Giving thanks for the life and witness of Rev Jeffrey R Garrawurra

President Dr Deidre Palmer preached the sermon at a special Service of Thanksgiving for the life of former UAICC National Chairperson Rev. Jeffrey Garrawurra at Darwin's Casuarina Uniting Church on 21 February 2019.


Matthew 5:1-16 (NRSV) - The Beatitudes

5 1 When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Salt and Light
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Romans 8:35-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. These are words of Jesus to us today, as we mourn the passing of our brother in Christ, Rev Jeffrey Garrawurra. We mourn our loss of a husband, father, grandfather, elder, an inspiring leader in the Uniting Church and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.

God brings us comfort – sharing in our grief, reminding us of God’s steadfast faithfulness and never ending love. Paul in his letter to the Romans, reminds us that In our mourning, neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God gently offers us care and reassurance that God is working among us, bringing love and healing.

I hope that you will find this a comforting place a place where the Spirit upholds you. I hope that this Christian community is a place where we find time to be present to each other, listen carefully to our grief and find hope in the community we are as the embodiment of God’s compassion.

We gather to give thanks to God for Rev Jeffrey Garrawurra’s life and witness to the love, justice and compassion of God. His ministry and life was an expression of the Gospel of Christ, as we hear it today in the Beatitudes and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In his hunger for justice, in his humililty, in his work for reconciliation, he reflected the light of Christ. His light shone before others, giving glory to the God he loved and served.

Rev. Jeffrey Garrawurra was a teacher. He contributed to the development of Indigenous theology, for First Peoples and the whole Church. He encouraged our young people to grow in their discipleship.

One of my fondest memories of him was of him sitting on a step at Nunyara chapel in Adelaide, sharing his story and wisdom with young Congress leaders at the National Gathering of Congress youth and young adults.

Our brother’s ministry, in his teaching and preaching, leadership and discipleship, contributed significantly to reconciliation - reconciliation that calls Australians, First and Second Peoples toward a new human community of mutuality, respect, care and compassion,

His understanding of reconciliation was grounded in his understanding of God’s reconciling mission in the world.

Many of us remember being together in Canberra in March 2014, in the “Destiny Together” Worship Service led by Rev Jeffrey Garawurra, who was then the Chair of Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and our past President, Rev Professor Andrew Dutney.

The gathering in Canberra came after a time of Prayer and Fasting for us as a Church and a nation.

Prior to this Destiny Together gathering he called us to prayer:

“All of us (Uniting Church people) need to come together in solidarity, not separated from each other, so we can reflect on our shared history and life together.Because if we pray to God asking him about our shared destiny together, then we can walk together, listening together, and respecting one another. For we are all one people living in this land (Australia). We need to listen to each other and truly accept one another. You Balanda people listening for us Yolnu people, and we Yolnu people listening for you Balanda people…….This call for us to come together for prayer and fasting is not just a once off event. We need to keep on praying to God with our concerns for justice and reconciliation in this land. We need to work together in a spirit of cooperation, sharing together to witness to God’s work of reconciliation amongst us.”

Our brother walked this path of reconciliation, with humility, dignity and grace – he shared in story, song, learning and living contributing to the reconciliation and peace which Christ embodies.

As the Uniting Church, we are grateful for Rev Jeffrey Garrawurra’s ministry. We are grateful to you his family and nation for sharing him with us. We pray that you will know comfort in your grieving through God’s loving presence and the community of family and friends that surround you and support you at this time.

As we mourn Rev Jeffrey Garrawurra’s dying and our loss at his no longer being with us, we remember his life with deep gratitude and love. And we give thanks to God for his life – for the way he lived life and offered his gifts to serve Christ in the world.

We remember that God comes to us with love and comfort beyond our imagining.

We remember that in the shadow of darkness, despair and death, nothing can separate us from the love of God. God’s light and hope shines and the peace of God comes to us.

Rev. Jeffrey Garrawurra knew the love, light and hope of God in his living, and experiences God’s peace and grace in his dying.

May God’s love and peace be with us all today.