016sml[Earlier this year I had the great privilege and profoundly impacting experience of attending the BCM Kinsler Institute in Oak View, California – a.k.a a clusterfest: part birthday party, part conference, part church, part action planning meeting… – it’s worth noting that I can/am only speaking to my own notes from those sessions I attended and there were generally 5-6 options for every devotional and workshop spot so this is not conclusive coverage and the mistakes are my own. If you’re interested in this kind of reading there’s many more resources, articles and stories at the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (BCM) and Radical Discipleship websites]


Bible study: “Jesus, Disciple of the Kingdom” – Ched Myers

Mark 1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan

This is our introduction to Jesus in Mark, Nazareth is so small and insignificant that it’s not mentioned anywhere other than the New Testament – a marginal village at the margins of the country. Based on the outreaches of Sepharus (the admin base of Rome)… what was it known for other that being the birth place of Jesus? The Sepharus uprising. The Romans crushed Sepharus and enslaved everyone. Nazareth is only 4 miles from Sepharus and Jesus would have been 10 years old when this happened. Jesus and his Dad were techtons (labourers, 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.

Of all the people Jesus could have gone to he went to John the Baptist. Calling for change. Peripheral/wilderness. Wildman. Elijah. Spoke truth to power – defending people whose land was being taken by the King. Jesus discipled in a deep tradition.

He was apprenticing himself to the peripheral
radical edge of his own tradition.

Mark doesn’t do genealogy but what ‘testimony’ is it giving us? Traditionally and consciously apprenticing to? (Mark written during the uprising to overthrow the Romans 30-40 years after Jesus was killed) The authors wanted to frame their ‘call’ drawing on the narrative weight of the example of Jesus.

Who are we apprenticed to? [BCM – Martin Luther King}

What does the kingdom of God mean?

The true king of the world is God, that’s who we’re called to follow, to penultimately obey – no one else is higher (conflictive political statement, no empire likes to hear that)

We are disciples of someone who was himself a member of this anti-kingship.

Jesus had dark nights of the soul – watching Sepharus burn, seeing his Dad going to work building empire…

The kingdom of God is imminent, it is here – first sermon of Jesus.

Worship: Rev Robert Two Bulls – Lokota Taize

Profoundly moving to sing together a Taize song in the Lokota language.  I could not capture it but here is a link to an article written by Rob in Sojourners about writing the chants… what would it mean to us here in the South Pacific to have Wurundjeri… all Kulin Nations, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands language taize chants?

Preacher: Rev Arthur Cribbs

Isaiah 61 The Spirit of God is upon me

Mayra 11016722_10153155574714715_3033034683319964493_n (1)

Jesus in the temple, those words are fulfilled in me today. Challenge on us to say/claim this for ourselves… people are treating people like they don’t matter. Reach out right now and touch someone else, reach those further away, reach those not here… every person is sacred across all borders. Are these words prophetic or historic? The Spirit of what is on who? We need to understand the importance of God’s presence with us.

Ethics for police officers (e.g. treatment of suspects on arrest), ask: “What do you do when you’re doing what you think is right, society says its right, law says its right and someone says ‘Ouch’?” …Be who God intended you to be because the world is waiting for YOU.

(photo credit: Mayra Stark)

Plenary Panel: Forty Years of Radical Christian Witness – Rose Berger (Sojourners), Myra Brown (Call to Action, Spiritus Christi,), Tensie Hernandez (Catholic Worker), Joerg Rieger (faith & labour), Steve Clemens (Koinonia Community, Clarence Jordan), Shady Hakim (Christian Peacemaker Teams)

Rev Nelson Johnson (Beloved Community Center, Greensboro) by video conference

Language and words, name and claim, have great meaning. Took us 35 years to get the language right (accident, massacre… murder, assault…) I was exhausted. What gave me faith and meaning was rediscovering my roots. Labour/low wage fights in Greensboro… built community… the community became the union. Can have national implications if you do your job right.

Important to learn the story of your place. [what is the name of the water source in your watershed?] River flowed before and flows after. What we’re doing and what needs to be done. Have to appreciate the context to appreciate what they were doing. Strongest and most enduring movements came from knowing stories of our mothers and fathers. Drill down in a place and then gather in that place – become a foundation – work becomes more powerful. Not heroes but ordinary common people standing up against bureaucracy.

The culture of domination – that will be in the language you use. Sometimes can’t say anything, have to sing it out… poetry… how we understand is important and language is what we have to convey that . Language has to call us together, set direction without making what we’re trying to do matter.

