Tag Archive: grief


Lay your burdens down child

IMAG0913 copy

At the beach this week I found myself writing a bit of a song of lament and solace but can see it having several applications perhaps as prayer of confession of self, powers and politics.

Lay your burdens down, burdens down, burdens down child x2

Chorus
I will come to you, come to you, come to you child x2
I will lift you up, lift you up, lift you up child x2

Let your tears fall down, tears fall down, tears fall down child x2

Variations
Lay your:  troubles/darkness/heartbreak/sorrow… down
Lay: what scares you/what’s hurting/what’s broken… down
Lay your: body/spirit/hunger/weapons… down
Lay your: anger/sadness/hatred… down
Lay your: power/whiteness/stigma/baggage…down

 

IMG_5316Site 1: Treaty

In February 2016, 500 Victorian Aboriginal leaders voted to reject constitutional recognition. Instead the group requested that the State Government “resource a treaty process including a framework…  (and) complete collaboration with all Sovereign Peoples and Nations”. In July, a Working Group began talks to work out Australia’s first Treaty with Aboriginal people. It hopes to cover recognition of past injustices; authority held by the 39 First Nation clans in the region; respect for the land, customs and traditions of the First Peoples; land rights and land acquisition funding and fresh water and sea rights.

Progress is being made, yet nationally Arrernte woman Celeste Liddle maintains “We don’t have land rights; we have not received proper reparations for the Stolen Generations nor stolen wages; our sovereignty is yet to be respected and the damage of the false doctrine of terra nullius is yet to be undone”.

Sour wine to dull the pain.

They thirst for justice.

Indigenous Hospitality House IHH Healing Rites walk 2017 teaRite 1: tasting cold tea

We drink this bitter tea today
To taste the bitterness of unkept promises
We drink this bitter tea today
To remember the thirst of Christ on the cross
We drink this bitter tea today and ask
How can we truly recognise our hosts on this stolen land?

IMG_5320

Site 2: the food places

We come to the food places all over the land.  For a long time, Settler peoples have note understood the sophisticated practices of food cultivation of the First Peoples of the land.

Unlike a passive hunter gatherer lifestyle, Aboriginal people across the country sowed, grew, irrigated, preserved and built storehouses. For at least 6600 years at Budj Bim, the Gunditjmara people deliberately manipulated local water flows to engineer a landscape that increased the availability of eels.  Kulin nation people sustainably managed and harvested fields of murnong root.  Others fermented banksia nectar, milled grain and baked bread.

Now there is pre-packaged food imported from far away, polluted with chemicals.  Knowledge of traditional food cultivation has been restricted or devalued or lost. In hospitals people are treated for diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and heart failure, the results of a Western convenience diet. And the advertising say, “Take and eat, this is given for you.”

IMG_5322

Rite 2: plastic bread, sugar water

We eat this bread
To remember the loss of Indigenous agriculture
We drink this soft drink
To taste the loss of living water
We eat this cheap bread
To consider the true cost of our food
We drink this sugar drink
To taste the lure of thinking we know better
We eat and drink a warning, and we ask:
Do we seek a table of nourishment, the bread and water of life?

IMG_5331

Site 3: The Warrigal Creek Massacre

Angus McMillan – the “Founding father or “the Butcher” of Gippsland. He fle Scotland during the Highland Clearances but went on to enact brutal clearances of his own upon his new country. At the time of the European invasion of Gippsland, about 3000 Aboriginal people lived in the area. By 1860, it was less than 250.

The worst massacre was at the Warrigal Creek in 1843, where 80 to 200 members of the Bratowooloong clan were killed by McMillan and the Highland Brigade in revenge for the murder of a single white settler. The Brigade found the clan members camped around the waterhole at Warrigal Creek. They surrounded them and fired into them.  Some escaped into the scrub. Others jumped into the waterole and were shot “until the water was red with blood”. One boy, about 12 years old, was hit in the eye, captured and made to lead the brigade from one camp to another. The piles of bones were hidden in a place known as the valley of the dead.

There is a campaign underway to rename the McMillan electorate in Victoria. Liberal MP Russell Broadbent said, “It would send a message that wwe actually care about these issues and, if we are not responsible to our past… we can’t get on with our future.”

When Kurna man Russell Mullett visits an Aboriginal massacre site, he listens for the birds. “If I get out of the car and the birds are singing, I know it’s alright,” he said.

