Tag Archive: sing


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This week The Carmelite Centre has hosted a Symposium called: The Once and Future Reformation: The Way of the Spirit.  The Symposium, 500 years on from Luther event, offers an opportunity to talk about the current need for renewal and reformation today, in the churches and in the world. The Symposium was diverse, ecumenical, and imaginative. Three days of lectures, reflections and discussion on ways of learning from the past, of living in the present and of looking to the future.

I was invited to present a paper, it was titled: Streets, Seminary and Sacred: Expressions of Theological Animation and Activism in Victoria –  Thirty years on from the publication of Ched Myers’ Mark-as-manifesto text ‘Binding The Strongman’ this session will introduce some local current and legacy-influenced expressions of alternative radical discipleship and explore what this model has already and could yet offer for personal discipleship and broader church renewal through photos, stories, liturgy and lectionary.


 

 

I’d like to start by acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the Wurundjeri people have been custodians since immemorial – sharing and hearing stories of the Creator Spirit in this place.  We acknowledge our elders past, present and future.

Thank you for inviting me to share today out of the radical discipleship expression.  Swiss New Testament scholar Eduard Schweizer said: “discipleship is the only form in which faith in Jesus can exist.” Schweizers Australian student, Athol Gill’s, praxis-linked theological teaching, including Mark as a Manifesto for discipleship, animated church renewal movements across Australia in the 1970-80s – many here may have heard of the House of Freedom and the House of the Gentle Bunyip.

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A young Ched Myers carries this teaching back to the US and it influences his own community at Berkeley and presumably the study that produces the book “Binding the Strong Man” in 1988.  Although I have now read it myself I was fortunate enough to first be exposed to this idea of Mark as Manifesto by Marcus Curnow who managed, with Dave Fagg and drawing on the tradition of Quaker queries and advices to synthesise Myers 560-paged book into a single A4 page (there’s a copy here if anyone wants to have a look)

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I moved to Melbourne from Wellington, NZ in 2006 and started to attend an evening church service called Seeds based on this charism.  We met in a space called The Den on Little Collins St – which was and is still where the Youth & Schools team of Urban Seed operate from.

slide 4Urban Seed is an organisation that works with those who are homeless in Melbourne’s CBD –an outcome of discernment and response to Collins Street Baptist Church finding homeless people sleeping on their steps and seeking to ask, and answer, the question: “Who is my neighbour?”.

They invited young interns to move into the bslide 5uilding behind the church called Central House to engage these neighbours relationally. Jim Barr, Peter Chapman of Common Rule, Gordon Wild and Tim Costello ran various bible studies and seminar series reflecting on the work.

 

This radical model of hospitality and engagement is still practised now with Geoff and Sherry Maddock with their son Isaac who are currently living in.

 

 

Finding Seeds and Urban Seed slide 6was my first exposure to this lived expression of radical discipleship and the practice of the ideas of Street, Seminary and Sacred – that’s Ched’s language for the spheres of Christian expression: activism, education and church.

 

In Seeds we referred to these slide 7areas as Know, Grow and Go, they correlated to Urban Seeds areas of work: Street & Hospitality, Youth & Schools, Advocacy & Engagement

Jesus’ call to preach, heal and cast out…

and if I may presume perhaps the three threads of the Carmelites: stillness and silence, express and explore, embrace and act.

slide 8The bringing together of these ideas, or the power of what can happen in the space where these areas overlap is where I think radical discipleship happens.

 

 

 

The etymology of the word radical is from the Latin word radix meaning root. Ched refers to radical discipleship as an invitation to join the

“messianic movement of rebellion and restoration, of repentance and renewal, a “way out of no way”

In his book “Does God need the Church?” Gerhard Lohfink suggests:

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I’ve been fortunate enough to visit LA twice – living with Ched and his lovely wife Elaine Enns for a three month internship in 2012 and returning again for the Kinsler Institute in 2015 for two weeks and I found myself fascinated.

Ched believes there is a deepening gulf between these areas of Street, Seminary and Sacred as a result of a few factors:

  • Credentialing systems for theology students are set by the accrediting institution not the church
  • Professionalization means students need paid work to pay off student loans etc. and don’t always have the time or get given encouragement to engage in practical service to the poor or social movements
  • Regular church goers can be insulated from the insights of academics and the challenges and causes of activists
  • Faith-based activists can neglect disciplines of critical reflection – theological and political – of why they’re trying to change the world.

