A few Small Fish

Resources and Ideas for Chaplains

Climate Justice

Picture taken just north of Stanthorpe, Saturday 4th April, fifteen weeks after fire.

I was invited to St Hilda's to address their Ethics assembly. The students hosted a wonderful assembly and it was a privilege to be present. I spoke from a story 'map'. This is a very close writing up of that address.

 

St Hilda’s Ethics assembly: Climate Justice focus

Wednesday March 11

 

 

What

What is the point …

What IS the point …

What is the POINT …

WHAT is the point …

 

What is the point of … your education?

Seriously?

To get ahead and build a prosperous life that can welcome a new family into the world and your parents be honoured?

Yes. Of course.

But the point of a school like this is yes and more –

your flourishing should lead to the increase in the flourishing of others;

your education and the privilege it brings

must turn towards a good that is bigger and greater than the self.

 

Thank you for your welcome today.

My name is Richard. Often called Farmer Richard. I first trained as a physiotherapist. There I learnt scientific methodology including the art of assessment, diagnosis and treatment. I worked as a chaplain on the coast during which time two of my sons were born just over the road at Allamanda Private Hospital. I have lived in Canberra for the last sixteen years. It has been a diabolical summer. What does a billion dead animals mean? Smoke filled the city for weeks. My parents were evacuated from their place on the coast three times. Around midday on New Years Eve, Long Beach went pitch black! In the middle of the day. The emergency centre at Batemans Bay was overwhelmed with fleeing people. There was no power or mobile phones for 52 hours. The town itself burned in parts. I have friends who sheltered on the beach for hours, and others on a boat for thirty six. There are young rural firies who lie down at night now and hear what they heard then: the terrifying screams of kangaroos, wallabies, koalas roasting to death. The trauma and shock in those communities remains. The flames were fifty metres above the tree canopy. Peat bogs and never burnt before rainforest have burnt. What does this mean? Something profoundly destructive has changed in our vast brown land.

 

Fifteen months ago I was in the Danakil desert of Ethiopia with a small group of Afar pastoralists. These are people who follow their herds of camel, sheep and goats. They pack up everything, including their housing, and move to the next watering hole. It is incredibly humbling to experience human life in a land that to our eyes is a barren and unforgiving desert. The Afar have lived for thousands of years with four meagre but sufficient rainy seasons. Now there are only two, and they have been shuffled.

 

The mechanism for heat trapping and climate change is not an idea or an argument. It is a lived reality. And what happens is the poor, the exposed, the most vulnerable are the ones who are the first to suffer. What the Afar experience now are the results of climate change. And our scientists are saying this last summer is of the kind predicted twenty years ago.

 

As I look out across this assembly, may I ask a question. Where is the balance? Where is the counter voice offering up the other side to what I have just been saying? As a response to that question, may we do a little logic.

 

If we had 100 scientific experts in the field of climate, 97 of them say, unequivocally, when humans put extra carbon in atmosphere, heat is trapped and climate changes bringing increasingly devastating effects.

 

So if we want balance, true balance, fourty eight and a half voices need to speak the science of climate change. And just one and a half against. Picture it:

  • 48.5                to                   1.5
  • Forty eight and a half long and dry and probably really boring scientific voices.
  • Then one and a half.
  • Forty eight and a half
  • One and a half.

So, if ‘balance’ is reduced to one voice here (R), and one voice here (L), an illusion is created

as if there is an argument

and there are two sides

and those two sides are more or less equal.

This ‘apparent’ balance is a deceit. Its technical term is a false equivalency.

 

As I read this room, this is what I see. I see a community, who still live with diversity of views and perspectives, but that for the most part, you are the other side of the noise of ‘this or that, belief or nonbelief’.  

 

You are asking this question: what do we do?

 

This is the right question.

 

So what do you do? May I humbly suggest the following:

 

You care. You care enough to act.

