This week on the Forming Church podcast, we spoke to Brooke Prentis. Brooke is a founding board member of NAIITS Australia (an indigenous community for high-level theological education), where she is currently studying a Masters of Theology, and is also a scholar of the Australian Centre for Christianity & Culture. She is the Coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering event that brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander christian leaders from across the nation. She’s currently working on a book that will resource the Australian Church in how to engage, build, and deepen relationship with Aboriginal peoples. She’s also the CEO of Common Grace, a large online movement of people pursuing Jesus and justice, where she previously volunteered as the Aboriginal spokesperson. They believe truth-telling about our history is at the centre of what justice and reconciliation means in our context, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander christian leaders are fundamental to their work. Brooke is from the Wakka Wakka peoples, and in this episode, she shares how Australian christians can together confront and stand against historical and ongoing issues of injustice for our First Nations Peoples.
Brooke spoke about recovering a sense of connection to place and story, and learning to walk gently and listen deeply with each other. She explained that our theological perspectives on aboriginal injustices should come from aboriginal christian leaders, not just non-indigenous leaders. She said: “It’s something like 90% of non-indigenous people have not met an Aboriginal. As the church, that’s where we start; does the church actually know an Aboriginal person?” Her desire to see the church be part of the work we need to do as a nation is clear, as she said: “Part of what my ministry has been to non-indigenous christians is [teaching] to simply just love aboriginal peoples, and not to judge. Often sadly the things like stolen land and the lack of treaty; instead of being seen as injustice and part of national truth-telling, they’re seen as opposition…and so, we need to connect at our heart levels, not just head levels. And for me, that’s what Jesus does. He unsettles my heart, mind and spirit each and every day.”
When it comes to building a new Australia, here are Brooke’s top practical tips for the church:
- Find your local aboriginal christian leaders, organisations, and medical service
- Google the history of the land your church is (or will be) on
- Commission/pay an aboriginal artist to create an artwork for your church
- Use the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander flags; they are signs of welcome!
- Consider an ‘Acknowledgment of Country’ plaque
Brooke’s uncompromising stance on biblical justice brings Australians together to discuss racial healing. This episode is essential listening for any Australian church leader or planter who wants to take seriously what it means to lead and establish church communities in Australia, while nurturing genuine relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Listen to it here!
Featuring Jamie Freeman, Pip Miner & Ken Kamau from our Gen1K Mission team, the ‘Forming Church’ podcast explores what evangelism could look like in our rapidly changing world, resourcing the next generation of church planters and urban missionaries. If you’re a pastor, church planter or ministry leader keen to connect with others and discuss missional conversations that have kicked off from the podcast, request to join our Facebook group here.
(The Forming Church Podcast is sponsored by Baptist Financial Services)