Ched believes these spheres are impoverished for being insulated from one another and says theological animation is key “to re-integrating the competencies of these alienated worlds of Christian witness”, believing that our focus instead should be in community formation, conscientization and capacity building in order to rehabilitate the church as a faith based movement of personal and social transformation. To provide some examples of what a re-integrated model might look like, I’m going to do an overlay now of a bible study series Ched did each morning of the Institute with some praxis examples from here in Melbourne and across Victoria.

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“Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan”

With this action Jesus was apprenticing himself to the peripheral, radical edge of his own tradition. The Jewish temple used water immersion for ritual purification after contact with the dead but this idea of baptism went beyond that.  Jesus could have walked three steps behind a rabbi, gone to a good school but instead he choose the camel hair and honey guy.

slide 12While integration might have been Collins Street Baptist Church’s original vision (I don’t know) by the time I arrived at Urban Seed both the evening Seeds church and Tuesday morning Credo Gathering spaces were operating as distinct faith-expression spaces for staff, volunteers and community members or “punters” to gather.

This work needed its own faith expression, it’s own language, it’s own liturgy… many songs, stories and prayers have come out of these spaces… the Seeds Sacred song, the Gospel of Vic (a version of Mark contextualised for the Australian context based on a work by Athol Gill and his students called “Fair Dinkum Mark”), the Credo Lord’s Prayer… which I invite you to say with me now: “as we were taught”.

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Illustration by Chris Booth https://ordinarytime.com.au

As residents moved out of Central House, some asked of themselves again:

“Who is my neighbour?”

People consciously decided to move into areas identified as among the lowest socio-economic/ disadvantaged: Norlane in Geelong, Long Gully in Bendigo and Footscray in the inner-west of the city.

Each of these areas had their own Seeds church community – usually having 10-12  members – and these separate communities came together a few times a year to covenant and retreat forming the Seeds network.

For many years, Urban Seed only started projects and had paid staff beyond the CBD in areas where Seeds Network groups were established.

 

Each of these groups elected to exist in marginalised areas. While each group discerned the expression of Know, Grow, Go in their area, responsive to the particular needs and context of their community and locality, all of them shared in common projects of neighbourhood hospitality whether community dinners, craft or breakfast clubs, wood fired pizzas…  all spaces like Urban Seed’s Credo cafe where people from all walks of life: lawyers and homeless, financial traders and addicts, Richmond and Collingwood supporters… preparing and sharing a meal around a common table… people of all faiths and none but for many of those “discipling” this eating and drinking together is their expression and practice of communion and church.

 

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slide 20Jesus isn’t just baptised in the Jordan but into the watershed.  We understand the Holy Spirit not to exist only in people but in creation and the land… the Holy Spirit descends like a dove into Jesus.  The Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus uses the water as a pulpit forming a natural amphitheatre, he uses farming parables, living vine and living water metaphors and calls us to ‘consider’ (learn from) the lilies. What does the land and creation have to teach us?

What are the stories specific to the places we live and what are the justice issues affecting our neighbours that the good news can offer hope for? Last month in Footscray we ran a Stations of the Cross walk for Easter – we call it the way of the Southern Cross because Aunty Doreen Wandin re-named Spencer St station this, as an intersection for bus, train, tram lines it’s where many paths connect that lead us home much as people navigated by constellations. Uncle Wanta Jampijinpa has preached on the correlation of the stars of the Southern Cross to the wounds on Jesus’ body.  At the Kinsler Institute, Bill Wylie Kellerman, United Methodist pastor and member of the Detroit Catholic Worker, ran a session saying that liturgy implicates. Undertaking activism on high holidays gives layers of meaning to the action. He said:

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What does it mean for us as Christians or people of any faith – in this time, this place, this context – to be mindful of and respond well to matters of justice from a position of this belief? Myers says:

“We need to reclaim scripture as
our most powerful weapon of resistance.
Stories are the best weapon we have”.

We wanted to localise this idea  here in Australia, the Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH) community shared their resource with us based on the work of Dr Norman Habel, the author of “Reconciliation: Searching for Australia’s Soul” which outlines the model for combining storytelling to action as a means for working towards right relationship between people and with the land…

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slide 23This year’s walk visited seven sites from our shared history looking at issues we all grapple with:

What does it mean for us to stand outside the home of Sally Russell Cooper and talk about recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty – a thirst that has not been quenched we are given natives to take bear home with us and plant symbolic of the hyssop branch and our commitment to work for recognition and relationship in this land.

