Tag Archive: church


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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Elizabeth Boase

Came up with the topic of this session/panel through an open process of listening… counter-cultural and subversive. How can our medium be our message?

Katherine Massam

“If you persist in your efforts to influence the official church, to become part of its decision-making, you will only break your heart and lose hope. What you must do is go around to the back and CREATE A GARDEN. Some day they will look out and see its beauty and marvel at its life.” – Anne Thurston

See the reality. Patriarchy is real. We can become socialised and complicit. Benefit ourselves from the patriarchal system. It is a personal (individual) and systemic (collective) task to change this. Need to create a new ecosystem that’s collaborative. The top-down systems are easier, faster, feel more efficient… than being collaborative, must choose not to want to replicate or reinforce existing structures.

God comes to us disguised as our lives. #mystics #incarnation.

We must reflect on our experience.  While this can be seen as “pooling our ignorance” or becoming “stuck”. Transformative education should see everyone in the room learning. Teachers and student.

Ref: Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Freire

Ref: “Aint I a Woman?” speech by Sojourner Truth

4 touchstones:

  • experience, shared
  • reflection, deepended
  • faith, expressed
  • insights, reinforced

Stand and stretch: Open posture = strength and confidence, closed posture = stress.

Tania Wittwer

As a member of committees or commissions work to have more female members.  Not merely top-down leadership but appeal and create opportunities for mediation and consensus decision-making. Create sub/small working groups as an opportunity to develop trust. Coach and support up and sideways. Whiteboard ALL the ideas, then ask: What’s worth fighting over? Headship/submission >> connection to domestic violence.

Deidre Palmer

As a young adult participated in life-giving community and unjust structures.

Ref: In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins – Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

Ref: The Church and the Power of the Spirit – Jurgen Moltmann

Church as a liberation community. Non-hierarchal. Acknowledge. Affirm. Name power balances. Job titles reflect the role your play, NOT status.

Changes forged out of pain.Movement of the Holy Spirit, moves toward equality. Apart from and despite the church. Need to partner, be active learners and work with God to mend Creation. Justice is integral to the gospel.  The political is personal. We must raise up those whose voices have been silenced or diminished.

In the Uniting Church, the power is shaped by Councils – not individual but collective.  Rotating and reviewed leadership.  There has been a resistance to structures… making decisions as ‘synods’ and ‘assemblies’ instead of small groups, power-concentrated and speaking for others. There is a commitment to keep our foundations broad and have full participation. Individual voices and gifts are affirmed within the collective.

Look around and ask: where are the places and spaces where things are working well now? What makes them different? How do you resist? What does formation look like there?

In-table discussions: We extend the metaphor – first woman makes a garden (outside patriarchal systems), second woman dwells in the house trying to renovate it while it’s inhabited (working within patriarchal systems) third woman describes open-plan design with indoor/outdoor flow (something that combines both elements)… sometimes easier to know what your role is, to resist/advocate/speak-up when working within the patriarchal system.

 

Poem: I put my piece of truth – Talitha Fraser

 

People of Colour @ Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies – Seforosa Carroll

Yesterday there was a separate gathering for Aboriginal and those identifying as People of Colour.  Acknowledge the paradox of this: the need to have a gathering separate from this one (not participating) and being allowed to gather separately (so valued that this is resourced however is needed).

Last year was the inaugural gathering of this group and there were perhaps 3 POK here. This year that is more like 20. Want to acknowledge what has gone into that increase. While there is interest in our theologies and our feminist theologies – this is not the platform where we can discern what that is for us – we want other space.  We want to encourage and mentor POK women to do papers.  We think our creativity and cultural epistemology have something to contribute. We want to do our own work to grow, to develop our confidence and voice… down the track we hope to then be able to share that in this space. To come together and find comfort en masse.

We each have a uniqueness in God – that uniqueness celebrates and glorifies God. We don’t meet separately to ‘keep ourselves apart’ but to move from what is common to what we can say about our difference – in this way we can learn from each other and keep our identity – Adele Ventris

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Africana Womanist Theology: A Hermeneutic of Suspicion and Hope – Rev. Cynthia Wilson

The marginalised bring their hermeneutic to their marginalised space.