But first, your action must reflect a change in your own life. If you cannot shift a habit or practice where you live …. then you don’t really care. And as you don’t really care, you have no place to trouble others with your view. There are lots of ways to say this, but Gandhi maybe said it best: care enough to ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’.

 

So. Work on the practices in your own home, what you eat and how you travel, what energy you create and use. Don’t be an annoying git. Just act.

Stop using the word ‘belief’. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are regarding gravity, gravity just is. So too the mechanism of warming, it just is, and our global contribution increases the warming. Talking about belief makes it easier to be set against people possessed by ideas rather than the ideas themselves. So just act.

 

Work on the practices of your school. I hope I am not setting you up with a problem Headmaster (addressing the Head), but students (addressing the students), challenge your school to be carbon neutral. Of course, we all will go neutral. The only question is when? So work with your school and school Board to phase it in sooner and scale it up faster. Collaborate with each other and get some real and meaningful targets.

 

What if my work with the Anglican Diocese could facilitate a Sustainability Charter, maybe you could shape this? Maybe you could help your school to adopt it and lead it and model it for others to copy.

 

Amazingly, this seems to be where this community is at: what do we do? You seem to be beyond the paralysing, adversarial arguments that delay collective action. Because you care, act. That is my first point. It is also my only point. Care enough to act.

 

There are a few principles that underwrite this action. They are:

1.     We have the technology now. Now. There is no need to wait. What we need we have.

2.     The transition to sustainable energy does not mean compromising on volume or consumption of power. In fact more electricity will be needed because new markets and new economies await.

3.     This is an exercise in doing well and doing good. That is, pathways to new economies  creates pathways for sustainable justice. Sustainable justice means your children and their children benefit.

4.     And no one need lose a job. Germany has just shown the way. New markets creates new jobs. And those new jobs can easily be located regionally. But some will have to transition.

 

When Jesus pointed to the meaning of his presence, he declared most plainly, his work is good news, release, sight and liberty: for the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed.

 

This COVID thing tells us what we should know. Can you see it?

  • Everything is bound up together
  • and science helps us understand how things work
  • and the consequences of inaction cannot be talked or spun away.
  • Consequences are real and are coming.

 

I have been asked to pray. So I shall.

 

Come Creator God, breathe your Spirit here

and flow through these young hearts and minds

and clarify the purposes of their education

and strengthen their bodies with creativity and resolve.

We pray now for both COVID-19 and climate worlds:

Lord God, safeguard the vulnerable, the exposed, the frail, and draw the whole human community together, that we may act as one, for the good of each other, and the earth be blessed.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Beauty Will Save the World

 

Here below are a few pieces from the second chapel in the series, Beauty Will Save the World.

This could be used as a chapel service. It could also be used as an interactive meditation for home or tutor group or even at home. It seeks to be an enticing provocation to curious minds and empathetic hearts.

Gathering Intention:
I am here. As I am.
God is here. Always here.
I am open, to wonder, to receive, to see anew.
I am ready.

Prayer:
Almighty God, your Word sings the world into life
and in resurrection brings peace.
Let your Word live in us,
that though in our homes and apart,
we would be together with others;
that we would find the beauty and share the peace
where we are and with whom we live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Leader:
Jesus said,
blessed are the peace makers – they shall inherit the earth.

What on earth might that mean? What is peace making?

How is it possible to be an instrument of peace?
Where there is unrest and distrust, how could we sow love?
Where there is hurt and anger, how could we bring healing?
Where there are shadows and darkness, how can we bring light?
And if the hurt is in our own hearts and bodies and memory,
how can we be a part of healing?

Jesus returned from the dead, and did not spread vengeance or retribution, but kindness and peace.
And in sharing the Holy Spirit, Jesus asks us all to be a part of peace making. Is this not beautiful?
Why watch ‘Human, the movie’ alongside? Because the people, the music, the scenery, the wildlife, all of it is beautiful. But also to make plain the context: whatever Jesus does in Easter, it is for the good of all, not just a few.

