Over the last decade, Ann Van Leerdam has been attending Survival Day marches and festivals that have deeply shaped how she now approaches January 26.
As a Canadian who is married to an American, I’m no stranger to the wound that colonisation leaves on both those who are exploited and those who exploit.
Many “great Christian” nations have been established on stolen land and often through stolen labour. In moving to Dharawal country a decade ago, and slowly learning the story of this land’s history, my eyes have been opened to North America’s painful past as well.
Growing up in the North American church we are often taught that money and power and land acquisition are the blessings of God. It makes it pretty confusing when you then hear Jesus say that land comes through inheritance to those who are blessed because of their ‘meekness’. In fact, Jesus has quite a few things to say about our #blessings.
As our family pursued citizenship here and stumbled into an amazing little Port Kembla church we met some incredible teachers to walk with us. Friends formed a monthly dinner and discussion group aimed at decolonising and growing our solidarity with Aboriginal peoples within our neighbourhood and beyond. It wasn’t long til we had Common Grace’s Brooke Prentis sitting with us as a guest of honour before speaking the next day at our church.
Last January marked the first time our church held a full service to lament the 26th together—Invasion Day. We heard stories and statistics of past and present suffering inflicted upon this land’s First Peoples and we prayed prayers of sorrow, repentance, and hope. As we reflected on our complicity in invasion, we also received gracious summons to walk and work together in friendship from Brooke and Aunty Jean. We embraced and prayed with our Aboriginal friends in attendance. We shared the Eucharist together.
It was a sobering service in which we gently dug into our foundations—the blood in the soil—but also found mercy deeper still, ready and waiting. This year we look forward to hosting Brooke for a service as we together lament January 26th once again. We want to trade in the #blessings of colonisation for the true blessings that come as we hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness.
This January, Aunty Jean Phillips, Brooke Prentis and Common Grace are hosting prayers services across the country, inviting Christians to #ChangeTheHeart this January 26. Find the service near you
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Chris De Souza is musician and Common Grace supporter at Central Church in Port Kembla, NSW.