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4 – 5 August 2017, the Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies curated a symposium to explore feminist theological perspectives on dialogue, disagreement and conflict, as well as the intersections of theology with ethnicity, race, and cultural “norms”. Welcoming international keynote speakers M. Shawn Copeland (Boston College, Boston), Ruth Duck and Cynthia Wilson (both Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Chicago). 

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Questions, Connections and Stories – Ruth Duck

Womb of life, and source of being, home of every restless heart,
in your arms the world’s awakened; you have loved us from the start.
We, you children, gather ’round you, at the table you prepare.
Sharing stories, tears and laughter, we are nurtured by your care.

(Chalice Hymnal, 1995 Ruth Duck)

Many women clergy are part time – is that our of necessity or by choice?

Invited to share our gifts with the church but not invited into leadership and planning.

Sugar-coated feminism unites people by choosing to ignore our differences. Are woman respecting one another in their diversity? How can we share a position on issues without marginalising one another?

Been re-writing hymns since 1974, need to be wary of use of language e.g. using light (good) and dark (bad) > this language reinforces racial stereotypes.  Need to be using accessible and expansive language.  Not just male or female but neither like living water, bread, vine….

Galatians:  27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Lead on, O cloud of Presence, the exodus is come,
in wilderness and desert our tribe shall make its home.
Our slavery left behind us, new hopes within us grow.
We seek the land of promise where milk and honey flow.

(The Faith We Sing Hymnal, Ruth Duck ref: Exod. 13:21-22)

 

“Being ordained and finding a job are two different things”
– Bryan Cones

“A woman in leadership is not necessarily a feminist in leadership”
– Stephen Burns

 

At the table of Christa – Nicola Slee

The women do not serve
but are served

The children are not silent
but chatter

The menfolk do not dominate
but co-operate

The animals are not shussed away
but are welcomed

At the table of Christa

There is no seat of honour
for all are honoured

There is no etiquette
except for the performance of grace

There is no dress code
except the garments of honesty

There is no fine cuisine
other than the bread of justice…. (cont.)

WELCOME TO HER TABLE

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“Why don’t you call him your husband?” Negotiating the Heteronorm – Bryan Cones

In a parallel reading of the Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant (same-sex civil union) and the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage  in the Episcopal tradition we see differences in the rubrics (instructional notes), spoken words, and bible readings selected.

  • erasing gender from language also erases hierarchy
  • same-sex couple recognised as arriving as a couple/unit rather than starting the liturgy as individuals who are brought together but the rite e.g. compare: do you take this man/woman to be your husband/wife vs. I [name] take you [name]
  • taking or giving language? e.g. compare “do you take…” language vs. “I [name] give myself to you [name]”
  • Hetero weddings use Genesis or Mark reading; Covenant Blessing uses Ruth or Samuel.

What are some of the implications of the differences?

Wedding symbolising Christ with Church.  Return to Creation – brought together by God, made by God, seen as “good” by God. None of that in the Covenant Blessing but instead Trinity readings – work in the world and perfect communion.

Is this version equivalency or equality? Relationship not treated the same by theology or text.  Changes to the gendered language has impacted the liturgical theology.  Different, competing (?!) theological accounts.

Biblically “covenant” not helpful language as it has usually followed some punishment/ judgement (Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel…).

A relationship is already present and active – church ritual recognises and affirms what’s already there.

Missed an opportunity to have one liturgy.  A liturgy should be written recognising all types of households and relationships and families that are currently being erased.

Like the Catholic approach of couple marrying themselves to each other but others witness… helpful to have resources to offer but not to impose them I think.

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‘You don’t understand me’: Serena Williams, Christology, and non-identity – Janice McRandal

Between tennis, race, her gender… we don’t see Serena in the fullness of her humanity. We hold her up to an ideal of personhood and she becomes a series of failures of conform.

Born 6 September 1981 in Compton, Serena has 23 Grand Slam titles and is one of the greatest sportsman of all time. She is seen as both hypersexual and hypermuscular.

People of colour are seen to have “natural ability” whereas white people are considered as being intelligent and working hard.