If you would prefer just to let a prayer wash over you, and it is specific to our COVID times, breathe this in. It is what it sounds like when peace stirs within and moves outwards from our hearts and through our lips and hands. When we notice what is happening around us in these COVID days, what if a song of praise was to rise? And could it come from the heart of devastation – NYC?
A song of praise
It comes from an amazing community giving rise to The Work of The People, which is the name of the website.

Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death.
Christ is risen and shares a peace that never ends.
Alleluia amen.
Alleluia amen.
Let this beauty live in us.
Amen.
Amen.

Term 2.2 Resources

School Chapels in Days of Zoom

How best to continue school chapels?
What can be expected of the students?
How can this best be delivered?

Even when we have a physical building to hold students ‘in chapel’, we mistakenly do not ask ourselves the question – how might we host their attention? Without the physical space, we cannot avoid this question now.

Here below is a response. It is a response. There are hundreds of other ways.

A full service outline can be found here for Term 2 Easter resources
This includes a widget and a staged collection of practices that students can engage in.
If you cannot access the files, please email me and I’ll send them on.

Theme for the term:
Beauty will save the world
It has subthemes

T2.1 Resurrection
T2.2 ‘Peace be with you’
T2.3 It’s in the eating – bread (Emmaus)
T2.4 Life in abundance – John 10
T2.5 Unity in peace – Pentecost

This series is produced by the Anglican Schools Commission, Southern Queensland. Fr Richard is the author.

Across the term, a greater influence will become apparent as chaplains and students interact with the material.

The series requires no copyright or special permission. Just an acknowledgment: Resources from ASC SQ.

The series is produced with normal student population in mind. That is, less than 10% will have any significant background in Christian church experience, and maybe 20 percent of that group will come from any Anglican experience.

The question: why might a student (or family) at home engage with this? Ouchie.

This is my response.
Be short.
Be interactive, full of questions and wonderings. Load it up with provocations, stimuli and dilemmas.

Offer pathways for students to link back to the chaplain.
Offers skills to practice – all are a part of our spiritual heritage.

The liturgies will follow our ancient traditions but seeks also to engage enquiring minds, wondering questions, creative spirits, empathetic hearts, anxious times. So the series functions more like a guided meditation with accompanying spiritual exercises. It responds uniquely to the situation we find ourselves being together while apart. Across the term we will build on some simple practices that will invite student’s direct experience of the things we speak of.

 

The series is created with the understanding that chaplains will significantly adapt, adopt, build on, improve, possibly butcher, or completely ignore the materials here.

There are multiple points for interaction and engagement. As the chief focus is beauty within the context of the Easter Season, there will be many staff and departments in the schools that can easily contribute: music, art, design, technology. Performances and work should be included and added to the experiences, even as background sound or visuals. These do not have to be specifically religious or spiritual, just beautiful.

Students can engage with the material and the chaplain/department/tutor/home groups around:

· Real Questions. Students could post to the chaplain’s their real questions. This would provide a rich opportunity for email/talking circle conversations.

· The beauty saves the world images. Should the students be free to participate in this, a rich tapestry of images, words and people will be collected. This would be really good to add to the school webpage, or the chaplain site and provide for further interaction.

· The community engagement opportunities will expand over the coming weeks. This will give a rich opportunity for chaplain – student dialogue and collaboration.

· Any devices or opportunities opened up by the chaplains

Theme:
Beauty will save the world

Sub theme:
Resurrection

Season:
Easter

Context:
COVID-19 isolation; lock down; remote learning; anxiety, loneliness, confusion, loss of agency, disconnection yet digital connection; income stress …

Metaphor / Symbol:
Images of tiny beauty: the winged seed

Gospel Message:
Jesus is risen. The mechanism that binds human hearts to evil is broken. This is beautiful. We are invited to join with Christ for the good of the earth.

Guiding Questions:
If the line between good and evil runs down the middle of every human being, how can we lean in to the good? (If this is possible, this would be beautiful.)
Where is beauty where we live?
How can we act in ways that increase the beauty around us?