IMG_5334

Rite 3: black armband

We wear this black armband
Because of grief and shame and horror
We wear this black armband
Because we grieve the killings of the First Peoples
We are ashamed of the violence that still exists today
And the complicity of those who bury the truth
We grieve our failure to give back the land
We cry out with those who defended their country
We wear this black armband and ask:
How will we deal with out unfinished business?

IMG_5345

Site 4: young people in detention

97% of children in juvenile detention centres in the Northern Territory are Indigenous.  Of these, about 60% are in out of home care.

Children are removed when there parents are judged unfit to care for them.  However, in 2016, a program on the abuse of Aboriginal children at the Don Dale juvenile detention facility showed what can happen when the State takes on the role of parent.  Previous investigations had already uncovered incidents of children being tear-gassed while playing cards, having fabric hoods placed over their heads and being deprived of drinking water for 72 hours while in solitary confinement.

The most disadvantaged and troubled young people who offend are pout into the custody of a system with the most confrontational and violent culture.  The default response seems to be to exclude the, from society and from visibility – a response that runs right through Australia’s history.

Rite 4: hand prints – stop!

We say stop! Wait. Listen.
Listen to the voices of violence and despair behind bars
We wait in silence.

[a period of silence]

We leave our handprints here
When we have heard , give us courage to speak up.

IMG_5377

Site 5: Change the date

26th January 1788 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet to our shores. ANTaR warns that “…celebrating Australia Day on that date is akin to asking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to celebrate their own invasion and dispossession”.

This year Fremantle Council celebrated its “One Day” on January 28th. Nyunggai Warren Mudine has suggested January 1st is a “proper day to celebrate Australia’s independence, identity and nationhood” stating that “it’s a day everyone can unite behind”. Tens of thousands of people attended the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne this year. The Australian people are increasingly recognising the implications of the current date and acknowledging it as inappropriate.

However, Arrernte woman Celeste Liddle asserts that “Merely changing the date will only end up erasing and nullifying the very reasons Indigenous people take to the streets to protest Invasion Day”.

IMG_5388

IMG_5393

Rite 5: laying down leaves

We lay down these leaves today
To acknowledge our own need to remember
We lay down these leaves
To show respect for all who are no longer here
We lay down these leaves
To honour those who challenge a false celebration
We lay down these leaves
For those daring to start telling a true story

IMG_5403

Site 6: Wangan and Jagalingou native title

The Wangan and Jagalingou people are the Traditional Owners of the land in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.  They are fighting mining company Adani and the Queensland government to prevent the massive Carmichael coal mine from being built on their land.

They explain: ‘In our country, spiritual ancestors come from up under the ground and travel in and through the land at sacred sites associated with the Rainbow Serpent known as the Mundunjudra.  The Rainbow Serpent has power to control the sites where our people are born into their bigan (Totem). This has been so since the beginning of the creation period.

The sacred beliefs of our culture, our religion, is based on where the song lines run through our country.  These song lines connect us to Mother Earth. Trees, plants, shrubs, medicines, waterholes, animals, habitats, aquifers – all these have a special religious place in our land and culture.  Our spirits and the spirits of our ancestors travel above, through, and under the ground of our country.

If the Carmichael mine were to proceed it would tear the heart out of the land.  These effects are irreversible. Our land will be “disappeared”.

IMG_5406

Rite 6: blindfolds

We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to the sacred spirit of the land
We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to the workings of power and greed
We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to those seeking to protect the land and its people

[blindfolds are tied on for a period of silence]

We take off these blindfolds today
To show that we are willing to be shown the way
We tie these black and white strips together
To recognise our need to be connected with the land and each other

IMG_5410

Site 7: ‘Cultural’ violence?

In August 2016, a cartoon was published in the Australian newspaper, depicting a drunk Aboriginal father who didn’t know his child’s name. The cartoonist said he was trying to focus public attention on the plight of the child.  Dameyon Bonson, the founder of Black Rainbow, an advocacy group for LGBTQI Indigenous youth, said that when he saw the cartoon, he felt ‘gut punched’.  ‘This was in the national broadsheet, and published on national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.’

In response, the Aboriginal community mounted an online campaign showing positive images and stories of Indigenous Dads.

