Taking the Hand of Friendship

Abbey Sim reflects on engaging, listening deeply and continuing the conversation with Aboriginal Christian Leaders.

I am a non-Indigenous Christian 22-year-old woman. I first learned about #ChangeTheHeart through a friend who attended previously. The opportunity to pray and lament in preparation for January 26 intrigued me. However, it was not until last year’s national simulcast service that I first tuned in and engaged.  I was keen to pray and be led by Aboriginal Christian Leaders to grow and reform in my understanding of January 26. 

If you’re a regular churchgoer, #ChangeTheHeart will be inviting and familiar. There is the chance to praise and worship God, lament in song, pray, and reflect within scripture. The 2022 #ChangeTheHeart service provided space for reflection upon the history of #ChangeTheHeart and the Aboriginal Christian Leaders who have gone before us, some of whom have now passed. 

#ChangeTheHeart was an opportunity to engage with Aunty Jean Phillips, Uncle Nelson Varcoe, Brooke Prentis, Bianca Manning, Tahlia Smith and her family, and so many other Aboriginal Christian Leaders.  What a blessing!  It was an opportunity for me to sit at the feet of peoples from the world’s oldest, living, continuing cultures.  An opportunity to listen to prophets amongst us whilst together in worship and pray, with opportunity to lament and learn. The service is challenging, in the way I believe only the Holy Spirit can be - convicting us of our sin and desperate need for repentance, but encouraging us that, in Jesus, better things are possible.

#ChangeTheHeart recognises that unless the heart of Australia is transformed, platitudes will not bring justice. It acknowledges that, as Christians, we believe that God’s heart is for justice, truth and healing. We cannot find healing and reconciliation apart from the ultimate reconciler, Jesus.

Aunty Jean Phillips says, ‘It’s only through the cross that there can be forgiveness in this country and as Australia thinks about its history, and it’s not a very good history, but how can we make it right - it’s through the cross.’ It is owing to my faith I can place loyalty in Christ’s call for justice and love, rather than to a falsified history of a national day. My Christian commitment to truth means that I seek to listen and act, even and especially when what I learn makes me uncomfortable, unsettled. 

By opening our eyes, ears and hearts, as non-Indigenous Christians, I believe we must listen, learn and seek God in our neighbours. We must acknowledge how colonisers, including and especially Christians, have and continue to sin against First Peoples and God’s creation in these lands. We must lament stolen lives and stolen land. #ChangeTheHeart serves as an opportunity to recognise the history of how the Spirit has been working here for thousands of years.

I am grateful for the hand of friendship which has, and continues to be, extended by Aboriginal Christian Leaders and expressed through #ChangeTheHeart. To be led by Aboriginal Christian Leaders, as a non-Indigenous Christian, is a grace which I appreciate immensely. I believe that, as non-Indigenous peoples and especially as Christians, who walk upon these lands now called Australia, we must accept this hand with listening, gratitude and deep repentance. 

I am looking forward to engaging, listening deeply and continuing the conversation with Aunty Jean Phillips in the upcoming Common Grace Digital Seminar. I pray you will take this opportunity to continue the conversation with Aunty Jean Phillips on Tuesday 15th February, 7:30pm AEDT. 


Would you like to learn more or engage further with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice?

You're invited to watch #ChangeTheHeart 2022 and continue the conversation with Senior Aboriginal Christian Leader Aunty Jean Phillips by signing up to attend the (online) Common Grace Digital Seminar on Tuesday 15th, 7:30pm AEDT

You can explore Brooke Prentis and Bianca Manning’s tips for how you can engage with January 26 and beyond.

You could also consider supporting Common Grace with a financial donation to help Common Grace continue to employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to lead us towards friendship and Reconciliation, to advocate for truth-telling and to #ChangeTheHeart of our nation. 

Abbey Sim works as Communications Officer and incoming Data and Donor Projects Officer for Common Grace. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on Dharug Country. Abbey is passionate about sharing and experiencing the vast love of God in community and creation, knitting baby clothes, and watching plenty of cricket.

#ChangeTheHeart 2022