Born in New Orleans: black, woman, pastors kid, one of six children (only girl). Had to figure it out for myself.  This was in some ways insulated because my brothers and father were protective but I feared for the men’s lives daily in the bayou and cypress trees where black bodies swung.  I sang because I wanted to cry out for life for my brothers.  The dark cloud hanging overhead was overcome through song… Holy Ghost will not descend without a song.  African proverb: When you sing, you pray twice.

  1. Womanist Theology confronts the demons of race, womanhood, and political capital that ravage the lives and spaces of Black women. At the same time, it vigorously affirms their God-likeness.
  2. Womanist Theology acknowledges, affirms and critiques the attributes of their faith community, the church and beyond.
  3. Womanist Theology seeks to call into question forces that suppress Black women’s voices while investigating certain epistemological presuppositions.
  4. Womanist Theology interrogates the theology of Black males, replacing it with more inclusive, liberating reconstruction of knowledge and authority.
  5. Womanist Theology utilizes an anthropological and dialogical method utilizing the following sources: personal narratives, domestic violence, psychological trauma, womanist ethnography, and syncretistic religiosity, real life stories of poor/Africana women, and other women of colour throughout the world.
  6. Womanist Theology turns up the volume of voices that are illiterate, economically deprived, that hold the environment in high regard, and that are typically ignored by this 21st century capitalist world.
  7. Womanist Theology re-kindles AND validates Africana women ancestors through Ritual “Re”-membrance.

UBUNTU “I am because you are.”

SAWABONO “I see you.”

Personal pronouns don’t function he/she, me/you but are grounded in the universal “we”.

Eschatological hope, although sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened, “my heart says yes and my feet say Go!“…someday we will be the free people we were created to be.

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Veiled Resistance: The Cognitive Dissonance of Vision in Genesis 38 – Carolyn Alsen

Helpful if you read Psalm 38 for context

Wearing a veil is seen as touching on two issues gender domination/headship and ethnicity. Wearing a veil is carrying these dual layers and wearers are doubly ‘colonised’. Who is the ‘ideal reader’ that Genesis 38 is written for? …white, Israelite, male?

Tamar, through choosing her clothes, can identify as “foreign woman” or “Israelite woman” and as widowed or prostitute.  There are social and cultural norms about how she is seen and not seen according to what she is wearing. Reading through the passage: who sees and doesn’t see her? In this story Tamar employs the conforming veil as an act of resistance.

Woman using perceptions of the veil as a weapons is still happening now > suicide bombers in Nigeria.

To wear a veil meant you were upper-class and married. If you wore them when you weren’t these things > punishable offence.

The Bible mistranslates “temple officiates” as “temple prostitutes”

zonar (gendered) social position of women (or subordinated men) when they sell sex.

hatas’if, veil (non-gendered) take off, wrap up, cover, put on.

Is it to be punished for the wrong use? Or is it normative use?
Licit – accepted socially but not morally vs. deviant.

        Remove widows garments :: have meeting in veil :: put on widows garments again.
could get in trouble
(tribe)

what is seen and not seen?
‘gaze’ and ‘identity’

– what is going on between how others see Tamar and how she sees herself?

Law-keeping ?          Law-breaking?
Israelite?                    Canaanite?
Solidarity/priest       Othering “zonah” fetishcised

Unresolvable.  Ambiguity of identity contrasted with public visibility.

Hera and Judah have different opinions of Tamar – who’s right or who’s wrong? Is Tamar both?

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“Because of the Angels”: The Unveiling of Women and the Body Politic – Sally Douglas

Helpful if you read 1 Cor 11:1-10 for context

Paul gives three reasons why women should have their heads covered:

  • inferiority
  • cultural norms
  • “because of the angels”

“The angels” refers here to those evil angels fallen from the Heavenly Court who rape and wreak havoc. (Gal 1:8) Enochian angels fell from heaven for women “going to them”. The consequences of this rape ruined men, women and the earth… > gave birth to giants >responsible for evil in the world. Killed in the Flood but spirits stay on the earth. Rise up against women and children because they come from them >>climate change.

Veiling is a source of conflict.