Serena disrupts narrative. A commentator calls her a “crusader” and she responds:

“Nah, I’m just doing me.”

Another interview ends…

“You don’t understand me.”

Theology is trying to understand (perhaps proscribe?) the personhood of Christ… but we need to let Jesus move not be locked in. Jesus can, and does, say: “You do not understand me.” e.g. WWJD bracelets lock in ‘rules’ about what that looks like with non-normative standards… this creates exclusion.  This is a commodification of Jesus. Which Jesus do you buy/sell? Once you make something a commodity you will want to measure it’s productivity and see a return on investment.

Disciple-driven sublimation          vs.          Christology of non-identity

Not a timeless call but relationality… Knowing here and now.  This gives us multiplicity instead of a single discourse. We need to de-economise theology from capitalism.

Unknowing is a dispossessing that remembers and forgets.

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Poem: Listen (I lost my voice again today) – Talitha Fraser

“Why the Body Matters: Feminism and Christian Faith” – Shawn Copeland

Theology is worrying about what God worries about – God worries about the world that is broken.

The terms body, feminist, and Christian have many diverse meanings and understandings.  Also, imperatives, involved in a period and a context. Symbols that point to what is visible and invisible. Gender, race, sexuality become concrete in the body. The body is us but there is more to you and more to me. SImilar but different. SPirit and body are not separate but one. We need embodiment and engagement and communion with other embodied selves.

There are physical and social layers of meaning to gender, sex and sexuality.  Meaning and worth are allocated externally to our bodies through sex, gender, sexuality. The transcendence of men is an ideology.  God makes the earth… Creature. ALL created matter very good. This is contextual theology.

Jesus had gender, sex, race… existed within the social morays of his time and transcends these. Feminism is not monolithic but pluralist. Where bodies matter… eucharist matters.

We need to live in a humble praxis of solidarity
with the bodies piled up.

Race

Statements such as “racism did not exist in the US before Obama” silences and makes invisible.

Having no race then can also therefore mean no identity > race matters SO much.  When race is considered an objective condition intelligence is seen as fixed and hereditary.  When one is equal to one’s race your identity becomes “fixed”. This tramples on personhood and experience. Racial formation (or deform-ation) is organised around a society of oppression.  Knowing race becomes crucial to “knowing” relationships – how to relate to and treat people. Are you black or brown? Chinese or Vietnamese? Once I can categorise your identity I will know how to treat and talk to you.

Sex and Gender

There is a disconnect between our body and our identity. Became medical.  Sex is biological and our gender is subject to socio-normative treatment/behaviour.  There are differences amongst women… what about class, race, sexual orientation…?  You can be dually discriminated.  Plurality of discourse can be disruptive.

Ref: Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

Eucharist

Love forms one body with our body. Joined with the eternal transcendent. Solidarity is the incarnation of Christian love. Standing with the other in their otherness.

Owe the wealth and privilege we have to exploitation, massacre, death, slavery… we need to acknowledge the humanness of the other. Even if we suffer rejection or loss.

Solidarity must always affirm life.

Christianity

Stand beside/join with others. Because you are the body of Christ. It is your mystery that lies behind the altar. Our gendered, raced, sexed bodies are one in eucharist. Our ceremonies – we must give as as well as receive.

Be what you receive.

Incarnation means loving others.

political theology > systemic theology. What does it look like to do communion in Baltimore or Ferguson, Missouri (#blacklivesmatter). Not just “All that we have” but “ALL that we have” How can I express myself without my hands, my voice, my body…?! My body is not an illusion. Our body has to be part of our spirituality. It’s what sops us being all-spirit.  Ordinary and extraordinary that.  We are given and embodied example (enfleshed) of what that looks like lived out. [Christ].

Ref: Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her

Q+A

Latin ‘procure’ meant ‘care for’ NOT ‘acquire’

Multiculturalism – honour diversity and richness without “smushedness”. Individuality and interculturality – no domination/subjugation to make alike.

