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“Holding my mala (hand), Nguma would guide me”


“Through Nguma’s teaching I have learnt that no matter what trials I face, I can always find joy in my heart through my connection with God, as written in scripture,” says MaMu woman and Christian Phyllis Marsh from WestMAC, who will be speaking at this year’s Provincial Clergy Conference

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When I was a child, Nguma (Father) took me for walks deep into the rainforest. It was here in the place of nature that I connected to the wonder, transcending my being, learning to ngamba-l (listen) to bura-l (see).

Holding my mala (hand), Nguma would guide me, showing me and teaching me. He gave me knowledge about the trees, the land, the animals and how I am a part of their world. He told me this is our way, a way you learn today that will give back to you tomorrow.

He placed his hand on his wumbu (head), saying “what comes in here”, then moving his hand to his rulgu (heart), adding, “comes out here”. I remember looking at him with such awe. My nguma, with his mala holding mine, guiding me as we walked, teaching me on Country, giving me new sight, and transcending my view.

As a balgari (grown woman), Ngumu has passed, and while I prepare for the Provincial Clergy Conference in August, I reflect on the wisdom Ngumu shared with me. When I look to Country, I listen with manga (ears) to bura-l (see), finding wisdom in the yugu (trees), hearing the song and stories of the land, from the maraba (birds). I learnt from Nguma that this is the role of all of us — ngamba-l to bura-l — and what it creates is a deep connection that resonates joy within your rulgu. In this way you are transcending to connect to something bigger than self.

My nguma shared with me how to heal and how to create a common purpose with each other to share joy from being on Country to connect. On Yugara Country at West Moreton Anglican College (WestMAC) that is Wirrinyah Dandiiri.

Our designed Dandiiri approach is as a college together — we listen to see and transcend to connect, and, in this way, we heal together. This is “Our Way” — Wirrinyah Dandiiri.

At WestMAC we speak in wonder of an ancient way, allowing us to deepen connections to the history of a spiritual culture that we continue to learn from. This place of wonder, where we speak of ancient wisdom, allows us to speak to our own Anglican faith and who we are as spiritual beings. This is the practice of Wirrinyah Dandiiri, reconnecting ourselves to our spiritual growth so that we walk in faith — to listen to see.

It’s about coming back together to build a personal relationship with God, each other and ourselves. This is the important modern work that schools are positioned to do, as our young people are learning. Guiding our young people, creating opportunities for them to transcend and create deep connections to a spiritual life that are deeply connected to God, truly is a worthy common purpose.

When I look back to those moments of teaching in the rainforest with Nguma, he was teaching me the value of connecting, stopping to listen to see, and establishing a relationship to something greater than myself — for me that is God. Through this practice, I am creating joy in my heart, which I share with others. Through Nguma’s teaching I have learnt that no matter what trials I face, I can always find joy in my heart through my connection with God, as written in scripture:

“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” (James 1.2-5)

Editor’s note: Hear more from Phyllis Marsh in person at the Provincial Clergy Conference 2024 when she will speak on the theme Wirrinyah Dandiiri (“Coming back Together”). Gather with clergy from across our Province on the Gold Coast between Monday 19 to Thursday 22 August for the Provincial Clergy Conference 2024, which has the theme “Common Purpose, Shared Joy”. Participants will reflect on what it might mean to be the Church together in this season and how and where we might know joy as we journey together. There will be a variety of workshops and plenty of worship and fellowship. Visit the conference website for more information. Registrations close Wednesday 26 June 2024.

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