Try saying it’s down to individual choice but that seems insufficient. Still perceived that it stops a woman’s flourishing and personhood. The “malevolent constructed male gaze” exists to the detriment of women AND men. As objects of male desire we can reduce the risk from male gaze by altering our dress/wearing veil.

Irony – genital mutilation – advocate in the east but it’s happening in the west.

Commodity either way.  A woman might well feel liberated by wearing a veil or genital mutilation, not arguing that, but dehumanising malevolent constructed male gaze needs to be named and called out. What might safe-guard women now?

If the gaze of Christ is given precedence. Not the white skin, blue eyed, blond, pretty Jesus but the One, Cosmic, Sophia… that nourishes. 2 Cor 3: Veiling and unveiling of Moses. Collective language, shared experience and ongoing.

13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3)

2 Cor 4: Mystical gaze of Jesus, we are gazed upon, encounter Divine, are changed.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ…. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The same lens through which we see God, each other and ourselves can give us freedom. In this gaze we can be liberated from the power of all other gazes. There is an invitation and provocation in that.
We are given a choice – not controlled or influenced by nor in resistance to. We are all beloved subjects of the Divine.

Exorcism is for victims.  Not much about evil spirits in the Old Testament but then in the New Testament – boom!

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Hillary, Shame and Psalm 71 – Michelle Eastwood

Hillary Rodham Clinton 1975 m. Bill Clinton, 1980 had daughter Chelsea, 1993 First Lady.
BA and Yale Law.  Awarded “Most Admired Woman” 20 times altogether and 14 years in a row.

Moses vs. Aaron and Miriam – cloud makes, only, Miriam leprous. Only woman is affected. Author trying to minimise her leadership.

Abortion reduces both maternal and infant mortality. Hillary grilled for her position. Evangelical Christian Right’s perception is that bible gender roles are under attack (by feminists for their own power and glory), values compromised, slippery slope to decline of the world as we know it.

Bill’s infidelity held against Hillary… didn’t handle it well, misogyny, sexism…

Helpful if you read Psalm 71 for context

Psalm 71 is a song of lament and a cry for justice.  Women are shamed a lot in the Bible.  In this passage shame is shifted to dealers. v7 I have been a portent (faithfulness) v18 grey hairs (Hillary still stands, a testament to those who have tried to shame her). The shame is not destroyed but displaced. Evangelical Christian Right their own undoing > Trump. In the gospels Jesus is shamed – a sense we become more godly through experiencing shame.

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Ethnic church:

  • challenges for the younger generation
  • parents history
  • ethnic culture and values
  • links to culture and religion
  • evangelism and discipleship approach – believe need to be saved rather than a gracious understanding of faith and relationship with God
  • parents acculturation response
  • younger generation’s experiences with culture, identity and belonging

What was/is your experience of ethnic church or the first time you experienced being it as ‘different’?

~ Confucius quotes ~ learning memory verses ~ emphasis on listening to your elders (honour your mother and father) ~ formal dress = not refugees, we will dress well to reflect our new status ~ a successful look synonymous with a Western look ~ In India we would dress nicely for church but here in Australia no, I’m daggy when I go back! ~ 

Berry’s Acculturation Model

In transition between old culture to new people will typically have one of 4 main responses:


Marginalisation {not identifying with the host culture}

Assimilation {absorbed into the new culture}

Integration {previous culture maintained and participate in the new culture}

Separation {previous culture maintained and new culture rejected}


This is frequently a zero-sum game – how do we forge new opportunities?

When did you first experience race?

~ moving from one country to another: Philippines to India, then to Oz ~ excursion protocol – don’t know what’s happening (have to learn) ~ sports team – they wouldn’t pass the ball to me ~ not around coloured people until Uni, grew up in a white neighbourhood ~ First day of Year 1, got asked: “Where are you from?” …I was born in this town, I’d never had a sense of being from somewhere else! ~ Broke up with my boyfriend and got called “Ching chong” and told to “go back to where you came from” ~

What is race?

