A few Small Fish

Resources and Ideas for Chaplains

Because

Because

A gentle riff on the Anglican School’s Ethos 2020

ASC SQ Ethos Statement 2020: https://www.ascmission.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/AngSchoolsEthos2020-2.pdf
(feel free to comment, improve, correct, build on)

Because we are an Anglican school we make words real: love, fairness, justice, joy. We practise them daily and expect to be held accountable to them.

Because we are an Anglican school

  • we fearlessly pursue truth, and follow it, wherever truth leads
  • no question is too difficult and no wondering too dangerous
  • we acknowledge that truth addresses us, we are always being addressed, and love is the best answer. 

Because we are an Anglican school we unashamedly embrace intellectual endeavour and academic rigour.

Because we are an Anglican school

  • we love rational thought but acknowledge that there are many kinds of intelligence.
  • we celebrate the wholeness of mind and body and heart and soul
  • we delight in personal bests and flourishing lives

Because we are an Anglican school

  • we are faithful. The gracious story of Perfect Love is held up, where Jesus’ dying and rising is our framework for joyful resilience;
  • we teach religious and values education with rigour and skill, and expect our students to grow in literacy of the sacred Christian story.

Because we are an Anglican school

  • we practice strange things like stillness, prayer, ritual, chapel (and the possibility that within a compulsory environment, worship might be experienced);
  • we expect skills learnt in religious instruction to improve student’s ability to engage in other disciplines of learning.

Because we are an Anglican school

  • the community will encounter the authentic Christian narrative;
  • and people will deepen their Christian faith while others will start theirs;
  • and Muslims who encounter this narrative should expect to become better Muslims, and Jews better Jews, and Hindus better Hindus and humans better humans.

Because we are an Anglican school, students learn about other religions for insight and growth.

Because we are an Anglican school all staff, no matter their story or faith, stand in solidarity with the school’s values and their roots in the Christian narrative.

Because we are an Anglican school we educate and share, not indoctrinate and coerce. 

Because we are an Anglican school we name:

  • every child: made in the image and likeness of God.
  • every child: lovable and loved, unique and unrepeatable.

Because we are an Anglican school we declare our commitment to outstanding education for the flourishing of people and the good of society.

Because we are an Anglican school we empower and liberate for shared prosperity not individual wealth.

Because we are an Anglican school we ask ourselves:

  • what must we share with and give to the wider community?
  • how can we stand with public education and enrich each other?
  • how can we delight in and guard the goodness of creation?

Because we are an Anglican school we serve others for the common good.

Because we are an Anglican school we ask:

  • what purpose is education?
  • and if not for justice, then why not? 
  • and if not for a common good, why not? 

Because we are an Anglican school we ask

  • how does our learning liberate and enliven our students?
  • and how do those liberated in our midst enliven and liberate others?
  • what are the responsibilities of privilege, and how are we to share, to serve, to lead?

Because we are an Anglican school every person is welcomed, no matter the race, religion, ability, sexuality or gender. 

Because we are an Anglican school all can expect a shared culture of respect.

“I Just Want To Make A Difference”

The book “I Just Want To Make A Difference” was launched

at the Dirrum Festival 2020 CBR.

https://www.dirrumfestival.org/cbr20

I spoke rather than read my short talk. This was the text for that talk.

 

Introduction

Of all the kindly voices that might speak well of this book,

the voices I treasure most

are those from students –

the young hearts and minds who engage with this text –

especially those from within a classroom.

These are the voices with the greatest authority.

 

The book ‘I just want to make a difference’ is not an easy read.

It is not so much a book about ideas.

It’s a mirror written in stories

that by seeing ourselves more clearly,

we might be in the world in a particular way;

a way that brings light and life.

 

 

The path

So let’s cut to the chase: how do we make a difference?

This is my answer.

 

Notice.

That is it.

You notice.

And after you notice

you ask a question.

A good question. Sometimes maybe even the right question.

And then you follow where the question leads.

 

That might sound overly simplistic, but it need not be any more complicated.

But there is a catch. This simple path from noticing to acting is full of traps, obstacles and false turns.

Unless you have your schtoof together, you won’t notice.

And if you can’t notice then you won’t ask a question, let alone the right question, 

nor will you have the capacity or courage to follow where the question leads.

 

 

Getting your schtoof together

Getting your schtoof together is a lifetime’s journey. I am still working on mine and I am eternally grateful for the household I belong to for their loving, firm correction.

Getting your schtoof together has lots of names.

Jordan Peterson: get your house in order before challenging what lies beyond it.

Jesus: comically, says ‘get the flogging great big log out of your own eye before you have a crack at the speck in another’.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: whatever is the change you wish to see in the world, start where you are and be it.

 

Stories about the schtoof

If you have a semblance of your schtoof together, you will notice that one of the most profound questions is the most common:

            How are you going?

But if you haven’t got your schtoof together, you might not notice it is an invitation as well as a greeting. If your schtoof is anywhere near together, you will be able to notice when the one you are greeting is not ok, and your attentive presence allows a more honest answer, a response that is more involved than the cover-all reply ‘I’m fine’.

Seven year old Chelsea lived with her family for a while in Qatar. She noticed that she was jumping into a seven seater 4WD with her father while near by a bus was crammed beyond full with weary brown people. Seven year old Chelsea ask her father, “Why? Is it about colour?”

Seventeen year old Chelsea is here tonight, and while she has not got all her schtoof together, listening to her these last few days, and that she voicing again that same question, would suggest that she is ready now to follow where that profound question would lead.

