Wednesday, 05 February 2020

A life marked by perseverance, humility and love

Written by Stuart McMillan, Assembly Covenanting Consultant, Assembly Resourcing Unit

Late last year, we gathered to honour the life and mourn the passing of the Rev. Sealin Roger Garlett AM in the Kellerberrin Memorial Town Hall on the sovereign lands of the Ballardong Wadjuk Nyungar People, in Western Australia’s wheat belt.

In a letter of condolence and love to Mrs Marilyn Garlett and the family, President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Dr Deidre Palmer said:

“Sealin contributed so much to our life and witness as the Uniting Church, through his pastoral ministry and as a member and National Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. His contribution to the Covenant relationship between the UAICC and the Uniting Church is a lasting legacy. Sealin called us to be the Body of Christ committed to living out the call for justice and reconciliation between First and Second Peoples.”

One of the Bible readings shared in the funeral service was from Hebrews, Chapter 12, “And let us run the race with perseverance, the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Rev. Sealin Garlett ran the race marked out for him with perseverance. His was a race so clearly marked out by God.

So often when he shared his story, Sealin spoke of “crossing the line”. Sealin was a man who had committed to serving his mob, Nyungar, and other First Peoples. Then, God spoke to him, ‘you have to cross the line, serve reconciliation, serve me amongst Second Peoples.’

Hard as it was, Sealin responded ‘yes, I’ll run the race you set before me Lord.’

The legacy of Sealin’s life is three-fold:

First, is our personal race marked out for us by God which requires us to persevere serving humbly in love.

Second, Sealin was a minister of reconciliation in the way Paul speaks of it in 2Corinthians: 5. “Christ’s love compelled” our brother that he, and we, should no longer live for ourselves but for Christ whose ministry and mission is the reconciliation and the renewal of the whole creation.

Sealin knew he had been reconciled to Christ and so he knew he was Christ’s co-worker in this ministry of reconciliation.

In the Welcome to Country which Sealin gave on so many civic occasions, he invited others to truly begin to experience this reconciliation, and he invited the Spirit to move in people’s lives, as it did in his.

Likewise, his ministry invited the Spirit to live and move in the Uniting Church in Australia.

President Dr Deidre Palmer said: “We give thanks to God for Sealin’s devoted, inspiring and faithful ministry. We are enriched by the way he has served Christ through the Uniting Church, with humility, integrity, wisdom and love.”

The third aspect of Sealin’s legacy can be found in his own words from 2017:

“I think connectedness is something we as Indigenous people don’t feel like we can lose, with land and the trees and the fauna. For us the connection to the land is always a connection to life, for yesterday, today and tomorrow. To know that this place will never ever die out. I might move on, but my kids will come to understand the special meaning of that place. They will hold onto the deep tradition of being connected to the place”.

Our brother was speaking of the Beeliar Boodjar, the wetlands, his Grandmother’s and Grandfather’s country. This place will be, he said, the responsibility of his children and his children’s children. As he and Marilyn walked gently on this country and collected the medicines as Nyungar people had done for all generations, his children and their children would continue to do the same, for this place was connected to their spirits and their life.

This legacy is a precious gift for Sealin’s family, but also for all of us. He has taught us to approach the land with our spirit, to respect those who have knowledge, to walk gently upon the land.

Friends, Sealin’s legacy for us, the Second Peoples living in this ancient land, is to respect, to understand, to listen to the land, to the First Peoples of the land and to the Spirit.

Our brother has run the race with perseverance, in humility and love. He was a faithful, Nyungar Christian. He has taught us much about this ancient Boodjar (land) and her peoples.

He has shown us how to persevere and has shared the love of God as Christ’s co-worker for the reconciliation and renewal of the whole creation. For this we give thanks to God.

And now my friends our task is to also run the race set before us with the same perseverance, humility and love. To honour the legacy of our brother and the freedom won for us in Christ.

Stuart McMillan

An additional tribute can be found: