Tag Archive: stories


Fast Learners

footscray walk my neighbourhood view Melbourne CBD trainline

Some out-of-towners are in the Big Smoke for the game, a Mum with two boys visiting their city Aunty. Exclamations such as: “Wow, look at that big building!” (3 storeys) give them away. They turn their attention to the inside of the train and ask for an explanation of the priority seating sticker.

“Well, that’s to say that if anyone comes along who is blind or on crutches or in a wheelchair, you will have to give this seat up for them because they need it more. It’s also polite to offer your seat to anyone who might be older than you”

“Oh. Do you want this seat Mum?”

“No. Thank you.”

#fastlearners #stories #Footscray #preciousorprecocious

Disability Pride

Footscray disability pride wall paste ups

Footscray disability pride wall paste ups

Footscray disability pride wall paste ups birds

I detour, then stop, for a close look at Footscrays’ Disability Pride paste up wall (🖤LOVE!🖤) a young African man comes up and offers to take a photo with me in it, I explain what I’m up to, nothing really, and ask him in turn – it’s his birthday and he’s hanging with friends in the sunshine, just thought I might want help…
#myneighourhood #myneighbours #nogangshere

There’s a wall viewing and doco at The Sun today if anyone’s keen…

footscray station footscray market

There is an altercation down by the station. Shouting and swearing. It’s hard to gauge how to respond sometimes – witness, walk away, walk towards… I understand better these days that raised voices can be a mark of our desperation to be heard. What was clear to me, as observer, is that the participants knew they each felt unsafe, but couldn’t see in the moment that the other person didn’t either. Different genders, different cultures, different capacity, different experiences… The ways we are different from each other can be obvious but the ways we are the same can be subtle.

I walk towards…
All of us want to feel safe.
#safetyfirst #deescalation #pt’chang

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A take home message of any indigenous event such as ‘Land and Place: Indigenous Perspectives in the Era of Displacement‘ these days is that non-indigenous people need to do their own homework and help to educate their mob but it can be hard for individuals or churches to know where to start.  This is a synthesis of some suggestions that arose from the NAIITS launch sessions and yarning circles and some other resources that I’ve found useful along the way that resonated with what I was hearing…

  • Do undergrad or postgrad study in indigenous theology with indigenous teachers through Whitley at the University of Divinity!
  • Visit collections and exhibitions in national galleries and museums – like a First Peoples tour of the Bunjilaka Cultural Centre at the Melbourne Museum, a guided walking tour of Melbourne CBD through the Koori Heritage Trust, or visit Narana.
  • Folks go on pilgrimages such as the walking the Camino de Santiago, or Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem… what if we connected with the Creator Spirit right here in this place? Visit Uluru, an intentional community like Campfire in the Heart,  or just go camping in an area of native bush near you and experience the land around you… if you’re not sure where to go (ask permission and) join the mob sitting in at the Djab Wurrung Embassy protecting 800-year old birthing trees from a motorway extension that’ll save drivers merely 3 minutes.
  • Connect with the mob at Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH). The Indigenous Hospitality House is a Settler (non-Indigenous) household on Wurundjeri country in Melbourne, Australia. The residents open their home to provide short-term accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who need to come to Melbourne for hospital business. They also make space for others to rethink their Settler identity and discipleship journey in light of Australia’s colonial history – they run bible study series, host regular Learning Circles,  and have published a book called Tales from the Table on their reflections and learnings from 15 years of hosting guests.
  • Explore and practice different rhythms of ritual and liturgy such as those of the Wilderness Way Community – put phones down to leave chronos time behind, take off shoes to connect with the earth, everyone is outside so you are hearing the Bible stories orally and acting them out. There are no mikes or screens or songsheets – a lot of the songs therefore are call and response or echo format…
    Everything I need is right in front of me (x2)
    Can we be manna, manna?
    Can we be manna for each other? (x2)
    See more suggestions for meditating in your watershed here.
  • Integrate daily, monthly, annual rhythms – in what you read, watch, who you follow on Facebook or on Instagram, what you do and where you go. Commit to knowing more than you did yesterday or last year. Learn significant dates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Australians and find ways to acknowledge and observe them as an individual, a family, a community, a church… as a nation. You will find art and activism, celebrations and song.

