COP26 Diary: Unexpected grief at the loss of my cousin and Aboriginal Pastor, Brian Lampton
Aboriginal leader and Christian minister Ray Minniecon is in Glasgow, Scotland, for the UN Climate Summit COP26, and he’s keeping a diary …
Diary entry #8: Friday 5 – Saturday 6 November 2021
I have received sad news while here in Glasgow. My cousin and Aboriginal Pastor, Brian Lampton passed away suddenly in Cairns. The loss of an Aboriginal Pastor in our community is an enormous loss. I have taken a few days off to mourn his loss.
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I remember the night back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Brian’s father came to faith under my father’s ministry in Garbutt, Townsville.
Brian was one of the youngest children of the family. We played together as children. We lived next door to the Lampton family. We lived in 107B Chandler Street Garbutt. My mother drummed this address into my head to remind me where we lived. The fear that any of her children would be taken was always uppermost in her heart and mind. We needed to know how to get home again, if we were forcibly removed by the government. Some of the children in the house next door to us, the Smallwood family, had their children taken. Brian’s mother, Aunty Daph was related to my mother. At that time, Garbutt was a community made up of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander families.
Brian became a Pastor at a young age, and he truly lived out the truth of being that light set upon a hill. He singlehandedly grew a flourishing ministry among the people of Cairns, Thursday Island, Papua New Guinea and beyond. He was a visionary, who developed a very important and powerful community-based ministry in Cairns which he called, the Power of Spirit the Ministries, Australia. He was a righteous man who spoke out about our human rights abuses.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Aboriginal pastoral ministries throughout Australia, is the fact that we conduct a vast number of funerals each year. A great amount of our time and energy is spent comforting our families and communities during Sorry Business on a daily basis. As an example, I have tried, year after year, to limit my funerals to at least one per month. But that personal plan is not possible or feasible in our community. We just have too many deaths. Too many of our Pastors, like Brian, are called to perform this very important sacred ceremony and community service for our people constantly. Our people look to our Pastors at these most traumatic times of loss and grief in their lives.
I can’t imagine the number of times Brian has been asked to conduct a funeral service for his community. He just did what needed to be done in those times of grief and loss. I just know he was loved and esteemed by our community and local leaders in Cairns and elsewhere for his undying commitment to his community and his exemplary trust in Jesus as his Lord and Master. His devotion and loyalty to his people, his culture and heritage was quite exceptional and inspiring. His voice for our basic human rights and the restoration of our dignity was loud and clear, and will be sadly missed, but never forgotten. I will continue to grieve his loss. I also know that, in spite of his passing, he will expect all our Aboriginal Pastors to continue to sacrifice and dedicate our lives to the Jesus Way in order to be the light among our people, powered by His Spirit, to serve all of God’s people and His creation like a light set upon a hill.
Ancient of Days You have taken someone very precious to us. You gave us an exceptional leader and an example to follow. We are so thankful that You grew him up among us. From Your Spirit’s urging, he taught and challenged us how to be a light set upon a hill. Ancient of Days, in your mercy and grace, comfort his family and all who knew and loved him. And by his example, give grace to us so that we will be strengthened to Let your light shine among our people. And to those who followed him, and heard his call to follow You, be their comfort, inspiration and help. Especially to those who walked with him. Enable them by Your Spirit and grace to live out and build on his legacy so that his light will continue to shine into our darkness. I ask these mercies in the name of Your Son Jesus, our Ancestor in faith.
Ray Minniecon is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation and the Gurang Gurang nation of south-east Queensland. He is also a descendant of the South Sea Islander people, with deep and abiding connections to the people of Ambrym Island. He leads Scarred Tree, an Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Australian South Sea Islander ministry based in St John’s Glebe, Sydney.