We can assume teenage Greta was in a science classroom, engaging a methodology that had proposed one hundred and thirty years ago what we are now seeing: burn stuff and gases go up into the air. And just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It is quick maths and simple physics, more atmospheric carbon means greater heat trapping means increased temperatures. Left unchecked, this means systemic and catastrophic climate change.

That fifteen year old Greta noticed enough to ask a question, “what do we do with what we know?” Which led to “Why aren’t we doing what we can?” Greta annoys people, and it is partly because her schtoof is sufficiently together to follow where those questions led, which was initially, simply, persistently, a solo Friday protest.

You might notice that it is hard to wear a mask all the time, and lock down and isolation is restrictive and really challenging. And if you notice that, have you noticed that there are hundreds of people, directly under Australia’s care, now in their 8th year of indefinite detention, with limited or no access to family, health, education or hope. And if you noticed that, you might ask, ‘why?’ How is it that some people are treated abominably, on purpose? How is it that human rights apply to most, but for some, they are actively discarded?

You might notice that prior to colonisation, this land was not empty. It was inhabited, not by one, but by hundreds of nations, who have lived, co-existed and thrived for tens of thousands of years. This land has always been multi-cultural, with hundreds of languages, cultures and lore. You might notice that now, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander youth ‘languish in detention in obscene numbers’ and black deaths in custody is outrageously high. If we noticed this, we might then ask some questions like, “why? What can we do about the ‘torment of powerlessness’?”

If we have our schtoof together, we may be able to notice that many of us, maybe all of us, come from a place of privilege. And in noticing this, what is the next question? It could simply be, so how are we to live?

Whatever is the response to this question about privilege, the answer has a context.

 

The context for living

There is a little COVID bug that has made this context very clear. For something that is 10 000 times smaller than a grain of salt, something that is technically barely living and is just a parcel of fragments of DNA, everything has changed. It was always so, but COVID has made it visible: every everything everything is connected.

Life is relational.

Reality is relational.

            Knowledge

            Learning

            Health – all relational.

            Economy: relational.

            Meaning

            Solutions

            Freedom – all relational.

 

And privilege is relational.

How we move from our privilege, is always in the context of others, the poor, the planet, justice and fairness.


           

The beginning

About four years ago I met a young woman at a conference. Her presentation was about her volunteer work in Cambodia. She spoke with great passion and empathy. She was working on a road building project in a remote community. It raised the usual questions:

            What previous experience did she have in road building?

            Are there not people in Cambodia, in that community even, capable of unskilled labour?

            Did the force for change need to come from outside the community?

            What organisation facilitated the journey and how do they make money?

            And specifically for the young person, “if you went to Cambodia but were not allowed to be ‘useful’, would you go and what would you do?”

I didn’t get very far with my questions. Very quickly she became defensive, and put up what is commonly heard: ‘I just want to make a difference!’

There has to be a way that we can take the energy and empathy of young hearts and minds and set them out into the world for a lifetime of working for a greater and common good, free of the traps and pitfalls that came from anything whose first three words are:

                    ‘I JUST WANT’.

Not long after I sat in a café with artist Franki Sparke, whose remarkable artwork brings the book alive. I told her the Cambodia road building story and she looked at me and said: “so write a book”. So I did. With lots and lots of help.

Conclusion

To you mighty young hearts and minds,

You do not have to wait,

to grow up or finish school or get a job.

You can go about it now.

You can have your

schtoof

sufficiently together to

notice;

and if you notice,

you can ask a question, a good question;

and there with courage and whatever capacity you have,

you can dare and follow where that question leads.

This is how anything, anywhere, has ever changed for the good of the earth and children yet unborn.

And if this little book has made a contribution to that journey?

Well, how privileged am I!

Privilege, prejudice and service-learning

An invitation to a conversation

Fr Richard Browning (written early in July)

Introduction

I have learnt some things recently.

You don’t have to be white to be infected with white supremacy. It can infect everything, including people of colour. Right back in the 1940s the Doll Test by Ken and Manie Clarke makes plain[1], a child of colour can look out on the world and believe themselves to be fundamentally inferior to others.

White supremacy is the silent underlying premise behind British colonisation in Australia – Terra Nullius was its unchallenged unspoken assumption writ large in the practices it encouraged and sheltered.

It is difficult to speak about white supremacy let alone privilege and engage in conversations within our families and wider. As our schools are a part of the dominant culture and beneficiaries of Australian colonisation, we must ask: are we aware of what we inherit and what do we do with the incumbent privilege? The more we learn, the more respectful we can be and effective in acting decisively against racism.

All we have is all a gift.

The earth gives up its goodness, as does the oceans. It is a privilege to receive the generosity of another, their heart, their trust, their wisdom. It is a privilege to be alive, conscious and free to love and be loved.

Being aware of the blessings we have leads to profound humility and gratitude. In this way, a consciousness of privilege can be a spiritual discipline, not dissimilar to a poverty of spirit. Privilege is not a problem. Blindness is. Station in life is not a problem. Birthright and entitlement is. Being unaware that privilege brings responsibility is a major problem. Economic privilege brings particular responsibilities. How can we be faithful to these responsibilities? How can our unmistakeable privilege bring light and life and justice?

What follows is a closer look at service-learning with the question: how can a deeper consciousness of privilege shape our practice for the better? How can we better stand in solidarity with and walk alongside others? With a greater consciousness we can focus on the flourishing of the other and their community. The return for this is a more honest, critical, intelligent, challenging and formative learning experience for our students. This work is hard, but essential.

What follows is an invitation to a conversation. Please use the comment section below or email the author directly.

