One Blood – book by John Harris

John Harris is the son of missionaries and grew up on Aboriginal missions. His 1000 page book One Blood: 200 Years of Aboriginal Encounter with Christianity is widely recognised as the authoritative book on this topic.

The book is not for the faint-hearted – both in terms of length and content. It can be dark. Harris avoids two common mistakes. He does not pretend the church was amazing, without fault, nor beyond the influence of its culture. Nor does he fall into the opposite trap of imaging the church was the most influential and therefore the most responsible and guilty party.

19th Century Australia was an era of Europeans extending their farmlands, bringing them into conflict with the inhabitant first peoples. Farmers hunted and wiped out many indigenous Australians. The Aboriginal mission stations were an attempt by well-meaning missionaries to protect the lives of first peoples because God “made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth”. (Acts 17:26, KJV)

Harris cites the relative success of these missions because; 1. Some recognition of Aboriginal culture; 2. Appreciation of the aboriginals as a spiritual people; 3. Accepting not all indigenous culture was evil; 4. Preserving indigenous language and sharing the gospel in that language; 5. Appreciating indigenous gifting and leadership.

With Harris, we wish the 19th Century missionaries had done more. The separation of the indigenous people from their land was unjust and destabilizing for their culture. Acknowledging this connection between land and culture is appropriate.

To return to Harris’ fifth point: Appreciating indigenous gifting and leadership – the missionaries established indigenous lead churches. 10+ years ago two aunties re-started Shoalhaven Aboriginal Community Church. At present that church is fundraising to call an indigenous pastor. If you would like to support that work, contact Nowra Anglican, or Macarthur Indigenous Church.

Rev David Rietveld

Senior Minister


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