Sunday afternoon I gathered with Indigenous Elders and church leaders at Leprena in Glenorchy to discuss Reconciliation between Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, the ‘latecomers’.
I made some notes which I hope to write up but I wanted to share with you a moving liturgy ‘Land, Water and Fire Ceremony’ with which our time was commenced. [If I recall correctly, it is from the Catholic Education Office.]
Land, Fire and Water Ceremony
A container of local earth, a container of water (usually a coolamon) and a fire are placed at the front of the assembly. The room (if possible) is in darkness with just enough light for the following to be read. If possible the didgeridoo should be heard in the background. The ceremony can take place with Indigenous people alone or with Indigenous and Non-indigenous. This version presumes the presence of Non-indigenous people and has a Reconciliation theme. The ceremony can be adapted for use with Indigenous people alone.
For thousands of years before recorded time, our people have walked on this LAND, on their own country.
Our relationship with the land is at the centre of our lives.
Our country is our mother: in a sense our country is us.
FIRE is important to our people; our people could not do without it.
Fire means the calling of people together the gathering in a circle around the fire for cooking and eating and for warmth at night; the gathering for ceremonies; the gathering for story telling; the place for being together.
Fire is at the heart of our Indigenous culture.
WATER is also important to our people.
In the driest part of the driest country, water is life-giving, refreshing, cooling and cleansing to our country and to us.
AIR and SKY are also important to our people
Sky is full of stories of creator, of pathways, of ancestors connecting with us, watching over us.
Land, Fire, Water and Sky also have deep symbolism in our Christian heritage.
In the Old Testament LAND was God’s promise to the Jewish people.
In the New Testament, Christian people are called to the deep groaning of the Spirit in creation.
All creation and life looks forward to the promised land of heaven.
For Christians FIRE represents the light of Christ. The Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles at Pentecost as tongues of fire. We think of the flame of faith burning in people’s lives.
WATER is the symbol of our baptism, which gives us new life and hope and makes us one with Jesus and with each other.
AIR, WIND are symbols of the Spirit, the breath of God, giving life to all creation.
As Non-Indigenous and Indigenous people together, let us have a sense of the importance of (name the traditional owners or tribe or clan) country upon which we are standing.
Let us sense the land beneath our feet and know to whom it belongs.
Let us have a sense of the importance of water and fire – as Indigenous and Christian life symbols.
The cool, refreshing water; giving life to Indigenous and Non-indigenous alike. The water giving life to people in baptism.
The warm, inviting fire drawing us all, Indigenous and Non-indigenous, together. the light of Christ, the flame of the Holy Spirit, bringing us together in Jesus.
This container is filled with earth from our land.
This is our fire.
This coolamon is filled with water.
We invite you to come forward in a moment and touch this earth, our land.
We invite you to touch the water and put your hands in the water.
Let us feel and sense it as life-giving.
You may like to make a cross on your forehead with the water.
We invite you to feel the warmth of our fire.
Let us sense the warmth as a call to all people in this country to come together warmly, sharing our different stories and being together as one.
(Everyone now comes forward to touch the earth and the water and feel the warmth of the flame. This takes place with a didgeridoo backing.)
See also, The Water Ceremony.