Luke Pearson wrote, ‘Every denial of Indigenous peoples’ rights, fro invasion to massacres to Stolen Generations to the NT Intervention, has been accompanied by imagery and rhetoric that has made us out to be a threat.  A threat to white people, a threat to ourselves and each other, a threat to our own children; for this to dominate public imagination the public also needs to buy the underpinning idea that we are fundamentally flawed, that our very humanity us both in question and at stake, and that we need to be protected from ourselves,’

We are all responsible for a culture shift.

IMG_5413

Rite 7: creating a home fire

We build up this fire
Warm like a family of care
We build up this fire
Like we work to build up strong families
We build up this fire
To remember Jesus who gathered unlikely people into families
We build up this fire
To remember Jesus who called us to care for each other as the children of God
And we ask:
How can we create places where all can find warmth, welcome and home?

IMG_5366.JPG

Closure

Creator Spirit
Help us to uncover our hidden stories
Suffering God
Help our tears to flow for the pain
Reconciling Spirit
Heal our shame and our wounds, and call us into action

We are searching in the darkness
for the first signs of new life.

IMG_5147 - Copy.JPG

We come together today to walk the way of the Southern Cross, and visit seven sites from our shared history.  There is suffering in these events, and there are questions for us to grapple with.  We will hear the words of Christ on the cross, what might his words spoken in pain tell us?  We seek to participate in a process of learning, repentance and healing in our land.

We acknowledge that we gather today on the land of the Marabalak people of the Wurundjeri tribe of the Kulin Nations – people who have known the Creator Spirit, shared stories, and walked in this place since time immemorial – our elders past, present and future.

With the Creator Spirit
We walk the way of the Southern Cross
Under the Southern Cross
We hear again the words of Christ on the cross
With God deep among us
We seek healing and justice in our land

 

Site 1: A thirst for justice

IMG_5064

We are standing outside a house.  As every person has a story, so does every house.

This house was a house of comfort.
It belonged to a woman called Sally Russell Cooper. In the 1930s’s she opened its front door as a low-income boarding house and welcomed Aboriginal people to come and live with her. There were three bedrooms inside and a spare room out the back. Sally kept her front door open to her people until the 1970’s. For many Indigenous Australians, this house was, as Elders Larry Walsh and Reg Bow once said, “a refuge from loneliness and homelessness for more than 40 years.”

This house was a house of protest.
The 1930’s onwards were a time of momentum for Aboriginal people. During the Depression and the Second World War many Aboriginal people came to Melbourne seeking work. The growing political movement for Aboriginal rights also attracted people to Melbourne’s west. Sally’s father, William Cooper, was a significant local figure in the Aboriginal political movement fighting for basic civil rights. For many of the Aboriginal people who stayed in this house, there was hope of work at Kinnears Rope Factory and other factories nearby.  But the stronger hope was the hope of justice.

This house was a house of light.
Sally held lots of beautiful parties in this house. This was an important opportunity for Aboriginal people to socialise and support one another as society made it very difficult for Aboriginal people to gather together in groups.  This house was well loved as a safe gathering place.

Consider this house. The door. The windows.  The memory. Remember its story.

IMG_5118 IMG_5168 - Copy

Action
Choose a bushflower tube-stock from the basket, as an Indigenous version of the Hyssop plant, and take it home to a place of earth of your choice. Remember the story of the Aboriginal people in this country as you watch it grow.

 

Site 2: With and with each other

IMG_5070

328 family violence incidents were reported in Maribyrnong in 2013 rising to 974 in 2016 – that increase in incidents, nearly tripling, is largely due to more people speaking out.  We know that a woman is killed in Australia by her male partner or ex-partner nearly every week.  The most common myths are that violence against women is caused by alcohol and drugs, a man’s violent upbringing, living in poverty, anger management problems or mental health problems but for violence against women to become a thing of the past we need to change the causes: gender inequality and rigid gender stereotypes.

This sculpture is called With and With Each Other by artist Tom Bills and it feels like a fitting place to stand to think about equality.

IMG_5150 - Copy IMG_5148 - Copy

Action
Let’s take hands and Pass the Peace – exchanging these words:

Say: Peace be with you…
Answer: And also with you.

How can we be doing this amongst our family, friends and neighbours? We need to know what safe touch looks and feels like through education and role modelling.