Key Concept:
Engaging with beauty and wonder is an encounter with the Divine. It is something we can do together while apart.
(The Easter event is exquisitely beautiful- an instrument of torture becomes a sign of hope)

Key Practice:
Practicing attention, noticing on purpose, seeing the beauty, growing in wonder

Film:
Human, the movie (stunningly beautiful and readily available on YouTube for free)

Resources:
T2.1 Practices
Example Homily (Fr Richard)

 

Thinking in Covid Days

Rather

a reflection on pastoral engagement and modelling faith

Instead of reasoning, we are present.

Instead of explaining, we listen.

Instead of justifying, we lament-

we notice and pay attention and feel deeply then express in word and silence and picture and music and symbol. We cry out to the God who is found alongside, even in darkness and in death.

Rather than blaming we call things by their right name.

Rather than searching for answers we search for meaning.

Rather than making judgements we make promises.

Rather than mongering fear we monger care.

Instead of reacting we respond, not with suspicion but loving kindness.

Instead of spreading anxiety,

we are contagious with the love of God and the hope of Christ.

Rather than rationalising we repent. We repent of our sins and seek on earth God’s way and will, living the news that is good for all, bringing release, sight and liberty.

All shall be well

Three months ago much of our land was a torched earth with naked, blackened trees.

Now green bursts forth, irrepressibly.

While now we are vigilant, on edge, withdrawn to safeguard ourselves and each other, the time will come to burst forth.

Julian of Norwich lived through plague and years of cell bound isolation. The work of partnering with God in the hardship of others was her gift and is our task. These words of hers are spoken from a heart formed by Christ of the cross. May they settle in our bones:

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

The Lord’s Prayer from an Aramaic rather than Greek translation

Our Abba, Source of Life

Your Kin-dom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

Give us today what we need.

Forgive us our complicity in brokenness and disease,

as we forgive those who infect us also.

Save us from the overwhelming waters

and deliver us from evil.

Our lives are in your hands.

Always.

And forever.

Amen.

A Lament

(Delete or add whatever better suits your time and place)

On lament as a work of hope

N.T. Wright on Christianity and pandemic and the role of Lament, TIME 30 March

A COVID lamentation

For all who have contracted the virus.

Lord have mercy.

For all who wait, unsure when we too will be infected.

Lord have mercy.

For all those who work with the sick, the doctors and nurses and medical staff, whose work exposes them to massive viral loads and hugely increased chances of infection.

Lord have mercy.

For all those who work with the sick with limited resources and compromised protective equipment.

Lord have mercy.

For those whose home confinement increases conflict, difficulty, anguish and even violence.

Lord have mercy.

For those whose confinement removes contact with neighbours and trees and sky and animals and birds.

Lord have mercy.

For those overwhelmed with loneliness and isolation.

Lord have mercy.

For all those with heightened risk factors.

Lord have mercy.

For all who have lost work and livelihood.

Lord have mercy.

For all who have been broken with debt and see no way out. For all whose lives are threatened with eviction and compromised housing. For all who feel overwhelmed with rising costs and fallen income and can see no way out or through.

Lord have mercy.

For those with loved ones gravely ill.

Christ have mercy.

For those with loved ones already lost.

Christ have mercy.

For those now in mourning and have been taken over with sadness. For those robbed of a last word or a final touch.

Christ have mercy.

For those burdened with impossible decisions; those who have to decide who will receive care and who will not.

Christ have mercy.

For our political leaders who work to secure incomes and workplaces and health processes and hospital practices and safe border protections.

Christ have mercy.

For our scientists and laboratory technicians and research assistants working for diagnostic tools and methods of containment and solutions and treatments and vaccinations.

Christ have mercy.

We cry out in anguish. We long for reassurance, for enough beds and respirators and medical staff and masks and gowns and enough to attend to the sick.