We stand outside Centrelink – “Woman, here is your son” who are we called to care for? As a parent to a child however could you count some cost of the the debt of raising up that is our privilege.

slide 24Standing under the Welcome Arch built by the grateful Vietnamese business community, we think of next-coming waves of refugees and asylum seekers setting out praying: Into your hands I commit my spirit…

There is suffering in these events, and there are questions for us to grapple with.

As we hear the words of Christ on the cross, we ask what insight might his words spoken in pain tell us?

 

Continuing this idea of bible in one hand and newspaper in the other, Jon and Kim Cornfords work developing the Household Covenant bible study series, arising out of Ched’s book on Sabbath Economics and Matt Colwell’s followup Sabbath Economics: Household Practices, inspires minute incremental changes in the ways we consume that are based on biblical practices of stewardship and Sabbath and jubilee economics… from the way we see credit and debt, to growing, eating and preserving, seasonally and sustainably.

 

Introducing yourself as Jesus of Nazareth from Galilee is not dissimilar from saying “he’s a Yorta Yorta man from up Cummeragunja way”,  I’m living in Footscray by the Maribyrnong what does it mean for our discipleship to be placed within our locality and in relationship with the land?

 

 

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Urban Seed Credo Pain in the Arts program

“As it is written…” the land we live on is filled with stories – do you know them?

On the healing rites walk we told the story of deadly Aboriginal woman Sally Russell Cooper, of the transphobic attack on Starlady and her friends in Footscray, the tragic stories of Kirsty and Joan aliases used by a community lawyer talking about user-experiences at Centrelink for struggling families, the story of the Maria an asylum seeker from East Timor…

these stories aren’t ‘just’ political, they’re personal.  To be an active participant in restorative justice we need to know the problems of, and people directly experiencing, injustice.

What we know about Jesus birthplace is that it was a small village, about 4 miles (6.5kms) from Sepharus.   There was an uprising against the colonising occupation there and the Romans crushed Sepharus and enslaved everyone… Jesus would have been 10 years old when this happened.   Jesus and his Dad were tektons (labourers/carpenters/ construction workers) hired to help rebuild Sepharus… labouring under the bitterness of colonial occupation, this would shape your consciousness, this would have a huge impact… this is why context is so important. This is why story is so important. Jesus knows and quotes and draws on the history and experience of his people as relevant to speak into their current context and we need to do the same. The stories of Jordan, Israel and Egypt… for us might be the stories of a handful of dirt at Wave Hill, or the Franklin Dam that was never built…

slide 30People may well have heard of the Love Makes A Way movement of Christians engaging prayerfully and politically for the release, in particular of refugee and asylum seeking children, from detention.

What might be less known is that while some are participating in the action inside, others are participating outside: Keeping prayerful vigil, bearing witness, supplying snacks and singing.  There is a Love Makes a Way songbook – as this group was looking for inspiration they turned to the Freedom Songs of the civil rights movement.  Ched calls us to “sing about it until it can realised” and these songs call us into a place a freedom and hope that we will all “sit at the welcome table one of these days”  together.

This is a story we identified with and apprenticed ourselves to and “As I go down to the river to pray…” becomes “As I go down to Bill’s [Shortens] office to pray, welcome the refugee, let them stay” or “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” becomes “Were you there when they turned the boats away?”

Drawing on the style we progressed to writing our own  songs, and also asking ourselves whose are the local prophetic voices calling for change and Leunigs writing came to mind “Love is born… in the most unlikely place” (round), these are words we want to believe in these times.  Will you stand and sing them with me?

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Who are the writers in our context who are crying out for justice?  Whose stories do we make time to listen to? What stories and traditions will you apprentice yourself to?

-ooOoo-

Jesus was an apprentice, a disciple of kingdom, land and story… scripture study informed his political and theological practice. Our scripture study should inform our political and theological practice.

The Kinsler Institute in 2015 was called “40/60/100”: A celebration of radical discipleship – closely echoing the numbers of the surprising yield of seed in good soil in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Mk 4:8). But for this particular Institute, they alluded to two milestones that we were celebrating: Ched Myers’ 60th birthday, and his 40 years in the radical discipleship movement, those two numbers add up to 100—which is how many folks they were hoping would show up to join the festivities…. there were more than that: activists, academics and preachers – yes – but artists, liturgists, poets, practitioners, organic farmers, the undocumented, money lenders, elders and babies, from across America and across a breadth of faith expressions… I can’t idealise these models of community  – The House of the Gentle Bunyip didn’t last, Ched’s community at Berkeley didn’t last, the Seeds Network has not lasted what can’t be denied is that some expressions of the radical discipleship model continue to spring up – and, I think, are producing a surprising yield of seed.

