Tuesday, July 27, 2004

U2 Letter in Insights

A 'Letter to the Editor' in the last edition of the 'Insights' magazine almost convinced me it was time to break my golden rule and respond. [Insights is the Uniting Church magazine for NSW/ACT] There have been three times over the past 20 years or so when I have come close to writing, but I just can't bring myself to give validity to the lame, ill-informed, red-necked, fundamentalist, carping, illogical and often down right offensive dribble which usually fills its column space!!
Don't get me wrong, I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion. Equally I want to support anybody with a passion and enthusiasm or a vision for how faith can be fostered and the future of the Community of the people of God can be developed and grown. I just don't believe anything of substance is achieved by a letter in that forum. Time and again people demonstrate immovability from a preconceived idea, quote selectively from snippets of scripture to support their view and use these pages to vent about  a range of subjects they are often rebuffed with through committee and community processes in the local setting they come from.
I just reckon if you want to make a difference then deal with people, groups and processes directly, don't write a brief note about it and wonder why people don't fall over backwards to bring change or seek your views and involvement on the strength of a letter!
The inspiration for my frustration was  a letter in response to reports on our event in May accessing the music of U2 as an example of pop culture/secular creative arts for worship, discipleship and reflection on things that matter. It's just one example and coincided with the release in Australia of a book "Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalogue" edited by Raewynne Whiteley and Beth Maynard. The book is a worldwide collection of sermons accessing U2 music to tell its story, expand on a theme or explore scripture and its pretty good!

The writer was critical of holding up U2 music and suggested that in exploring faith and the gospel we take 'a U-turn' suggesting we might as well use Britney Spears. He felt that if thats our view of U2 music we might as well stand on street corners and handout U2 CDs with cards tucked into them. The thing about that is, I reckon we could do worse!!

The writer either rejects U2s Christian background or simply doesn't get it and has a problem with all but Christian music. Either way thats a narrow view of the world, of the mission of the church and the challenges we face and essentially of what bands like U2 genuinely offer...

A band I describe as 'three Christians and a ratbag' have faith, have a history in the church and have struggled to remain connected, work tirelessly for justice and have always been about sharing their faith perspective in authentic ways. Yep, they buy into the rock star thing but are open about who they are.

The 'Elevation Tour' was like a worship tour of the US in the wake of 9/11 as they helped audiences across that country deal with the grief and shock of those events.... the Boston Concert DVD is a massive worship experience [with theatre and rockstar grandeur mixed in].

The album "All That You Can't Leave Behind" explores so many worthy themes... the nature of grace, the discipleship journey of people like Aung San Suu Kyi, where and when real peace might come from etc. The album title is the answer to 'what can you take with you on a costly journey of following an ideal, a call, a cause you believe in that is hard to do..... you can only take 'all that you cant leave behind' and that indeed that is LOVE.

If by drinking, smoking, not claiming publicly that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Saviour in those exact words and being angry about things that matter is what offends the correspondent... then I'm with U2 everytime in our current missional context.

Called to be like Salt and Light in the world around us [Matt 5] we have done plenty of 'preserving' and now its time to 'be the God flavours' in our world. Its my intention not to just write that here but to continue in my own journey and ministry, to be someone on about the rule and reign of God and someone who is willing to engage with any creative energy or outcome if its a fair dinkum go at understanding our own or Gods perspective on and place in the world!!

Monday, July 26, 2004

New t-shirt Posted by Hello

Darth Sidious Posted by Hello


Well, apparently its official, call off those e-chats, shut down your gambling syndicate, put the date in your diary!! The final piece of the Star Wars jigsaw puzzle falls into place with the expected release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith!!
Scheduled for US release on 19 May 2005 it should be a huge film with so much needing to happen to get to the point where Episode IV makes sense.

For those who can't wait apparently Episodes IV, V, and VI will be released on DVD in September 2004.

As a reminder for those unsure what all the fuss is about... George Lucas has given many interviews explaining how he set out to craft a fable [a space western meta narrative] accessing all the aspects of human faiths without offending any particular one. An attempt to examine whatis important about something 'other' then what is seen and obvious, something requiring faith, and essentially a big picture battle of good vs evil across the entire cosmos.

The characters are endearing [except that big mistake known as Jar Jar Binks] and the story is corny enough and action filled enough to satisfy most moviegoers... its the definition of escapism!!