[1] It was a simple test: put a child of colour in a room with two dolls, one black and the other white. The questions were simple: which doll is pretty/ugly? Which is smart/dim? Which is bad/good? Which doll would you like to play with? Which doll most closely identifies with your colour? This test was significant in overturning the 1954 Supreme Court case ‘separate but equal’ policy of student segregation by colour. The Doll Test was compelling. Children of colour affected by segregation associated whiteness with beauty, intelligence, goodness. And they knew they were not white.

Re-imagining biblical studies

The BLM movement asks us to examine our biblical inheritance critically. Where has Christian faith and its engagement with scripture allowed and encouraged slavery, systemic oppression and economic exclusion of differently pigmented people?

When I studied Romans and Galatians under Professor James Haire at Brisbane College of Theology, he said something that has stayed with me. The way we study the bible has had to change after the Holocaust. Christian communities failed to challenge and at times aided and abetted the systematic annihilation of people. Millions were carted to capital slaughter with highly organised bureaucratic systems using the efficiency of state-run railway lines purposed for industrialised murder. The vast majority were Jews. How is this possible? What have we missed in our revelation of God’s character in the person of Jesus? Yet less than a few years later, Nakba happened, the great rupture for Palestinians, violently uprooted from their own homes. Less than ten years later, concentration camps were established in Kenya and Malaya under the British flag and rule. And not so long after, a very ‘christian’ nation in Rwanda hacked and chopped its way into genocide. Not withstanding the many prophetic voices, what have we received in our interpretation of the scriptures that has fostered our ability to ignore at best, shield and encourage at times, the active destruction of others?

Racism is a lie and its practice is evil.

Every person everywhere is made in the image and likeness of God. There is only one race – the human race. All else is a construction. The worthiness of any love for God is tested in our love for neighbour, or stranger or enemy. So it is that the church has to be the one to take back our sacred texts, retrieving them from the mouths of those who, with ugliness on their faces, rage of purity of bloodline and ‘racial’ division. There are no scriptural grounds for antisemitism or slavery or racism – the single test is Jesus of the cross.

The surge of interest in #BLM and marching, even in the face of pandemic has highlighted Australia’s racist roots. Our nation is built, not upon empty but sovereign lands. These lands have been owned by nations and peoples whose language and cultures have had custody of place for over sixty thousand years. These lands have never been ceded. No treaty has ever been agreed let alone drawn up. The Black Lives Matter movement has surged and in landing here in Australia, we have heard once again the names of Ms Dhu, David Dungay Jr, Mulrunji Doomadgee and Tanya Day. There are many many more who, like them, have died in custody. Many of the stories are shocking.

Rio Tinto’s Reconciliation Week explosion of a 46 000 year old sacred site highlights the gap in our values. Public statues have received more attention than sacred sites. The use of symbols to declare the dominant public narrative is powerful. Why else were police on night watch around statues in Hyde Park? Why else have some been wrapped up and sealed off? In Britain momentum gathers around increased criminal sentencing for wilful damage to some statues. The Criminal Damages Act already permits sentences for up to ten years. (The current minimum sentence for rape is five!) Clearly, protecting the ‘narrative’ statues embody is emotive, for reasons both good and ill.

Following an article in the SMH on the vandalisation of a Captain Cook memorial[1], Phillip Heath, Principal of Barker College tweeted: Tipping Point. Time for a treaty, constitutional reform & frontier war memorials alongside. It’s our story, for good and ill.

I agree with Phillip. And rather than asking First Nations people to act on our behalf and create the space for dialogue and hold it open, natives of the dominant culture must lead. And isn’t it us? Isn’t it me?

Education has long been an ideological battle ground. The nineteenth century saw states copy Germany and adopt the Prussian model. We are one of them. This factory style education system extended adolescence and reduced familial influence for the purpose of producing obedient soldiers and compliant workers[2]. Our public statues have become a battle ground because they stand as testimonies to the dominant narrative. There are other important stories that need to be told. Not counter, just other, and as Heath simply suggests, why not place them side by side? I noticed Tom Calma echoing the same sentiment in his remarkable address at the Dirrum Festival, Canberra. Don’t pull down, put alongside. https://youtu.be/QnNhe9WoIUQ

The classroom I wish to examine is not history, but ‘service-learning’. As the Anglican Schools Ethos Statement SQ states plainly, we have a civic mission. Learning is purposed for a greater and common good, including the “vigorous work of restorative justice and guardianship of the sacredness of the created order”.

Creating a culture of service is a marker of an Anglican school. The Ethos statement continues:

Service is solidarity with the other,

working alongside the other for their best interests, awakening their power.

Service builds up community

whose markers are justice, inclusiveness, sustainability, diversity.

Service copies the actions of Christ and is the practice of being a neighbour.

We inherit profound privilege.

If we can send students to a ‘developing’ country to do service, then we are clearly exercising profound privilege. If it is easier to do service overseas and not in our neighbourhood; if we use countries as destinations for adventure and character development, we are thick in the land of privilege. If our families choose to pay extra for education, even though many work exceedingly hard to achieve this, then we live with privilege.

There is nothing wrong with privilege – or sugar or wine for that matter. How it is used is the issue. If we are blind to our privilege and its roots, then our privilege will always place us above the other. We will tend to think we are where we are because of our inherent character. We will fail to see the open doors of opportunity before us are there simply as a function of our who we are, while many others have no doors at all. Unless we can see, we will remain not just imbedded in the problem, but complicit within it. We will struggle to move beyond moralising do-goodism, be less effective in generating positive social change and be ignorant of how it is we too are in need of liberation.