Jokingly referring to the Institute as a clusterfest in his closing remarks on the last day Ched noted that when the people are gathered it should always feel part birthday party, part conference, part church, part action planning meeting… I hope I’ve been able to give you some small sense of this today. I want to close by saying to all of you the benediction we used in my Seeds community:

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Lay your burdens down child

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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

 

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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!

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…

 

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I go

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I go,
where my soul sings
where the harmonies of
the universe can be heard
humming,
I go,
I go where it is quiet
enough to make out a
whisper,
loud enough to drown
out the voices in my
head,
I go where I can hear You.
I go outside
where I can understand
my place in the order of
things
I go inside
where the the echoes of pilgrims
past are in the mosaics
and the pages
I go inside yet
dark and terrible
but I am not alone there
I am not alone anywhere
I go,
to remember
why I stay.
I go on.

 

Talitha Fraser

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Of communion, Jesus says I will not take this drink again until
I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

On Sunday 14 February we held a picnic lunch at the immigration detention centre in Maribyrnong. The first Sunday of Lent (and Valentines Day- let’s show the love) would often have a focus theme of a continued call to conversion the intention of the picnic was to physically create the space we would like to live in – that kingdom where Jesus might join us for a drink – even if only for an hour. How can we make that grass verge feel like space of celebration and welcome? How can we extend the expression of hospitality and welcome that we would like to see shown to refugees and asylum seekers?

With yarn bombing, banners, different flags, welcome in different languages, families and at each picnic blanket a spare place set at the table – a visual demonstration that there is room at the table for the ‘other’ and enough food to share.

In the face of the continued and indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers including children and New Zealanders now the second highest number of those held in off-shore detention – we seek to respond with an act of hospitality, an act of welcome, and act of love – witnessing there is room at THIS communion table.

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Wominjeka, we acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation have gathered since time immemorial to tell stories, sing songs and share food together. We are gathered here today to do a little of all these things ourselves: tell stories, sing songs and share some food together around this idea of showing welcome to refugees and asylum seekers and we have chosen a specific place, time and context in which to do that.

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We are standing here in the carpark of what is now the VicUni Student Village…this used to be the site of the Pyrotechnic Section of an Explosives Factory (1942) which was built to produce flares, tracers and smoke grenades during the Second World War… a section of this was converted to the Maribyrnong Migrant Hostel (1966). Over here behind us is the new purpose-built Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (1983) – we are standing where refugees and migrants have been arriving for the last 50 years.

We are standing here at a particular time.  Today is Sunday 14 February, the first Sunday of Lent and Valentines Day – let’s show the love! The first Sunday of Lent would often have a focus theme of a continued call to conversion and the intention of this picnic is to physically create the kingdom space we would like to live in – demonstrating the kind of welcome and abundant hospitality we as Christians believe Jesus might extend and asking of our own discipleship how we feel called to respond.

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We are gathering during a particular context.  The Premier of our own state has come out against the federally legislated law, medical practitioners are refusing to sign off of returning patients to off-shore detention and the UN has condemned the treatment of refugees as breaching human rights… the government, media, society are all sending strong messages – in an environment that seems more focused on reacting out of fear than love, how might we respond with clarity and compassion?IMG_7334

We have folded layers of symbolism into our picnic today… you can see the crocheted heart bunting by Bron for Valentines Day, we have flags representing some of those countries and cultures making up the population of those in our detention centres, and we have empty plates – places set at the table for the ‘other’.  We live with asylum IMG_7343seekers and refugees, we invited them to write the word WELCOME in the language of their cultures on one of the plates and symbolically be represented here and we remember those stories that are still unfolding.

That is about as much story as there is from me, so let’s move on to the singing! We’re very lucky to have Sam here to be the lead liturgist today so look to her for any cues – we’re not going to sing these through a set number of times or anything, we’ll just keep going until she signals otherwise.

So, I will invite you to stand if you want to, in this place, at this time in this context and sing with me, this is not a new idea… we sing in the tradition of so many justice movements: civil rights, suffragettes, apartheid, slavery…in the words of Ched Myers to “Sing about it, until it can be realised”.