  1. Arbitrary system of classification
  2. Hierarchal system (superior and inferior)
  3. Naturalise and make the system the norm, make invisible the effects e.g. denial of rights, wealth and resource distribution

Transmission of these ideas about race occur in representation and are reiterated until ‘race’ becomes  realities. eg. if pen (object) and writing (concept) communicated through language – the pen (signifier) therefore the meaning becomes attached to the object.

Media perpetuates these myths/representations e.g Vietnamese community treating international students badly that work in their restaurants, Vietnamese community wasn’t consulted or invited to speak to the issue > don’t get to choose the story that gets told about our community.

Who do you identify as?

 ~ I call myself second generation Korean but I don’t like it when others do it (bring what they think that means) ~ pass… Australian… Child of God ~ Child of God first, Vietnamese and Australian ~ NZ European/Pakeha and Maori (Ngai Tahu) claim this when it feels like it’s a benefit eg. Maori electoral roll >representation in NZ Parliament but not to claim/take anything ~ Indian-Australian (rejection of Indian culture, don’t know enough about culture & history) ~ Australian/Filipino – never one or the other ~

Ref: The Whiteness Project (youtube)

Ref: Race the Power of an Illusion (documentary)

Johann Blumenbach came up with the categories:

Caucasian – white
Mongolian – yellow
Malayan – brown
Ethiopian – black

Rev James Black Roland: “Let us keep before us the noble ideal of white Australia, a snow white if you will. Let us be pure and spotless.”

How does ‘whiteness’ function in your life? (personally, professionally, at church…?)

~ my workplace, need representation of other people of colour on the Council ~ white, straight hair, feminine = beautiful. Tried to be something I’m not eg. Jonah from Tonga show ~ Safest I’ve ever been. Can figure out what “Indian” means for me ~feel the poverty of being ‘stuck’ with white people – established systems and processes both at work and in community ~ Party culture – don’t fit in. Assimilated Asians treat me badly. Need to be funny, out-spoken, tell stories… church is accommodating > understand each others brokenness. Asian guy – Maths or The Hangover archetypes ~ “If you want to be competitive with white people you need to overachieve” (YES from the group) became my coping mechanism.  Colonised at home/church, assume you’re assimilated and it’s used against you.  Have learnt now to feel more comfortable there (white space than I do within my own cultural community). Jarring moments of being brought to awareness of your non-whiteness eg. insult calling based on colour (school had felt like safe space until then) ~

Operating across a lot of levels: personal/institutional/systemic…
how do we develop racial literacy?

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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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On the weekend of 24-25 September Whitley College hosted a conference called Constitutions and Treaties: Law, Justice, Spirituality – these are notes from session 6 of 9. We acknowledge that this gathering, listening and learning occurred of the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations and offer our respects to their elders past and present, and all visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island visitors present.

 

“Wrongs to Rights”

i ways we talk about sovereignty

ii Treaty

iii acts of resistance

iv identity of the church

 

WAYS WE TALK ABOUT SOVEREIGNTY

Ask what does it mean for the identity of the church to recognise First People? Always about wealth: land, labour, wealth… when talking of treaty/constitutions always become justifying narratives. We cannot ignore the material component.

 Sovereignty? People aren’t sure about what the word means.

Confuses meaning when indigenous people are asking for it.

Rights and claims continuously negotiated e.g. human rights (allows some limits/accountability)

Four themes:

i ‘external’ or ‘internal’ authority. Boats vs. states/federal government.

ii power of institutions or powers of people

iii be sorted out legally or negotiated politically e.g. State of Victoria negotiating a Treaty.

iv sovereignty is capable of being shared > not absolute (Pakeha and Maori)

 

  1. separate and independent nation
  2. starting point to achieve rights and social inclusion
  3. authority inherent in them as individuals and as a people

 

Assertion: sovereignty reframing ongoing negotiating of claims in the community > nature of our settlement and how they live here.

Not disadvantage or reparations but ‘ancestral occupation’.  Not a gift of ours to give.

Recognises First People are a people with their own culture, land, language… have inherent rights.  Opens up a new negotiation for settlement.


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TREATY

‘shared house’ analogy… if you move in to a share house together there are rules – have to pay your share of rent, food, utilities… if some random moves in and uses everything. Eventually someone will say, we were here first – pay the board or move out.  There is a need to recognise our sovereignty.