Just like Aunty Rev Patricia Courtenay said: ‘Know the past, change the future’

Stops can be starts

grey car help your neighbours my footscray

I walk home from Metrowest, shopping bags swinging. Over a low fence to my left, I see 3 people working to get a car rolling off the lawn – maybe with these bouts of heavy rain its sunk down on the grass. “Another pair of hands make a difference?” I call. “Yeah? Maybe?” they answer. So I put things down and join the line up at the hood. “On 3, 1…2…3…”. It takes a few swings to get momentum on it but then the car rolls smoothly onto the driveway. We don’t even exchange names but, for a brief moment, we have shared common ground. #stopscanbestarts  #commonground 
 #walkingmyneighbourhood 

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Equal voices Conference Melbourne October 2018 banner

There are lots of things I could write about the Equal Voices conference.  The conference covered a lot of topics and held space for a diversity of expression and experience of intersection of gender, sexuality and Christianity. Particularly powerful over the weekend were vignettes shared by ordinary people at the start of main sessions… framing, contextualising and grounding everything else. Five minutes to canvas their story and be heard.   Five vulnerable and incredibly courageous minutes.

Theirs are not my story to tell.

If you have 5 minutes to spare reading on this topic, here’s what I’ll say and pay attention because this is important.

I found myself feeling righteous anger listening to some people’s stories and some people’s sessions. Sometimes family, ministers, friends, society… say incredibly insensitive and wounding things. Sometimes this is by accident but sometimes it’s on purpose.

I realised that I, the ally, was getting angry but that other attendees and participants were not and once I noticed this I found someone to ask about it. Their answer went something like this: “Oh, I used to get angry, I used to try and explain, I used to try and work on change that relationship for that person to accept me but I don’t do that now. I’m tired. There’s just a few people I worry about, like my Mum, and everyone else I just don’t care.”

 I didn’t survey the room. This community of people were already processing a lot this weekend but take a moment to scale that up… it’s not that this person doesn’t care, it’s that they care too much, so it’s a personal cost they bear everytime they have to defend their Being to someone they expected to love them. They are resigned to it.

If you have someone in your life right now who is vulnerably, courageously, sincerely and repeatedly trying to explain something to you about their gender identity or sexuality, TUNE IN. They care about your opinion, they care about their relationship with you and  they are trying to share their life with you. They are trying to share their Self with you.

Do not think that silence is compliance, that silence is agreement, that silence is you winning…

…it’s more likely that in that silence that person is making a very difficult choice about whether they can afford the capacity to be around you anymore, to explain anymore, to give you 5 minutes anymore. Maybe in that 5 minutes, you lost. You lost them.

5 minutes.

A lot can change in 5 minutes.

Someone can cut you out of their life in 5 minutes. Someone can take their life in 5 minutes.
In 5 minutes, someone can share their Self with you. Maybe you hear a story told in someone elses voice at a conference and for the first time hear your own and you know you’re not alone.

Equal voices Conference October 2018 banner

Deep, deep thanks to the Equal Voices Melbourne organisers and all you vulnerable and courageous storytellers… especially the ones whose stories we haven’t heard. Be assured, we want to meet You.

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

The characters in this story are 5 and 6 but it is WAY to scary for kids that age (Badjelly turns kids into sausages).  Spike Mulligan does all the voices in this creative and absurd story and there’s a fairly intense soundtrack (fyi his work was a big influence on the Monty Python crew).  Essentially little kids Tim and Rose wander into the woods after their lost cow Lucy and meet various enchanted woodland characters like Binklebonk and Mudwiggle…  OMG a rumour website tells me Tim Burton might be making this into a movie 2020 – that could be fun… stinkypoo and knickers of fun.