Until this year I have taken students to Timor-Leste eleven years in a row. The premise was never to be useful. The premise was always to learn. Part of the purpose of the journey was building relationships and collaborate around the needs that emerge. Part of the purpose was to expose our students to the inherent privilege we possess and invest in a young person’s lifelong commitment to justice, not simply a short-term fling with feelings of usefulness. By recognising our privilege we are freed to respond to a bigger question: what do we to do with what we have? How can we use privilege for a greater and common good?

All the learnings I gained across the years in Timor have shaped a little book I wrote called “I just want to make a difference” (IJWTMAD). As a student asked in Timor, “how is it possible to get the learnings of being in Timor without having to come to Timor?” If twenty can go, two thousand can’t. This is an enormous challenge and I hope IJWTMAD might be a meaningful contribution in the formation of the great many who stay.

Just as we have had to redress our relationship with the scriptures and preaching post-slavery/holocaust/Nakba/Rawanda/colonisation, and wonder about the need to de-colonise our public statues with different but concurrent narratives, so too we need to examine elements of our education. In the context of service learning, there is much to lose if we don’t. Apart from failing to faithfully serve the ‘other’; apart from perpetuating stereotypes of ‘the poor’; and atomised, narrow definitions of poverty; apart from exporting our dominant, western, materialistic, individualistic non-spiritual culture, we do a disservice to our students.

We can induct and form students into falsehoods.

We must examine our programs and check our privilege otherwise our students will be formed into falsehoods and new patterns of ‘colonisation’, all the while wicked and pressing problems will remain unattended. Unchecked privilege in a foreign context can imply:

  • Solutions come from outside the community and can be ‘parachuted’ in.

This is false.

  • Solutions have no need to be grounded in the local web of relationships and culture and relationships, while local wisdom, strength, resources are of less value.

This is false.

  • Complex, historical, geopolitical problems have simple solutions.

This is false.

  • Foreign teenagers with no language or cultural experience can do in two weeks what locals can’t do for themselves.

False.

  • Foreign unskilled teenagers can do what they would never do at home, like house building and classroom teaching.

Just because this happens doesn’t make it right.

  • Poverty is the lack of some material good and simple transactions are effective solutions.

False.

  • Service is what people do who have resources and the power to act.

We have to examine our understanding of what service should be.

  • We can leave places after a visit and not be accountable to any long-term good, relationship or responsibility.

There are so many examples of helping that brings harm.

  • We who go are not poor.

We are so often blind to our poverty, especially spiritually, relationally, communally. One reason to go is to return, paradoxically, acutely aware of our inherent poverty and privilege.

  • Our first responsibility should first be to our students.

If is to be called service then no. In service learning and in service, the first responsibility is to those we might seek to serve.

  • If our work doesn’t last or work, we do not need to take responsibility.

Clearly this must be challenged and sometimes this question should first be asked: is it better that we don’t go at all?

There are so many companies and programs taking students overseas to ‘do service’? Clearly there is a healthy business model at play. The COVID break from overseas travel is an opportunity for us to look over the back fence, into our neighbourhoods and listen carefully to the needs that are within our own communities. This is one of the most dangerous questions to ask – what are the needs around me?

What are the needs around us?

There are ways we can walk alongside others of great need and cultural diversity. We must do this as human beings, equals and fellow travellers. We must first do this in our own neighbourhoods. These ways are slower, deeper, and more costly in terms of time and relationships and mutual respect. ‘Solutions’ are not at first or easily apparent. Schools are doing this already and with some care we all can.

First Nation’s engagement should embraced early and enthusiastically. Real and long-term relationships with elders and culture and knowledge should be happening. Unless we do, any journey beyond where we live will ring hollow without first knowing the ground – or story or language or history or culture or totem or dreaming or people – from which we move. 

Questions

Spiritual awareness is about sight. So is racism and prejudice. How can we see what we cannot see? If recognising privilege is not about triggering guilt but responsible action, what are the next steps?

In what ways might our privilege distort other areas of our education?

What is misplaced with this article?

What is helpful in this article?

What now is the right challenge?

What can you see now that you couldn’t before?

What are your question(s) for author (Richard)?

[1] https://smh.com.au/national/victoria/captain-cook-memorial-in-edinburgh-gardens-vandalised-20200614-p552i2.html 

[2] https://qz.com/1314814/universal-education-was-first-promoted-by-industrialists-who-wanted-docile-factory-workers/

Detention, a tennis ball and string

What do you have to do to be locked up indefinitely?

A band hits their straps on the pavement outside the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel. On the balcony are groups of men, smoking, watching, waving, videoing, some wave back at people on the street who have first waved to them. The men are from Nauru and Manus Islands. Actually they are from Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka and the like. They have been in detention now for over seven years. SEVEN years! Whatever is their crime, this sentence would be enough. (Tomorrow Vince Ryan will leave Long Bay Prison after serving less than eighteen months for the sexual abuse of two altar boys.) But these men are not criminals. And they have no sentence, just indefinite torturous detention, vilified as a means to a popular end. They are a fled people, seeking refuge and safety because their home became the mouth of a carnivore.

 

Barricades have been put up so we cannot see what is obvious from the far pavement: humour, grace, dignity, strength, defiance. They are meant to be out of sight. We are not supposed to see for we will encounter what is obvious: their humanity. What is also apparent is our inhumanity.

There is no reasonable ‘why’. A ‘why’ has long long gone.

The stolen marriages and families and studies and relationships and enterprises and new beginnings have been illegally taken from them all, with trauma heaped upon trauma. We must set them free so they can live and thrive. If we cannot do this out of compassion and decency, we must do for selfish reasons. The freedom of the prisoner will release us from our own inhumanity (and continuing billions of dollars that a few people benefit from as complicit agents of corporate oppression, the bosses behind Serco are but one). Maybe that is the winning argument? We tend to our own needs and free ourselves by releasing the ones we have randomly chosen to condemn.

