Monday, March 31, 2014

LENT Photo #24 "Holy Smoke"

   Candles... light, warm light, symbol, connection with reflection, silence, presence... and then sometimes those things are true for one person or group at one time and others forget the reason we lit one and why we continue to do it. In the case of symbolising a 'safe space' there are too many places where you'd think that lighting such a candle was all you needed to do to create such a space...

   Then of course there are those communities of faith, usually more theologically conservative and claiming the use of the word 'evangelical' OR more interested in informal community worship and some would say theologically 'lightweight' where a candle is just too "Catho Anglican" for them... such are the risks of symbols, they can become more like cymbals!! [a loud noise out of sync unless your playing the rest of the drum kit]...

   I've left this observation a few lines in, just in case my friends, who'd laugh so hard their sides would ache, might have stopped reading... but "I am not very into what many would describe as 'high church' liturgy and worship"... there I said it, sorry to shock you... Big words that could be more easily understood as smaller words, distant formality, hard to access tradition... careful, they've all got adjectives attached, so not just big words, formality & tradition... some of that can be 'bang on' what's needed and gives people credit for unspoken understanding, connection, spirit and meaning making... a thin space where God comes close....
   The flip side is slapdash, laid back, 'dogs breakfast', wordy or sparse, half formed ideas that make sense to the curator, but not too many participants. Different words don't make those words any more transcendent... just different... then there's things you try that just don't work, but are honest experiments...
   But the key is in the idea of 'curating' or designing not just content but what the experience of the worship might be like for those participating. What kind of experiences the theme or hope lends itself to, what gifts and skills are available in people and the space to make stuff happen and how we are invited to engage with God always present everywhere...
   I feel led to use symbols of a candle, rock and water bowl alongside bread and juice on Easter Sunday but to do that I will have to overcome the idea that for many who will be present, the idea is just a waste of time and could in fact be a barrier [but I know that for others it would add meaning]... so I'm still thinking about all of that... there will be some possibilities in how those symbols might be part of an invitation to engage in the space OR maybe the rock and water are part of the time spent sharing bread and juice BUT the candle is just lit and visible, without words!! That and three well known songs that can be belted out with gusto might just get us through...

PART TWO 9.45am at St Luke's Belmont "The Man Born Blind"

   The 9.45am would be described as a 'contemporary service' in which I participated for the 'children's message' and the REFLECTION/Sermon...

St Luke's have a number of great musicians to roll in and out of a roster and the 'band' are a key feature.
A volunteer LEADS having curated what else happens during the time... Darren C put things together!!
THE MUSIC comes form a mix of sources but was 'Hillsong' in nature... with prayers for people & the world in the responding/sending part of the flow

We also heard/saw the story of several of the local women who attended 'The Colour Conference' at Sydney Ent Cent a couple of weeks back... a remarkably huge event!!

Same theme as 8am, very different style...

I explained that I could have brought mystery boxes of 'Godly Play,' cardboard boxes for grafitti, plastic, newsprint & paint etc BUT this time, I wanted to share a STORY with images onscreen [scanned form the book]
"Hunwick's Egg" by Mem Fox which I explained would likely have a meaning that unfolded in coming weeks...

I have a love/loathe relationship with such opportunities and do many things, straight Biblical talks in own words or first person, animated clips, home made clips, songs, storybooks with more or less overt connection to Scripture acknowledging that:
- children make meaning and have a spirituality
- go from the story into a space to explore Scripture more fully
- It's a one off for me in this case
etc etc...
AND I share a storybook or any activity, for everyone present, not just children. If it were up to me the kids would stay in and we'd be curating the whole experience to reflect who was in and how we could create maximum participation... for many of the younger ones at Belmont that happens in SLYM+ fourth Sunday nights 6.30pm!!

Oh, I also contributed through Psalm 23 being covered by "Meet Me in the Middle of the Air" Paul Kelly live at the Bushfire Relief Concert.


1. Geoffrey ‘Gurrumul’ Yunupingu, a 43 year old indigenous Australian musician, who sings in Yolngu language. He was born in Galiwin’ku [or Elcho Island] off the coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
He is from the Gumatj tribe of the Yolngu nation.
Through his work with Yothu Yindi and the Salt Water Band - we know he plays drums, keyboard and guitar [ a right hand strung guitar, left handed] but it is the clarity of his singing voice that has made him world famous.
   Gurrumul is known to be shy, is not interested in fame for it’s own sake and has turned down more than one media interview or famous duet…
He was born blind, has never learnt Braille, doesn’t have a guide dog or use a white cane.
   Gurrumul gives voice to his culture, traditions, values and story…
From the very edges of society…

