Latest Entries »

IMG_0690

We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 2: In it for the long haul

We value being a constant in an inconsistent world, expecting and persevering through hard times.  Our long-term commitment allows us to build trust and respect with those in our community, as we try to reflect God’s unconditional love and grace.

Biblical basis: Hebrews 10:36


 

Let’s read the value together… what words/phrases stand out?

  • persevering through hard times…
  • constant…
  • try to reflect God’s unconditional love…

 

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?
What can we learn from the bible about living the Value: In it for the long haul?

 

 


 

Hebrews 10:19-25; 32-39

 19 Therefore, my friends,[g] since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

32 But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. 35 Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. 36 For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. 37 For yet

“in a very little while,
the one who is coming will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one will live by faith.
My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.”

39 But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.

 – NRSV


 

Reflection time… followed by sharing time.

The photos around the walls of this house are a testament to the “long haul” of this community, let’s get up and have a look at these photos…

  • what can you see?
  • what should we keep doing?
  • what keeps you coming back?
  • how can we “consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds”

 

IMG_0703

Here are some of the things that have kept us going for the long haul, encourage us when things are tough and inspire us to want to be here in Footscray for another 10 years!

⊕  celebrating people’s’ lives  ⊕  birthdays ⊕ people coming and going  ⊕  growing up together  ⊕  smiling  ⊕  gardening  ⊕  sharing the hard things  ⊕  participating in rites of passage like births, baptisms and marriages  ⊕  celebration of big and small things  ⊕  grieving together  ⊕  serving the community  ⊕  cooking  ⊕  having fun and being silly together  ⊕  focus on the poor  ⊕  playing sport  ⊕  playing music and singing  ⊕  being creative  ⊕  having mastery/learning of new skills  ⊕  Other people come and go. People are always here.  You feel like you are needed.  ⊕  different age groups  ⊕  sharing food  ⊕

As we sat with this, Ash observed that there is a stripping down faith to what’s important that happens in all of this… what is that?

IMG_0706 - Copy

N.B. This post may be a negative trigger for survivors of physical and sexual abuse.

This morning we held a peaceful Love Makes a Way vigil outside Tim Watts office in Footscray as part of a bigger movement in response to the heart-wrenching incident reports leaked last week to The Guardian known as the Nauru Files. LMAW members and friends from a wide range of asylum seeker advocacy groups converged on over 45 MP offices and Immigration Dept offices across Australia in proIMG_0648test.

Armed with paper dolls to symbolise the men, women and children
who have been abused and traumatised by offshore detention, these small groups read from the incident reports, heard poetry from former refugees and demanded the Government ‪#‎CloseTheCamps‬ and ‪#‎BringThemHere‬

Welcome. We acknowledge that we gather today, to sing and pray, on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.  

I’m sure most of you here are already across the Love Makes A Way movement and what it’s about, we don’t really have words to respond to these leaked Nauru Files. These dolls that you see here, we will be leaving them up and the reason for that is that it will mean someone here at Tim Watts office will have to physically engage in the act of taking them down. The lives of these children, or these people are in their hands. Written on some of these images are the words of case workers and people in detention centres – stories of sexual and physical abuse. We put these images here as a symbol of these people that are entrusted to our care, to our politicians care, and we don’t think they’re doing a very good job with the responsibility that has been entrusted to them.  In the tradition of the civil rights movement we want to sing some songs that inspire and speak to the world we want to live in and welcome these people to join us in.

 


There is room

There is room at the table (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

There is room at the border (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

There is room in our hearts (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

There is hope for a new tomorrow (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

We say love makes a way (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

IMG_0661



Hold on (Love Makes A Way)
(tune: Keep your hand to the plough/Keep your eyes on the prize)

They are coming across the sea,
From their homes they have had to flee,
We say, love will bring them here, hold on.

We are here to sing and shout,
Why you keeping God’s children out?
We say love will let them stay, hold on.

Chorus
Hold on, hold on,
We say, love makes a way, hold on.

We say welcome the refugee
We say set all the people free
We say, love will bring them here, hold on.

