My name is Evelyn Parkin. I was born and raised on North Stradbroke Island. I am writing about my relationship with the Creator Spirit of Aboriginal Spirituality who I believe is also the same God who speaks to me through my Christian faith. I will try to explain these two spiritual beliefs.
I was raised in a Catholic family and attended all the Church events such as the Mass (once a month), which was celebrated in Latin. During Lent, we would meet up with my Great Aunty Bethel Murray at the Church to pray the Stations of the Cross.
Those were very special memories of my Aunty Bethel and Mum, and Aunty Rosie who assisted with the ceremonial parts as well as assisting in the sacristy. They were powerful women who nurtured and cared for our children, and non-Aboriginal children as well.
My Christian upbringing went hand-in-hand with my daily life at One Mile Aboriginal community. My Mum used to take me for walks along the sandy tracks that took us over the hills and into the bush, picking all sorts of berries along the way. We would go to the edge of the swamps to gather wild flowers. Sometimes we gathered seafood along the water's edge and returned home as the tide nudged at our feet.
During these times I remember the silence that engulfed me. It was at this time, I believe, I was able to see what was around me. Most importantly, it was more than what the physical eye could see.
I remember the many sounds of Mother Nature, like the sea hawks flying above keeping watch for fish, the sound of the gurgling creek in the swamps, the warmth of sand between your toes and the sweet fragrances of blossoms that floated in the air. All these things I hold dear in my heart.
There was a time in my life when I felt a stirring going on within my inner being. I began to feel unsettled and I knew that I had to find out what was happening to me. On my spiritual journey of becoming closer to Jesus, I would hear him speak to me. On this particular day, he said, 'Evelyn, go and find out who you really are'.
These words were strong and clear. From what I gathered, Jesus was saying to me that I was approaching him from a culture that belonged to someone else, and that was fine, but it wasn't me.
It wasn't long before I found myself attending a number of workshops at Wontulp-Bi-Buya College. I then became a member on the Wontulp Management Committee, while gaining a Diploma in Theology and Ministry, and also graduating from ACU with a Masters of Theology. Later down the track, I taught theology at Wontulp-Bi-Buya College, specialising in contextualising the Scriptures for Indigenous students.
I am reminded here, how God had chosen Moses to lead his people out of Egypt into the Promised Land. So that they too could sing their song to him, not in a foreign land but in a place of their own.
The Bible story is about a relationship between God and his children, the Israelites. The Bible story also reflects a similar story between God/Creator Spirit and his relationship with the Aboriginal people of Australia.
I believe, in continuity with our ancient traditional spiritual life, the Indigenous Christians had been guided into finding their own true fullness of self-expression in a new way. The new thinking had enabled our people to sing their song to the Father from our own place.
When Jesus spoke with the people he used stories from their own environment, so that they would understand his message about himself, God and the Holy Spirit. The way forward is for Indigenous Christians to contextualise the Scriptures, in other words to bring their stories into parallel with the Scriptures and to make them more significant in their thinking.
I will finish with a short version of a story called 'The Peace Maker'. It's about three big birds of our country: One day, Emu decided to go and visit her cousins Brolga and Jabiru. So, she went, got her dilly bag and filled it with berries and fruits, and then she took off. Emu went on and on, until at last she came to a ridge. From there she looked down and saw dust coming from the saltpans. She looked for a while and wondered what was causing the dust. Then she recognised her two cousins. They were fighting over their children. Emu had to run down there as fast as she could, to the saltpan. As she came closer she began calling out to them, 'Stop, stop, you'll hurt yourself '. But Brolga and Jabiru took no notice. Emu ran in between and stopped the fight. Just at that time one of the Sisters swung her yam stick and she hit poor Emu across the back. The blood of Emu got on the legs of Jabiru and on the neck and head of Brolga. And so to this day, you will see the Brolga, with its' red neck and head, the Jabiru with its red legs and the poor Emu herself, she has that hump on her back.
Pastor George Rosendale, from the Hope Vale Community, uses this story in his preaching. He says, 'That story is to tell us that we are to be peacemakers. It reminds us of someone special. Someone who was a great peacemaker, and that someone is Jesus. He made peace between God and us, and between us and other people.'