Aboriginal pastors call Australians to a 'Solemn Assembly'

A time to repent and pray. Australia needs righteousness and justice

This weekend, Australians are being called to be part of a “Solemn Assembly” focused on prayer and repentance.

First Nations pastors and leaders will be joined by various non-indigenous Christian leaders helping to lead prayers for the “healing of the Land”, with a strong emphasis on repentance. The Assembly will also pray for an end to the pandemic. There will be small group prayer, live worship, YouTube worship, Bible reading and interactive prayer. We are invited to “Come for a short time or a long time.”

“I was most interested when Pastor Peter Walker shared with us the verse from Joel 1:14 which says, ‘Call for a solemn assembly, gather the elders, all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God and cry out to the Lord,'” James Condon, Chair of the National Day of Prayer and Fasting, tells Eternity.

“So I believe that we need to do this. I believe it’s timely, I believe this is a ‘kairos hour’ for Australia and we’re crying out to God for his blessing, for his healing and for his peace in our nation at this time.”

Asked about the initiative being led by First Nations pastors, he added: “I’ve been on Zoom calls for weeks now with Indigenous leaders across the breadth and length and height and depth of the whole nation. And many of them have wanted this for decades, a solemn assembly to come together.”

“[Anglican] Bishop Philip Huggins, the president of the National Council of Churches, spoke to Warwick Marsh – coordinator of National Day of Prayer and Fasting – and myself as chairman and said ‘we need prayer for the nation. Can we do this together?’

And Pastor Peter Walker is part of our National Day of Prayer and Fasting executive team. He raised with us the idea of a solemn assembly and we thought ‘yes, this is the way to go.’ To bring us together as one, a further step in reconciliation, a further step in unity and an incredibly significant two days in seeking God and his blessing.”

This movement is led by Christians of very different flavours, uniting in a common cause: the National Council of Churches in Australia, and a group of mostly theologically conservative First Nations pastors. Eternity understands that more than 70 indigenous pastors – from groups such as the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship, The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, and the Australian Christian Churches National Indigenous Initiative – have been zooming each other for weeks. (As far as we can tell, it has been a collaboration through relationships not official endorsements).

Peter Walker is a Bundjalung man from the Northern Rivers district of NSW, head of the Australian Indigenous Ministries and who was pastor at Redfern Indigenous Church for ten years. He tells a story of visiting Alice Springs and getting a vision that told of the need for repentance. “Now I had asked the Lord in praying and said, ‘Lord … the land is so dry. Has it been always like this?’ … I’m sure there was no question as to the Holy Spirit trying to speak to me, to know that it has not been always like this – but it is because [of] the sins of your forefathers, meaning my ancestors and the Indigenous ancestors and forefathers.”

“So that’s when I asked the Lord to show me a sign, and he showed me the sign … I was up there [Alice Springs], and we were looking at a program on television. And it was showing us the group of archeologists that were out there. They said there were rainforests at one time in the land and around Alice Springs. They had found evidence of that through plant life, through some of their greenery they found there. That, at one time in history, Alice Springs was a fertile land. And that convinced me.”

“What God wants for this land is righteousness and justice.” – Peter Walker

Walker believes passionately that First Nations people, as the traditional custodians of the land, can lead Australia towards repentance. “Well, this is about a team. This is not only just about Indigenous people … [But] we need to take, as a custodian of the land, to take in a spiritual sense, to take care of that.”

“In Ephesians, in the second chapter it says, ‘Until you become one new man.’ (verse 15) And so this Solemn Assembly is … Non-indigenous people and indigenous people together, that we become the ‘one new man’ in this nation, to take this nation for Jesus Christ. And that is a message I want for the world to see.”

Left and right need to come together. “You’ve got two different groups of people, you’ve got the very religious group who just want righteousness, but they don’t want justice,” Walker tells Eternity. “And then you’ve got the very left-wing of society, unfortunately, where they just want justice without righteousness. But what God wants for this land is righteousness and justice. And that’s what we stand for. And I believe him. Praise God.”

Bishop Huggins tells this story about the Solemn Assembly, and of his connection with Walker. “Pastor Peter Walker told us of his recent dream which has influenced his call for a National Solemn Assembly.

“He was on the Grafton Bridge, over the Clarence River [Grafton, NSW]. The bridge is high over the town normally. But, in the dream, the water was up to the top of the bridge. Like in a flood , except that the water was pure and clear, unlike flood water. There, swimming along, was Peter’s dad who had been dead since 2007. Peter’s dad was swimming happily with lots of young kids, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.”

“For Peter, it was a dream conveying the ‘living waters’ of God – ‘the spring of living waters’ (Jeremiah 17:13). It was a dream of God’s Kingdom to which we are invited and for which reason we prepare.

“It was a very powerful spiritual time of prayer in that beautiful place …” – Bishop Philip Huggins

“For me, having unexpectedly met Peter through our prayers for an end to the pandemic, his dream was easily visualised because of our many trips over that bridge when we lived in Grafton.

“A few days later I told Peter of a connection I had to the clear waters of the Clarence. This was when, as Bishop, the Bundjalung Elders asked me to join them in prayers at the place where the Clarence began its flow. The reason was that a company with a mining lease wanted to use cynanide to extract gold. The concern was that the poisonous cyanide would leak into the river system and kill the river life, as well as all the life downstream.

“We went up there to Timbarra. It was a very powerful spiritual time of prayer in that beautiful place of deep significance to the Bundjalung people.

“As it turned out, the company never proceeded with its stupid plan. When I checked with Peter, there has been no subsequent mining. He described instead the fish and turtles of the Upper Clarence River.

“Peter remembered that time because of his father’s involvement in that action. So, wonderfully, we worked out that it was Peter’s father who would have asked me to go with the Bundjalung Elders – and it was Peter’s father who had welcomed me earlier, in the [Grafton] Cathedral at my installation as Bishop.”

National Solemn Assembly

DATE: Every night between September 18 to 25, and then all day Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 September, 2020

TIME: 8pm on September 18–25, then 9am-9pm (AEST) September 26 and 27

ZOOM LINK: Click here

ZOOM MEETING ID: 776881184


OVERFLOW VIEWING: Watch on YouTube here

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