This first one is from the Ngatiawa River Monastry, up the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand, a contemporary contemplative community retreat centre.

 

Given for you  [link here to original version on the Ngatiawa website]

 This is my body given for you

Remember me.

This is my blood of forgiveness,

Remember me.

 

Tricia Watts is an Australian singer, composer, she’s used singing and dance for advocacy and therapy and to call people to unite in heart and voice. This next song is from her resource titled ‘Sanctuary’.   We want to offer Sanctuary, we want to link hand in hand, we want to hear the voice of justice cry.

 

Justice Cry

Hear the voice of justice cry,

Moving through our land,

Ringing out oer hills and plains,

Linking hand in hand.

 

Well, I guess the credit or the blame for this one is on me… many of you will have heard of the Love Makes A Way movement. They have undertaken a variety of actions but in particular sitting in politicians offices and praying for them has attracted media coverage. What might be less known, is that while the actions are being undertaken inside, there is a support team outside praying, singing and bearing witness to, and holding vigil with, what happens within. Samara has been one of the people playing that part and collating a Love Makes A Way song book. And as we were talking about it once we remarked the we were drawing heavily on the Freedom songs of the civil rights movement but their style and language were written for a particular context and a particular time – certainly we can borrow their songs but Samara posed the questions “Where are our songs? Where is the style or the voice arising out of our own context?” This song came out of trying to answer that… as I looked at the Freedom songs I felt like they communicated grief but called for hope, they were often short and memorable because as your walking around you need songs people can just pick up even if they don’t have the words in front of them. I wrote this trying to find words for a situation I don’t have words to explain. You might feel moved to offer your own words here in a verse … there is room for the children, there is room in our playgrounds… feel free to lead us! Speaking specifically to context, this was originally written “Let them in, let them in” but with the Sanctuary #LetThemStay initiative just this past week as we were rehearsing we changed it to read “Let them in, let them stay”

 

There is room

There is room at the table (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

There is room at the border (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

There is room in our hearts (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

There is hope for a new tomorrow (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

Flowing on from the last song and our desire to have local songs coming out of our own context, I had a look around for who might already be producing words that hold this sense of lament and hope, short and memorable… this led me to make up the melody for the round you’re about to hear to Leunigs Love Is Born.  I think Leunig is a bit of a prophet, speaking out of hope and darkness, on behalf of many voices… I think “love is born”.

 

Love is Born [link here to a recording by Nathan Brailey]

Love is born with a dark and troubled face

When hope is dead and in a most unlikely place

Love is born,

Love is always born.

Love is born,

Love is always born.

This little ‘set’ wouldn’t be complete without a rousing Hallelujah chorus from the Freedom songs of the civil rights movement – it’s hard to know who to give credit to because groups of musicians gathered for “Sing for Freedom” workshops and wrote them together.  These songs were written to be a call for integration and confrontation of the status quo.  African-Americans in the 60s in the South were singing “Were gonna sit at the welcome table”, today we have to acknowledge that we’re already sitting at the welcome table, or the welcome picnic blanket… Again, you might be moved to call out a chorus of your own making! {e.g. We’re gonna share our songs and stories} By Samara’s hand now we will sing “they’re” as we aspirationally hold space and hope that those inside will one day come outside and join us at this table.

 

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days (hallelujah)

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

Sit at the welcome table one of these days (one of these days)

 

They’re gonna feast on milk and honey

They’re gonna feast on milk and honey one of these days, (hallelujah)

They’re gonna feast on milk and honey

Feast on milk and honey one of these days (one of these days)

 

A-ll God’s chil-dren gonna sit to-gether

Yes, a-ll God’s chil-dren gonna sit together one of these days (hallelujah)

A-ll God’s child-ren gonna sit to-gether

All God’s children gonna sit together, one of these days (one of these days)

 

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

Yes, they’re gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, (hallelujah)

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

Sit at the welcome table one of these days (one of these days)

Sit at the welcome table one of these days, (one of these days)

Gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days (one of these days)

 

Thanks so much for making the time today to come here – to stand, to sing, in a particular place, at a particular time, in a particular context to say something.

Let’s enjoy the picnic!