Folks might also remember one of his most famous nonsense poems and a good example of his style:

On the Ning Nang Nong 

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There’s a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can’t catch ’em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
cause it’s the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong

Aah, like so many of the great lights of comedy it seems Spike struggled with nervous breakdowns and depression… this piece is called “Manic Depression” and is very evocative. Vale Spike Mulligan – we are grateful for your silliness and sensitivity and the gift of your art.

The pain is too much
A thousand grim winters
       grow in my head.
In my ears
        the sound of the
             coming dead
All seasons, all same
        all living
        all pain
No opiate to lock still
        my senses.
Only left, the body locked tenser.

 

rubem Alves spiritual reading group Carmelite centre for spirituality middle park theopoetics

Was Rubem Alves a poet, psychoanalyst, theologian, or philosopher? Yes.

Somewhere beyond tidy definition and cataloguing “The Poet, The Warrior, The Prophet” is an invitation to visit a place that you’ve been before but forgotten you knew.

In the same way the Eucharist is a poetic ritual of anthropophagy Rubem asks us to take in his words and be changed by them.

Gleanings shared with the Spiritual Reading Group at the Carmelite Centre, Middle Park –  19 June 2018.

 

In his article “An Anthropophagous Ritual, “ Rubem Alves wrote:

Anthropophagy is the eating of human flesh – cannibalism, something savage. But so-called savages don’t think so. A tribe of Brazilian Indians who practices anthropophagy justified it thus:  “You who call yourselves civilised don’t love your dead.  You made deep holes and bury them to be eaten by worms. We, on the other hand, love our dead. We don’t want them to be dead.  But they are dead! There is only one way to keep them alive: if we eat them. If we eat them, their flesh and blood continue to live on in our own bodies. 

Anthropophagy isn’t done for nutritional reasons. It isn’t a barbecue. It’s a magical ceremony.  It is believed that, by eating the dead, their virtues are incorporated into those who eat them. Psychoanalysts agree. They believe that our personality is formed by successive anthropophagus meals at which we devour a piece of one person, a piece of another… the Eucharist is a poetic ritual of anthropophagy: “This bread is my body; eat of it. This wine is my blood: drink of it.”

…that is what I wish. To be eaten.

 

rubem Alves theopoetics the poet, the warrior, the prophetRubem Alves died on the of 19 July 2014, aged 80 – almost exactly 4 years ago – this material we’re about to read was originally delivered at the 1990 Edward Cadbury Lectures in the University of Birmingham, segments of 8 talks given over two weeks and our invitation today is to read Alves work and take him in. Rubem Alves had a pretty extraordinary view of life and way of expressing that descriptively to others.

alves spider 1Alves spider 2

Although Stanley Hopper and David Miller are credited with coining the term theopoetics, and  Amos Wilder’s “Theopoetics: Theology and the Religious Imagination” is considered the seminal text of the field, Rubem Alves’ writing takes credit as a premium model of the style – combining theology and poetry.

Theopoetics is an interdisciplinary field of study that combines elements of narrative theology, poetic analysis, process theologyand postmodern philosophy.

Amos Wilder says: “Old words do not reach across the new gulfs, and it is only in vision and oracle that we can chart the unknown and new-name the creatures. Before the message there must be the vision, before the sermon, the hymn, before the prose, the poem.” Rubem calls us into an encounter of the Mystery of the Divine saying:

it’s not science that can explain this,
but our lived embodied experiences
.”

 

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Rubem Alves was a forerunner of the liberation theology movement and key to the transformation of Christian social ethics in light of this thinking.  He was a writer, a psychoanalyst, a theologian, an educator, a storyteller, a poet…During his career, Alves collaborated with notable personalities such as Peter MaurinDorothy Day, and Paulo Freire. He was widely read and frequently included art and quotes from the work of others in confluence with his own including writers such as Rilke, Emily Dickinson, Tolstoi, e.e.cummings, Bonhoffer, and Sigmund Freud among others – 74 different references in these lectures alone… you gain from this a sense of a man who is listening to the world and taking it in. These lectures perhaps the map of some of Alves’ anthopophagus meals.  Alves was a prolific writer contributing over 100 books, some of these translated into six different languages, children’s books (“Happy Oysters Don’t Make Pearls”) and many articles on education, philosophy and religion.