How? Engage, encounter, serious conversation, humility… not acquire or appropriate.  Can’t pick up the cultural mores but you can learn. The Word is being made flesh now.  It’s about being filled with divine breath and living that out.

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A hollow grief, a hallow grief

We light candles in defiance of the darkness
raising our lights high to honour those voices silenced and stories untold
mine goes out.
A small enough gesture and mine is snuffed out before
it can transmit its’, however fragile, beacon of hope.
Discouraged, I lower my arm and my head but
a hand, bearing a lighter, comes into my view.
We each have that power – to share the light we have.
I had forgotten but this stranger reminds me:
the fellowship isn’t only with the Other but each other too.
Touched by grief, I don’t immediately move away following the vigil
a Chinese international student approaches to ask in broken English:
“Why do these people gather here this way?”
I try to explain but realise asylum “seeker” evokes Potteresque imagery
I let it lie – elusive to gain, as much to do with luck as skill,
glittering just out of reach… there are worse metaphors.
“You all show much courage”, she says.
“How’s that?” I ask.
“In China, this would never be allowed.”
What seems little enough… not nearly enough…
is to this person unthinkable
and I am confronted by my privilege to be here.
She moves off and a man joins me on the library lawn
“The powers you must overcome…
they would keep you from expanding.”
He lights a cigarette.
“They are going backwards, except,
it seemed backward even the first time”
he sighs looking around, “It is little enough”.
It is little enough.

Tonight on the anniversary of the “Regional Resettlement” initiative 55 vigils are taking place across Australia. It is little enough. It is something…

 