We have room in our hearts to care
We have plenty enough to share
We say, love will let them stay, hold on.


 

We shall bring them here
(words adapted from We shall overcome)

We shall bring them here, we shall bring them here
We shall bring them here some day
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
We shall bring them here some day

We will not keep silent, we will not keep silent
We will not keep silent today
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
We will not keep silent today

The truth shall make us free, the truth shall make us free
The truth shall make us free some day
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
The truth shall make us free some day

We are not afraid, we are not afraid
We are not afraid today
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
We are not afraid today

We shall let them stay, we shall let them stay
We shall let them stay some day
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
We shall let them stay some day


IMG_0650

As I went down to Tims office to pray
(words adapted from As I went down to the river to pray)

1) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall help us bring them here?
Good Lord show me the way!

O sisters let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O sisters let’s go down
Down to Tim’s office to pray

2) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall call for a change of heart?
Good Lord show me the way!

O brothers let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O brothers, let’s go down
Down to Tim’s office to pray

3) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall raise their voices here?
Good Lord show me the way

O mothers let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O mothers let’s go down
Down to Tim’s office to pray

4) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall work for a better plan?
Good Lord show me the way

O fathers let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O fathers, let’s go down
Down to Tim’s office to pray

5) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall share these boundless plains?
Good Lord show me the way

O people, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O people, let’s go down
Down to Tim’s office to pray

6) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall help us bring them here?
Good Lord show me the way


IMG_0635

READING — ‘HOME’ (Warsan Shire)

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as
well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin
factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases
you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of
doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem
under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport
toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going
back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the
stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles
travelled
means something more than journey.

no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they
want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a
sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i don’t know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.


IMG_0657

Were you there?

Were you there when they turned the boats away?
Were you there when they turned the boats away?
Ohhh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they turned the boats away?

Were you there when our nation turned its face?….

Were you there when the child was locked away?….

Were you there when the abuses came to light?…..

We will pray until love can make a way…..


 

Our hearts’ song is to close the camps and bring them here and we’ll keep singing, praying and turning up until love makes a way…

 

IMG_0063I have been struggling recently… just figuring out how to exist well in a world where so much feels obfuscated by the power of things unseen to influence and affect my life.  Things and people that seek to control my choices by limiting my choices. As a way of praying, personal confession and speaking to powers I wanted to somehow create a physical metaphor for the ideas circling in my head and this is how the idea for the veil came about.

What follows here is a series of images that seeks to playfully and prayerfully explore, critique, live-into-being the answer to some of my own questions around this idea of what barriers are coming between us and being able to see God clearly…

Here are some of my queries:

In what ways does this veil shelter or smother me?

How can we know and be known through such thickness that clouds and blinds us?

At a recent team planning day, the facilitator mentioned that the church “as we know it” has 17 years left… it’s dying.  What does this mean if we reflect on the Church as the Bride of Christ? Is the church glorious? …holy and without blemish? ready?

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Revelation 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed [are] they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

The Greek word ecclesia, for church, means “The called-out (ones)” i.e. the church is its people, if the institutional church as we know it dies – what does that mean for the called? Does God become a widower?

What does it look like to live with full access to God? How can we remove the veil that creates separation between God and humankind?

Covenant symbols in Christianity: BRIDAL VEIL
“Not only does the bridal veil show the modesty and purity of the bride and her reverence for God, it reminds us of the Temple veil which was torn in two when Christ died on the cross. The removing of the veil took away the separation between God and man, giving believers access into the very presence of God. Since Christian marriage is a picture of the union between Christ and the church, we see another reflection of this relationship in the removal of the bridal veil. Through marriage, the couple now has full access to one another. (1 Corinthians 7:4)” [from about.com]

How might we compare and contrast this invisible veil with a hijab or niqab? What is visible and what is hidden by them?