alves prayer 1Alves prayer 2

Rubem Alves was born in a small rural town, Boa Esperança, Minas Gerais, of Brazil in1933. His father was once rich but went broke during the depression and his family had to move to Rio de Janeiro where he was seen as a “hick” from the country.  This crisis was also what led his family to the church as, unable to afford to send the children to school, the family accepted assistance from Presbyterian missionaries to get their children an education.  After high school Alves studied theology, doing outreach to factory workers, then returning to his home state to serve as a pastor amongst simple and poor people (1957).  His religion was practiced and interpreted from the perspective of the poor.  Less about sin, and more about love and freedom, Alves saw religion as a means to improve the world of the living rather than guaranteeing something to people once they’re dead.  Much of what resonates in his writing is the way he takes ordinary human things and makes them sacred. The honesty with which he does this, asks listeners to consider the truth of themselves and invites them to know that as wholeness.  He writes about bodies, love, death, food, communion – universal themes…  and he writes beautifully… believing:

“…the goal of our struggle for justice and all political struggles is for the world to be more beautiful.  Poverty is horrid, it’s ugly. Poverty is death, death of children, suffering. These are terrible things! They must end!”

In 1959, he married Lídia Nopper and they had three children together — Sergio, Marcos, and Raquel.   Through the 1960s, Alves alternated between service as a Presbyterian parish pastor and study as a graduate researcher in theology. Alves went to New York to do his Masters but flew back to Brazil following the US-supported military coup of 1964. The Presbyterian Church of Brazil chose six intellectuals as scapegoats and offered these names to the new military dictatorship to avert persecution themselves.  Immediately upon his return to Brazil, rather than being reunited with his wife and children, Alves had to go into hiding. With assistance from Brazilian Freemasons and the Presbyterian Church in the United Stateshe returned to the US covertly 8 weeks later and secured an invitation from Princeton Theological Seminary  to commence doctoral studies there – where he hated it – he was not allowed to write using similes or poetry and thought this writing his ugliest. Alves received the lowest possible grade that was still a pass for his PhD. ( A Theology of Human Hope. Washington: Corpus Books. Revised version of his doctorate thesis, originally titled Towards a Theology of Liberation.) Of this academic theological approach Alves commented:

“Theology is not a net that is woven in order to capture God in its meshes,
for God is not a fish but Wind that no one can hold.  

Theology is a net which we weave for ourselves so that
we may stretch out our body in it”

 

Alves babettes Feast 1Alves Babette's feast 2

When he eventually returned to Brazil in 1974, Rubem became a University Professor.  Having been expelled by the denomination he belonged to, Rubem (along with other communities and pastors) had a painful period of isolation and dispersion until 1978, when together they founded the National Federation of Presbyterian Churches which, from 1983 on was named the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPU). Rubem made significant contribution to the founding documents of this new church and it was said of this work by The Rev. Sonia Gomes Mota: “He was not interested in giving us moral lessons or transmitting the absolute and indisputable truth. As a good theologian, philosopher and educator, he was more interested in making us think, reflect and question the immutable truths of theology and urged us to envision new possibilities and new ways of living our faith. Rubem led us to deserts and invited us to be gardeners and planters of hope.”

Born in a context of political and social oppression,preaching and teaching of God’s word as well as social programmes such as nurseries, sewing workshops, health centres, psychological services, and literacy courses are just a few examples of the integrated activities developed by these new church communities. They were the first Presbyterian church in Brazil to ordain women.

Alves once remarked,

“Prophets are not visionaries who announce a future that is coming. Prophets are poets who design a future that may happen. Poets suggest a way.”

Rubem Alves would go on to add psychotherapy to his portfolio and establish his own clinic. In later life, although he maintained a pastoral and prophetic touch with the people he encountered, Rubem’s association with institutional religion became more detached as he came to believe that space, that curiosity, that out of the “nothing” offered by poetry, more good could come than of liberation theology.

Alves unlearning

We remember

we remember to (1)

 

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