Messages from Manus

Timeline: Four years of abuse

19 July 2013: Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announces a new “Regional Resettlement Arrangement” with Papua New Guinea (PNG) so Australia can buy its way out of its ethical responsibilities. From this day forward anyone seeking protection and safety in Australia who arrive by boat will be forcibly transferred to PNG for processing and, if they are found to be refugees, be permanently settled there.
19 July 2013: The announcement causes distress amongst the people warehoused in detention in Nauru with peaceful protests escalating into violence.
3 August 2013: The Australian Government signs a new memorandum of understanding with Nauru similar to its Regional Resettlement Arrangement with Papua New Guinea.
17 February 2014: 23-year-old Reza Berati is murdered, and over 60 others injured, some of them seriously, on Manus Island. Numerous witness reports state Reza Berati was attacked by a group of G4S staff and at least one local staff member employed by The Salvation Army. Several eyewitnesses reported that one attacker picked up a large rock and hit Reza Berati on the head with it several times.
5September 2014: Hamid Khazaei, who was only 24 years old dies from a sepsis infection three weeks after he cut his foot at the detention centre on Manus Island. Inadequate medical care and delayed medical evacuation were later reported to have let to to Mr Khazaei’s death.
26 September 2014: The Australian and Cambodian governments sign a deal under which people on Nauru who are found to be refugees are to be resettled in Cambodia.  This second deal again allows Australia to buy its way out of its ethical responsibilities.
18 November 2014: Then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announces that asylum seekers who have registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia after 1 July 2014 will no longer be able to be resettled under Australia’s humanitarian program.
5 December 2014: bill passes both Houses providing the Immigration Minister with the power to detain people at sea (including outside Australia’s jurisdiction) and send them to other countries or vessels, even without the permission or knowledge of those countries.
20 March 2015: The report from independent review into allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru is released detailing reports of women being raped and allegations of children being sexually assaulted.
20 March 2015: A boat carrying 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers is intercepted by Australia. Its passengers are held at sea for nearly a month and undergo “enhanced screening” before being returned to Vietnam on 18 April.
28 May 2015: Thousands of men, women and children seeking protection are abandoned at sea in what is now known as the Andaman Sea ‘boat crisis’. Regional governments eventually agree to allow the boats to land but then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s callous response to Australia offering safety is “nope, nope, nope”.
4 June 2015: Nine months after the $55 million Cambodia deal, four refugeesarrive in Phnom Penh from Nauru. All of these people subsequently choose to return to their countries of origin, despite the fact that all four were found to have well-founded fears of persecution.
1 July 2015: The Australian Border Force Act takes effect making it a crime punishable by two years’ imprisonment for medical professionals, educators and others contracted by the Australian Government to speak about what they see in offshore detention.
5 October 2015: The Nauruan Government announces that the Regional Processing Centre will operate under an open centre arrangement.
29 October 2015: Amnesty International Australia publishes a report revealing evidence that Australian officials paid boat crews to return peopleseeking asylum to Indonesia.
8 November 2015: Fazel Chegeni, an Iranian refugee detained in Christmas Island Detention Centre, is found dead after escaping the centre.
19 February 2016: Australia again rejects the standing offer from New Zealand to accept 150 people from Nauru or Manus Island, failing to provide sensible, durable solutions for the people trapped there.
21 February 2016: Baby Asha, a one-year old who was transferred along with her family from Nauru to Brisbane Lady Cilento Children’s hospital for medical treatment is released into community detention. This came after the doctors at the hospital refused to discharge Asha after the completion of her treatment, fearing she would be transferred back to Nauru.
23 March 2016: At the Ministerial Bali Process meeting a declaration was released (the Bali Declaration) which for the first time identified the need toprovide protection to refugees in the region.
15 April 2016: A refugee in Nauru is convicted of attempted suicide, which was recognised as a crime in Nauru at the time.
26 April 2016: PNG’s Supreme Court rules that the transfer and detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.
26 April 2016: Omid Masoumali, a refugee living in Nauru for three years sets himself on fire. After more than 24 hours he is medically evacuated to Australia where he dies in a hospital in Brisbane on Friday 29 April 2016.
2 May 2016: A young Somali refugee living in Nauru sets herself on fire. She is later flown to Australia by air ambulance suffering burns to 70% of her body.
5 May 2016: A boat with 12 Sri Lankan people seeking asylum who were intercepted by Australian authorities earlier in the week are screened at sea before being returned to Sri Lanka. They were reportedly arrested on arrival at Colombo airport.
10 May 2016: The Federal Court rules the Government must provide a woman,raped on Nauru, access to a safe and legal termination.
July 2016: Amnesty International’s Senior Director for research visits Nauru where she finds a system of deliberate abuse hidden behind wall of secrecy.
10 August 2016: The Guardian releases the Nauru files – thousands of leaked incident reports from Nauru detail assaults, sexual abuse and child abuse.
19 September: UN Global Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York misses opportunity to find solutions to the global refugee crisis.
17 October 2016: In a new report Island of Despair’: Australia’s “processing” of refugees on Nauru Amnesty International find that the conditions to which refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru are subjected amounts to torture.
30 October 2016: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton tries to introduce legislation to ensure anyone taken to Nauru and Manus and then resettled anywhere in the world, would never be able to come to Australia.
13 November 2016: The Government takes an extreme step in shirking responsibility byannouncing an agreement with the United States for some of the refugees in offshore detention to be settled in the US via a process administered by the UNHCR.
25 November 2016: Malaysia begins work on a pilot scheme to allow refugees from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority to work in the country, which in turn reduces number of people forced to take dangerous journeys in search for a safe place to rebuild their lives.
24 December 2016: Faysal Ishak Ahmed collapses at the Manus detention centre. He dies on Christmas Eve.
31 December 2016: The Indonesian President issues a Presidential Decree for refugees which for the first time provides people seeking asylum and refugees in Indonesia with a more formal legal status.
14 April 2017: PNG Soldiers fire directly into the Manus Island detention centre putting lives at risk. 9 people are injured. No one is held accountable.  

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This week The Carmelite Centre has hosted a Symposium called: The Once and Future Reformation: The Way of the Spirit.  The Symposium, 500 years on from Luther event, offers an opportunity to talk about the current need for renewal and reformation today, in the churches and in the world. The Symposium was diverse, ecumenical, and imaginative. Three days of lectures, reflections and discussion on ways of learning from the past, of living in the present and of looking to the future.