I first wore the headscarf at the age of 18 (with no pressure to wear it from parents at all even though they are very devout religious leaders in our community). My reason for wearing it was that I was at a point in my life where I was growing in my faith journey and wanted to make my surrender to God visible. For me the headscarf was an extension of my prayer (it is exactly what I wear when I pray).  The act of wearing a scarf had nothing to do with a man, whether it was my father, brother or husband. In fact, my husband did not see me without a scarf until we were engaged. This in itself raises an interesting function that many women who wear the scarf also acknowledge- that the scarf can liberate their bodies from the insistent objectification of women in the public space. It demands that people deal with them based on their intellect, values, manners, behavior, ideas, etc and not based on their looks. Quite a strong feminist statement.            – Dr Nora Amath

Is the Church lost? What is it looking for? What does it need? What does it pray for? Is it lonely? Is it static? Is it dead/dying?

IMG_0204

IMG_0206

IMG_0174

IMG_0180

IMG_0181

IMG_0295

IMG_0284

 

IMG_0337

IMG_0338

IMG_0343

IMG_0301

IMG_0335

IMG_0321

IMG_0314

IMG_0219

IMG_0220

IMG_0234

IMG_0275

IMG_0276

IMG_0278

IMG_0262

IMG_0265

No one knows what makes the soul
wake up so happy

Maybe a dawn breeze has blown the veil
from the face of God.

~ Rumi

 

 

 

IMG_0146

We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 1: Partnering with God

We value the opportunity of participating in the Missio Dei (mission of God). Through persistence in prayer, we seek to recognise where God is at work in Footscray, and become co-workers with Christ.

Biblical basis: Psalm 127:1, Luke 18:7, 1 Cor 3:9


 

Let’s read the value together. What words stand out? Any you don’t know?

What does being a partner mean? What are some different examples of partners?

business partner, relationships, sport teams, partner in crime, duet…

What sorts of things do partners do for each other?

work together, help out, trust, backup in tough times, share responsibility…

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?


Psalm 127:1-2

Unless you’ve commissioned the building project, LORD,
……..attempting construction would be futile.
Unless you’re in charge of security, LORD,
……..our gates and guards are a waste of effort.
We could work ourselves to the bone for nothing;
……..first on the job in the morning, last home at night,
…………….and what would we have to show for it?
……..Nothing but heartaches and ulcers.
You, LORD, long for us to slow down.
……..We can relax and trust in your loving care.

 

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

 

Luke 18: 1-8

Jesus told this story to encourage people to be persistent in prayer and never lose heart:

Once upon a time there was a town magistrate who took no notice of God and had no respect for anyone. There was a widowed woman in the town who had very little in the way of resources or influence, but who kept contacting the magistrate and demanding that he take action to protect her rights in a dispute with a powerful opponent. For a while he just kept brushing her off, but eventually he said to himself, “I couldn’t care less what happens to this woman, and all her talk of God’s justice means nothing to me; but I’m going to give her what she wants because I’m sick to death of her nagging and I just want to get her off my back.”

And the Lord commented on his story, saying:

“Do you hear the point in what the callous magistrate is saying? If he can be pressured into acting for justice, can’t you see how much more certain it is that God will bring about justice for those who have dedicated themselves to God and cry out for help night and day. Will God brush them off and ignore their pleas. You can take it from me: God will waste no time in bringing about justice for them. And yet, will the New Human find much of that sort of persistent faith on earth when he makes his entrance?

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

1 Cor 3:5-9

 Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.

 The Message


Reflection time

What can we learn from the bible about living the value of “Partnering with God”?

  • Building bricks… Some of these things that we said partners do for each other – how are we doing them for God now? Or how could we start? Share a story…
  • Postcards… Persistence in prayer… what is God telling us is worthy of attention in Footscray? What should we focus on?
  • Stones… is there anything that should be left out of what we are building together here? What are the things that stop us choosing the right bricks?

