Friday, 21 June 2019

Reflection at memorial for Rev Jeffrey R Garrawurra

President Dr Deidre Palmer offered this reflection at the Memorial Service for Rev. Jeffrey Garrawurra in his home community at Galiwink’u on Elcho Island on 14 June 2019.

BIBLE READINGS: John 14: 1-27 and Romans 8:35-39 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you….Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

These are words of Jesus to us today, as we mourn the passing of our brother in Christ, Rev Jeffrey R. 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 - weeping with us;  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.

Rev. Jeffrey Garrawurra knew God’s love and peace in his earthly life, and now is at peace in the loving arms of God.

As we gather together, supporting one another in our grief and mourning at the passing of our brother, I hope that you will find this a comforting place a place where the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Comforter, 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 R Garrawurra’s life and his witness to the love, justice and compassion of God. His ministry and life was an expression of the Gospel of Christ. In his early life he was a fisherman, he, like the first disciples, became a fisher of people, inviting people to follow Christ.

He was a deep thinker and his theological reflection “integrated cultural insights and the gospel. He was concerned to see the development of Indigenous theology, not just for First Peoples but as a challenge to the whole church." (Crosslight  2015).

He mentored our young people, and shared his stories of life, culture and faith.

 Rev. Jeffrey  Garrawurra’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 R. Garawurra’s when he was Chair of UAICC  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.

In calling us to prayer, Rev Jeffrey said:

 “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 (non-indigenous) people listening for us Yolnu (indigenous) people, and we Yolnu people listening for you Balanda people.”

 Rev Jeffrey Garrawurra 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. We give thanks to God for his life – for the way he lived 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.