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Further rough notes for those interested in the background of how this picnic came about:

Last year, Mayra and I went to a conference called the Kinsler Institute and heard an amazing activist and speaker Bill Wylie-Kellerman doing a session on ‘Liturgy as Activism’.  He is the Minister of an Episcopal Church in Detroit where they’re experiencing some severe water cut offs and he described a Good Friday Stations of the Cross walk where they stood outside the water company, at the river, at block where there is only one house with people still living in it… there was something about singing or praying or standing in a particular place, at a particular time, in a particular context to say something that made it more powerful.

We came back from that conference inspired to imagine what a Stations of the Cross walk  might look like for our own context here in Footscray – we went to the Palms Motel where they provide crisis accommodation for people experiencing homelessness, we went to the river and reflected on the impacts of climate change, we came here to the Maribyrnong detention centre … most of you will know of the Christian tradition of communion, sharing bread and wine together, this is done symbolically because Jesus says ‘I won’t eat this again with you until I see you in my Father’s kingdom’. In a church we have communion and we eat it as a reminder of that promise… well, we came here and compared what it must feel like for refugees who take a long and dangerous journey to get here, who expect to find shelter, and safety and hospitality and instead…  we passed around an empty cup and an empty plate as a symbol of the kind of hospitality people have experienced arriving here.

Of communion, Jesus says I will not take this drink again until
I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

We decided on Sunday 14 February we would hold a picnic lunch at the immigration dentention centre in Maribyrnong.

The first Sunday of Lent (and Valentines Day- let’s show the love) would often have a focus theme of a continued call to conversion the intention of the picnic was to physically create the space we would like to live in – that kingdom where Jesus might join us for a drink – even if only for an hour. How can we make that grass verge feel like space of celebration and welcome? How can we extend the expression of hospitality and welcome that we would like to see shown to refugees and asylum seekers?

With yarn bombing, banners, different flags, welcome in different languages, families and at each picnic blanket a spare place set at the table – a visual demonstration that there is room at the table for the ‘other’ and enough food to share.

In the face of the continued and indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers including children and New Zealanders now the second highest number of those held in off-shore detention – we seek to respond with an act of hospitality, an act of welcome, and act of love – witnessing there is room at THIS communion table.

Why here? A conversion of the New Pyrotechnic Section of the Explosives Factory Maribyrnong established in 1942 to produce flares, tracers and smoke grenades – the Maribyrnong Migrant Hostel first opened in 1966. Part of an ambitious assisted migration scheme that was implemented by the Commonwealth government in the late 1940s in order to increase Australia’s population. Until it was discontinued in 1981, this program saw thousands of British, European and Asian migrants start a new life in this country, temporarily accommodated in government hostels until they were able to buy or rent a house of their own. The Hostel has accommodated migrants from almost every national group that has arrived in Australia since World War II. Initially these were people from Britain and Europe but the later migrants arrived from Asia and South America and people escaping political upheavals in places such as Hungary, Chile and Vietnam. The hostel at various times also accommodated naval personnel, apprentices and evacuees from Darwin after Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Attempts by migrants to personalise their surrounding are apparent in a mural of windmills and tulips by Dutch migrants painted on the side of one of the surviving concrete bunker structures and a mural of an Asian scene that appears to have been painted by Vietnamese migrants on a section of wall of one of the ammunition stores located next to the Phillip Centre. This building also includes a number of paintings by children on its walls. Staff of the migrant centre also erected a large aviary attached to the former electrical substation that was part of the pyrotechnic works. (onmydoorstep.com.au/heritage-listing/35583/former-maribyrnong-migrant-hostel).  These site spaces are now occupied by Victoria University and in the last few years used predominantly for student accommodation.

The current, purpose-built, Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) was opened in 1983, set up for people who have over-stayed their visas, had their visa cancelled, or who have been denied entry into the country through international airports and seaports.  Unlike the Broadmeadows IDC which has been home to families and children, Maribyrnong IDC has been home for mostly adult single male detainees identified as medium/high risk and therefore it is a site that has had higher security.

In June, the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 was passed.  The Citizenship Act has always said that if a foreign citizen or foreign national fights for a foreign country at war with Australia, they automatically cease to be an Australian citizen. Fair enough. The Bill adds three new categories of circumstances which will bring about the same result.

  1. Fighting for a terrorist organisation – still with you…
  2. Convictions for certain offences – if you’re a foreign citizen or national and you are convicted of any of a long list of criminal offences, your citizenship will automatically cease.
  3. Acting inconsistently with your allegiance to Australia – what does that even mean?