 

IMG_0154

Artwork by Aysha Tufa

I’m spending my weekend popping in and out of varied sessions of the Footscray Arts Centres West Writers Forum – the description for a workshop I made it to today reflected on language:

As our world grows smaller and people become more familiar with one another through daily cross-cultural interactions, what stops us from finding ourselves or losing ourselves in each other’s stories? Is translation the final frontier in creative writing? Can we achieve fluid creative and cultural exchanges through the translation of stories? Or will some things always remain lost in translation? Join moderator Mridula Nath Chakraborty in conversation with academics Sanaz Fotouhi and Dr Nadia NiazLily Yulianti Farid and Josiane Behmoiras for this panel.

 Lots of different ideas came through –

The minute you write – let it go.
It will mean something different to every reader.
You can put forward your intention for the words
but that may or may not be picked up.

Josianne Behmoiras

Contextual translation is more important that word-by-word.
You need to translate meaning to a medium your audience can understand…

The interpreter makes their own “work”.

Dr Nadia Niaz

The original word in Buginese “Mukkunrai”
had to remain to carry the meaning – the English translation
“female” doesn’t capture all of the cultural meaning.
(on the title of her short story collection)

Lily Youlanti

All of us find ourselves constantly
translating and transitioning,
asking: “Where do I sit?”

Sanaz Fotouhi

This quote got shared; Charles Simic’s take on the magical absurdity of translating poetry: “It’s that pigheaded effort to convey in words of another language not only the literal meaning of a poem but an alien way of seeing things … To translate is not only to experience what makes each language distinct, but to draw close to the mystery of the relationship between word and thing, letter and spirit, self and world.” (and the article I found it in from The New Yorker mentions many of the panel-referenced works re the translation movement in Japan).

This panel of five had cultural tails in the following languages: French, Hebrew, Latino, Turkish, Kurdish, Buginese, Bahasa, Urdu, Bengali and more I’m sure… a lot of the focus of the session was around translating into English and how you break into, speak into, build an audience amongst English (white middle-class) readers (they are mostly the ones buying books/running the theatres/festivals/publishing houses, etc.).

I found myself thinking about Te Reo Māori (the native language of New Zealand where I am from) and how few speakers there are – there is a need to find reasons to use this language.  What might it look like to translate poems – not word for word – but their meaning.   This kind of interpretation lends itself to crafting something new. What does it mean to take the words I have written to be grounded back into where I come from? What might I discover through that process? Like the Treaty of Waitangi we will end up with 3 versions: original English, Māori translation and then a translation of the Māori back into English… apologies to anyone fluent in Māori who reads these as I’m bound to make gaffes in grammar and word choice… {if you want to collaborate on correct translations get in touch!}

i.

I sit down in the middle of the river

The river sits in the middle of me

Won’t you come and sit by the river?

Sit by the river awhile with me

ii.

Enoho au ki roto i te awa
Aparima enohoana ki roto iho
Haere tahi i roto ki te awa?
Haere mai ki te Mātāpuna a muri ngākau ahau

iii.

I sit down in the middle of the river
Aparima* sits always at the heart of who I am
Will you keep me company at the river?
You are welcome at the Source that sits at the heart of me

(* Aparima is the name of the river that I identify with in my mihi, it denotes the acknowledgment of place/where I am from)


i.

There is Room at the Table (originally written as a song to welcome asylum seekers/boat people coming to Australia, used at a Welcome Picnic outside a local detention centre)

There is room at the table x3
Let them in, let them stay

There is room at the border x3
Let them in, let them stay

There is room in our hearts x3
Let them in, let them stay

There is hope for a new tomorrow x3
Let them in, let them stay

ii.

He wāhi anō kai roto i te tēpu mo tētahi atu tangata?
Haere mai ra, haere mai ra, haere mai ra
Haere mai, nau mai, e ngā iwi e

He wāhi anō kai roto i te rohe mo tētahi atu tangata?
Haere mai ra, haere mai ra, haere mai ra
Haere mai, nau mai, e ngā iwi e

He wāhi anō kai roto i te to tatou ngākau mo tētahi atu tangata?
Haere mai ra, haere mai ra, haere mai ra
Haere mai, nau mai, e ngā iwi e

Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou ka ora te manuwhiri
Haere mai ra, haere mai ra, haere mai ra
Haere mai, nau mai, e ngā iwi e

iii.