I was invited to present a paper, it was titled: Streets, Seminary and Sacred: Expressions of Theological Animation and Activism in Victoria –  Thirty years on from the publication of Ched Myers’ Mark-as-manifesto text ‘Binding The Strongman’ this session will introduce some local current and legacy-influenced expressions of alternative radical discipleship and explore what this model has already and could yet offer for personal discipleship and broader church renewal through photos, stories, liturgy and lectionary.


 

 

I’d like to start by acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the Wurundjeri people have been custodians since immemorial – sharing and hearing stories of the Creator Spirit in this place.  We acknowledge our elders past, present and future.

Thank you for inviting me to share today out of the radical discipleship expression.  Swiss New Testament scholar Eduard Schweizer said: “discipleship is the only form in which faith in Jesus can exist.” Schweizers Australian student, Athol Gill’s, praxis-linked theological teaching, including Mark as a Manifesto for discipleship, animated church renewal movements across Australia in the 1970-80s – many here may have heard of the House of Freedom and the House of the Gentle Bunyip.

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A young Ched Myers carries this teaching back to the US and it influences his own community at Berkeley and presumably the study that produces the book “Binding the Strong Man” in 1988.  Although I have now read it myself I was fortunate enough to first be exposed to this idea of Mark as Manifesto by Marcus Curnow who managed, with Dave Fagg and drawing on the tradition of Quaker queries and advices to synthesise Myers 560-paged book into a single A4 page (there’s a copy here if anyone wants to have a look)

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I moved to Melbourne from Wellington, NZ in 2006 and started to attend an evening church service called Seeds based on this charism.  We met in a space called The Den on Little Collins St – which was and is still where the Youth & Schools team of Urban Seed operate from.

slide 4Urban Seed is an organisation that works with those who are homeless in Melbourne’s CBD –an outcome of discernment and response to Collins Street Baptist Church finding homeless people sleeping on their steps and seeking to ask, and answer, the question: “Who is my neighbour?”.

They invited young interns to move into the bslide 5uilding behind the church called Central House to engage these neighbours relationally. Jim Barr, Peter Chapman of Common Rule, Gordon Wild and Tim Costello ran various bible studies and seminar series reflecting on the work.

 

This radical model of hospitality and engagement is still practised now with Geoff and Sherry Maddock with their son Isaac who are currently living in.

 

 

Finding Seeds and Urban Seed slide 6was my first exposure to this lived expression of radical discipleship and the practice of the ideas of Street, Seminary and Sacred – that’s Ched’s language for the spheres of Christian expression: activism, education and church.

 

In Seeds we referred to these slide 7areas as Know, Grow and Go, they correlated to Urban Seeds areas of work: Street & Hospitality, Youth & Schools, Advocacy & Engagement

Jesus’ call to preach, heal and cast out…

and if I may presume perhaps the three threads of the Carmelites: stillness and silence, express and explore, embrace and act.

slide 8The bringing together of these ideas, or the power of what can happen in the space where these areas overlap is where I think radical discipleship happens.

 

 

 

The etymology of the word radical is from the Latin word radix meaning root. Ched refers to radical discipleship as an invitation to join the

“messianic movement of rebellion and restoration, of repentance and renewal, a “way out of no way”

In his book “Does God need the Church?” Gerhard Lohfink suggests:

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I’ve been fortunate enough to visit LA twice – living with Ched and his lovely wife Elaine Enns for a three month internship in 2012 and returning again for the Kinsler Institute in 2015 for two weeks and I found myself fascinated.

Ched believes there is a deepening gulf between these areas of Street, Seminary and Sacred as a result of a few factors:

  • Credentialing systems for theology students are set by the accrediting institution not the church
  • Professionalization means students need paid work to pay off student loans etc. and don’t always have the time or get given encouragement to engage in practical service to the poor or social movements
  • Regular church goers can be insulated from the insights of academics and the challenges and causes of activists
  • Faith-based activists can neglect disciplines of critical reflection – theological and political – of why they’re trying to change the world.