In making a circle with our arms we are symbolically acknowledging the widening ripples of the impacts of family violence on individuals self esteem, self-worth, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing… The impacts on individuals, families, neighbours and communities… As we release our hands the circle opens, representing our commitment to breaking the cycles of violence.

Let’s walk with someone new, someone you don’t know or someone you don’t see as often as we move to the next station.

 

Site 3: Finding a place to call home

IMG_5074

We are standing outside Foley House. This is a facility run by the Salvation Army that provides accommodation and support for 46 residents – all of whom have been homeless, and all of whom are living with a disability.

Finding a place to call home is one of our most basic needs. For our Aboriginal friends the trauma of being removed from their homes is still very real and present. For asylum seekers dislocation comes at great cost and much grief.

But homelessness does not discriminate – our social dysfunction makes it a real possibility for anyone. The loss or casualisation of a job, the breakdown of a family, the rent increase from a landlord, the need to flee violence in the home, the disintegration of health, the history of abuse or neglect that is relived on a daily basis, the self-medication through drugs or alcohol: these are all social realities that can thrust any of us into homelessness.

There were 762 people who were homeless in the electorate of Footscray on Census night in 2011. Things are getting worse: this figure is 29 per cent more than in 2006. Across Victoria, there are 22,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

Even this is just the tip of the iceberg. A skewed housing market benefits some greatly but places unbearable pressure on those at the bottom end. The injustice is often felt most strongly for those enduring the uncertainty of the private rental market. We live in a community where houses are seen as investments, rather than homes in which to live and thrive.

Action
Walk with a stone in your shoe as we move to our next location; as a reminder of the constant pain and anxiety faced by those who are struggling to find a place to call home. Are you facing this anxiety yourself? Give your stone to a friend to hold.

IMG_5086

Site 4: Room for all

Sometimes coming to Centrelink can feel like our own crucifixion; Our dependence on a system for which we detest; An experience of isolation and abandonment, judgements from ourselves and others about how we do and don’t fit in; About whether we are enough. A painful waiting that only allows you to survive – and gives no kind word, no compassion, and no understanding of who you really are.

Inequality and poverty in Australia are growing. There are now about 2.9 million people living in poverty, including 731,300 kids.  Centrelink will never be enough (not that that is new to anyone). It is like a well from which we draw water, and in Australia, it seems to be an increasing drought not only of money, but of healthy soil, and healthy people; people whose lives are rich in compassion, joy, generosity and the types of kindness that sows grace amongst the powers.

Today we remember that Christ became that spring when he called us into his family as he called John into his both spiritually and literally. He seeded in us the knowledge that we are duty bound to honour our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters in faith. To know that our own growth and ability to live is intrinsically caught up in family; a family that transcends bloodlines, a family that invites us to make bigger our sense of home, that calls us to dig our own wells.

Action
Place a dollar (provided) on the note at the foot of Centrelink:

For our debts and for their debts, we cannot pay.
Christ is enough.
Power remember Mercy;
Remember where we grow.
Remember those who hold us.
Remember those who raise us.
Remember those who crush us.
Woman here lives your son. Son here lives your mother.
Remember your way home. Remember Me.

 

Site 5: Seeking refuge and finding welcome

IMG_5094

Footscray is a community that generation after generation of migrant has made home. These days it is a multicultural hub with service providers such as the ASRC and community groups such as the Welcome West Wagon working alongside smaller community groups and individuals as well as movements such as Love Makes a Way to create welcome for people seeking asylum & refugees. People come to Australia with the hope of a better life but they are often left in limbo for many years.

A friend of ours, Maria, is an East Timorese woman who through a combination of civil war in her homeland, loss of family members and marriage breakdown has found herself stateless and alone with her young son in a foreign country. Under the terms of her temporary protection visa, she has limited work rights and little way to support herself and her son. She is reliant on friends and community agencies such as the Red Cross and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for accommodation, legal advocacy and food. At the present time she’s been in limbo for over five years, with little idea of when a decision may be handed down by the minister for immigration. She may be granted permanent residency and begin the process of building a life here, or she may be forced to leave. She prays every day for a permanent home in Australia. She lives generously in our community household, lovingly raising her son and extending friendship and help to others.

We acknowledge the perseverance of those seeking asylum and the commitment of all those who go out of their way to create a sense of welcome to refugees and those seeking asylum.

