NAIDOC and Confirmation

Image: Confirmation at Hope Vale in July 2023

National NAIDOC week for 2023 took place from 2–9 July. The theme for its celebration this year was For Our Elders.

The emphasis was that across every generation of indigenous communities, our Elders have played, and continue to play, an important role and a prominent place in our communities and families. They are cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers, and our loved ones. Our loved ones who pick us up in our low moments and celebrate us in our high ones. They cook us a feed to comfort us and pull us into line when we need them to. They guide our generations and pave the way for us to take the paths we can take today. Guidance, not only through generations of advocacy and activism, but in everyday life and how to place ourselves in the world we face today.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people draw strength from their Elders’ knowledge and experience in everything, from land management, cultural knowledge to justice and human rights. Across multiple sectors like health, education, the arts, politics, and everything in between, they have set the many courses we follow. The struggles of our Elders help to move us forward today. The equity we continue to work for is found in this fight. Their tenacity and strength have carried the survival of our people. It is their influence and through their learnings that we must ensure that when it comes to future decision making for our people, there is nothing decided about us – without us.

During NAIDOC week, as community we pay our respects to the Elders we’ve lost and to those who continue fighting for us across all our nations and we pay homage to them. This was the national theme for NAIDOC week for 2023.

While the Elders of Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal support this national understanding of the role they have played in the development and survival of their communities, they all emphasise the importance of the church and its spiritual leadership under Christ, at gathering the community together in unity. It is often the Elders of the families and others within the community that strongly encourage the younger generation to have their children baptised to become members of God’s family. Many of the future leaders within the communities tell me that they learnt their faith primarily from the example and teaching that grandparents and Elders within the community demonstrated. This living out of the faith and encouragement by Elders has ensured that the church still holds a central place within their communities.

At the Elders Ball during NAIDOC week 2023

Because of this, Hope Vale began their NAIDOC celebrations with the 9 am worship at St John’s Lutheran Church. This worship focused on the theme for NAIDOC week, For Our Elders, with the recognition that the Elders are gifted to the community for a time, but all of us need to play our God-given roles in caring for and growing our community under the leadership of Jesus. What made this worship even more significant was the fact that eight young members of the congregation between the ages of 13 and 18 affirmed their baptisms and made a commitment to participate more fully in the life and mission of the Church through Confirmation. Here in this worship we saw a clear demonstration of how God affirms us, the members of his Church, because we are his children. As God’s children he loves us dearly and he is lavish with his love. This was also an affirmation that as the Elders of today pass, God will raise up Elders from amongst the community of faith to continue his mission within this community. In 2021 there were no confirmations in Hope Vale, while 2022 had only one young member of the congregation affirm their baptism. This has opened something of a flood gate. These eight young people all came from the one family group and there are already at least eight to 12 young people willing to be prepared to affirm their baptisms later in September. This is very exciting and stems from the encouragement and faithful work of their Elders.

This was not the end of the church’s involvement in NAIDOC week as congregational members blessed many aspects of the celebrations displaying God’s love to all. The official opening of NAIDOC week on Monday, 3 July, was covered in prayer and highlighted how God has blessed the community through the work of their Elders to establish Hope Vale and continue to grow and improve it. This had a very forward-looking attitude that God would continue to raise up Elders within the community to ensure that they move forward together in unity. On Wednesday, 5 July it was an honour as pastor and pastor’s wife to be officially invited to “The Elders NAIDOC Ball”. At this ball we were honoured as spiritual elders within the community and given Hope Vale NAIDOC For Our Elders 2023 sashes and encouraged to join in with the Elders in dance and celebration. It is indeed an honour to be an incarnational representative of Christ within this community. Please pray for God’s continued blessing of his mission in Far North Queensland.

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Pastor Mark Winter

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