Ched believes these spheres are impoverished for being insulated from one another and says theological animation is key “to re-integrating the competencies of these alienated worlds of Christian witness”, believing that our focus instead should be in community formation, conscientization and capacity building in order to rehabilitate the church as a faith based movement of personal and social transformation. To provide some examples of what a re-integrated model might look like, I’m going to do an overlay now of a bible study series Ched did each morning of the Institute with some praxis examples from here in Melbourne and across Victoria.

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“Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan”

With this action Jesus was apprenticing himself to the peripheral, radical edge of his own tradition. The Jewish temple used water immersion for ritual purification after contact with the dead but this idea of baptism went beyond that.  Jesus could have walked three steps behind a rabbi, gone to a good school but instead he choose the camel hair and honey guy.

slide 12While integration might have been Collins Street Baptist Church’s original vision (I don’t know) by the time I arrived at Urban Seed both the evening Seeds church and Tuesday morning Credo Gathering spaces were operating as distinct faith-expression spaces for staff, volunteers and community members or “punters” to gather.

This work needed its own faith expression, it’s own language, it’s own liturgy… many songs, stories and prayers have come out of these spaces… the Seeds Sacred song, the Gospel of Vic (a version of Mark contextualised for the Australian context based on a work by Athol Gill and his students called “Fair Dinkum Mark”), the Credo Lord’s Prayer… which I invite you to say with me now: “as we were taught”.

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Illustration by Chris Booth https://ordinarytime.com.au

As residents moved out of Central House, some asked of themselves again:

“Who is my neighbour?”

People consciously decided to move into areas identified as among the lowest socio-economic/ disadvantaged: Norlane in Geelong, Long Gully in Bendigo and Footscray in the inner-west of the city.

Each of these areas had their own Seeds church community – usually having 10-12  members – and these separate communities came together a few times a year to covenant and retreat forming the Seeds network.

For many years, Urban Seed only started projects and had paid staff beyond the CBD in areas where Seeds Network groups were established.

 

Each of these groups elected to exist in marginalised areas. While each group discerned the expression of Know, Grow, Go in their area, responsive to the particular needs and context of their community and locality, all of them shared in common projects of neighbourhood hospitality whether community dinners, craft or breakfast clubs, wood fired pizzas…  all spaces like Urban Seed’s Credo cafe where people from all walks of life: lawyers and homeless, financial traders and addicts, Richmond and Collingwood supporters… preparing and sharing a meal around a common table… people of all faiths and none but for many of those “discipling” this eating and drinking together is their expression and practice of communion and church.

 

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slide 20Jesus isn’t just baptised in the Jordan but into the watershed.  We understand the Holy Spirit not to exist only in people but in creation and the land… the Holy Spirit descends like a dove into Jesus.  The Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus uses the water as a pulpit forming a natural amphitheatre, he uses farming parables, living vine and living water metaphors and calls us to ‘consider’ (learn from) the lilies. What does the land and creation have to teach us?

What are the stories specific to the places we live and what are the justice issues affecting our neighbours that the good news can offer hope for? Last month in Footscray we ran a Stations of the Cross walk for Easter – we call it the way of the Southern Cross because Aunty Doreen Wandin re-named Spencer St station this, as an intersection for bus, train, tram lines it’s where many paths connect that lead us home much as people navigated by constellations. Uncle Wanta Jampijinpa has preached on the correlation of the stars of the Southern Cross to the wounds on Jesus’ body.  At the Kinsler Institute, Bill Wylie Kellerman, United Methodist pastor and member of the Detroit Catholic Worker, ran a session saying that liturgy implicates. Undertaking activism on high holidays gives layers of meaning to the action. He said:

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What does it mean for us as Christians or people of any faith – in this time, this place, this context – to be mindful of and respond well to matters of justice from a position of this belief? Myers says:

“We need to reclaim scripture as
our most powerful weapon of resistance.
Stories are the best weapon we have”.