Action
With this chalk we leave our mark and remember that in this multicultural neighbourhood, we are mixed together: rich and poor; Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Italian, Scottish, indigenous; students, workers and non-workers; believers, agnostics and atheists; children and adults of all ages. We acknowledge the tensions and divisions that often exist between us.

We celebrate the diversity we see around us, and how it reflects the beauty of God. We leave our symbol of welcome to be reminded that we are created for connection; for family, for friendship, for shared work, for love. We leave our mark to remember that we need each other and that we are stronger.

 

Site 6: There is a place for you

IMG_5096On a Friday night in November of 2016, three LGBT+ people were assaulted in Footscray after being chased by three men. Security did not step in to stop the attack, and the three LGBT+ had to wait for 25 minutes before deciding to walk to the police station because no patrol car showed up. When the victims reported that the assault was a hate-crime against transgender and queer people, those details were not included by police officers. Like so many others in history, the hatred against these people for their diversity was ignored. The identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people has been ignored and persecuted in Australia.

When I was attending church, I was also asked not to raise my own questions, my doubts, my insecurities and my suffering as a gay person of faith. I was told, in person, that I was broken, and that my capacity for love was corrupted. After an act of honesty, the leadership of the church wanted me to silently accept that I would only be embraced in that faith community if I lived by standards which violated my own conscience and divine design.

We reflect on Jesus’ words to remember that ignorance, fear, and pride often stand in the way of our choice to extend Godly hospitality to our LGBT+ neighbour. In our own lack of love we fail to love our neighbour as we would ourselves. We reflect on the ways that we have excluded and silenced our LGBT+ neighbours, like the authorities attempted to silence the gospel. We reflect on the way that LGBT+ have been forsaken, like Jesus himself was on the cross.

IMG_5264 - Copy IMG_5283

Action
We now stand in silent prayer for 30 seconds to honour the suffering of LGBT+ people who were forsaken.

Together we pray aloud, ‘Help us, Lord of all, to no longer forsake our LGBT+ neighbour’.

Place the rainbow crucifix with a prayer on the wall of the police station as a sign of the visibility of LGBT+ suffering.

 

Site 7: Earth out of Balance

IMG_5291

We all rely on the earth and its natural systems for life itself.

Its resources sustain us and grow us, yet our actions and failure to be good custodians continues to push things out of balance.  Taking more than we need, prioritising short term gain over long term sustainable thinking – we are seeing mountains and rivers be given legal identity so that they can be given a voice to speak in their own best interests.

Human activity is altering the climate, changing rainfall patterns, reducing water availability, and increasing the frequency of severe weather events such as bushfires and storms such as cyclone Debbie and Cook, we acknowledge those yet rebuilding and recovering in the wake of these storms.

To emphasise this imbalance, sea levels are predicted to rise by at least 600mm by 2070… that’s within most of our lifetimes.  At projected levels, this change in sea level will widen the Maribyrnong River, flood lower lying areas, and begin to change the face of our locality. A sea level rise of just 1m would threaten the surrounding homes and businesses and displace thousands. It would flood all of the city’s major cargo shipping docks and surrounding cargo storage areas, many of which are in our neighbourhood.

The call to be “custodians of creation” is a critical one, which drags us from the crushing weight of a global disaster to a place of restoration, respect and gratitude.

Action
Look around for something that doesn’t belong in this place; perhaps some rubbish or some weeds. Carry it with you as we start to travel to the next site, until you find a spot better suited for your rubbish to be placed.

Reflect on the ways your actions may keep creation out of balance.

Consider your role as a custodian.

Plan some simple steps to begin the healing process.

  Healing rites walk_Mayra
Photo credit: Maya Stark

Closure

Creator Spirit
Help us to uncover our hidden stories
Suffering God
Help our tears to flow for the pain
Reconciling Spirit
Heal our shame and our wounds, and call us into action.
Remember that justice is coming; God’s reign is coming

IMG_5213

Acknowledgements and Story

Aunty Doreen Wandin renamed Spencer St station to Southern Cross because they were able to see stars at the homestead in Coranderrk. Aunty Joy Wandin named Wurundjeri Way… We identify this constellation with “home”, and commit to the journey of finding and following the way home under these stars.