Appreciating the fear and the pain of those affected by social injustice, my parents, hope even though I can’t see it >> gives me courage. Gathering together now, strengthens courage, strength and resistance, mourn with those who mourn… share joy with those who feel joy… become a community and transcend ourselves. Not in the fight for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children.

Lion coming over the hill – climate change. New threat. All bad times >> been connected to others. We need to reconnect with natives who are connected to the earth and creation. Beaten down – think only of immediate survival. Need to bring issue in a way that connects to their reality right now… solar panels on buildings in poorest neighbourhoods – opened up discussion. Community gardens is another example of that. White people need to connect their struggle to others experience >> make connections. “We are hooked into a mutuality” – MLK

Question to the panel: If I’m 18, 25, 33 years old… why/how did the tradition that you’re now with grab you? Give us the biography of the movement history that has changed your life…

Tensie Hernandez (Catholic Worker)

Young. Traditional. Immigrant pious Catholic. Only in passing heard of Ghandi and St Francis. Mid-80s heard word of some nuns getting arrested and wondered… why? Churning heart. Came upon a vigil in downtown LA on Good Friday – wanted to hand out bread from holy Thursday at school to homeless. They held a banner “God died today in Central America” – not St Francis or Mother Teresa but close. Invited me in. Good Catholic, don’t eat Good Friday. Catholic Worker Homeless Soup Kitchen invited me in, “come and eat with us!” I can’t. Fasting. We’re having shrimp. I definitely can’t!   What would Jesus do? Courage to have a living faith. Where are the people and the issues that we choose to live with daily. “You become like that which you are habitually with” – Don Sheats. Be transformed by that.

Steve Clemens (Koinonia Community)

Don Sheats – multimedia values – materialism/competition/militarism vs. cooperation/compassion/non-violence. Ballot number was too high for the war in Vietnam, decided to sign up anyway. Challenged to respond a different way. Koinonia not resistance but calling to be alternative and sustainable.

Myra Brown (Call to Action)

Daughter of migrant farm workers. First four years – oppression – experience shaped me and prepared me to be “caught”. Black Catholic church, 16 years old, asked me to preach and I said “No.” He asked me to pray about it (my Grandmother said, “When God goes silent, that’s it”). I’m black, I’m a woman, Catholic… I said: You open the doors and I’ll trust You and step through them. At 25, heard about Corpus Christi, first time worked with white people that were compassionate and ‘got it’, who worked hard to create safe space. We can’t call you a pastor but we’ll give you a title and you can write your own job description. Launch black civil rights/justice issues and see the fruit of that. Build on that. Worked with me to see what my gifts/callings were.

Shady Hakim (Christian Peacemaker Teams)

Israel/Palestine conflict, people on the ground living gospel restored my faith (1996) 5-6 people living in the conflict zone. Met Ched and Elaine (1998)

Rose Berger (Sojourners)

Mennonites offered land if joined fighting and said no. Married Irish Catholics. Arkansaw – cross burned in their front yard. 4 years old seeing saints and angels. Emergency response card – Nicaragua. I anoint you in honour of Micheldech, kicked out of church – been kicked out of churches with my parents before… picked up a copy of Sojourners – advertised for an internship. Anti-nuclear protest/test site. Lord is there truth to be found here? I wake up and go to work. I hear: “Yes.”

 This festival is about hearing and telling these stories –
stories that have midwived these people,
now they midwive others…

Workshop I:
Resistance & Public Liturgy: Non-violent Direct Action as Gospel Witness

Bill Wylie-Kellerman (St Peter’s Episcopal Church Detroit)

Author of/Further Reading: Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Reflections of Liturgical Direct Action

Worship is categorically political – subverts all other allegiances. Baptism a sacramentum (protest against Caesar). Combined with civil resistance rather than direct action cloaked in piety. Ref: Freedom struggle ‘50s funeral liturgy “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” Emmett Tell addressed a white woman in a store, beaten, Mother insisted on an open casket. Liturgical confrontation. Montgomery bus boycott – Christmas, let’s not go shopping; Birmingham Children’s Crusade, running out of gas, put on jeans and walked – Good Friday; MLK arrested, wrote letter from jail – Easter Sunday. During the Freedom Struggle church was the place you went out from, sang songs and shared worship… by the time you went out the door the dogs and the hoses were already beaten… singing went out into the streets. Liturgical dimension to those directions – trained with Ghandi. Doing service and worship at the same time. Direct action involved both of these things at the same time. Cadenceville, Berrigan brothers – homemade napalm burning files – standing in a circle praying. Stringfellow “politically informed exorcism”.