The hardest book I have read in a long time, maybe ever, was Behrouz Boochani’s “No Friend but the Mountain”. He introduces the notion of the Kyriarchial System. I read about it in his remarkable book. On Sunday I felt it for the first time standing on the pavement. I saw it with my own eyes and felt it in my own heart: we have participated in the systematic dehumanising of a particular kind of person. Not a refugee – for tens of thousands of ‘illegals’ continued to arrive by plane. They are a particular kind, a demonised other – the ‘boat person’ – stripped of all dignity, they have become a number. And we have become their tormentors.

We have to set them free.

The stolen marriages and families and studies and relationships and enterprises and new beginnings have been illegally taken from them all, with trauma heaped upon trauma. We must set them free so they can live and thrive. If we cannot do this out of compassion and decency, we must do for selfish reasons. The freedom of the prisoner will release us from our own inhumanity (and continuing billions of dollars that a few people benefit from as complicit agents of corporate oppression, the bosses behind Serco are but one). Maybe that is the winning argument? We tend to our own needs and free ourselves by releasing the ones we have randomly chosen to condemn.

A tennis ball, string and a throwing arm

The fence and balcony is strewn with string. A tennis ball stuffed with string lands short and is pulled back like a line from a deep-sea fishing venture – only this one is being thrown from the deep, not into it. A smiling, well-dressed man of stunning middle eastern appearance prepares the ball and string and throws it again. It lands well, over the barricade and near a mother and her child. Here, a string, a fragile filament crosses barriers and divides and oceans allowing two people of unknown backgrounds to connect.

The child holds it and feels electricity and joy sweeps her face. She steps back to see the hand of the one who threw it. And then comes another hand. It is the hand of the system.

Police have a job to do. But what is that job when it means a young girl is made to let go of a string line? Something outside the humanity of the policeman demands that he move in and cut off the string of connection. The child shrinks behind her mother’s skirt. Joy is burst and the reality is made plain – we are not allowed to do what is in our nature. We are not allowed to share and touch and reach out and be human together.

The little girl chalked onto the road what was written on her banner: “no justice, no peace”. She couldn’t spell justice. But she can tell what its like to hold a tiny string of playful connection that bridged a great divide. And she can tell what it is like to have it cut without a plausible reason why.

Tears came and went and came again.

I stood staring into the balcony. Tears came and went and I felt a sickening heaviness in my stomach. I do not know what to do with it. I have protested for this very cause every year for over twelve years.

I woke up today, Monday, and did my prayers and the reading set for the day included chapter five of the prophet Amos. The prophet shows no restraint:

They hate the one who reproves in the gate,
    and they abhor the one who speaks the truth

… and trample on the poor
    and take from them levies of grain,

I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Indefinite detention must end.

Now.

Just end it.

Now.

 

#GameOver

#WelcomeRefugees

#Justice

#NoJusticeNoPeace

 

The Yoking

Sunday 5 July

Romans 7.15-24a

Matthew 11.16-9, 25-30

 

The Yoking

 

Earlier this year I read Sam Harris’ book ‘Free Will’.

Basically we have none.

No act, no thought,

no thought about a thought,

no proto thought is the activity of an autonomous will.

Free will is an illusion.

We might feel free,

exhilaratingly free if you are Hasan Kaval

who just parasailed across the Turkish riviera

on a sofa.

But that too is a phantom.

We are made.

 

Everything is random and we are not responsible;

or everything is determined, and so we are not responsible;

says Harris.

 

There is a wilderness of causes for this phenomenon:

DNA, or cultural conditioning,

environmental moulding,

chemical coding or algorithmic triggering.

 

Harris is right. Individual wilful freedom is an illusion.

 

But this is no great shock or revelation.

He is not the only one to say

human beings receive themselves from somewhere else.

 

‘Somewhere else’?

Rivalry, addiction, jealousy,

ignorance, unchecked sex drive, unchecked ego,

unchecked prejudice, cultural myths.

 

From our heritage we would add sin.

As Paul says,

“the thing I want to do

I cannot do

and the very thing I would never want to do

I find myself doing.”

Picture a double oxen yoke.

It is a timber brace that would cross the shoulders

of two creatures, with hoops underneath

locking their necks and their steps, binding their load into one.

 

We are similarly yoked,

to something other than ourselves,

the wilds of hidden unconscious causes (Harris),

or sin (Paul),

all in all a mechanism of being ‘tied to’ something else.

 

We can struggle to free ourselves from this bondage.

We might shake off the one to whom we are currently bound,

only for another to take its place.

But we can never be released from this mechanism,

we are forever yoked.

Indeed, to be human is to be yoked.

 

We could forget,

and become numb and blind to the other

and simply,

mindlessly, unconsciously

move

to the other’s whim and beat.

 

Either way, we are bound.

This is human kind.

We receive ourselves from outside ourselves.

 

To our trained, individualistic,

self-deterministic, acquisitive sensibilities,

this is repugnant.

 

When Jesus became human,

he emptied himself and became

a slave,

to this same mechanism.

(He has just told us in today’s reading to whom he was bound.)

 

If a robot was to become human, it too would become a yoked creature.

 

So what does it mean to say Jesus liberates?

Jesus proclaims the good news is freedom

for the captive and oppressed.

What does that mean?

 

Does that mean the yoke can be broken?

No.

The gospel changes not the yoke, but the one to whom we are yoked.