Is there space at the table for one more person?
Welcome, everyone is welcome

Is there space at the border for one more person?
Welcome, everyone is welcome

Is there space in our hearts for one more person?
Welcome, everyone is welcome

We will all contribute what we have and there will be enough to share
Welcome, everyone is welcome


Queries:

What is notable about the differences in the English translations?

What does such an exercise tell us about the significance of interpretation in translation?

If you look up mihi (tradition Maori introduction – reference in poem 1) and karanga (traditional Maori welcome – style observed in poem 2), does this change your understanding of these poems meaning? How?

Any reflections on Simic’s idea that: “To translate is not only to experience what makes each language distinct, but to draw close to the mystery of the relationship between word and thing, letter and spirit, self and world.”?

N.B. this story contains offensive language and swear words


 

The streets of Melbourne speak.  Buskers busk, beggars beg and people hand out pieces of paper offering good deals on diamonds, discounted burgers or advocating for autonomy of Tibet – everyone has something to say. Mostly we veer round them, but not me.  I have started a new job working with a Christian community development organisation supporting the homeless in Melbourne CBD – these people out on the street are my neighbours, my friends, and I am going to help them and I will make a difference in their lives.

Speak Melbourne, I am listening.

I hop on the 57 tram at Collins St. As it is standing room only, I loiter near the rear door and sitting side-on to me is a man holding a bottle in a paper bag already quite drunk.  He looks old but probably isn’t. A face weathered by life’s experiences and dirt. He clears people to the other end of the tram by being, loudly, verbally offensive to everyone around us.

To the Indian couple opposite chatting softly, “Can’t you speak English? Speak English! F-ing come to our country, you can speak our f-ing language.”

To the Chinese woman beside him, “I can speak your language, sushi! Chopsticks! Kamakaze! Karate!”

To a young Middle Eastern girl, “You’re quite pretty… how much would it cost to buy you? That’s what you do where you come from, right?”

Everyone on the tram pretends to ignore him and looks away – whatever you do, don’t make eye contact with the crazy guy. I felt angry, and ashamed, worried that all these people might think that by staying silent we agree as I find I look away too.  Eventually, a young white guy halfway up the tram calls out, “Keep your peace mate, no one wants to hear what you have to say.”

Crazy Guy stands quickly, “You trying to be a f-ing hero? Showing off for your girlfriend?  None of your f-ing business.”

He has pulled a broken bottle out of his bag and is waving it threateningly. Collectively everyone on the tram holds their breath, still not sure where to look.  Eventually Crazy Guy sits back down again but the ‘hero’ turns to say something to the guy behind him and he’s up again throwing candles at him from his bag shouting, “Shut up! I’m going to burn your f-ing eyes out you c-!”

All of this over a surreal twenty minute ride. I arrive at my stop in North Melbourne and hop off, relieved, so very relieved, the Crazy Guy does not.  I have done nothing, said nothing, and feel upset and guilty.  “Aren’t I meant to know how to do this?”

I ask a colleague Gin the next day, “What I could have done differently?”

“What was his name?”

“Uh, I didn’t exactly introduce myself….” my tone quavering somewhere between sarcasm and incredulity.

“…next time, try and find out what his name is, it really helps to connect with people if you know their name.”

Oo0oO

 

Some weeks later I am hosting dinner at my place unwinding with others from work. The share house I’m in doesn’t have much of a backyard and we have improvised with fish and chips in the middle of the 5-way roundabout where Haines, Dryburgh and Shiel Sts intersect.  It’s a beautiful Melbourne summer evening and we jockey for the minimal shade offered by the three yet-young eucalypts as summer light fades into dusk.  We’ve been there a while when a man crosses the road to ask us, “You got anything to eat?” and we share what we have.

He hangs with us a bit under the darkening sky, asks if we’re Aboriginal, if we’re sitting here because the land is significant to us, and asks my friends Christop and Mehrin when they are getting married, “I can just tell…” though they were only dating then.

Gin asks “What’s your name?”

“Gordy.”

“Where are you staying?”

