Thursday, November 18, 2010

a public theology: mission, leadership and reconciliation

It was no ordinary “theology” class. First, we were outside. Second, we had smoke from an open fire drifting across our seats. Third, the venue was Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park.

In 1952, the Uniting Aboriginal Mission opened up a home for Aborginal children. It became part of the sad saga that is the stolen generation, in which state and mission colluded in removing Aboriginal children from their homes. The home closed in 1973, but the memories linger and lives remain damaged.

In 1994, a community group began to meet. Stories were told. Relationships formed. Education began. A memorial was created. The group continues today.

I teach a course on Missional Leadership, in which participants at the beginning of the course choose a “table.” It can be inside or outside the church. At this table they have to relate and listen. They have two major projects during the class. The first is to name what they are hearing as they listen. The second is to envision a mission action project, what might happen in response to their listening and in light of an appropriate Kingdom imagination. The hope is that through this process they develop as change agent leaders, for the sake of the world.

With the year ending, it seemed appropriate to meet not in a lecture room, but at a “table.” One of the class had chosen Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park, because they are part of the community group.

And so no ordinary “theology” class began. Outside. Smoke drifting across. Cradling cups of tea. And a fantastic conversation – about what is mission, about the place of truth-telling, with stories of healing, about public theology as local action, about mission today as sitting with the mission mistakes of the past, of an appreciation of mission-as-reconciliation, which is central to the Uniting Church Basis of Union. About Luke 10:1-12 and how it continues to live in everyday practice.

It is amazing how far a group can travel in a year. It is so richly accessible when theology emerges in and around local practice and not simply from text books.

Posted by steve at 08:17 AM


  1. It was great to be part of a class with a diversity of “tables”, where each of us was given time to explore our own missional practice and understanding. Each personal journey at each of our ‘tables” was valued. I experienced the class as offering strong encouragement to be imaginative and reflective, and the lovely afternoon at Colebrook Reconciliation Park was a fitting end to a fruitful year.

    Comment by Lyn Leane — November 19, 2010 @ 7:41 am

  2. Thanks Lyn. Certainly a class I won’t forget,


    Comment by steve — November 20, 2010 @ 8:38 am

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