The final day of UnitingWomen 2018 featured many highlights, none more so than when Brooke Prentis, Coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering and Aboriginal spokesperson for Common Grace, shared her keynote presentation with Aunty Jean Phillips.
Brooke reflected on the NAIDOC Week 2018 theme, “Because of her, we can”.
“As we heard the wisdom of Aboriginal women, it was important because we not only had the opportunity to celebrate our Aboriginal women, but to acknowledge, to recognise and to honour a part of our society that our Aboriginal men often describe as the backbone of our communities,” said Brooke.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have contributed to the fabric of this land that we now call Australia. Sadly, that contribution has often gone unacknowledged.”
Drawing on the UnitingWomen conference theme “Weaving wisdom and wonder”, Brooke said it was up to women today to play a key role in weaving a new tapestry for Australia.
“The Australia that I dream of, built on truth, justice, love and hope,” said Brooke.
She encouraged those in attendance to reach out their hand with their needle and thread to weave together ancient wisdom to create today’s wonder.
“We weave together as women, we weave together love and leadership, strength and solidarity, friendship and faith, beauty and bravery, kindness and kingdom, humanity and hope.
“Together across cultures, across congregations, across this movement that is the Uniting Church, we are weaving wisdom and wonder.”
Brooke introduced Aunty Jean Phillips, an Aboriginal Christian leader and mentor who encouraged those in attendance to get to know the Aboriginal community better.
“As I move around, into different churches, I’m often the first Aboriginal person that many Christians have met,” said Aunty Jean.
“A lot of people expect me to be excited about that, but I feel insulted.”
Aunty Jean closed by encouraging the women to join Indigenous Christians on their journey.
“From today onwards, you are going to get to know us more and you are going to talk about our history,” said Aunty Jean.
“So I trust that today you take up the challenge to walk together, to build a better nation for everyone and we can do that, and God can bless us, and we will see real blessing, we will see real reconciliation.”
Prior to the closing service, women representing the Northern Synod took the stage for a special announcement.
Moderator of the Northern Synod, Rev Thresi Mauboy thanked the Queensland crew for preparing a beautiful conference.
“We are here to invite you to join us for the next UnitingWomen conference in 2020,” said Thresi.
“We look forward to all the women from around the country joining us in Darwin.”
Jemma Whittaker of the Northern Synod said that UnitingWomen 2020 would be an opportunity to enter into the lives and stories of the women of the Northern Synod.
“We have begun to plan an event that truly reflects who we are; intercessional, intergenerational, intercultural, diverse in our experience, our wounds, our joys, our gifts, our connections to country and the ways that we express and experience God in our lives and in our families and our communities.”
UnitingWomen 2018 concluded with a worship service and communion, with the sermon delivered by Dr Deidre Palmer, President of the Uniting Church in Australia.
“It is so wonderful to be with you and experience the joy of being women together, woven together by the Holy Spirit,” said Deidre.
She focused on two key women in the Bible, Joanna and Mary Magdalene.
“These wise wonderful women in the scriptures are our sisters in faith,” said Deidre.
“Our lives are woven together with theirs, as we hear again the good news declared in the Gospel.”
Deidre said that in the past decades, biblical scholars and historians have worked to raise some of these significant women from anonymity, inviting us to remember these women who were disciples of Jesus and witnesses to the transformation that is his risen presence.
“I’ve been inspired and encouraged by these women and others like them,” said Deidre.
“Throughout history we have continued to share the good news, to encounter the risen Christ.”
Deidre listed many women who had shared wisdom with her, including Elder Martha from Vanuatu.
“She is a woman who raises up the witnesses of women, their gifts and leadership in proclaiming the good news of the risen Christ,” said Deidre.
In her parting message, Deidre asked for courage to help those attending the conference to find their voice to share the story of Christ and the wisdom of God.
“So that the world may be invited into the wonder of the deep power of God, bringing reconciliation and hope to the whole of God’s creation.”
UnitingWomen 2020 will be held in Darwin at the Club Tropical Resort in July 2020.