PLAY “GURRUMUL HISTORY [I WAS BORN BLIND]” with lyrics onscreen for ‘english’ verses

I had added onscreen lyrics where Gurrumul sang in 'english'

2. IN the last few weeks we’ve been invited into the story of:
Nicodemus, the Jewish teacher
Who glimpses something in the abundant life JESUS offers
[and for anonymity, he visits Jesus at NIGHT]

Jesus has a conversation with
the un-named woman from Samaria at the well, in the light of the midday sun…

These things are CRUCIAL to the story AND the FABRIC OF THE GOSPEL…
That conversation doesn’t happen without her questions,
She is much maligned by most readings of the encounter,
That’s not Jesus view… she goes back to those who shun her,
And eventually, many believe…

John’s gospel, John’s good news, is that Jesus is GOD
- There’s an invitation to believe in Jesus Christ
- That invitation promises abundant life, which John writes about c.f. K of G


ALL those stories,
[AND this one involving mud and spit], are SUBVERSIVE STORIES
- A story that’s power sneaks up on you
- A story turning expected ideas and wisdom upside down
- A story that comes from ‘the wrong people’
- A story calling us to go beyond ourselves to where God is active in the world…
4. Where is God’s hope, compassion, and forgiveness, OR empowerment NOT just needed… but where might it come from…
Who’s story is God asking us to help find a voice?

IN the Biblical story of the man born blind, it’s reinforced…
‘he is not blind because of anything he or his parents have done…’


3. THE NEIGHBOURS aren’t sure…
8 The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.”    He kept saying, “I am the man.”  10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”

They take him to the Pharisee, the religious teacher,
HE is immediately unimpressed that whoever this man is,
Whoever Jesus is, he is not OF GOD, he doesn’t even observe the Sabbath
[making mud from your spit was a provocative piece of activism]

“Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered,
 “I do not know whether he is a sinner.
One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

5. IT’S an opportunity for a response of faith…
17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him?
It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
He is brought back a second time and both he and his parents
“state the obvious”… he was blind, now he can see…

6. God’s abundant life might be available from the edges
From those who aren’t supposed to know…

AND I finish with two examples of participating in God’s activity in the world differently,
[1] Rather than judging people we meet in our communities,
asking, what God is saying to us through them…

[2] Healing the blind… what?
$25 Fed Hollows Foundation

there’s two upside down stories for you…

MY REFLECTIONS on this experience:
- I had more time to observe and think about people's participation, the theology of the time and it's different elements and had far greater choice about many mediums in which to contribute and so had a more personally engaging experience but could see whether that was true for others or not... 
- I had little time to seek individual conversations over a cuppa as those were mostly 'at the doorway' before I packed up my stuff an then most who'd stayed were gone...
- It's easier to see and sense 'feedback' from this curated experience and I think it was largely what people are used to with some curiosity around "bringing the contemporary world into out thinking" which I was thanked for and said I thought was my task/call...
- My first is that I'd like to have spoken for 12-13, not 17 mins given what I shared... but that's bout bits you know and tell and bits you go with what's scripted
- I will get more feedback next time I'm talking with those who curate SLYM+ asking them how it was for them [for next time]...
- The one theological dissonance was between my reflection and the theology of the songs in the latter half of worship, which is to be expected in a loose collaboration and in a space where I am not wanting a say in those choices for the sake of leaving someone to do what they are tasked to do, whether working with a local or an invited in contributor.
- Many people aren't thinking about this, but some will have...
   The couple of songs I remember now from the responding/sending part of the time were imaging a Kingly God, a 'high tower' of strength and a God of deeply complex theological ideas. The side of God we may have explored [were invited to explore] was more vulnerable, more visceral and 'down to earth' than the side emphasised in the songs. That can be balance, dissonance or maybe that's just me... and it can also be that the invitation and story emerges in the final days before sharing and other aspects of the time of worship will be organised differently...
- I believe most present were engaged, open to story and able to make time, respond to God and be helped in shaping their response in following Jesus. There's more conversation to be had to test that out...

8am Sunday at St Lukes Belmont 'The Man born Blind'

"Open Our Eyes" Jan Richardson []

   I was at St Luke's UCA Belmont for their 8am and 9.45am worship services yesterday at the end of a long and tiring week or so... including the 'wrestle' with the story and themes for this 4th Sunday of LENT. I haven't had much sleep this week but I'd also been to Merriwa and back on Friday and the Workshop 1/2 day at Rutherford Saturday and out for family dinner Saturday night!!