U2 begin the publicity for 'Vertigo' Posted by Hello

Grain of Salt as Usual: U2 News

Here's the Sydney Sun- Herald article all U2 fans would be keen to see happen!!
In my experience if the article is anywhere near accurate you can expect U2 anytime in the 12 months from when this predicts.... they'll either be on time or will get exhausted and postpone the Australasian leg for a few months and come back then!! Either way this is good news for those who understand the missional, inherently Christian but just struggling with 'church', about important things and yet understandably taste driven so therefore not everyones bag.... that is the music of U2!!

U2 ready to tour Australia
By Christine Sams
July 26, 2004 The Sun-Herald

It is the news U2's Australian fans have been waiting for. The Irish supergroup is set to include Australia in its next world tour and will most likely perform concerts in December next year.
That's the word from a source close to the band, who revealed that plans are in place for a global U2 tour after the release of their new album (believed to be titled Vertigo).
Thousands of Australian fans were left disappointed during U2's last tour, Elevation, when the band did not perform in Australia. (Much of the blame for their absence was attributed to the ailing Australian dollar.)
Until that tour, Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen jnr and Adam Clayton were regular visitors to Sydney. (They even performed an impromptu acoustic gig at the Mercantile Hotel in The Rocks, under the name of the Dalton Bros.)
Their last official visit was for the PopMart tour in 1998.
The band's new album, which is due for release later this year, has been at the centre of controversy in Europe after a CD of nearly-completed tracks was stolen from U2's recording studio in the south of France. Fears that some of the fresh tracks would be posted on the internet appear to be unfounded so far, but if the music is released early it could cost the band (and their record company) millions of dollars in lost sales.

A spokesman for Bono in Dublin confirmed the singer was still overseas last week.
As with most U2 tours, the band is likely to perform its new music in the US, UK and Europe first, before finishing up in countries including Australia.
Although few details have been leaked about the new songs on Vertigo, Bono has revealed to some reporters the CD will have a hard, punk-rock sound.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Not exactly where the stations were but this was the pattern used Posted by Hello

Worship Unplugged # 17 Labyrinth

Last Sunday I was invited to lead Spirited Worship at Charlestown [a home town gig] and having done some work with the young adults responsible we prepared and led a worship using a labyrinth. I was reminded of their potential by colleagues choosing that as their contribution to worship at a recent national network gathering.
The following Introduction was handed out at the beginning and a few instructions given:

 The Labyrinth
A labyrinth is a simple path that you walk around. In Christian worship context its a path you walk as an aid to contemplation and reflection on your relationship with God. They are found in various religious traditions dating back to 2500 BCE.

A labyrinth is not a maze. It has one path in and out without dead ends or tricks. There are some narrow paths and some wider sections.

There are many ways to approach the labyrinth. In the past people might walk it before a significant occasion such as the eve of their baptism or the lead up to Easter. It can be seen as a centering exercise to help you focus on God or as an allegory [or story] of your life. As you walk you sometimes find yourself close to God only to then move away closer to the edge.

You can use your journey to:
«          Walk with God. Just relax, quieten your mind and listen to God as you walk.
«          Read & participate in the activity suggested at points along the way.
«          Pray
«          Think about the central theme of tonights worship: attitude
«          When you get to share food and drinks after your walk you are invited to discuss the

            central Biblical theme or to share about your experience of the journey.

Please start and go at your own pace. Dont overcrowd the labyrinth.
Its designed to take less than an hour.
You might want to take off your shoes but its not compulsory.
Quietly pass others and dont feel you have to speed up if others pass you.

We come together to worship God.
Be aware of Gods place in the scheme of things.
Seek a spirituality of justice and a life giving hope.
Accept an invitation to take a small detour on your journey by entering the labyrinth.
This is a reflective and yet an active worship journey encouraging you to think about: attitudes.
Take the time you need and see where God might lead Gods people.

Heres a Bible passage to reflect on while you wait to begin:

A Translation of Colossians 1: 15-29 [Rob H]
Jesus is the image of the invisible God. All of creation is interdependent with him and he is the head of the body. [a great metaphor for the people of God, the church]
Through the cross we are reconciled with God. No longer needing to be estranged, hostile or distant from God, we can keep the faith and hold onto the hope which Jesus represents.
The Apostle Paul would fully agree and energetically served the truth that Jesus unlocks the mystery of God and offers new life in us and through us to all others.

Give this form of worship a chance and be encouraged to discuss your experience or reflections with others over food and drinks at the end.

The labyrinth was painted onto two purple king size sheets and involved stations along the journey rather than just a 'walk'. We used the July 18 lectionary and hence the story of Mary and Martha to focus on our "Attitudes".