 Liturgical action
implicates the church

Good Friday – blood
Ash Wednesday – nuclear ash/fires
High feasts like Easter and Pentecost – power/fear of death/bondage of death liturgy and action
Passover – liberation
Beneath the feasts are egrarian – lambing, harvest, earth, turning world… layered with history and politics
Pentecost – first time the disciples act

This is the Gospel pattern we are invited into.

Steve Clemmens (Koinonia Community)

In the year of the election, made a roster, each peace group had a week of public action at the Pentagon. Did a prayer Pilgrimage to the Plantex Plant in Texas in February 1981. 3 days of prayer and discussion prior to the action. Ephesians Ch. 6. Gathered in a circle. Scaling fences in blizzard. When act on faith not fear, faith increases. I had no fear that morning. Reading scripture – on the run, in jail, in exile – a lot of it was written by these people. Became a front page story. Raised questions for a Catholic staff member who asks his priest who asks the Bishop who issues a statement telling them to walk off the job. Would fund people who did that as choice of conscience… 25 years later in 2005 School of America vigil, Centre for Global Education visit where Romano executed along with Jesuit priests and women. Abu ghraib (treatment of Iraqis in prisons) – enter base to pray in front of school. Never act alone, community “with” me. Gathered two days before trial to discuss, how to bear witness, pray “don’t contest” pro se plea. 3 months in prison. Listened to my fellow inmates. Listening in the belly of the beast. Heshua’s “incarnating our prayers”. Conversation with family of origin. Prayer vigil. Labour Day weekend – bloody handprints (Bill Wylie-Kellerman). Ploughshares > beating swords into Ploughshares. Larry Rosenbaum – retreat to discern action. In community, go around circle and name fear.

Inside: in service of power – get out in service of the action/Holy Spirit. Lit Paschal candle.

Seal on the tomb : cut the fence even though we could’ve climbed under it – resurrection.

Want to write “Christ lives, disarm” in paint but it was snowing. Renewed baptismal vows. Renounce Satan and all his works.Liturgy and location informs things. Did Eucharist at gun point.

“we believe God has already intervened. Breaking in to break out on behalf of humankind. Recognise authority of God,
not of [name who…]
we believe [name what…]
we believe in the meaning of the resurrection
and we’ve come to say so”

Further reading: Catonsville 9 Statement by Daniel Berrigan
Further reading: Tribes of Yahweh – Norman Gottwald

Where is resurrection happening? Move stations every year. Waterboarding > read story of washing feet. Moral conviction – what if people had sat on the tracks in front of trains into Auschwitz?

 Good news is relative to how
willing you are to read the bad news.

Workshop II: The friendship of Berrigan and Stringfellow – Bill Wylie Kellerman

Futher reading: Stringfellow “Instead of Death”; Dorothy Day; Merton “Desert Fathers”; Underground Seminary; Jacques Ellul… “I freaked in” (instead of “I freaked out”); Modern Spiritual Masters series, “Stringfellow: Essential Writings”

Further watching: Hit and Stay: History of Faith and Resistance” (video) – not hit and run but hit and stay >consequences and responsibility.

While the trial was on – festival of life every night. “Death shall have no dominion”
Act of resistance as simple as offering hospitality (hiding Berrigan for c. 6 months)
Paradox: It’s worse than you think it is, you are freer than you think you are… (Stringfellow)


A Statement by Anthony Towne and William Stringfellow of Block Island, Rhode Island, concerning Indictment No. 7709 in the United States District Court for Rhode Island:

Grave charges have been made against us by the public authorities and we have pleaded innocent to those charges because we are innocent. In due course, a jury of our fellow citizens will have opportunity to uphold our innocence and we await their verdict with cheerful expectations.

Daniel Berrigan is our friend. We rejoice in that fact and strive to be worthy of it. Our hospitality to Daniel Berrigan is no crime. At a certain time and in a certain place we did “relieve, receive, comfort and assist” him and we did “offer and give sustenance and lodging” to him. We did not “harbor” or “conceal” him. We did not “hinder” the authorities.

Father Berrigan has and had no need to be concealed. By his own extraordinary vocation, and by the grace of God, he has become one of the conspicuous Christians of these wretched times. We have done what we could do to affirm him in this regard. We categorically deny that we have done anything to conceal him.