Uncle Wanta Jampijimpa has preached on the correlation of the stars of the Southern Cross to the wounds on Jesus’ body… We acknowledge the terrible and complex legacy of the church as colonisers in this place and give deep thanks for elders wisdom and grace in leading us to deeper truth and understanding the Creator Spirit who has always been here in this place.

Bill Wylie Kellerman, co-author of “Resistance and Public Liturgy”, role models and teaches us that liturgy implicates. Undertaking activism on high holidays gives layers of meaning to the action. He said: “We believe God has already intervened, breaking in to break out on behalf of human kind.  We recognise the authority of God [as bigger/beyond figureheads of power], we believe this is the meaning of the resurrection and we have come to say so”…  What does it mean for us – in this time, this place, this context – to be mindful of and respond well to matters of justice from a framework of hope as people of all faiths and none?

The Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH) community who 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 right relationship between people and with the land… We seek to participate in a process of learning, repentance and healing in our land.

 

IMG_3528

[p.9-10]

Why is the measure of love loss?

…You said, ‘I love you’.  Why is it that the most unoriginal thing we can say to one another is still the thing we long to hear? ‘I love you’ is always a quotation.  You did not say it first and neither did I, yet when you say it and when I say it we speak like savages who have found three words and worship them.  I did worship them but now I am alone on a rack hewn out of my own body.

…love demands expression. It will not stay still, stay silent, be good, be modest, be seen and not heard, no.  It will break out in tongues of praise, the high note that smashes the glass and spills the liquid.  It is no conservationist love. It is a big game hunter and you are the game.  A curse on this game.  How can you stick at a game when the rules keep changing? I shall call myself Alice and play croquet with the flamingos. In Wonderland everyone cheats and love is Wonderland isn’t it? Love makes the world go round. Love is blind. All you need is love. Nobody ever died of a broken heart. You’ll get over it… It’s the clichés that cause the trouble. A precise emotion seeks a precise expression. If what I feel is not precise then should I call it love? It is so terrifying, love, that all I can do is shove it under a dump bin of pink cuddly toys and send myself a greetings card saying ‘Congratulations on your Engagement’. But I am not engaged I am deeply distracted.  I am desperately looking the other way so love won’t see me.

IMAG0559

I arrived late and missed Miliwanga Wurrben but both wonderful and powerful to see the work of young artists presented at Scribe.

Hannah Donnelly read some segments of recent work – dystopian young adult fiction exploring the long term impacts of climate change in Australia.  Asking the audience questions between readings like:

  • what Country do you live on?
  • what water system is on the Country where you live?
  • what is your future? …your children’s future?

Prompting important self-reflection on the ways we are (or aren’t) aware of the impacts of climate change and the ways we’re complicit in not taking good care of Country.

HANNAH DONNELLY

Hannah Donnelly is a Wiradjuri writer who grew up on Gamilaroi Country. She is the creator of Sovereign Trax, an Indigenous music blog which aims to foreground the consumption of music that speaks to collective stories and identities. Hannah’s writing experiments with speculative fiction and Indigenous responses to climate change.

 

IMAG0561

It’s hard to find words to describe what Jack Sheppard shared – all about words but using few he shared a story using his body and video footage of two friends who recently committed suicide, the piece capturing the evolution of his grief, healing and response to that.  Their stories are written on his body and he carries them with him. This evoked the sense of a beginning in an ending and possibility in a situation that feels hopeless. Where he is, they are. The gift of his work was holding space for the piece to mean whatever it might seem or need to mean to each person watching it… below is my attempt to express some of what that was for me watching him.

JACK SHEPPARD

The Honouring is a presentation of a physical theatre work in development, paying homage to Indigenous life and culture in its hardships, beauty and spirituality. Using movement, dialogue, video installations and poetry, the work is influenced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander totems and landscape, with the story journeying to parts of Australia of deep significance to Jack Sheppard.

 

Pen to heart
writing is a full body experience
physical and not just head.
Disparate ideas and pieces of a life
you try to fit together
but they don’t come.
Voice.
Listen.
What are you trying to say?
What are you trying to read?
Winds blow,
walking in your own mess,
dance like no one is watching.
All about words but silent.
I lost my voice again today…
Cuddle up to the pieces
keeping you warm at night.
Collect the pieces up,
we must nurture the ghosts
that lie down with us,
check and care for them.
Shedding clothes,
layers of skin,
who we are.
Naked, unfolding a
piece of paper with the
whole story.
Reflection of self
wraps around you
like a cocoon.
Lie with the dead,
those we can’t save.
I want to sleep but I can’t.
Awake, I’m still awake.