Stations involved:
1. Writing prayers, hopes or thanks for the journey on a cut out footprint and placing that in the first lane of the labyrinth as you started walking
2. Candle lighting to reflect on God with us
3. Time to stop and just "be" watching footage from the local beach on a televideo just at the side of the pathway
4. Reflection on the reading and some questions
5. Giving an offering and taking a coloured stone as a reflection of our uniqueness and value to God
6. Big screen rear projected powerpoint images inspired prayers for others... carried out by either signing an amnesty postcard, reading and praying about a news clipping or tracing your prayers in a bowl of water representing the tears of God
7. Lastly take a chocolate as a reward for being willing to walk and one for someone else for a reason of your choosing
8. Supper was set up and hearty finger food provided with good coffee as people were encouraged to share about their experience or their reflections on the story

It went pretty well after some inhibited response and could have used two more activities as originally envisaged. The labyrinth was tight and narrow in spots but will be improved by a larger canvass base once a set of consistent activities are developed for use with it.

I was too busy or distracted to take pictures unfortunately!!


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Check out Missy Higgins current charting song clip on Rage/Video Hits with the piano falling apart!! Posted by Hello

The Misy Higgins EP Posted by Hello

Music # 12 'The Missy Higgins EP'

After winning 2001 Triple J 'Victoria Unearthed' Missy Higgins went backpacking in Europe and signed with John Watsons [silverchair manager] 'Eleven' record label. Her album is due for release in September and this EP is an introduction to an excellent now 20 year old performer whose songs are emotional, artistic and moving.
Missy' voice reminded me of the harmonies of 'Tiddas' and that can't be a bad thing.
"Falling" and "All For Believing" will find their way into experiental worship I'm involved in over coming months!

I'd be very keen to book Missy Higgins for one key young adult event in the first half of 2005 but I guess we'll see if the usual 'whats your group again?' question scares her off!! 

Music # 11 Christmas in July

I've just been reminded of an excellent Aussie Christmas song which might be useful for Advent Workshop planning or for Christmas in July celebrations.
"Must Be Christmas Tonight" is a Paul Kelly cover from his last EP 'Won't You Come Around' [Nov 2003] and is just a great plain and ordinary reflection on the Easter story from an everyday point of view.

Must Be Christmas Tonight
Come down to the manger, see the little stranger
Wrapped in swaddling clothes, the prince of peace
Wheels start turning, torches start burning
And the old wise men journey from the East
How a little baby boy bring the people so much joy
Son of a carpenter, Mary carried the light
This must be Christmas, must be tonight
A shepherd on a hillside, while over my flock I bide
On a cold winter night a band of angels sing
In a dream I heard a voice saying "fear not, come rejoice
It's the end of the beginning, praise the new born king"
I saw it with my own eyes, written up in the skies
But why a simple herdsmen such as I
And then it came to pass, he was born at last
Right below the star that shines on high


A new site from Jonny Baker et al fostering mission

Peter Frampton fashion disaster Posted by Hello

Veteran Rock Star Goes Against Trend

Veteran rocker Peter prompted breaks a long standing tradition by rebuffing an opportunity at some late in life publicity and the chance to release a new album of duets and retrospective CD collection.
Instead of embracing Billabong's 'Baby I Love Your Waves!' Bikini and other options surfwear line with a screenprint image of his impressive afro... Frampton is suing the company for unspecified damages!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Simpsons Quiz

Courtesy of Jonathan Sargeant, Beliefnet has its regular Simpsons Spirituality Quiz online... check your knowledge of the shows key moments and religious fun!!

Monday, July 19, 2004

"Vertigo" U2 CD Stolen?

In what sounds like a marketing masterstroke, news emerged on the weekend that a CD of rough cuts for the new U2 album [slated for November release] had gone missing at a photo shoot in France... rumours abound that its already available online for download.
Either way information about some of the new material appears here and there in recent interviews and as usual we'll know exactly which direction the band has gone in when we hear the tracks themselves [perhaps a little earlier than intended]!!

Friday, July 09, 2004

'Place Without a Postcard' Midnight Oil 1981 Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Music # 10 'Place Without a Postcard' Midnight Oil

This is one of the 'old fashioned quintessential 'Oils' albums and its only good played loud or live!! Its full of songs about what trendy politicians today call 'aspirational Australians'... which is idiot talk for people with hopes, fears, struggles and a daily grind to eke out a living in this country. It speaks not of hackneyed Aussie bush metaphors but is ringing with the sweat of small old pubs, backyard bbqs and the tears of the average Australian family in all it endures. Its one of my favourite albums of all time because it is uncomplicated... this is largely due to songs like 'Lucky Country' which I hadn't heard the 'Oils' play live for nearly 15 years until they took a 'chocolate wheel' on the road so punters could spin up songs they ought to play thru the gig. Read these lyrics and this song could have been written yesterday. It also reminds me of the Psalms and the so-called 'minor' prophets.

