St Margaret's News September 2015 - Page 12

Diversity Festival The Community Diversity Festival, held on the grounds (and in the halls) of St Margaret’s on Saturday, August 29, had been a long time coming. It had its roots seven years ago in a congregational program projecting a series of ‘Provocative Proposals’. Of the proposals, two in particular stand as pillars of St Margaret’s image of its relationship to the surrounding community of North Canberra. ‘We Value and Affirm Difference of Theology, Culture and Spiritual Tradition’; and commitment to ‘Engaging Social Justice Issues from a Gospel Perspective’. St Margaret’s – and its sister church, Holy Cross Anglican, situated on the same site – seek to engage with, and provide for, those of divergent faiths, cultures and races. Back in May of this year, St Margaret’s and UnitingCare Disability were discussing ways of raising awareness of community services supported by the Uniting Church. One idea broached was that of a day of celebration for (and of) the local community at which all community groups in the area (not just those with the Uniting Church brand) could participate. This was quickly couched in terms of a Festival. Multicultural food, information stalls, and speakers from a variety of community organisations were the key features around which the festival was conceived. At early afternoon, in the midst of the lunch crowd, Indigenous elder Jeanette ‘Nin’ Phillips gave the official ‘Welcome to Country’ of her people, the Ngunnawal. Her welcome was both dignified and whimsical. Referring to her immediate ancestors, Nin wondered aloud what her grandfather, looking down upon her, must think - ‘of what I’m up to now’ - allowing for the notion that inter-generational differences exist outside of western, anglicised culture. Officially opening the festival at 1.30pm was Andrew Leigh, Federal member for Fraser. He began by telling a story of a young Islamic bride in Sydney, who had lain her bridal veil upon a plaque in Martin Place in the days immediately following last year’s hostage crisis. Leigh then went on to compare the day’s displays of openness and friendship - as an extension of our generally multicultural Australian society – to society in Australia fifty years ago. A society in which not even Protestants and Catholics were encouraged to intermingle (or, heaven forbid, to intermarry!). Insightfully, Leigh captured something of the atmosphere of our times.  Joel Swadling Photos by Brian Rope St Margaret's News 12 September 2015