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ACT OF RESISTANCE

Narrative of explanation (public ideology that justifies current system e.g. invisible). Can’t critique publicly. Another narrative told in private places.

Did Jesus tell stories in public areas – in ways that didn’t threaten powers (used language and metaphors they didn’t understand) but reaches ‘those with ears to hear’. [hidden transcript]

Worth doing things people don’t understand – not taken seriously by Government but gives hope to those in the know.

What are you trying to fit into?


 

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ISSUES FACING CHURCH

i   church needs to weigh in on issue of sovereignty

ii   church came in with the invaders – there is an existing sacred relationship with the land (invite us to share that story)

iii   church needs to confront issues of land and reparation – material reparation (Zacharius)

iv   recognition challenges ideas of how we speak of faith and salvation.  Creation/sinned message makes indigenous relationship to land (sinful) need salvation/assimilation of this idea into church à trusted. Make it personal…

How does recognition of indigenous people alter my understanding of gospels?

Understand gospels in relation to /context of existing indigenous relationship to land not politicising the gospels with a liberation theology that retrospectively tries to make sense of that, this is not “special interest group theology” (black, feminist, etc.)

v   churches places within or on invading community is to be interpreted theologically .

vi   what does this mean for the structures of church and relationships?

vii   still a need to hear and honour history as a foundation for present and future relationships… own/confess/change it…

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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?

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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

 

 

 

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Apologies for my bitsy notes my hand wasn’t keeping up very well! Premise is this: What if our experience of the declining position and viability of the Western Church were good news?  What if the confusion, failure, and ‘lost-ness’ of this ecclesial ‘dark night’ could be inhabited as a space where new ways of being church and of engaging the needs of the world might be revealed and lived into?  This lecture will explore how the practice of contemplation might enable us to embrace rather than resist this experience, reconnect with the gospel dynamic of death and resurrection, and also be renewed for participation in divine liturgy, mission and justice.

photo source: http://www.eremos.org.au

Late 20th century saw a resurgence of contemplative practice, Merton, Keating, John Main – disciplined practice of silent prayer – waiting on God in deepening receptivity.

Not our own thoughts, even spiritual ones.  Contemplative practice is healing for our culture – slowness, connectedness, way/method of prayer – grow into a personal relationship with God. Mystic = personal experience of God.  Not a passing emotional state or passed down from leaders.  In meditation we verify the truths of our own faith.  What can mediation offer to the whole church body?  Reconnects to gospel death and resurrection – engaging the decline and disorientation.  “Emptiness” in he life of faith.  Meditation – laying aside thought and waiting on God – demanding practice.  Planning, worrying, daydreaming… need to lay aside self-consciousness itself.  Thoughts carry egoic identification with it.  Deep subversion of the self.  It takes nerve to become quiet.  Radical self-forgetting.  Described by Cassian – “complete simplicity that demands not less than everything”;  Buddhist – “eye that sees everything but not itself”;  Main – “hand yourself over and hold nothing back, become self-dispossessed so as to receive our life back as a gift”.  Experienced differently as individuals, how will it be experienced as a church?  Jesus gives self to God.  We claim vocation to be like Christ.  Church won’t give it’s life/identity over – seeks to secure its identity – doesn’t like questions or change.  Fails to realise the transformation it proclaims.  What does ecclesial emptying look like?

liturgy

In ‘Writing the Icon of the Heart’, Ross describes being on a boat surrounded by icebergs and glaciers “stupefied by glory” – went to do communion.  Inadequate to where they were. Cup and wine were an intrusion.  Would have been okay if reached for our hands in silence or to pass elements but no, pulled out the book and started to read the words I usually loved. Words that shrank rather than grew…Distraction.  Not illuminating.  Need to get in touch with alienation…  playacting.  Not in touch with God, or my sin, or grace – went home frustrated.

Liturgy needs to point beyond itself, not be – or try to make itself – at the centre.  Needs to emerge from deep listening and pre-packaged agenda is IN the way not OPENING up a way.  our lives are already sacred and liturgy tries to remind us of that (doesn’t give us/make us sacred).

