GONDWANA THEOLOGY by Garry Worete Deverell
Book review by Shirley Claughton
Each one of us is a theologian when we think and talk about God. It is also true that we necessarily speak about God in our own words, via our own traditions, and where we live in the world. Garry Worete Deverell has written an open and sensitive account of his own personal and theological growth in Gondwana Theology: a Trawloolway man reflects on Christian faith (Morning Star Publishing 2018).
This book is sourced deep within our own immediate vicinity, in localities we walk through every day in southern Australia. Bishop Chris McCleod calls Garry’s book 'an important foundational text in the continued writing of a post-colonial Australian theology.' The book opens our eyes to our own history and challenges us to think about faith, hope and love in new ways, in our own context.
The author knows that theology is an Indo-European word and discipline, while asserting that 'all over the world theologians from non-European backgrounds are rightly seeking to transform theology so that it draws more deeply from extra-European wells of imagination and method'.
Garry identifies himself as part of this transformation. His voice is his own voice, moving between the working language of indigenous spirituality, grounded in country, kin, and the Dreaming, and the received language of Christianity, which is also both culturally-bound and eternal. He is happily free of jargons and clichés. His lively, imaginative exploration of this mixed and rich inheritance is an aid to all Australians who live with the same questions.
Garry grants us an introduction to his own Tasmanian spiritual traditions, helping us to appreciate both the negative and positive effects of Christianity. A Chapter entitled ‘The Unfinished Business of Reconciliation’ goes to the heart of Australia’s experience of the fatal impact.
He shows how the racism, mistreatment and dispossession of Aborigines have been processes where the churches play their own part, while the language and imagination of Scripture and apostolic tradition have been 'the greatest ally I have in seeking to survive'. The book reaches out to those who need to hear. It expresses a liveliness of spiritual engagement, a direct knowledge of Scripture, and an achieved understanding of worship and liturgy.
One can only agree with Mark Brett’s comments, that 'we encounter here an Aboriginal voice that none of the churches in Australia can afford to ignore. This is a book that all Australian Christians need to read'.
This review is by Philip Harvey, Librarian of the Community of the Holy Name Cheltenham, Victoria (reproduced with permission).
This locally produced book is in stock at St John's Books in Fremantle.
Published in Messenger, September 2019
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