The protocol is that ASIO notices you’ve done a particular thing and tells the Immigration Minister who deports you. To do that, he has to accept that the factual allegations are correct. You have no right to be heard before he does so. You can contest it later but by this time you’re already on a plane.

(you can read more about this here if you’re interested: abc.net.au/news/2015-06-25/bradley-how-you-could-lose-your-citizenship/6572382)

At 30 December 2015, there were 1,792 people in held immigration detention facilities. Of these 1,792 people, around 18.6 per cent were from Iran, 10.2 per cent were from New Zealand, 8.0 per cent were from Sri Lanka, 6.5 per cent were from China and 6.3 per cent were from Vietnam. (Department of Immigration and Border Protection).

New immigration laws brought into effect back in December 2014 mean that anyone who has served a jail sentence of 12 months or more in Australia could be deported.  “We don’t want people who get into trouble, who have a criminal record, and those who fit into that category will have their visas cancelled and sent back to where they came from,” Australian senator Ian Macdonald said, saying that New Zealanders can’t expect special treatment.
“We love our cousins across the ditch but they must be subject to the same laws as everyone else.” [ The Australian, 29 Sept 2015]

It may be that New Zealanders thought they were being treated by the same laws as everyone else when they were convicted, served time and released just as an Australian might be.  That once they had observed due process and due punishment they were free to resume normal life, 5000 New Zealanders have done time in the last 10 years and these changes mean they can retrospectively be sent home.  I’m not trying to be permissive or whitewash anything these people have done. Clearly they are convicted criminals all. But surely we must ask whether it is fair to punish them now, again, a new law applied to an old crime?  These who might have family here, work here, barrack for an AFL team here… is it justifiable?  Is it justice?

With all these legislative changes, the population of the Maribyrnong IDC has housed both of these groups – convicted criminals whose visas are cancelled and are being sent back to where they came from side by side with refugees seeking asylum and safety.  I can’t find a number for 2015 but between 2010-2014 the number of “boat people” identified as legitimate refugees is over 90% in each year.  The treatment of the asylum seekers and the treatment of the criminals is the same. “Hard-line” centre managers from the prison system have been brought in – ex-prison guards who have a very different culture and mentality to officers who have been trained to guard asylum seekers amidst outbreaks of racial violence and hunger strikes .

People come to Australia with the hope of a better life but they are kept in the same place, and in many ways treated similarly, as criminals.  A friend of ours who has visited here – a refugee herself – has shared stories of the intimidation to herself of the conditions of entry; the boredom, the frustration, the fear, the hopelessness, the despair of those she met inside. She had her own complex needs but returned again and again not only to meet the hunger for Arabic home cooking, but for stories and news of life outside.

The latest development is this: all refugees in Maribyrnong are due to be moved to Broadmeadows which has recently had a high security upgrade. They were due to be moved already but it hasn’t happened yet – we have no way of knowing if this will occur prior to 14th of February.  This comes at a high cost to those at Broadmeadows IDC because along with the higher fence, more guards and greater security screening, comes heavier dehumanisation.

And, you know, some of the symbolism of our picnic is lost.

Or is it?

What a contrast over fifty years between a hostel and a prison, between encouraging people to move to Australia and border control to keep them out… but this place, this space, is where weapons were made that were used during World War II then offered a new start to some of the refugees of that conflict.  What has been used for building harm in this place has been transformed for building hope before… maybe we can build it again.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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love is born

Leunig

Joy: Advent 2015

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The Joy Of Little Things

by Robert William Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

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

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Dr Bronwyn Hughes, stained glass artist and historian

Being creative can be difficult if I approach a project intellectually, but then let go of the idea and let the art speak to me, become a conduit, become reflective and contemplative.  This also happens when I write, I can get stuck but trust that something meaningful will come. I watched the stained glass windows while at church when I was a child. I assumed the windows were ‘old’ but they were in fact ‘new’.  Eyes were known as the window of the soul so craftsmen made the eyes of stained glass images larger. The windows live in the light, illuminate, narrates and alters the light that comes into the church – this art dies in the dark.  Trinity chapel was built at the same time as the war broke out so it memorialises some students and staff who fought.  Plans changed to incorporate imagery of “warrior” saints over the next twenty years. The last panel, the crucifixion, went up once the second war had started.  These windows became memorials of prayer to visit where there was no body and no grave of loved ones lost.  Good, one hundred years on, to still gather here.