 

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

This is the good news:

We cannot be released from the yoke

But we can choose to whom we are bound,

and to be yoked to Jesus,

means no other may have power over us

and in Jesus we are cut loose from a bondage to death and decay.

 

Being yoked to Jesus means that Perfect Love is our preeminent cause,

From whom we receive ourselves without distortion or deceit.

 

Accepting the yoke Jesus offers allows us to say –

I am wholly responsible.

No more can I blame my parents, or sister, the twisted friend, the devil, fear, last night’s meal, Cambridge Analytica, China, Zuckerburg or the weather.

 

In the Yoking with Perfect Love we enter the world as a humble, fragile, vulnerable, flawed agent, but agent none the less.

 

No human is their own person on their own.

To be yoked to Jesus means that we receive ourselves back,

but not on our own

and not for our own personal reward.

Bound to Jesus we are bound to the world Jesus loves.

Where Jesus weeps, so must we.

When Jesus sings, so must we dance.

Where Jesus cries out, so must we act, for justice and for peace.

 

With agency comes citizenship with Jesus

and we are sent to bear Jesus’ goodness and love to the world.

As Christ moves, so do we,

drawn to the poor, the trapped, the blind and oppressed

bearing good news, release, sight and liberation.

 

Come, all who are burdened and weary, come to Jesus,

lay your burdens down.

Find rest in your soul and a yoke that fits perfectly.

Receive yourself from Perfect Love and be guided into fullness of life.

 

Learn from Jesus and be free

to love and bless and heal,

Just as you are loved, and blessed and healed.

Myall Creek and black history

Myall Creek Massacre anniversary

 Wednesday is the anniversary of the Myall Creek massacre.

It was late on a winter’s afternoon, a Sunday, 10th June, 1838. One squatter led a gang of eleven convict and ex-convict stockmen. They brutally slaughtered a Weraerai mob of the Gomeroi Nation. By brutal that means death by hacking. Two gunshots were heard. That leaves just three swords to reduce the twenty eight to pieces. That’s right. Pieces. By any standards this is horrendous.

Remembering is about the future. Seeing where we have been helps us understand who we were and where we are now and allows us to live intentionally into what we are yet to become. It is essential that we not look away. There were hundreds of large scale massacres across this country up and into the twentieth century. Myall Creek was one. We need to understand why it happened.


Myall Creek Massacre Memorial http://www.myallcreekmassacre.com/Myall_Creek_Massacre/Home.html

 


Remembering is about the future.

All images taken by Luther Cora from #BLM rally, Brisbane, June 6 2020. Used with permission.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from Birmingham jail.

Right now the Black Lives Matter movement has punched through international COVID-19 isolation. Across the world protestors stand in solidarity with George Floyd and the countless other victims of systematic exclusion and oppression. In Australia, First Nations people make 3% of the population but 29% of those in prison. In the U.S. the rate of incarceration of Indigenous and black persons is five times greater than non-Indigenous and white people. In Australia it is thirteen times greater. This is part of the deep ache that can be heard so powerfully in the Uluru Statement of the Heart.

It might seem controversial but there is no such thing as race. Ethnicity is real but race is a construct. Australia is home to hundreds of unique languages and nations, each with unique cultural practices and ethnicities. It has been for tens of thousands of years. Australia is now also home to Scots and Cornish and Welsh and Islander (of many kinds) and Tamil and Sinhalese and Timorese of many different mother tongues and on and on and on.


Uluru Statement from the Heart https://ulurustatement.org/

 


We seek … a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
Uluru Statement

Race as a construction can be understood as an instrument of economic exploitation. Gary Younge’s analysis is helpful. The negro did not exist outside the necessary trade to furnish free labour in the ‘new world’. Enormous prosperity was won – at the expense of First Nations land, lives and livelihood – using imported slave labour. At a time when the American mid-west was being opened and land portions were given away to white European peasants for free, emancipated slaves received nothing. Those commodified as instruments of labour were not reimagined and simply cut loose. As Martin Luther King Jr commented, the liberty won in the Civil War only meant former slaves were now free to go hungry.


Gary Younge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGFwxcjAbnM&feature=youtu.be

Martin Luther King Jr https://www.indy100.com/article/martin-luther-king-racism-interview-nbc-news-speech-civil-rights-movement-8740896  (A link to the full and extraordinary summation by MLK is available in the link)

 


 

“You can’t understand racism and how it operates … without understanding capitalism.”
Gary Younge

Younge’s professorial analysis from the garden is excellent. Kimberly Jones gives a raw perspective from the street. It is no less intellectual. Rioting and looting is wrong. It is criminal. Understanding why it takes place is essential, and Kimberly lays it out, painting simple, compelling Monopoly board analogy.

 


Picture four hundred rounds of the game being played where blacks had no rights to earn or own anything, and all their labours are turned into their masters’ profit. Then when the game was opened up, the African American player has their money burnt and their property stolen, as Tulsa and Rosewood and Wilmington bear scarifying testimony.

 

Kimberly Jones https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb9_qGOa9Go

"The game is fixed".
Kimberly Jones

Jones speaks passionately and embodies Luther King’s analysis: “Riot is the language of the unheard”. So who has been speaking? What has gone unheard? There are countless voices, but look no further than Colin Kaepernick. He was unemployable after his own, respectful, protest. He echoes others’ protest: the black community have had and still have the knee of systemic oppression firmly at its throat.

 

Racism is abhorrent. It is wrong. Its premises are a lie and its practise is evil. We cannot root out racism without re-examining the economic system which created and curates it. We must do this all the while being enmeshed within it. (The climate crisis will require the same.)