We wanted to localise this idea  here in Australia, the Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH) community shared their resource with us based on the work of Dr Norman Habel, the author of “Reconciliation: Searching for Australia’s Soul” which outlines the model for combining storytelling to action as a means for working towards right relationship between people and with the land…

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slide 23This year’s walk visited seven sites from our shared history looking at issues we all grapple with:

What does it mean for us to stand outside the home of Sally Russell Cooper and talk about recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty – a thirst that has not been quenched we are given natives to take bear home with us and plant symbolic of the hyssop branch and our commitment to work for recognition and relationship in this land.

We stand outside Centrelink – “Woman, here is your son” who are we called to care for? As a parent to a child however could you count some cost of the the debt of raising up that is our privilege.

slide 24Standing under the Welcome Arch built by the grateful Vietnamese business community, we think of next-coming waves of refugees and asylum seekers setting out praying: Into your hands I commit my spirit…

There is suffering in these events, and there are questions for us to grapple with.

As we hear the words of Christ on the cross, we ask what insight might his words spoken in pain tell us?

 

Continuing this idea of bible in one hand and newspaper in the other, Jon and Kim Cornfords work developing the Household Covenant bible study series, arising out of Ched’s book on Sabbath Economics and Matt Colwell’s followup Sabbath Economics: Household Practices, inspires minute incremental changes in the ways we consume that are based on biblical practices of stewardship and Sabbath and jubilee economics… from the way we see credit and debt, to growing, eating and preserving, seasonally and sustainably.

 

Introducing yourself as Jesus of Nazareth from Galilee is not dissimilar from saying “he’s a Yorta Yorta man from up Cummeragunja way”,  I’m living in Footscray by the Maribyrnong what does it mean for our discipleship to be placed within our locality and in relationship with the land?

 

 

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Urban Seed Credo Pain in the Arts program

“As it is written…” the land we live on is filled with stories – do you know them?

On the healing rites walk we told the story of deadly Aboriginal woman Sally Russell Cooper, of the transphobic attack on Starlady and her friends in Footscray, the tragic stories of Kirsty and Joan aliases used by a community lawyer talking about user-experiences at Centrelink for struggling families, the story of the Maria an asylum seeker from East Timor…

these stories aren’t ‘just’ political, they’re personal.  To be an active participant in restorative justice we need to know the problems of, and people directly experiencing, injustice.

What we know about Jesus birthplace is that it was a small village, about 4 miles (6.5kms) from Sepharus.   There was an uprising against the colonising occupation there and the Romans crushed Sepharus and enslaved everyone… Jesus would have been 10 years old when this happened.   Jesus and his Dad were tektons (labourers/carpenters/ construction workers) hired to help rebuild Sepharus… labouring under the bitterness of colonial occupation, this would shape your consciousness, this would have a huge impact… this is why context is so important. This is why story is so important. Jesus knows and quotes and draws on the history and experience of his people as relevant to speak into their current context and we need to do the same. The stories of Jordan, Israel and Egypt… for us might be the stories of a handful of dirt at Wave Hill, or the Franklin Dam that was never built…

slide 30People may well have heard of the Love Makes A Way movement of Christians engaging prayerfully and politically for the release, in particular of refugee and asylum seeking children, from detention.

What might be less known is that while some are participating in the action inside, others are participating outside: Keeping prayerful vigil, bearing witness, supplying snacks and singing.  There is a Love Makes a Way songbook – as this group was looking for inspiration they turned to the Freedom Songs of the civil rights movement.  Ched calls us to “sing about it until it can realised” and these songs call us into a place a freedom and hope that we will all “sit at the welcome table one of these days”  together.

This is a story we identified with and apprenticed ourselves to and “As I go down to the river to pray…” becomes “As I go down to Bill’s [Shortens] office to pray, welcome the refugee, let them stay” or “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” becomes “Were you there when they turned the boats away?”

Drawing on the style we progressed to writing our own  songs, and also asking ourselves whose are the local prophetic voices calling for change and Leunigs writing came to mind “Love is born… in the most unlikely place” (round), these are words we want to believe in these times.  Will you stand and sing them with me?

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Who are the writers in our context who are crying out for justice?  Whose stories do we make time to listen to? What stories and traditions will you apprentice yourself to?