We are not disposed to hide what light there is under a bushel.

Our indictment has not happened in a void. We cannot ignore the scene in which such a remarkable event takes place: the manifold and multiplying violence of this society, the alienation between races and generations, the moral fatigue of Americans, the debilitating atmosphere in which citizens become so suspicious and fearful of their own government that they suppose silence is the only safety and conformity the only way to survive.

Because we are innocent, we believe that we would not have been indicted but for the pervasiveness of the spirit of repression which has lately overtaken the nation.

In that respect, we consider that whatever happens to us will in truth be happening to all Americans.

And so, to our fellow citizens, we say:

The violence must end.

All violence must stop.

The vainglorious war in Asia must now cease, but, more than that, the war enterprise must be dismantled and the military predominance in our society must be reversed.

And the violence of political terrorists must end now. Arson, kidnapping, bombing in fact sabotage the social change the nation so pathetically needs, and such tactics are just as wrong and just as futile as the violence of war and racism and repression.

The psychological violence, sometimes officially condoned, by which citizens are accused and impugned without opportunity for appropriate reply and are otherwise harassed, spied upon, frightened or intimidated must be stopped now.

These are all works of death. Only when our country is free of them will it be a society in which men can rejoice as human beings.

We make this statement as our Christmas greeting—especially to Daniel and Philip Berrigan, to all prisoners of conscience, and to all Americans who wish to be free.

William Stringfellow

Anthony Towne

Block Island, Rhode Island

Honouring the Cloud of Witnesses – Susie Henderson Hanson

Memorial Altar Building050copy

Over the time of the conference a space will be set up to go to remember those who have gone before or cannot be here with us. We do this remembering for many reasons:

As an act of resistance to those who want efficiency, to get ‘over it’ quickly

  • Stages of grief
  • Tasks of mourning
  • Reclaim burial ground
  • Institutionalised
  • Indigenous
  • e.g. Cyclers who do a memorial ride every time someone dies riding a bike – laid down their bikes, reclaimed the street, pause traffic.
  • Isaiah 61 – restoration is work done by the mourners, through process of mourning

Beyond reminiscing

  • Cloud of witnesses that came before
  • In the river
  • Stronger
  • Belong in community
  • Gives courage and hope

Go and honour own sense of life. Honour those who have gone before. Cast a net. Tie a prayer tie, write a name, share tobacco… cut or mend or adorn the net – welcome to engage with it – alone or with a friend.

Keynote: Myra Brown and Rev Mary Ramerman (Spiritus Christi Church)

Up above my head I hear freedom/justice/healing/music in the air (x3)
And I really do believe there’s a heaven somewhere

Asked: “Jesus, can I go with You?”

Role of layperson/women in the Catholic church – got in trouble for touching the Eucharist, asked “If it is Jesus, why isn’t it okay for a woman to touch Jesus?”
(photo credit: Mayra Stark)

Mayra 11016722_10153155574714715_3033034683319964493_n (5)>importance to speak from my own voice for what I deeply believe
> cannot make everyone happy

LGBT community: everyone counts, everyone is welcome, sharing night once a week.

2 Hands – one extending welcome, one outstretched to poor.

3000 people at the church. 1000 met to organise/advocate to save Corpus Christi. You can cut back the flowers but you can’t hold back spring.  Corpus Christi (body) > became Spiritus Christi (spirit) } Catholic but inclusive.

God has given a message – we are created in God’s image. Not allowed to be priests mocks this message. How we’re treated at church reinforces the messages of how we are treated at work an at home. Conversation provoked in offices/workplaces around the city and the state > look to the church for leadership. When Matthew Shepherd, a young gay man, was crucified on a cross – the church was silent.

Young man says to a wise man “How do I get to be enlightened like you?”
“Are you willing to be called names, dragged through the mud, vilified until you’re 45?”
“Yes.   …what happens when I turn 45?”
“Oh… you get used to it.”

Became able to say you know what? I don’t deserve that. People are more sacred than the altar. People are gifted with dreams and visions – community is to celebrate that with joy. Ubuntu: I am because we are. Do ministry that does people no harm. Make a decision – participate in my own oppression or stand up for my community. I have been liberated, no one is free until everyone is free… relationships that were there at the start won’t be there at the end and that’s ok.

Our dreams need to be bigger than our fear.

Song – Seth Martin
(tune of Are You Sleeping?)
I know nothing x2
Not a thing x2
Nothing about anything x2
This is good x2