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Port Arthur memorial garden, by Michael Rawle / Flickr.com

This article was published on the Sojourners blog 15/12/2015 .

“Death has taken its toll. / Some pain knows no release / but the knowledge / of brave compassion / shines like a pool of peace.”

 

These words are engraved on the memorial pond at the Port Arthur mass shooting site in Australia. Nearby, a wooden cross is inscribed with the names of the 35 men, women, and children who died here. In contrast, a brochure at hand provides a simple explanation of what occurred in this place; it notably does not name the gunman. 1996: Australia’s last mass gun death.

 

After any traumatic event we ask ourselves, “What saves the next person from what has happened to me? How can I make sure no one sees what I have seen? Goes through what I have gone through?”… as bereaved, survivor, emergency responder, community member, minister.

 

Glenn Cumbers became an ordained minister of the local Church of Christ a mere six weeks before the Port Arthur massacre. The morning service was over and he was enjoying lunch at a home nearby when the sounds of shooting were heard. He and his companions were among the first responders. In the days that followed, the church was open 24 hours for anybody to come for prayer or to feel a bit of peace and quiet. There was ministering to the community and leading memorial services, private and public, as well as advocacy urging gun owners to act in the national interest: “We ask that the minority be willing to forgo their short-term wants for the long-term good of Australia.”

 

It is not insignificant to have all the Federal, States and Territories Parliaments of Australia pass one universal law. There was lobbying by many parties after the 1987 Queen Street massacre and the 1991 Strathfield massacre.

 

As Australians, we are not so many generations removed from penal colony settlement or “subduing the natives” (those were massacres, too, it warrants mentioning) that saw an “every man for himself” attitude become culturally embedded. But the 1996 massacre in Port Arthur saw a tipping point where the law was far behind popular opinion.

When changes to gun laws were first proposed, the member churches of the National Council of Churches welcomed the initiative and urged government to agree on and pass the legislation. 

right:  Minutes of The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA), Friday 12 July 1996

 

The New South Wales Farmers Association, with its high rate of gun owners, also gave its support for a total ban on semiautomatics firearms. And proving that you can have our guns but not our sense of humour, NSW Farmers pointed out that with reforming gun laws Australians will still be able to bear arms, such as: bolt-action, centre-fire military rifles; lever-action, centre-fire sporting rifles; pump-action, centre-fire sporting rifles; rim-fire rifles with bolt, lever or pump actions, and double-barrelled shotguns. Further, a farmer commented, “If a shooter cannot knock down a fox with one of the weapons I have mentioned, the solution is not a semiautomatic firearm but an ophthalmologist with a centre-fire laser or, alternatively, a return to basic training.”

 

No one was taking our guns — we were giving them up. The gun control question should not be prefaced by what you have to lose, but by what you have to gain.

 

Glenn Cumbers left the church in 2004. He could no longer work as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder that had not been supported. Pouring himself out to the community and addressing their healing was his job, but who was healing the healer? In 2008, Stephen Robinson published a practical guidebook called Ministry in Disaster Settings: Lessons from the Edge that investigates the experiences of ministers, like Cumbers, who have been on the ground for some of the worst disasters of Australian history. Cumbers says, “I found that book was really the first step on the long journey of healing for me.”

 

We always ask: What saves the next person from what happened to me? What does brave compassion look like where you are? I don’t know. But I do know that if I had a gun, I would say to any family touched by gun violence: “I cannot do much, but if the world is a better place with just one less gun, have mine.”

 

In the words of former Australia Premier Barrie Unsworth, who lost re-election in 1991 advocating for stronger gun law, “It is not too late to do something positive.”

 

by Talitha Fraser

You are the reason

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You are the reason

for all that I am

You are the inspiration

and imagination that

makes the world new

You are the hope that

makes light where

light should not be but is

You are the grace that

heals our wholeness

filling and forming

You are the source

of such beauty it is our

hearts hurt and gladness

at the same time.

You are.

You are.

 

Talitha Fraser

Reframing narrative

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On living

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listen to me

trying to explain myself

to You who knows me

through and through

I speak aloud,

can You hear me?

Yes, and I need to

hear myself

in the echoing silence

gun-gunh, a beat

gun-gunh, a hearts beat

gun-gunh, gun-gunh

you have to live into the answers

 

 

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there are my ideas

then my reality

there are my intentions

then my reality

there are my ideals

then my reality

I live my life falling short

falling

I live my life

my short life

falling

I live.