-ooOoo-

Jesus was an apprentice, a disciple of kingdom, land and story… scripture study informed his political and theological practice. Our scripture study should inform our political and theological practice.

The Kinsler Institute in 2015 was called “40/60/100”: A celebration of radical discipleship – closely echoing the numbers of the surprising yield of seed in good soil in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Mk 4:8). But for this particular Institute, they alluded to two milestones that we were celebrating: Ched Myers’ 60th birthday, and his 40 years in the radical discipleship movement, those two numbers add up to 100—which is how many folks they were hoping would show up to join the festivities…. there were more than that: activists, academics and preachers – yes – but artists, liturgists, poets, practitioners, organic farmers, the undocumented, money lenders, elders and babies, from across America and across a breadth of faith expressions… I can’t idealise these models of community  – The House of the Gentle Bunyip didn’t last, Ched’s community at Berkeley didn’t last, the Seeds Network has not lasted what can’t be denied is that some expressions of the radical discipleship model continue to spring up – and, I think, are producing a surprising yield of seed.

Jokingly referring to the Institute as a clusterfest in his closing remarks on the last day Ched noted that when the people are gathered it should always feel part birthday party, part conference, part church, part action planning meeting… I hope I’ve been able to give you some small sense of this today. I want to close by saying to all of you the benediction we used in my Seeds community:

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Rubem Alves tells a story of a spider, safe and happy over empty space – building her house – no hesitation and with precision. Fragile yet perfect, symmetrical, beautiful, fit to its purpose.     “…I did not see her first move, the move which was the beginning of the web, the leap into the void…” (p.3)

What the spider needs to fulfil her intention is within her body. “Her body knows, her body remembers. But we have forgotten it.” (p.4)

Rubem Alves tells a story of a boy who found the body of a dead man
washed up on the edge of a seaside village.

There is only one thing to do with the dead: they must be buried.

In that village it was the custom for the women to prepare the dead for burial,
so the women began to clean the body in preparation for the funeral.
As they did, the women began to talk and
ponder about the dead stranger.

He was tall… and would have had to duck his head to enter their houses.
His voice… was it like a whisper or like thunder.
His hands… they were big. Did they play with children
or sail the seas or know how to caress and embrace a woman’s body.

The women laughed
“and were surprised as they realised that the funeral had become resurrection:
a moment in their flesh, dreams, long believed to be dead,
returning… their bodies alive again”. (p.24)

The husbands, waiting outside, and watching what was happening,
became jealous of the drowned man
as they realised he had power which they did not have.

And they thought about the dreams they had never had…

Alves ends this part of the story by telling that they finally buried the dead man.
But the village was never the same again.

“The dead man did not say one single word.
He was full of silence.
And his silence was the space of remembrance.
His dead body was full of their lost memories…” (p.31)

“Hoc est corpus meum. This is the bit of my flesh which became alive again by the power of the silence of this dead man…

What are we without the help of that which does not exist? – Valerie”  (p.35)

Acts 17:22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

(NRSV)

Reading 1: (Read through twice) What word or passage touches/speaks to you?

Reading 2: How does this word/passage touch your life/experience?

Reading 3: How are we called into being/doing by this word/passage?

 

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God said: Let the dark be dark.
Let the stars shine properly.
And let darkness with no stars
heal the damage caused by light.
Men said: Let there be light all
night through, where there is no-one
much or no-one at all, let
the gathered haze from street-lamps,
undying brand-names, full-blaze
unpopulated windows
stain the undersides of clouds
even when nights are cloudless.
God said: Light itself needs rest.
Some things are best seen, unseen,
in darkness unhindered by
Great Light. Me, for example.

Robin Fulton Macpherson

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It’s a new day and I like it.

Soft folds of cotton wool mist crept in while we were sleeping and I don’t ask:

“What is out there?”

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but:

“What might be out there?”

As the shrouding evokes wonder and possibility.

 

The noise of the world seems slightly muffled and its bustle muted.

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Maybe in our bruised and weary brokenness God says I will hold you tenderly in cotton wool today and hold you safe.

A whimsy perhaps of my battered brain.

 

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