He points to the flats across the road.

Crazy Tram guy is my neighbour, and now I know his name.

I wait till Gordy leaves to tell the others the connection.  My workmates have been helping me process the experience I had on the tram and it’s almost hard to credit this could be the same person. Calm, softly spoken, clean-shaven, friendly, interesting and interested in who we are.

Gordy is my neighbour, and now I know his name.

IMG_0835 - Copy

Oo0oO

homeless memorial service 005 - Copy
I go to the 10th Annual Homeless Memorial. Once a year a motley community gathers to remember those ‘streeties’ or ‘parkies’ who have passed away. You can get hot soup, a hot dog, and warm clothes are available to take away but it is about more than that. It offers an opportunity to reflect on those people with whom we create connections, those with whom we feel ‘at home’, regardless of any material shelter. We remember those who now, or have in the past, offered light or warmth to our lives. Voice is given to the pain of separation from parents, siblings, children, society. Voice is given to the pain of decisions that cannot be unmade, things which cannot be unsaid and knowledge that we cannot go back – only forward. A humble gratitude is offered to ‘the people from the organisations represented here’, supported with warm applause from the crowd in and around the marquee.

We sing. Songs we all know the words to, or hum, or make up. There are no song sheets. You  don’t have to have learned to read to belong here. Our hands are free to cradle lit candles and sprigs of rosemary.

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don’t let show
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on


They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could
Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change
It’s hard to beat the system
When we’re standing at a distance
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change


We hold a minute’s silence, and it is deep and rich and full.

There are names unspoken…tears unshed…and hope unlooked for. We only need to look around to know we are not alone in this grief. We only need to look around to have more than our hunger fed, our coldness clothed… instead we know the truth.

 

We are not strangers to one another as we thought when we arrived.

 

And a last a cappella chorus rings out…

 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see

 

Oo0oO

Another pleasant Melbourne evening, my housemate Freya and I are walking her gentle dog Nala to the oval for a play. We have an Ultra Grip Ball Launcher and even with both of us humans to the one of her we know well who will get tired of the game first.

We meet up with Gordy as we cross the road, he is heading home as we head out: “What kind of dog is that? Bitch looks like a dingo.  I’ve killed two dogs with my bare hands, they were coming at me and I just grabbed their front legs and ripped ‘em apart.”

Once he’s gone I try and explain how I don’t think he’s a risk to our pet but I think I make a bad job of it and there’s heightened awareness and extra company on walks in the weeks that follow.  I know enough to know now that Gordy was pretty level tonight.  Eyes clear and cleaned up, he must be in a good place.  He’s just making conversation.  Speaking his truth.  Why do we think about what we need to do to protect our dog and not think about what happened to Gordy that he’s in a situation somehow where he’s defending himself, his life, with his bare hands?

I used to look for the right answers once.  Now I look for the right questions.

Oo0oO

A stranger stops my friend Lyn and I, as we are walking down Swanston Street, to ask an inane question.   She and I do lunch now and then to catch up since I dropped off the corporate ladder. I say something harsh and unkind about him once he leaves. Gormless.

My friend smiles and says, “Sometimes you are very Christian, and sometimes you are so not.”  My smile twists and becomes wry, “No. I’m a Christian all the time,” I say, “…sometimes I’m better at it than others.”

I used to think that helping the poor would make me holy somehow. But I am as holy, and as human, as I have ever been.  Riding that 57 tram home later that day, I see Gordy again. He stands up to let a lady sit down and, when other women get on board, chastises other guys into giving up their seats too.  He flirts with a few girls and makes general conversation, “Hot ain’t it? Where you goin’?”

He says hello to me and I reply “Hi, Gordy, how are you?”

Confused, he answers “I don’t know you, I don’t know you”

I explain about meeting a few times, a long time ago and far apart but he just repeats, again and again, “I don’t know you”.  I get off at the stop after ours, cut home through the park, following the path that winds back and forth instead of cutting across the grass directly like I usually would.  It’s slower. I hold Gordy in my mind. I hold scared Gordy in my mind and slowly make my way home, hoping he’s made it ok to his.

