Monday, April 29, 2013

'Where is God?' Photo Essay

  On Friday I got the chance to capture two images I've been hoping to snap for months!! It was the right time of day and brilliant weather for the drive to Merriwa. The streamy cloud was a bonus feature of this scene 55mins south of Merriwa [Denman plains?] My photo essay is about collecting images from places I've been over the last year or so. They ask questions, give evidence, challenge or nuance the idea of where God might be and how God might be seen... It will be a print exhibition sometime!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

ANZAC Day 2013 and a clip pops up on Facebook

  Some ANZAC years I do post a song and reflection about justice and peace and the way the world is far from a peaceful place... even as a Year 12 I wrestled with what speech to make at my school ANZAC Day service in 1979... this song and 'Blossom and Blood' are my fav. bands efforts to say 'something' about war, their visit to France and remind me how in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, these are not the in-between years... in the back of my wardrobe I still have the t-shirt from this song, purchased at one of two nights at Newcastle's Palais Theatre [which is no longer there]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our UCA 18 Monthly 'Synod' NSW/ACT Meeting REFLECTION ONE Vision

   I should be sleeping, so why not begin writing 'vital' reflections about our biggish meeting that brings people together from across the Uniting Church in NSW/ACT to see if there's a future direction worth pursuing in response to the 'alternative story' we believe is possible for us if we can just more fully engage in God's activity in the world, especially by doing our best not to let our institutional arrangements and predicament be the dominant theme for us. What?
   I mean, we talk about stuff that might make a difference if we get it right and we talk about stuff that'll never make a difference no matter how right or wrong it is... that's what makes it the meeting it is!!
  I may have other broad reflections in coming posts but here my preoccupation is the time spent presenting/receiving material related to strategic goals for the future. We had [2] previous sets of goals that are relevant and each was reflected on, shaped and adopted by the Synod meeting as directions for our synod sphere work against which our Boards would prioritise their work and report their accountability. The earlier set were doomed as they were too broad and represented a simple statement of the mandate of each Board so nobody was left out. The Standing Committee found it very hard to grapple with evaluating who we were against those goals and making hard decisions given the kind of information they kept requesting to assist in that...
   When due for change the goals were mysteriously extended and then no broad process of evaluation and seeking to understand, how they had and hadn't served us well, was ever undertaken. Instead we moved onto a new process and a new set of directions for up until 2011. [It's 2013 isn't it].
   Rightly it was pointed out that the world hadn't collapsed without renewed goals and that instead the synod staff had engaged in a process to develop a vision and ways of operating that would drive a new day in the life of the central bodies.
   What I liked about this work, was the clear crisp influence of good process and a skilled consultant that gave rise to a set of values/ethos statements, features flowing from that and aspirations around 'star fish' model, flat leadership, networked style, rather than hierachical 'territory protection.'
   My enthusiasm for what the outcome had been was matched by my frustration with how this was reported to us and how we were invited to engage in discussion and feedback. Discuss your impressions/reaction was the initial phase and then later a complex document to guide us left us with 20mins to try to gain understanding, ask questions, express some ownership etc... missed opportunity!!
   The trouble certainly is, if you invite the Synod to express ownership of this vision and it's ethos and ways of working, you invite them to pick it apart and reject it as wellas the possibility it's accepted. It's probably time people understood that adopting a vision and behaviours as a Synod NSW/ACT meeting and through it's Boards is not adopting it as a vision for the whole church... it's possible for regions and locals to buy in but in our series of interrelated Councils we need to keep in mind whose vision it is...
   To this end it's understandable that rather than have an exhaustive process we were instead invited to live dangerously without a vision statement of our own but secure in the knowledge that our Boards were going to work this way... BUT, how does that allow us to hold them accountable for this commitment? How does that assist this excellent work to trickle into other interrelated Councils formally or informally...?
   The presentation was muddled with an overall ethos of unifying our message and image or recognisability through fonts, theme, and the 'red ribbon' we no doubt paid graphic developers a fortune to come up with... I say that and I like it and I get it... I can only imagine what was written on the feedback from those who didn't even begin to understand what it was about...

   What was most energising about the whole thing is the shift from corporate mission planning, KPIs and such... to an ethos/values approach... this mirrors lots of emerging and experimental faith communities I've visited, read about or encountered online through their presence and ideas... and fits our current context well!! Authenticity comes from doing your best to live out who you say you you are... not just from what you say you'll focus on... but how!!
"If you want to change a society, you have to tell an alternative story" says philosopher Ivan Illich
[fav. quote]
Narrative style, values laden short statements or goals that read equally understandably in the public arena as they do inside the church are a good basis.

   Beyond this we had the usual banter about Jesus not being mentioned enough... people weren't reading the entire document as the whole notion was nestled in the Christian faith lived out. It was actually a strength, not a weakness that the rest made plains sense of this.
   Also just because 'you' don't get the red ribbon, doesn't mean it's a bad idea!! The idea is that it appears in and around the words and images as a symbol that unifies what's being depicted. In the media, public eye and across different parts of who we are it would make a visual connection. Ribbons speak of connection, things being tied together.

What's the theology? People asked What's the biblical connection?
Well it's the colour of Pentecost, the colour of the doves wings in our logo,
another symbol of who we are,
it's the Christ colour...

You see why people didn't think it was best to seek adoption of the material as the Synod meetings vision after all perhaps...

What I think we needed was a Proposal not just noting the work but acknowledging it's role in shaping the work of the staff and committing to hold the staff accountable to the vision and inviting them to report to Standing Committee and the Synod around how they were going in living the principles out and how that shaped our work towards engaging in God's activity in the world most effectively...

Anyhow, both group times talking about this needed 1-3 questions that matched the simplicity of the Vision material itself, to shape a conversation around our feedback... what if they'd asked if we would be willing to adopt the vision [with word changes to reflect it was the Synod meeting, not the staff, saying 'yes' to it this time]...

Monday, April 08, 2013

Weekend Retreat Form

Click on the image and you should be taken to the Retreat Weekend File so it can be printed or saved...
Email me at if that doesn't work!!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Comments Spam

   It must be a quiet Easter Monday as I have just been deleting spam comments from my blog and changing settings... maybe I'll update the side columns next... apologies if I accidentally marked your comment as spam, I was working through 5000 in total...