This year I’ll attend my 4th #ChangeTheHeart service with Aunty Jean Phillips and Brooke Prentis. These aren’t the only events I attend each year dealing with Australia’s historic and present reality around our relationship with our First Nations peoples, but they are important events and I’d like to encourage you to make this your first, or to keep ‘on the journey’ by attending the 2021 broadcast on Monday 25 January 2021.
I’m a white fella. I’m a pastor of a church that traces its heritage all the way back to Scotland. I’m privileged in a bunch of ways I don’t even realise. When I go to these events I find them confronting. I’m trained to theologically analyse, to think in institutional, or ‘status quo’ terms, to be thankful for what we have. Despite appearances I’m naturally quite conservative and resistant to change.
I hear stories, past and present, about an Australian experience that is not my own, and I am brought to the point of repentance — individually, but also institutionally.
Any heart change in Australia will require repentance. Any repentance requires being confronted and challenged. As a Christian I believe change that is good flows from repentance and justice, but also from reconciliation, forgiveness, and love. As a Christian I believe it when Aunty Jean Phillips — an Aboriginal Christian Leader — tells me that from all her time on this journey she is convinced that solutions to our problems as a nation don’t require tokenism, or changed dates, or even acknowledgments or welcomes to country (these can all be good things). Aunty Jean keeps telling me it’s the cross of Jesus where hope for this country is found; and she keeps calling me to the cross. She keeps telling me that our nation needs a changed heart. And for me, and maybe for you, that starts with my heart.
Aunty Jean often talks about ‘getting people on the journey’ — she’s convinced that as we sit face to face with people (even on zoom), and, when sitting together as Christians, we come face to face with Jesus, that’s where heart change happens.
This is why I keep turning up to these events, not just the annual #ChangeTheHeart services, but consistently, ‘on the journey’ showing up to meet face to face with others and hear stories that confront me, that lead me to repent, that lead me to a changed heart. But it’s more than that. I show up because showing up is an expression of encouragement and support to my friends. I show up because being invited to meet with Aboriginal peoples, and hear their stories, is a privilege not to be taken for granted. I show up to these events because while our Aboriginal Christian Leaders here in this country are calling for justice, repentance, and changed hearts — they’re also offering grace, friendship, reconciliation, hospitality and love. And that, connected with God’s work in his people by his Spirit, as we take up our cross together and follow him daily, that is what will change hearts, and maybe, in God’s timing, will change our nation.
Will you come on the journey this year? I’ll be tuning in with my family to watch and pray here on the Common Grace website on January 25.
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Nathan Campbell is the pastor of City South Presbyterian Church in inner city Brisbane. He is learning to listen to God, and to others, and tries to do that before he speaks (or writes), but still finds himself doing both those things quite a bit. You can read along as he listens at his blog.
You can find out more about the #ChangeTheHeart Services for 2021 here.
Photo from the 2020 Brisbane - West 2020 #ChangeTheHeart service