 

Talitha Fraser

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Christmas: A story about a Middle East family seeking refuge.

Tonight we will share together time singing carols and at contemplative stations that invite us to engage in reflection around and respond to this Christmas message. We will reflect on ideas of welcome, hospitality, divinity and explore those gifts extended to us in those advent ideas of hope, joy, peace and love in our troubled times.

Prayer stations are essentially several points of “focus” that invite you to encounter God in some way. You can spend all your time at one or make your way around several, or all of them, as you like – spending as much or as little time at each of them as you like. They are not in any special order.

This space is for silent, personal reflection. Each station generally has something to read and something to do that invites you to respond to what you have read, such as lighting a candle.

Using the charming children’s story by Mem Fox called Wombat Divine, we look at the roles that we are called to play in this Story we all participate in. What role can you play?

 

As we receive cards from distant friends and family, and our papers and social media are filled with what might be deemed bad news, it can be hard to know how to respond – let’s take a moment to hang those words, phrases and images that feel meaningful, for ourselves, our neighbours, our country, our world. What has been weighing on you lately?

 

At the set table we can “meet” some of those guests who show up in Luke’s narrative of the nativity – relatives, shepherds, angels… These guests are interspersed with images from the recent Beyond Borders photo exhibition documenting unique stories of asylum seekers and refugees.  How do you respond to unexpected guests?

 

We come together for more carols by the nativity scene in the Chapel when there is an opportunity to make a gift in support of the work of the staff and patients at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, the only hospital serving the 1.4 million population of Palestinians living in the violence-devastated Gaza Strip.  Hope where there is seemingly no hope.  An image of a mother and her child in juxtaposition to the nativity.

 

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love is born

Leunig

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Today we shared lunch, laughs and beautiful food with people that we love. We gave everyone a gift hamper of love. The Yarrambat House Church community once again serving us a beautiful Christmas lunch.

 

advent prayer

prayer by Bron Hayward

Joy: Advent 2015

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The Joy Of Little Things

by Robert William Service

It’s good the great green earth to roam,
Where sights of awe the soul inspire;
But oh, it’s best, the coming home,
The crackle of one’s own hearth-fire!
You’ve hob-nobbed with the solemn Past;
You’ve seen the pageantry of kings;
Yet oh, how sweet to gain at last
The peace and rest of Little Things!

Perhaps you’re counted with the Great;
You strain and strive with mighty men;
Your hand is on the helm of State;
Colossus-like you stride .
.
.
and then
There comes a pause, a shining hour,
A dog that leaps, a hand that clings:
O Titan, turn from pomp and power;
Give all your heart to Little Things.

Go couch you childwise in the grass,
Believing it’s some jungle strange,
Where mighty monsters peer and pass,
Where beetles roam and spiders range.

‘Mid gloom and gleam of leaf and blade,
What dragons rasp their painted wings!
O magic world of shine and shade!
O beauty land of Little Things!

I sometimes wonder, after all,
Amid this tangled web of fate,
If what is great may not be small,
And what is small may not be great.

So wondering I go my way,
Yet in my heart contentment sings .
.
.

O may I ever see, I pray,
God’s grace and love in Little Things.

So give to me, I only beg,
A little roof to call my own,
A little cider in the keg,
A little meat upon the bone;
A little garden by the sea,
A little boat that dips and swings .
.
.

Take wealth, take fame, but leave to me,
O Lord of Life, just Little Things.

 


 

And we had a backyard concert with Mezz Coleman – harmony in our hearts and in our home…

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The most significant religious events recounted in the Bible do not occur in ‘temples made with hands.’ The most important religion in that book is unorganized and is sometimes profoundly disruptive of organization. From Abraham to Jesus, the most important people are not priests but shepherds, soldiers, property owners, workers, housewives, queens and kings, manservants and maidservants, fishermen, prisoners, whores, even bureaucrats. The great visionary encounters did not take place in temples but in sheep pastures, in the desert, in the wilderness, on mountains, on the shores of rivers and the sea, in the middle of the sea, in prisons…. Religion, according to this view, is less to be celebrated in rituals than practiced in the world.

 

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In moving house I have a new route to walk to the train station, to work, to the shops…this is the word on the street…

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