Brooke Prentis, the new CEO of Christian social justice movement Common Grace, today “fervently” committed to loving the Lord God with all her heart, soul, strength and mind and to love her neighbour as herself.
At the end of a commissioning service at Northside Baptist Church in Crows Nest, Sydney, today, Prentis became emotional as she outlined who that neighbour was that she was committing to love.
“That neighbour is my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters, neighbours, my asylum-seeker and refugee brothers and sisters, my neighbours, all women and children still suffering from domestic violence – our actual neighbours, many of them – and our precious creation, our precious creation,” she told a congregation of about 70 supporters.
“Our lands neighbour, our tree neighbour, our plants neighbour, our bird neighbour, our animal neighbour, our fish neighbour, our water neighbour, our sky neighbour – all of our neighbours. May we be inspired to continue through the love of Jesus to love them – and to love ourselves as well.”
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Prentis is the first Aboriginal Christian to lead Common Grace, taking the reins from Scott Sanders and its first CEO Jarrod McKenna.
Prentis took time to reflect on her journey to this point, thanking all the people who had helped and inspired her to “fight for justice by loving Jesus.”
She said she had become a Christian at the age of 21 in November 2001, while “sitting in Albion Corps of the Salvation Army.”
She said that as an Aboriginal Christian who had experienced injustice at a young age, she had a burn inside her to seek justice.
“Then I heard the words of William Booth, who with his wife Catherine founded the Salvation Army,” she said.
She then quoted the words that have continued to inspire her throughout her Christian journey.
“While women weep, as they do now,
While little children go hungry, as they do now,
While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now,
While there is a drunkard left,
While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets,
While there remains one dark soul without the light of God,
I’ll fight – I’ll fight to the very end!”
Earlier in the service, Katherine Rainger, senior chaplain of Radford College, an Anglican school in Canberra, led the commissioning of Prentis as CEO of Common Grace.
Aboriginal leaders Safina Stewart and Bianca Manning gave Prentis various items as reminders of the continued struggle for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice, after which Common Grace justice team member Byron Smith poured water over her hands in a reminder that her role was to make justice flow like a river.
Aunty Jean Phillips and Alison Cox then gave Prentis a cross as a reminder that her walk was not alone but with Jesus as her anchor.
After the ceremonial part of the service, Aunty Jean gave a typically candid assessment of the shortcomings of the Australian church in understanding the poverty of Aboriginal Christians.
“I’m very disappointed in many ways with the Christian church in this country when I see the sufferings of our people,” she said.
“I’m glad that you are here today. I trust that you will support Common Grace but you’re also supporting Aboriginal ministries in this country.
Aunty Jean said she was paying for the vehicle registrations of many Aboriginal people in ministry and she would like to see churches to do this, or more, to support Aboriginal ministers.