Committed to covenanting
About FACE (Faith And Cultural Exchange) is a crucial part of the covenant relationship between the Uniting Church and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
It is an opportunity for people of all walks of life to hospitably share in the lives of people very different to themselves.
It is not an outreach from one community to another, but an attempt to foster greater faith-based relationships and cultural understanding in a collective embrace.
In January 2012, 12 young-spirited adults from across Australia participated in the adventure of About FACE, travelling to one of three far-flung communities: Broken Hill, Mapoon and Aurukun or Port Augusta and Oodnadatta.
Four Sydney participants, Tazz Caldwell, Heather Clarksen, Bec Leslie and Kate McLean, humbly share their “about-face” experiences.
Tazz Caldwell (Broken Hill)
Broken Hill was a time spent challenging my thinking. Being in the country, I experienced a different pace of like and ways of doing things. This setting helped to emphasise the real cultural differences that I was experiencing.
Broken Hill was not what I was expecting, but it was a very beneficial experience, which I would recommend and encourage others to try.
It’s a challenge, but it is definitely worth it. The About FACE initiative in the Uniting Church is such an important part of the covenanting process and one that is very important for the future of the church.
Kate McLean (Port Augusta and Oodnadatta)
I was lucky enough to visit two communities. Despite the injustice many Aboriginal people experience to this day, our group was met with incredible hospitality and grace. I encountered such a deep love for this country and a longing that all Australians would work together for the good of this shared land.
I also went through a huge rollercoaster of emotions and through the whole experience, I realised that for me to be proud of being both Australian and Christian, I have to join Aboriginal people in their struggle for self-determination.
The commitment the Uniting Church has made to covenanting with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters is a small picture of what reconciliation can look like. This has been enshrined through declarations, apologies and changes to the Uniting Church Constitution.
If the wider society could follow the example of the church, then perhaps we would see greater efforts towards reconciliation and aboriginal self-determination in other areas too- in education, in politics, in health, in economics … the list could go on. This is an area the church should continue to strengthen and move forward in, not just for the sake of unity in the Church but also for the sake of our nation.
Heather Clarksen and Bec Leslie (Mapoon and Aurukun)
Our experience was really made special by the people and relationships. From the outset, when we were welcomed to country by the Senior Elder, Aunty Harriet, we felt blessed to feel something of the innate graciousness of our Aboriginal sisters and brothers — the First Peoples of this country.
We were really struck by the integrity, respect and kindness that flowed from the kids — making sure everyone one was included in a game, always taking care of the younger kids.
About FACE is such an important program within the Uniting Church, allowing for the formation of fundamental, organic relationships that will sustain our church and bring about change within our place, our country in the years to come.
Our journey has begun, our eyes have been opened, in walking alongside the First Peoples of this country, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We encourage all to open their hearts and lives to the opportunities that abound for sharing culture, reconciliation, healing and spiritual restoration among all Australians.