The highlight for me this Australia Day was going to the new Mubarak Mosque of the Ahmadayya Muslim Community.
They hosted a celebration of Australia Day that was quintessentially Australian. A recognition of the First Peoples, kids singing, politicians waffling on and a sausage sizzle. Some had even come from citizenship ceremonies that morning.
The heartfelt appreciation for what it means to be Australian was palpable in everyone who spoke. Adults and children spoke of their profound appreciation for the freedom, safety and the welcome they have received since coming to our shores.
Like many more recent arrivals, they seemed to value what Australia is more than those of us who’ve been here longer.
In Rockhampton many years ago, I was talking with a senator. I had just come back from a visit overseas, mainly in the Middle East. He offered the opinion that every 18-year-old in Australia should be given an around-the-world aeroplane ticket, so “they might be more appreciative of what we have here”.
We still have a long way to go. There is still unfinished business with the First Peoples, our economy needs better management in the context of challenging environmental warnings and our education system needs to do a better job for young people.
The biggest concern I have is that we seem to be using the media to shout at one another. And if we are not using the media as a microphone, we are living in our own little bespoke media bubbles.
I remind you that we are the Uniting Church; our story is about a people who transcended their own comfortable traditions to build something new, a better expression of the church.
Reconciliation and community building are tough work, every congregational minister knows that.
In some ways, it has never been tougher. This is not Pollyanna stuff; this is the work of the way of the cross. Our gift as a church to the wider community is that we will not shy away from, minimise, or deny the challenges we face. We will face them with a collaborative spirit, with the confidence that the Spirit of God empowers us to build human communities of faith, hope, and love; communities which are signs and foretastes of the new creation that is God’s promise in Jesus Christ.
I’m excited about this New Year, about the work we as the Uniting Church in Queensland will do together. The best of all is, God is with us!