Lucky Country
Speed, and this
There's a feeling I get when I look to the sun
Love, it's so tough
Cause it raises your hopes and then it makes you run

We're all looking for a shorter day
We're all looking for an easy way
Even when the debts are dead and gone

Down, the stairs
And an eight mile drive waits for you to turn on
Hear, the time clocks sing
And the smoke in the distance reaches the eye line

We're all working on a shorter day...

No conversation as you go
There's so much space the heat moves you
Terracotta homes, backyard barbecue and eucalyptus smell
It's fine on the clothes line
It's fast food and slow life and red roof
My silence, comic interruptions
Surely there's some relief from atomic art
And the fragile state of world events
With clowns who love the kings and power and the mutant media babes
wanking on dreams and fashions and toilet paper flowers
Don't talk to me in this backyard - it's clandestine, it's nuclear
Smell of space and now forever I wanna go
Straight down the exit eight mile attraction
U-turn is up and the time clock sings lets go

Lucky country
Where the geckos are paid to live in the sun
On and on there's a ribbon of road and a mile to spare
Lucky country
Lucky country

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Worship Unplugged # 16 100 Tealights

Try setting up your worship space using no electric or natural light in the space... instead buy a packet of 100 tealights and set them up all around key walls, rails and corners of the space.... set up early so you can play around a bit and locate candles to best shadow effect... Bunch them in places you want people to focus.

This is particularly effective for Easter or confessional focused worship or with quiet musical backing and reflective time...

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Dour London scenes don't dampen the breadth of Dido's great voice Posted by Hello

Music # 9 'Life for Rent' Dido

Brilliant voice!! That's the overriding thing about Dido!

Life for Rent
I haven’t really ever found a place that I call home
I never stick around quite long enough to make it
I apologise that once again I’m not in love
But it’s not as if I mind that your heart aint exactly breaking

It’s just a thought, only a thought

But if my life is for rent and I don’t lean to buy
Well I deserve nothing more than I get
Cos nothing I have is truly mine

I’ve always thought that I would love to live by the sea
To travel the world alone and live my life more simply
I have no idea what’s happened to that dream
Cos there’s really nothing left here to stop me

It’s just a thought, only a thought

But if my life is for rent and I don’t learn to buy
Well I deserve nothing more than I get
Cos nothing I have is truly mine

While my heart is a shield and I won’t let it down
While I am so afraid to fail so I won’t even try
Well how can I say I’m alive

If my life is for rent…

While this song is ostensibly about a particular relationship, the emotions and experience it speaks of is relevant to many kinds of relationships or the general search for belonging. The principle can be true that if we just want to rent and aren't 'prepared to buy' then things will remain temporary in nature and vibe.

It's a reflection on 'where you fit' or belong and whether your life is more like a boat being tossed around on the ocean...

It maybe that the images don't strike a chord or the metaphor doesn't relate for you... but it will for many people. Ideally the song clip or an audio-visual based on the theme of 'rent' is a worthwhile background to listening.

I have used this song for a number of led reflections amongst colleagues in youth ministry to ask questions about their 'belonging' or what they have chosen as foundational or the source of their strength and energy...

Monday, July 05, 2004

Unreliable Idea # 15 Speaking Greek!!

Greece defeated hosts Portugal 1-0 in the Euro 2004 Final and reminded me of a brilliant missional activity at the local Orthodox Community.... Simone had a work night out there this weekend.
Basically the adults in the church have started using their impressively renovated and columned community hall in Hamilton, Newcastle as a restaurant. Its so popular that the whole place is packed out Friday and Saturday nights. The menu has options listed on a double sided A4 but includes some set banquets and is all traditional Greek fare... hearty meals with a bit of adventure!!

The meals are complimented by the hubub of noise, presence of kids and families and the serious entertainment from the singer and keyboardist belting out traditional tunes on the 'Hammond'.

I don't expect hordes of anglo's or even multi-cultural locals to flock to worship or be asking where they can sign up for this eclectic community... BUT I imagine its funding all the halls renovations, a raft of programs and activities for the community they do exist for AND perhaps are developing a reputation as a community full of life, happy to serve, rich in culture and open to making a quality contribution to the life of their local neighbourhood.

This may even be a short term project... successful restaurants reinvent themselves regularly to sustain interest.... or they close down. Perhaps the locals have a litmus test for knowing when to scale back and when to try something different BUT for now they have a huge winner on their hands...