 

Racism endures because someone gains. Brian Massingale says it clearly: “The only reason for racism’s persistence is that white people continue to benefit from it”. His article is excoriating for the white Christian reader. And necessarily so.

Brian Massingale  https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/assumptions-white-privilege-and-what-we-can-do-about-it 

 

Racism endures because someone gains.

In 1987 Oprah Winfrey took her roadshow to Forsyth County, Georgia, a beating heart of white supremacy. It was apparent, blacks were feared and unwelcome. The difference between a black and nigger? A member of the audience answered:

“You have blacks and you have niggers … Black people don’t want to come up here. They don’t want to cause any trouble. That is a black person. A nigger wants to come up here and cause trouble all the time. That’s the difference”.

 

Oprah Winfrey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WErjPmFulQ0 

The black has an assigned role in the system, a place, predetermined. While there are many exceptions, in the main, if a black person steps out of that role and out of that place then they can expect and deserve to be treated like a nigger. This is at the heart of Amy Cooper’s culpable lies to the police, falsely accusing Christian Cooper of assault in Central Park.

They are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.
Kimberly Jones

The Amy Cooper incident occurred around the same time as George Floyd’s death. Christian crossed some arbitrary line and Amy Cooper assumed a black man has no place to tell her anything, let alone the park rules about dogs on leads; she assumed that her lies would be more believable than his truth; she assumed that the arrival of the police would end up in her favour. Amy Cooper, a young female, white lawyer who feigns distress also assumed Christian Cooper would know all this. He should know that the Tulsa and Wilmington and Rosewood atrocities were all triggered by the black threat the ‘white womanhood’.

“When you call the state you expect violence”.
Gary Younge

James Baldwin’s assertion is powerful: “I will not be your negro”. It is also threatening, directly challenging to the unwritten social contract of ‘the game’. But Christian was not in the mould of Amy Cooper’s negro. And Adam Goodes’ refused to be ours. It was Indigenous round in a national game grafted from Indigenous recreation. Adam is a proud Indigenous man, but his is not the place to celebrate with a throwing pose like that. People describe being threatened and Adam received vitriolic push back – ‘get back into place black man’ was the unmistakeable, public message.

If a framing from the Christian faith is needed at all, I offer some resources below. They are not comprehensive, and in a way, simply build on the very beginning: every person, no matter the kind: made in the image and after the likeness of God (Genesis 1.26). Human beings have been on a slow and long journey of awakening to become what God has already made us.

In this land, during the week of National Reconciliation itself, it must be noted:

  • Rio Tinto exploded a 46 000 year old sacred site
  • a policeman had a ‘bad day’ & a First Nation teen a whacked face
  • #BLM rallies were officially blocked while 5G conspiracy rallies defended with “it’s a free country and people can believe what they like”, at the same time NRL crowds return in the coming days and shopping malls are their crowded normal.

We have a black history. The prosperity we have is because land was taken and unless I turn my privilege towards justice, I would be a quiet white supremacist. This is not hyperbole. So I invite the reader to test me by my actions. In the mean time, some questions and a prayer.

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them.
Genesis 1.27 NRSV

From the future, from God’s eternal home –

Will there be slavery there?

Will there be oppression there?

Will there be lies and fear there?

Will there only be one kind there?

Will there be barrenness and drought and hunger and disease there?

No, no and no.

So as we pray, ‘your kingdom come and your will be done’, here as there, we practice resurrection now.

We practice now what will be then, it is a justice that is a mother to peace.

Come Holy Spirit.

Stir us into your work.

Amen.

Biblical Resources

Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV). This exquisite statement is reflected in Jesus family tree (Matthew 1) where multiple ethnicities and citizenships are included.

 

The mission of Jesus might simply be:

“To proclaim good news to the poor; proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” —Luke 4:18

 

See also: Mark 12:31—"Love Your Neighbour as Yourself" and Luke 10:25-37—The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

 

Paul’s Ode to Love in 1 Corinthians 13 sings out of a fellowship of love with a guide on what the verb looks and sounds like in practice. It is blind, like justice, moving towards any and all with kindness.

 

Eph 2: 10-13 describes the work of Jesus crossing all manner of ethnic divides, pointing to Revelation’s fullness, the gathered assembly drawn from ‘every nation and tribe and peoples and language (Rev 7.9).

Other resources:

Martine Luther King Jr’s letter from Birmingham Jail: http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/letter_birmingham_jail.pdf

 

The Belhar Confession, whose roots lie in the heart of apartheid South Africa and a church remembering is prophetic calling:

https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/contemporary-testimony/confession-belhar

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to Gandhi in 1934. It included: "What we need therefore in our countries is a truly spiritual living christian peace movement. Western Christianity must be reborn on the Sermon on the Mount." Gandhi was a not a Christian but was deeply formed by Christ and his teaching from the Sermon on the Mount and transformed a nation while we Christians look at our own countries and the same  Sermon as aspirational.

Other helpful articles:

This reflection from the Chris Hall, pres­i­dent of Ren­o­varé. It includes a powerful lament and call to repentance.

https://www.renovare.org/articles/we-have-refused-to-listen?fbclid=IwAR29zb8ExeqRQsLNeJkR8vAcPGVvx7lc-5VkeChJ-NboFr2tOqwDWjLNUhI

 

https://www.acts29.com/a-call-to-justice-restoration-and-renewal/

 

https://unfinished1.com/2020/06/03/moving-forward/

 

Open letter, June 2: https://christiandiversity.org/

 

From the (&) campaign, Biblical values and social justice: To educate and organize Christians for civic and cultural engagement that results in better representation, more just and compassionate policies and a healthier political culture. https://andcampaign.org/statementonracializedviolence

Myall Creek.

