Journey takes pilgrims to the centre

Journey takes pilgrims to the centre

From 17 to 25 April, Rev. Dr Rob and Andrea McFarlane led a group of Uniting Church members on a ‘pilgrimage’ walk through outback Australia. The ‘Journey to the Centre’ took them through Alice Springs, and included highlights such as Uluru.

According to Rev. Dr McFarlane, the journey, “was a transforming experience for our pilgrims.”

“Participants had a wide range of experiences,” he said.

“They shared in desert spirituality, Biblical reflection, meetings with local indigenous and whitefella pastors, visits to historic missions including time with communities in the here-and-now, some confronting experiences around the Uluru Statement from the Heart and current issues for indigenous communities, iconic experiences at Watarrka (King’s Canyon), Kata Tjuta and Uluru, and superb worship and preaching at Alice Springs Uniting Church.”

“In our final session together, people reflected on what the key thing that were going to take was, and what they would do differently in life.”

The pilgrimage, he said, has already had an impact, with participants sharing their experiences with their home congregations in worship and preaching, and at least one planning to lead another with their own community.

“Everyone had their own highlight,” Rev. Dr McFarlane said.

“One that many people mentioned was a walk around women’s and men’s caves and a waterhole at the base of Uluru with Sarah, a local Mutijulu traditional owner.  Sarah spoke in language, interpreted respectfully by an Anglo woman from not-for-profit craft organisation. Simply hearing Pitjantjara in conversation was moving, quite apart from the time of deep sharing.”

“Another highlight was a silent walk in the bush west of Alice halfway through the journey, with a time of sharing of simple observations, but morphing into what preconceptions people had brought with them, and how they were being challenged.”

Rev. Dr McFarlane said that he remains hopeful that a future pilgrimage will be able to take place in May 2022, looking at Celtic Britain and Ireland. 

“We have firm bookings for accommodation and travel for this pilgrimage running from 4 to 24 May, leading into an optional extension to the Oberammergau Passion Play,” he said.

“Watch this space.”

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