The work of Aunty Dorrie

The work of Aunty Dorrie

I’m pleased that our feature story this month is on the work of the Rev. Dorothy Gordon-Harris, or Aunty Dorrie as she is affectionately known.

I recently heard Aunty Dorrie give a welcome to her own country at a Presbytery rally in Casino. I was moved by the way she spoke and welcomed us first in her own language and then explained the welcome and something of the life that she has lived.

She was completely forthright in her explanation of the treatment Aboriginal people had received in her part of the world over the years. She was also clear that the Church has a role to play in continuing to be agents of reconciliation and to take the task that we have set ourselves in the covenanting process very seriously.

Hers is a life that has been passionately committed to ministry in The Uniting Church and ministry with Aboriginal people – ministry she shared with her late husband, the Rev. Charles Harris.

I began to work more closely with Aboriginal communities when I had four years in the Northern Synod in the late 1980s. It was a steep learning curve and a rich engagement with the culture of Aboriginal people, particularly in north-east Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The local Aboriginal people certainly taught me to see things a different way. They have the ability to look at things that were familiar to me and give me a new interpretation. I was given a clan name and adopted into a wider family.

I also discovered much about Aboriginal dispossession in this country and had the chance to learn from many great leaders who have made a wonderful contribution to the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). It does seem to me that nearly a quarter of a century later our progress remains slow on the issues of reconciliation and finding a proper place for the work of the Congress within our Church.

So I give thanks for leaders such as Rev. Dorothy Gordon-Harris and for the work of the Congress.

Although I’m not able to tell you in this column everything that happened at Synod, I can let you know a few things. There was a lot of talking! We worshipped and were inspired. We heard from speakers and were challenged. We listened to reports and knew that there was much work to do in our Church. We did not always agree! But we did agree that it is better to work together than apart, and that we do, as a Church, continue to have a future as God leads us on.

The task following a Synod, as always, is to turn our words into action to allow God to work through us and have the courage to face the future that God is leading us to.

It will almost certainly mean that we will have to change some things which are both comforting and familiar. Yet that for me is what it means to be a Pilgrim People always on the way to a promised land.

God, continue to lead your people on.

General Secretary, Rev. Dr Andrew Williams

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