like to support this work, give Calvary Presbytery a call!

The church here is the only church on the island, part of the history of the Moravian and Presbyterian missions to the communities of the Gulf. It holds an integral place in the life of the community. In the new year, Rev Dr Gewa Au will take up placement on the island, after a very significant gap in ministry up here.

I was invited here to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of the first missionary to the island, Rev Robert Hall. He was a New Zealander; the
Moravian/Presbyterian tradition had deeply moved him and his wife, and they committed for service here after serving at the Weipa mission for three years.

The community remembers this story with both sadness and thanksgiving. The church is named after Gangurrumungalen, “Gully Peters”, a local man who raised the alarm and saved the life of others in the violence after Hall’s murder.

It is a lesson in grace that this community, so disrupted by the effects of colonialism, and fully aware of those effects, can still recognise and give thanks that the Gospel came amongst them.

The preamble to our Uniting Church constitution recognises that from the First People’s law, custom, and ceremony, they had knowledge of God; Wesley called that “Prevenient grace”, so the telling of the story of the Christ event found resonance, and the fruit of that story found its way into communal life.

These communities face great challenges but there are leaders here with faith and courage; the Uniting Church in Queensland, via congregational life, via UnitingCare, via patrol ministry, is finding ways to be faithful to our covenant with the First Peoples.

Rev David Baker
Moderator, Queensland Synod

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