By Brian Kirk, Indigenous Sub-committee Chair

Thirty-five participants, as well as three children, took part in the inaugural Indigenous Ministry Training Weekend at Copeton Dam on 11-13 May, 2018.  The keynote speaker was Rev Neville Naden (currently the Bush Church Aid Indigenous Ministry Officer), supported by his wife, Kathie.

Participants came from across the Armidale Diocese and included both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The aim of the weekend was to encourage and equip people in ministry to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, who make 10.8% of the total population of the Diocese.

Each day began with worship times led George Ferguson (Aboriginal Ministry trainee at South Tamworth Anglican) and the Reverend Rod Chiswell. These times of worship included uplifting testimonies of how God had been at work in the lives of people. Neville Naden conducted sessions on: What is an Indigenous Church; Leadership; Discipleship; Indigenous Theology; and Challenges for the Indigenous Church into the Future.

Neville encouraged the participants to identify and note the differences between an Anglican Church and an Indigenous Church. Some of those differences included: the importance of people and community, limited resources, not being connected to a building, informal, less reliant on written liturgy, the value of music, respectful of elders and a ‘come as you are’ mentality.

In the workshop on Leadership, the group identified many common characteristics for leaders in the church: being a servant of all, having integrity, empowering others, setting a good example, being prayerful, responsible, visionary and driven by conviction from God’s Word.

Bishop Rick Lewers commented that it was ‘a fantastic weekend’. Participant feedback from the weekend was also overwhelmingly positive with some asking, ‘When are we doing this again?’, and others commenting, ‘It helped me to think more about Indigenous theology and its place in outreach and ministry’, and ‘A good weekend that encouraged me in pursuit of the gospel and its spread in an Indigenous context.’ 

One of the highlights of the weekend was the opportunity it offered people from across the Diocese to meet and fellowship with other Christians who are serving among the Indigenous people of our area in difficult contexts. One participant expressed the value of this opportunity: ‘It was good to meet Christians I haven’t met before, to reinforce and refresh old friendships, and to learn methods in which I can become a better, truer disciple and better minister to those in need’.

In the light of this feedback, the Diocesan Indigenous Sub-committee is considering how to build on the success of the weekend and encourage ongoing gospel ministry in Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities. We would like you to pray for us as we continue in this work.