Oo0oO

 

[Five years later…]

I am making my way to Coles to pick up some ingredients for dinner on the way home from work when I see Gordy sitting on the corner of Flinders and Elizabeth St with the cutest puppy sleeping on a blanket at his feet.  My momentum carries me past before my brain catches up and my spirit stirs.  I hesitate, and go back.  “Hey Gordy, I’m just heading into the Coles here, have you eaten? Can I pick up anything for you or the puppy?”

He says, “Nothing for me” proudly, “but some biscuits for the puppy would be great.”

I head in and dither over what to buy: puppy vs. adult food, large dog vs. small dog food, how big a bag if Gordy has to carry it around vs not being generous.  I finally get clear and head to the corner and… I can’t see them… oh.

My mind starts running, Gordy had sort of flinched when I used his name.  He never remembers me.  Maybe he felt suspicious of my motives, paranoid?  I check all directions from the intersection, check out the tram stops hoping to catch sight of him.  Damn it.  I just spent $15 on dog food I don’t have a use for.  Should I leave it here at the corner in case he comes back?  Did I take too long?  Did he assume I wasn’t coming back? Sigh.  The reasons for stopping in the first place were right.  It doesn’t matter that he isn’t here.

But it does.

I am disappointed by the ‘squandered’ generosity that goes unappreciated.

Oh well, Ray and Ben’s dogs will have a litter of puppies soon – it will be used eventually…

I cross to Flinders St Station and wait on the platform for the train. Last I know he lived in North Melbourne – I’m heading to Footscray where I live now – same line so I’m still scanning the platforms hoping to catch sight of him. Nothing. No sign. I find an empty seat on the train when it pulls up and slump down in the keep-to-myself-don’t-talk-to-me mode I generally assume on public transport.  The train moves off, the doors at the back of the carriage open and I idly muse on what it is people are looking for when they move down through the train while it’s moving when there are free seats everywhere? As I stare blankly at the dark tunnel walls slipping past.  The group, two guys and a girl, sit down across the aisle from me, and… beside me.  One of them is Gordy.

I very casually say, “Oh, could you pass this over for me?’

I see the surprise. Surprise I see them? That I will talk to them? That I will recognise Gordy without his hand out?  That I actually came through with the dog biscuits? Gordy moves to sit next to me with the puppy so ‘he’ (the puppy) can thank me, he is soft and adorable.  We chat all the way to Footscray, one of his mates eats the Snickers I threw in. Gordy says “I’ll definitely remember you this time.” I have my doubts and sitting together, sharing together, it feels entirely unimportant.  Though I have hope.

I’m still not holy.  Gordy isn’t a hero in this story, nor am I. We’re pretty much still the people we were at the start.  Still living.  I have learned that I can’t wait on the world to change. I have to start with myself.  Our conversation falls into silence, and it is deep and rich and full.

I don’t need Gordy to remember my name; that might be too hard or asking too much.  What I want him to remember is being reached out to, the mutuality of our exchanges. Equal parts in the same whole… it humbles and humiliates me.  I hope he feels looked for, I hope he feels found – as I have been.

The streets of Melbourne speak.  Buskers busk, beggars beg and people hand out pieces of paper offering good deals on diamonds, discounted burgers or advocating for autonomy of Tibet – everyone has something to say. Mostly we veer round them, but not me.  I’m in a different job these days, these are still my neighbours though and my friends – I know better now.  We help each other sometimes and our lives are different, better, for the knowing of each other. Listen Melbourne, I am speaking…

“What’s your name?”

 

 

Talitha Fraser


 

I wrote this piece a short story entry for the inaugural Brotherhood of St Lawrence Hope Prize “to encourage writing that transcends stereotypes of ‘the poor’ and reflects the resilience we know that people show in the face of poverty and testing times”. I didn’t win or anything so I can share my piece here – the years that I worked with the homeless community (largely through Seeds and Urban Seed) in Melbourne were transformative and it feels good to have an opportunity/ excuse to reflect on and share some learnings from that time. Thanks to Katherine, Susan and Sally for handholding me through the writing and editing process – this is noticeably tighter than my usual work thanks to you!

