Tag Archive: radical discipleship


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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?

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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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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

 

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The Walk for Justice for Refugees is about standing up for the human rights of those seeking asylum in Australia. This largely secular action is held on Palm Sunday – as people of faith, knowing there is a way where it seems there is no way – how might we hold a space to liturgise and lament and to sing within this broader movement? The following is a bit of a photo essay from the day with some of our thinking around what we are trying to create and hold space for by participating in events like these.

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Welcome is a complex issue on un-ceded land. Although palms might be the branch of Welcome in Jerusalem in this country gum leaves have a lot of symbolism – burned they are said to have healing and cleansing properties of bad spirits. How spirit-sore and shadowed are refugees arriving in Australia? If a member of the Wurundjeri offers you gum leaves they are indicating that you are welcome to everything from the tops of the leaves to the roots of the earth, we are symbolically linked and share in honouring the ancestors that have tended the land for many, many thousands of years. Is it appropriate to carry gum leaves in the walk? Or both gum leaves and palm fronds to acknowledge this complexity?

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This group is about attending the Palm Sunday march as a cohort – how might we want to distinguish ourselves within the broader crowd? what message of kingdom-on-earth do we have to communicate? One example is that often the crowd chants at these configure themselves as “anti” something and can communicate negativity, what might a message be that communicates hope and indicates what we are “for”?

Above Sam has an IHH bag, her LMAW #Bringthemhere hat, some of the Million Stars Against Violence and bracken from Gembrook Retreat as her foliage.

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Welcoming people from other countries since time immemorial. Responding to “boat people” since 1788. The walk is coming up this Sunday – what do you want to say about welcome this weekend? Is it short, percussive and meaningful? How about: “Bring them here. Let them stay. We believe love makes a way”? What is the sound bite and deep heart’s call to justice you want to hear called out?

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Here’s some feel-good clickbait if you haven’t already seen it (watch it again anyway), when we stop using labels that create designations of ‘them’ and ‘us’ we might have more in common than we know. I was listening to Fly My Pretties yesterday, the lyrics of the song are “We can make a life, we can make a life worth living”. That is a hope of people arriving here and for all of us who see the image of God in every person we meet and want to see God’s kingdom here on earth – let’s make the world we want to live in.

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Anne Lamott has said, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.” Here are some examples of prayer stations that explore this idea of “You are welcome here” using scripture references from Ched Myers book Our God is Undocumented” – whose voices set and shape the ways you show welcome?

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What is your cultural tail? 28% of Australians were born overseas (Census 2016), many more would have parents born overseas. When we say things like “I’m nothing” or “I have no culture” it’s worth noting that only the dominant-culture can say that, this white-washing language (pun intended) at best colonises existing culture and at worst ignores it: the legacy of Terra Nullius continues. Naming our own cultural tail is significant for relating well to the culture that was and is already here as well as affirming and celebrating cultural diversity generally in Australia. Is there something you can wear to the Palm Sunday march that could celebrate cultural diversity? An item of clothing or jewellery, a badge or flag that celebrates your cultural history and thereby all culture – past and present?

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On singing: many songs we might sing together are short, rounds, call and repeat don’t worry about song sheets or knowing the words… please bring your own too – we love learning new ones so that we can sing about it until it can be realised!

you give

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you give
and you give
the emptying
is what fills you
you give
and you give
stretched and
outstretched and
enfolded
you give
and you give
and there is more
there is always more

Talitha Fraser

 

An effective social action will operate at a deeper level where the wrestling is with the loyalties, barriers and spells that rule a way of life and its institutions.  In such an arrangement no doubt occasions of public confrontation will arise.  When they do Christian action will have a symbolic or dramatic character, enforcing its deeper persuasions.  Early Christianity was more like guerilla theater than social revolution, but it overthrew principalities and powers.

A revitalised message comes out of drastic involvement in the life-options of the situation… there are many areas of solidarity with human scandal and many forms of private and costly wrestling with pervasive tyrannies old and new… but imaginative solidarity with our modern disorders informs all such resistance both public and private.  It is in this crucible that the powerful new rhetoric and witness are forged, and the revolution of images.

p. 27-29, Theopoetics

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

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

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

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

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

 


There is room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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READING — ‘HOME’ (Warsan Shire)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Were you there?

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

 

strategies-in-conflict-transformation

I’m puddling my way through the Bartimaeus Institute Restorative Justice online course – and am struck anew by what it means to have teaching that holds the bible in one hand and the newspaper in another, historical contextual interpretation and current relevance… Ched and Elaine re-frame the above tool in such terms as peace keeping, peace making, peace building and peace waging.

 

When Jesus saw the city he wept over it, saying,
“Would that you knew the things that make for peace!”
Luke 19:42

This is good theological meat and you should eat some.  Lots of free access articles and webinars on their website too…

berrigan blog(photo credit: chedmyers.org)

(to the Plowshares 8, with love)

by Daniel Berrigan

Some stood up once, and sat down.
Some walked a mile, and walked away.

Some stood up twice, then sat down.
“It’s too much,” they cried.
Some walked two miles, then walked away.
“I’ve had it,” they cried,

Some stood and stood and stood.
They were taken for fools,
they were taken for being taken in.

Some walked and walked and walked –
they walked the earth,
they walked the waters,
they walked the air.

“Why do you stand?” they were asked, and
“Why do you walk?”

“Because of the children,” they said, and
“Because of the heart, and
“Because of the bread,”

“Because the cause is
the heart’s beat, and
the children born, and
the risen bread.”

 

Reflecting these past weeks on the life and works of Daniel Berrigan who died 30 April 2016, he is now among that cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1) that ask us to ask of ourselves: “On what will you spend your life?”. I think it is fair to say that he knew something of endurance, on the cost of that he commented: “I think it’s kind of the price you pay for the bus ride”.

In his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey suggests writing your own eulogy – what do you imagine you want to hear said about you by family, friends, colleagues… are you making the choices now… living the life now… that will lead you where you want to go? …that will see you develop and grow up to be the best you can imagine? I don’t imagine Daniel Berrigan did this exercise but I do not doubt he was effective. Why did he live as he did? Make the choices that he did?

“Because the cause is
the heart’s beat, and
the children born, and
the risen bread.”

What will you live for?

What makes your life meaningful will give you a meaningful life.
Do not wait until you are dying to start.

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