The smell of buffalo cooking in an earth-oven wafted around the fireplace and voices lifted in praise long into the night as Indigenous church leaders gathered in Jabiru for a three-day leadership camp.
As many as 60 church leaders flew in from Yirrkala, Milingimbi, Galiwin’ku, Maningrida, Warruwi and Minjilang for the camp in April.
West Arnhem/Jabiru Patrol Minister Lindsay Parkhill, who organised the camp with his wife Louise, said it was a time rich in fellowship and sharing. The aim of the camp was to share ideas and experiences from the different communities and work out ways for the future.
“Rather than a meeting room, we gathered at a ‘camp’, as a result everyone felt more comfortable to have their say,” said Lindsay.
Participants included community elders as well as up and coming leaders of the Indigenous churches.
Fellowship was held each night and on the final night the participants gathered at the Town Camp outside Jabiru. People shared stories, there was a prayer for healing and restoration and lots of singing.
Over the three days, the participants reflected on what leadership means, how the Church sees leadership and leadership within their own individual communities.
One of the main issues discussed was the need for pastors within the Indigenous churches.
Lindsay described pastors as the “way of the future” for the Indigenous Church following the success of 10 pastors who were commissioned three years ago by Rev Alistair Macrae, then President of UCA and former Chairman of UAICC , Rev Ken Sumner.
Pastors are “raised up” or nominated from within their own community and are trained by the Uniting Church to be church leaders in their community.
“The big difference with the pastors is that they represent tribal interests. It moves away from the traditional patriarchal model of one big boss. As a result, more voices are being heard. It opens up for consensus decision making.”
“It is the way of the future for our Indigenous Churches and even for the whole church, where we are struggling to find ministers for congregations. Under this model, leaders are raised up from within a congregation.”
The other highlight of the camp was the food. Louise organised the catering which included buffalo stew and on the final night an earth-oven of buffalo meat flavoured with peppermint bark. The feast filled 150 plates.