IMG_9897

I like the word “collaborator” – it puts me in mind of a smarmily gleeful rubbing together of hands, maniaical laughter and petting long-haired white cats but, funnily enough, there was none of that taking place at the recent Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies Network Launch… this is a group of women and men who want to see something built up not taken over or taken apart.

I didn’t really take notes so much as quotable quotes – I’m tidying as I go so while this might not be exactly what people said it quite probably captures some of what they meant and we can’t let the truth get in the way of a good story…

 

Cath McKinney

“The most subversive thing you can do is enquire.
It recognises the otherness of other people.”

“It is subversive to take care of yourself –
there are lots of people who would love you to burn out (be quiet).”

“Patriarchy is limiting to both genders.
Everyone should be acknowledged and validated
for the contribution they have to offer”

 


 

Serene Jones

“80% of religious practitioners are women,
keeping things going for spiritual reasons…
Not exercising any political agency
but doing what we do with love and prayerfully”

“We think of Mamie Till whose 14 year old son was kidnapped and murdered in 1955. Till insisted on an open casket for her son, for 3 days people queued, more than 10,000 people – and the opportunity to witness became a turning point in disparity of justice for black people in America.  Only this morning we hear of this woman, Diamond Reynolds, whose husband is shot in front of her and her son – and she has recorded this on her phone… we can see the political ramifications of women choosing to act. [word-play of the poetry of Adrienne Rich] – ‘their power came from the same source as their wounds’. These women had no great power of their own – only persistence.”

 

“We need to acknowledge that we approach any issue
from a space of ‘implicated resistance’ – we are resisting against
but also implicit in the structures ourselves

“Sometimes I cry when I’m speaking.
Shutting down that part, shuts down others and my voice”

How you speak and live, when that’s poetic, communicates more.
How you carry your body… how energised you are…
all speaks more loudly than your content.”

 

IMG_9900

Trees planted by the river, drinking grace – bearing fruit in due course.

May the Source of All Life nourish us and bind us together,
May the Wisdom of the Holy One enlighten us and enable our sharing,
And may the Courage of Holy Fire inspire is as a network of love and freedom
today and always…

And we the people say: Amen

There was prayer, singing, dancing, dreaming, round table discussion, portrait pictures, sharing, storytelling, liturgy, affirmation, celebration and collaboration –
you can join in the journey on the Facebook page.

 

IMG_9321.JPG

this culture
grips, snips, snares you
wants a share of you
does everything it can
to make you small
I will stand tall
I see your wall
but I see too
I don’t have to go over, under, through
just be and do
as I’m called
yours is not the law I follow
yours is not the path I take
yours is not the truth I believe
shallow, fake, relieved…
I will go on

Talitha Fraser

IMAG0180

God to whom I am but a wrinkle in time
Be a light for me when all other lights go out
Be love for me when all other loved seems unsecured
Can it not be enough to be known by You?
Called by You?
Loved by You?
Give me Your perspective that sees and weighs
what is truly important
I have no control here.
No plan.
Help me trust to Your unfolding.
What will You make?
Give me curiosity, give me wonder, give me You
so that I might never feel alone.

Talitha Fraser

On salvation

IMAG0151

I am sitting in the local supermarket collecting for Red Shield Appeal. A pensioner has just given generously and thanks me for my generosity taking the time to sit there.

“I don’t like people… I love people.
We need to support each other… I believe this… be there for each other.
Salvation?? I give for this Salvation…”

I come home and look up the word “salvation”.

From the latin salvatio – being saved or protected from harm or being saved or delivered from some dire situation.

Imagine for a moment an army, a large number of people, committed to saving and protecting people from harm, an army of people committed to saving and protecting those who find themselves in some dire situation… religion aside – that still might be something to believe in.

I might sometimes worry that collecting takes me away from my core work – it is good to have this reminder that it provides an opportunity for others to participate in it.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 370 other followers