What is Aboriginal Sunday?
And why should Christians get involved?
This Sunday, 22 January, hundreds of churches across Australia will hold special services to mark Aboriginal Sunday.
So what is Aboriginal Sunday and why should Christians get involved? Eternity asked Christian social justice movement Common Grace to help answer these questions.
What is Aboriginal Sunday?
Aboriginal Sunday began as a call by Aboriginal Christian leader, Yorta Yorta man, pastor and advocate William Cooper.
On 26 January 1938, Aboriginal leaders, including William Cooper, met for a Day of Mourning, seeking equality and full citizenship (though it would take another 30 years).
Australian churches were then asked to set aside the Sunday before 26 January as Aboriginal Sunday (previously called Aborigines’ Day), a day for Christians to act in solidarity with Aboriginal peoples and the injustices being experienced.
Today, the Common Grace movement encourages individual congregations to reclaim William Cooper’s Aboriginal Sunday. Each year we provide free resources, developed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders, to equip churches and faith communities to act in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“There is no pathway for us to ignore, justify or minimise the persecution and the injustices committed upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” – Gershon Nimbalker
Why should Aboriginal Sunday matter to Christians?
This year’s Aboriginal Sunday focus is around hearing the Voices from the Past so together, we can walk into the future.
“William Cooper’s call should ring out for all believers, indeed all Australians. We are of one blood, all image bearers of the divine. There is no pathway for us to ignore, justify or minimise the persecution and the injustices committed upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our only response, Cooper reminds us, is to now do our bit to see these injustices addressed and pursue fairness,” says Common Grace National Director, Gershon Nimbalker.
“As Christians across these lands calling together for justice, we have heard God’s call to seek justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8), and believe that the pursuit of reconciliation and justice is at the heart of our discipleship, as we seek to follow Jesus and love our neighbour.”
How can people engage in Aboriginal Sunday this year?
Churches can host an Aboriginal Sunday service by accessing Common Grace’s free Aboriginal Sunday Church Resources, developed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders.
Christians who’d like to attend an Aboriginal Sunday service can view the list of churches that are opening up their Aboriginal Sunday service for others to join.
Almost 600 churches held these services in 2022 and a similar number are expected to do so this Sunday.
What does an Aboriginal Sunday service look like?
The Common Grace Aboriginal Sunday Church Resources are set out as a platter of resources for churches to use in 2023, enabling churches to shape their Aboriginal Sunday service the way that best suits their church’s expression and style.
The resources include an Acknowledgement of Country, prayers, sermon resources, Bible readings, songs, benedictions, and PowerPoint slides.
There are also videos of Senior Aboriginal Christian leader Aunty Jean Phillips, equipping us to learn the names and stories of Aboriginal Christian leaders of the past.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leader and artist Safina Stewart has developed a creative mural activity for Aboriginal Sunday that guides churches in listening to the Aboriginal voices of the past, who have been calling for truth and justice for a long time.
We’ve also included a video launching Common Grace’s new and exciting campaign for 2023, Listen to the Heart: Christians for Voice and Justice, and calling everyone involved in Aboriginal Sunday services to pledge their commitment to joining this campaign.
What happens after Aboriginal Sunday?
While Common Grace is no longer facilitating the Change The Heart prayer service as in previous years, we are happy to share that Senior Aboriginal Christian leader Aunty Jean Phillips is calling our nation to prayer on 25 January, the evening before 26 January, for Change The Heart 2023.
The prayer service will be simulcast on Wednesday evening, 25 January, through the GOOD streaming platform.
For more information about the simulcast of Change The Heart 2023, go to changetheheart.com.au.
To register your church service or learn more about Aboriginal Sunday, visit the Common Grace website: commongrace.org.au/aboriginal_sunday_2023.