Talitha Fraser

 

img_2370

Merciful God, we offer to you the fears in us that have not yet been cast out by love

 

Let us pray for all who suffer, and ask that God would give us peace:

For all who have died in the violence of war,
conflicts or acts of terror,
each one remembered and known to God.
May God give peace

For those who love them in death as in life,
offering to God the distress of our grief
and the sadness of our loss.
May God give peace

For all the peace-keepers and peacemakers,
and all who are in danger this day,
remembering especially their families and friends.
May God give peace

For those whose lives are disfigured by war,
conflict, acts of terror or injustice,
calling to mind in penitence the anger and hatreds of humanity
May God give peace

For all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership,
political, military and religious; asking for gifts of wisdom
and resolve in the search for reconciliation and peace.
May God give peace

For our country Australia, its land and seas;
its struggles in adversity, its courage and hope;
for tolerance and our respect for one another,
and our commitment for justice and reconciliation for all
May God give peace

O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those whose memory we cherish,
and those whose names we’ll never know.
Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world, and
grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm.
As we honour the past,
may we put our faith in your future;
for you are the source of life and hope,
now and forever.

Amen

 

 

img_2374

img_2206

I am on the 5.08pm train to the city – dusk sees the city lights hang suspended against a purple-grey backdrop of condolence. I go into this space with high hopes and low expectations I think, but I hope I see love. I hope I see love poured out.  It can be so hard to find safe spaces where you feel accepted, welcome, safe to express all of who you are. I hope there is a sense of welcome for everyone who comes tonight… including me!

orlando-outpouring

Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby

Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can’t I?

…I have that moment we all have. Should I come here? Am I intruding on a private grief I have no right to?

I find a friend I know on the edge of the crowd.

“Thanks for coming.” she says.

“It’s important. I’m sorry it took something like this to bring us together”. I answer

It only needs to matter to one person. It’s not really about how it matters to me. For all those times you felt alone, you felt sad, you felt despair – can my standing with you now make up for those times? No… but it doesn’t follow that it’s insignificant now.

img_9847

“May we be inspired to live differently because of our tears”
– Simon Holt

img_1070

 

Forty-nine people have died and fifty-three others have been injured in the latest mass shooting in the US… plenty of Muslims and Christians are praying and acting in solidarity and support – these issues are engaged globally more and more.  Born, raised, educated, armed in the US… can you call it an Islamist attack? SOme of my grief is with the perpetrator who must have been desperate indeed to feel belonging somewhere. But it’s the stupid idiot pastor that’s quoted as saying: “I woke up to a world with 50 less homosexuals in it and I was glad” that will be what goes viral, spreading hate and fear and violence in its wake.  It’s not the the good news that is shared so often as the bad.We have a conscious choice about what we’re spreading but it seems something used more for evil than for good… what of courage and encouraging? hope and joy?  We pray for those weighed down by grief  – today and “all the days before”

img_1068

IMG_7300

 

Facilitated by Christop Booth from the Indigenous Hospitality House, in this bible study series we will seek to make connections between the story of the nation of Israel told in Lamentations and our own national story. We will look to see whether this book may help us to address our shared histories of displacement and endeavour to distill how we might move forward as a nation in light of the biblical example.

Connection to Community

Who do you think of as community?

What forms of sharing are undertaken within these communities? (what is personal, what is communal?)

Read Lamentations 5

What type of people made up the Israelite community?

What did they share together? What experiences/materials/stories?

How connected were the Israelite people to one another at the time this poem was written?

What do we think of when we think of Aboriginal communities?

Watch clip from move The Sapphires [singing for soldiers during the war, Manager is injured and they’re separated, have to decide to go on or go back]

What kind of sharing takes place?

What part does shared suffering play in the building of community or extent of connectedness experienced?

Does being Aboriginal increase the likelihood of connection experienced by an individual? Does belief in God?

Can we identify any other factors which promote community building and connectedness?

How might we offer and/or provide aspects if community connectedness for others and ourselves at a local, national and international level?

 

 

5541796370_bd2d4d27bf_o

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