This happened. How can this be so?

What are the conditions that made this possible? What are the conditions now?

http://www.myallcreekmassacre.com/Myall_Creek_Massacre/Home.html

 

·      Land can be taken without regard or recompense

·      Tiny infractions and resistance can be repaid with random, overwhelming and excessive deadly force

·      Possies of marauding settlers can hunt humans for weeks

·      Old, young and women can be hacked to pieces with swords – on June 10 1938 the number was 28

·      Days later a pyre of human fragments can burn with the intent of destroying evidence

·      A rich landlord can back roll the legal defence

·      The prosecution has to first establish the humanity of the murdered

·      Those convicted and held to account were only emancipated convicts, all free settlers got away unchallenged

·      Of the hundreds of massacres across Australia (reaching into early in the twentieth century) this is the only time British law was applied to the murderers

Privileged white assumptions

This is from Brian Massingate’s brilliant article. This remarkable
and disturbing litany of assumptions underpin Amy Coopers fake emergency police call.

·     
She assumed that her lies would be more credible than his truth.

·     
She assumed that she would have the presumption of innocence.

·     
She assumed that he, the black man, would have a presumption of guilt.

·     
She assumed that the police would back her up.

·     
She assumed that her race would be an advantage, that she would be believed because she is white. (By the way, this is what we mean by white privilege).

·     
She assumed that his race would be a burden, even an insurmountable one.

·     
She assumed that the world should work for her and against him.

·     
She assumed that she had the upper hand in this situation.

·     
She assumed that she could exploit deeply ingrained white fears of black men.

·     
She assumed that she could use these deeply ingrained white fears to keep a black man in his place.

·     
She assumed that if he protested his innocence against her, he would be seen as "playing the race card."

·     
She assumed that no one would accuse her of "playing the race card, "because no one accuses white people of playing the race card when using race to their advantage.

·     
She assumed that he knew that any confrontation with the police would not go well for him.

·     
She assumed that the frame of "black rapist" versus "white damsel in distress" would be clearly understood by everyone: the police, the press and the public.

·     
She assumed that the racial formation of white people would work in her favor.

·     
She assumed that her knowledge of how white people view the world, and especially black men, would help her.

·     
She assumed that a black man had no right to tell her what to do.

·     
She assumed that the police officers would agree.

·     
She assumed that even if the police made no arrest, that a lot of white people would take her side and believe her anyway.

·     
She assumed that Christian Cooper could and would understand all of the above.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/assumptions-white-privilege-and-what-we-can-do-about-it    

Who can’t breathe?

 

If a bible is a prop, what does it mean?

My tatty working bible

This is a picture of me with my working bible outside my home. Its a bit naff. Until the President of the United States forcefully turned aside peaceful protestors to cut a path and pose outside St John’s church with ‘a’ bible, I wouldn’t have thought to do this. I am genuinely confused by what the President did. Who is the audience and what could possibly be the message? Clearly it has something to do with leadership, nationalism and christianity.

 

In that bible there is plenty of language about domination and control by force. But not by God. In that bible there is a long and involved story of the language of sacrificial love and seduction through grace. God identifies so completely with the humiliated and oppressed as to become humiliated and executed. In that bible the teaching and teacher is antithetical to domination and annuls the myth of redemption through violence. Jesus makes plain, God chooses to become the innocent victim and condemns humankind’s inclination for violence, scapegoating and victim making.

To any who might wish to follow Jesus, the President’s ‘prop n ganda’ outside the church might well confuse. To any who would wish to follow Jesus, especially the young, may I dare offer a little guide to help make sure you are following the Jesus of the cross and empty tomb.

There are many who say they follow Jesus and yet are unkind and arrogant and humourless. They speak ‘Jesus’ and yet practice the denial of science, are suspicious of intellectual rigour, are apathetic towards creation, untrusting of philosophical reasoning, hesitate on justice. They speak and harbour lies. If you are seriously considering following Jesus this may confuse if not repulse you.

So here is a check list. Have a peek and test the practice of following against these. If we are following Jesus of the cross and empty tomb there should be an unmistakeable yes to each of these.

How does following Jesus stack up?

o   Does following Jesus bring life? Does it liberate?

o   Have I become more wholly and truly myself?

o   Does it bring liberation beyond the individual and to family and others and community?

o   Does following Jesus draw followers towards the good of neighbour and stranger and community?

o   Is it beautiful?

 

o   Is there joy and light and life?

o   Does following Jesus bring out the fruit of God’s Spirit? Can these things be seen more clearly in our lives: Love Joy Peace Patience Kindness Goodness Faithfulness Generosity Self-Control?

o   Does following diminish and end hostility?

o   Does following Jesus redeem and heal and restore and build up and make peace in and through me?

o   Does following Jesus lead to the costly work of securing and safeguarding justice?

o   Is it cruciform? Have we become more self-emptying and aligned to how Jesus was in the world? Are we more likely to surrender rather than take, serve rather than be served, and ultimately, give our own life rather than take another’s?

o   Can we now expose scapegoating? Does following Jesus lead us to participate in the pulling down of dividing walls? Do we understand reality to be Us-Our not us-them? Does following Jesus kill simple binary opposites of us and them, in and out, male and female, slave and free? Do we as a result of following resist all patterns of rivalry and enmity?

o   Is following Jesus good news? For the poor, the oppressed, the blind and the enslaved?

o   Does following Jesus lead to actions that bless the earth and our children’s children?

In your life and as we follow, let there be a joyous ‘yes and yes Amen’.

And so let there be breath enough for all.

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)

 

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