Words affect who we are and our becoming – affect our formation.  Liturgy can’t be an end to itself.  Must be willing to talk about self-dispossession and be willing to be dispossessed… not more relevant or ‘contemporary’ – a liturgy will be effective only insofar as it effaces itself.  Every true sign must be self-effacing.  Must start in silence and be listening and responding to what is given.

mission

does your church have meetings about getting new people to come and how to make them stay?  do we extend good hospitality?  is our community growing?  sustaining? are we seen as welcoming? are we living up to our own idea of how welcoming we are?  Genuine desire to do justice and be justified (confirmed we’re doing the right thing). Self-referencing and self-conscious… self-centred instead of “just”.

Genuine desire to welcome, but also desire to be ‘seen’ as “most inclusive parish” >> this is death dealing.  Reassured not to see identity as “good”,  give ourselves wholly, handing over ecclesial consciousness instead of wondering how we’re doing it >> get on with it.

Other experiences of Benedictus:

Community made up of secondary teachers (high needs students: drugs), climate change scientists, paediatrician, counsellors, lawyers, healthcare workers… don’t want to take energy from their vocation.  Encourage and resource them to do the good work they are already called to… church might not “socially engaged”.  Freedom, integrity and passion to love.

Encourage formation in contemplative ways – engage the world in different ways.  Reflective peer groups.  Signs of life and new ways of being.  Relate to unhelpful patterns with awareness.  “Why do I have this conversation with my mother every time…” , complaints about work but not making change… structured formation, how can you be liberated?  Church calls us to this.   Formation… in God’s work in the world, lay formation/lay ministry… not calling people into church building but equipping and sending out.  Take these vocations as seriously as it takes its own.  Can the church serve people as they serve the world?  Not a church trying to preserve its own place and identity.  But one that consents to its own self-effacement – we might not know if this group makes a different in individuals visiting once or regulars going back to their work… we might never know.  Faithful communities point away from themselves.  Well-meaning/patronising/complacent when needing the accolade of knowing the difference its making.  Church needs to be faithful to its own vocation, as it discerns.

There is still gender related injustice.  Anglican delegation of women in ministry “keep agitating”, lots of energy but little progress.  Agitating a sign of false spirit.  Agitating is a block to healing – avoiding what was necessary.  Stop.  Risk being fully present to the worlds pain and our response to it… discern your response out of that.  Social action… not saying ‘do nothing’ but Rowan Williams ‘internal contemplation, makes space for truth, for Gods’s reality to come through.’

Depth, broken openness required of us as individuals and communities.  Transformation of imagination and relationships – climate change, reconciliation with indigenous, gender… need to become aware of what we resist and fear.  Let our hearts break open to receive larger vision.  UN: St George slaying the dragon/Isaiah weapons to ploughshares… Leunig does this through prophetic invitation that inspires a bigger imagination.

what can we do?

Prayer of the heart: poverty/listening.  Formation/contemplative action.  Gift of our present ecclesial circumstances (moments of unintentional contemplation – moment of truth/revelation, stripped of illusion) inner alien and unsettling truth.  Discovering ourselves to be less than we thought.  Inadequacies.  Deprived of familiar comforts – social status, political power… running on empty.  Stave off descent into emptiness.  What if rather than resisting we embrace the empty space?  Disciples – didn’t know what they were hoping for.  Poverty o spirit – reaching of our boundaries of being (can’t go on by ourselves) – made bigger.  Be with broken-heartedness and poverty… live into the gift of new and expanded life.  Not all at once… but little bits.

Need to be adequate to depths of worlds need, let go of limiting identity – let ourselves go – fall empty-handed into the hands of the living God.  Follow Jesus into depth of death and chaos.

 Become uncreated to be created.  Broken to be a blessing to all.

Anabaptist/Quaker traditions haven’t had the identity/power in the same ways – what can these traditions offer us?  Still need to be accountable to self.  Still ways to manipulate e.g. silence can be wielded to mean something.  Is the leader and the liturgy connected to deep ground?  Not about individual preference/styles or arguing against communal worship.  Sign is the vehicle that takes us to the encounter.

The church has no place of its own to secure and no need to be defensive.