What would it look like for a local UCA congregation to open its doors regularly in this way....
* Playgroups
* Coffee Shop
* Second Hand Clothes for Uni Students
* Data Projector showing hired movies on weekends
* 'Men and their Sheds' Handyperson sessions
* Reconciliation Group
* Old Fashioned baked meal dinners
* Drop In Meals for those in need
* Skate ramps
* Film Festival
* ???

What would you do?

One of those heartwarming 'parents sacrifice all for their daughters hopes' stories OR the tale of a charmed life lived on Boliteri's Tennis Ranch in Florida... maybe a bit of both, BUT either way she's a very good player who just happened to be my 'pick' for the tournament!! Posted by Hello

A study in the impact of the media. Is Phil Gould a supercoach and motivator or a self important buffoon who happens to be able to coach? We cannot know the person from what we read in the papers and yet so often thats how any of us decide issues or make decisions...  Posted by Hello

Sunday, July 04, 2004

More on Worship Unplugged # 12 PLAYTIME

At one corner of the worship space is a trolley with coffee/tea etc and an esky with cold softdrinks plus a tray of whatever the team chose to provide for this time... donuts, pizza, cake, hot chips, chocolates ??

These are available throughout the worship...

BUT the thing is all this stuff may create a hospitable space... some aspects of it promote and facilitate a reflective or active space for the possibility of worship...

BUT people are the key... their stories and questions, willingness to get real and share about themselves etc etc.... what's at the heart of this worship...

WHATEVER the topic, reading, visual story... the key has to be asking where people see or question God, how they believe this impacts their life and any questions or challenges they want to/must explore as a result...

What did Jesus talk most about? The kingdom or rule and reign of God... by his life and example he drew us to an understanding of an alternative vision for what the world could be like if we lived and breathed Gods desire for the world and for our community and relationships. This is what most are drawn to, this is the change, spirituality, buzz, vital stuff which people will respond to... from ant edge of the theological tapestry...

As people experience this worship, ask them:
what have they seen? how have they heard God? what do they think on this theme?
what feeling they might come away with?

Friday, July 02, 2004

Although 3rd Grade went ahead the focus of the day was clearly on how the stretcher bearers would ever recover from their herculian effort of carrying Hanksy to the sideline to await an ambulance Posted by Hello

Highbrook Park, Muswellbrook

Well... Its thirteen months tomorrow since I played my last game of Rugby Union [at Highbrook]vs Muswellbrook in the NHRU Newcastle Comp. I return as a Coach only after 20 seasons, 270 games for Wanderers and after rupturing BOTH kneecap tendons last year in a collision/tackle with two other players.

After the surgery to repair that you can't bend your knees for six weeks [dual plaster casts in my case] and so after seven weeks in hospital and a few more getting better I returned to work at the end of August.

I love playing football [obviously] and really miss it... my knees are doing OK... its like there's an overstretched rubber band in the middle. That's good because even if I were stupid enough to consider playing on, I actually couldn't!!

The game is fun, hard, team oriented, challenging and great way to work out frustration, stress and tension of a working week... belting other blokes and running with the ball or trying to control a game and steer a team into the right tactics and performance to maintain the ball and score tries.

My Club is 80 years old this year and we have a dinner in four weeks to celebrate... so that'll be good. My team this year are currently running fourth but could win against all comers on our day!! We look forward to the Semi's and a chance to surprise a few teams and test ourselves against the best we've played so far [Uni and our enemy 'The Slime' Merewether-Carlton]

Well, they are my thoughts and a note to myself about how much I am missing the game... albeit a happy watcher from the half way line, organising a plan and a half time fine tune, ringing the changes and engaging in a full strength post mortem of our performance... tomorrow will be a tough game!!

I will no doubt cop a ribbing from the boys and will be interested to see how it feels to be back at that venue... I was not capable of walking from the field last year [those stretcher bearers faces are still flushed red now] and I look forward to driving my own car home this time!!

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Will we see the best or the worst of humanity in coming weeks as the media and the world respond to the trial of Saddam Hussein Posted by Hello

Those Australian idiots!! Posted by Hello

Jamie Durie Memorial Water Feature

In a surprise move after much wrangling the Princess Diana Memorial Water Feature will finally be operational after Backyard Blitz bungle nearly cruels the whole project!!

Blitz' Scott Cam could not explain how the Team had got it so wrong and placed the fountain and channels in completely the wrong corner of Hyde Park London... causing the water to have to run 'uphill' in honour of the late Princess!!