Lord have mercy.

We long for an end, for quicker tests and faster results, for safer treatments and surer cures and vaccinations and immunity for all and especially the vulnerable.

Lord have mercy.

We long to be able to reach out and touch and embrace and kiss. We long to be able to share spaces again and tables and food and common cups.

Lord have mercy.

We long for there to be a peace in our days and calm in our lives. We long for rest for our doctors and nurses and hospital staff.

Lord have mercy.

We cry out for wisdom and calm. We cry out for peace, within and among us.

O Lord, you are our God and we are your people. Make your presence known among us. You are the Shepherd and you are our Shepherd. We shall not want or be afraid.

Nothing can separate us from your unfailing love, not sickness or fear or worry for tomorrow, not darkness or even death. You are our Light and our guide in the midst of trouble. We shall not want or be afraid.

Amen.

Covid is Coming

Covid is Coming

Everyone wrote prayers as COVID and lock down approached.

This was the one I wrote and have been praying.

23 March

God of the Cosmos and the ocean

The great wide and deep calls us

Yet we are sent into our smallest spaces, our walled safe places.

May the tracing of the sun and the rhythm of the day

bring our bodies into greater stillness.

As we practice being together apart,

Guide us how to reach out with the heart.

We experience this truth- our lives are not our own.

Even without touching, we are held in the hands of others,

and in these hands our future is held.

Loving God, you are near, nearer than our heart beat, closer than our breath.

Jesus, to this day your hands bear the scars of steadfast, costly love.

Spirit of Grace, reach into our lives now,

that we could reach out with our own,

not with hands but with hearts;

not with a hug, but in word;

that the invisible threads of deepest caring

could bind our solitudes into embrace,

and the earth and humanity be blessed.

In your name and to this world

we commit ourselves afresh to love and always love.

Amen.



COVID is coming
16 March
Richard Browning

Last week our PM talked of going to the footy. And Hillsong.

Haven’t seen much of him since.

Everything has changed.

COVID is coming.

The airport is empty- eerie empty.

Just outside a tree is full of birds.

Noisy. Laughing. Playing silly buggers. Joking.

Excited that the day is minutes away from breaking.

Maybe they always do this.

They spend no time worrying for tomorrow.

Tiny invisible fragments of DNA, not even living material

is bringing us back.

COVID draws us back

to dawn and a shared reality –

our shared entwinned interwoven interdependent ecology of inextricably connected sum of all things.

Where this connection has always been abundant and beautiful and mysterious

and ignorable

now it holds terror.

Our lives are not our own –

never have they been our own.

We all need to be infected again

by dawn

and the sum of all connected things

and the day which asks of us all, what have we to give?

This life, which is not ours to own is bound to the birds, and the day, and others and all others,

and fragments of non-living things.

(Image: photo taken of a Taize tea-light prayer candle, early in the morning 24 March)

Tree Climbing

Introducing Fr Richard as Director of Mission, ASC

Hello.
My name is Richard.
I am the new Director of Mission for the Anglican Schools Commission, Southern Queensland. I have been a priest for over twenty four years and return to the Diocese of Brisbane after sixteen years as chaplain at Radford College, Canberra.

This new role puts me in a team of amazingly capable peers serving our schools. My role is to listen carefully and shape and build the ethos of the ASC and support principals and chaplains, their communities, and the identity of Anglican schools, with a specific focus around how each lives their vision, being faithful to the mission of the Gospel. A little Q&A article in the Anglican Focus might be the best place to get a deeper introduction.

QandA with Fr Richard

To those who know me they will not be surprised to see a photo of my 22 year old self with sweaty armpits. They might also wonder, tree climbing? Really? And in the title of the article? The picture taken here by the Lachlan River, Cowra is real but may not  satisfy proof of habit. This blog will continue the long tradition of posting helpful resources, inspirational stories and insights into the amazing work our chaplains are doing in and around our school communities. It may or may not include further evidence of tree climbing.

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