LITURGY Good News for Celebration adapted from “Be Our Freedom Lord” Terry Falla
We gather today, the 4th Sunday of LENT,
To worship God
We look to see where God has been active
in our world and our lives

The work of the Creator is visible
Let us respond with praise
The example of Jesus is apparent
Let us respond with obedience
The wind of the Spirit is blowing
Let us respond with joy
The word of God is calling
Let us worship in Spirit and truth

OPENING PRAYER adapted Jonny Baker from CMS and Grace, London
God of justice, peace and righteousness
You are with us always

Breathe your breath,
your Spirit of prophecy,
your energy,
your enlivening,
your imagination on us.

Wake us up, open our eyes, Unplug our ears
That we might hear
That we might see
That we might grieve
That we might dream
That we might follow the ways of your extraordinary kingdom.... +  a bit

We own up to saying and doing the wrong thing
We own up to staying silent or not doing what we know is right
God hear our prayers of ‘owning up’ in a moment of silent prayer…
God hear our prayers,

God promises when we own up, we are forgiven,
Our challenge is to live as free people, without guilt holding us back…

HYMN “Sing Praise and Thanksgiving” TiS 107 AHB 25
Welcome to worship, an opportunity to reflect on God’s calling to us
And to celebrate God’s seeking to recreate & reconcile the whole creation
It’s good to be with you… + a few random comments...

1 Samuel 16: 1-13     John 9: 1- 34 Local volunteer
HYMN “You Servants of God” TiS 215 AHB 144
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE local volunteer 
HYMN “Your Hand O God has Guided” TiS 456 AHB 389

Stay standing for the SENDING OUT/BLESSING from I forget where sorry, probably re: worship
May the God of this world
Be in your seeing
May Christ who looks on us with love
Enable us to share compassion and grace
May the Spirit who perceives what is
And what may yet be
Bless you and sharpen your vision
SUNG BENEDICTION “May the Feet of God Go With You” TiS 779

As I reflect on this leadership experience I note:
- Curating this style of worship was different to elsewhere when I'm a deliberate 'change agent' in a similar service
- One genuine positive was that here a group singing with energy is so different to a group struggling to give voice
- Other than that I was struck by the way in which in this style you get almost no feedback other than silent or sung participation plus facial expressions right through until the end of the time... that's not a new experience, I was just tuned in to it because it was a new surrounding
- Then come the 'unreliable' feedback interactions shaking hands at the door [all positive comments, some with context and reference to particular aspects, much appreciation and some discussion on the central idea explored]

   This is worship [giving God worth, responding and seeking to be fuelled for your following Jesus], it is always a humble privilege and big responsibility to lead, and I always include stuff to stretch or challenge the group even when it's not my brief to do so... BUT it's very hard to participate in

Here's a 'version' of what I REFLECTED

From John 9: 1-34
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he [JESUS] had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
1. LET ME ASK YOU, what are the key themes of John’s gospel?
- That Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus is God
- John tells stories and uses different imagery to explore this
- There’s an invitation to believe in Jesus Christ
- And that invitation promises abundant life, which John writes about c.f. K of G

- Much is also made of John’s use of light and darkness
4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

IN the last few weeks we’ve been invited into the story of:
Nicodemus, the Jewish teacher
who senses something in the signs and visits Jesus at night
Jesus meets the un-named woman from Samaria at the well,
in the light of the midday sun
These things are CRUCIAL to the story AND part of the FABRIC OF THE GOSPEL

2. Those stories,
and this one involving mud and spit, are SUBVERSIVE STORIES
- A story that’s power sneaks up on you
- A story turning expected ideas and wisdom upside down
- a story that comes from ‘the wrong people’
- In this case it’s also reinforced,
he is not blind because of anything he or his parents have done…

3. THE NEIGHBOURS aren’t sure…
8 The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.”    He kept saying, “I am the man.”  10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”

They take him to the Pharisee, the religious teacher,
HE is immediately unimpressed that whoever this man is,
Whoever Jesus is, he is not OF GOD, he doesn’t even observe the Sabbath
[making mud from your spit was a provocative piece of activism]

“Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered,
 “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

4. An opportunity for a response of faith…
17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

He is brought back a second time and both he and his parents
“state the obvious”… he was blind, now he can see…

- This is the Kingdom of God, breaking out from the edges
- From those who are not supposed to know
- With a message of LIFE for those who would hear it

5. I WONDER what God is trying to say to us today…
- Where is God’s activity in the world that we might join, or pray for?
- How is Jesus, the living revelation of God, alive in our communities and stories?
- How do we make space as the people of God, for those beyond ourselves?
- John’s writing would have reassured some listeners, those who also felt shunned from the synagogue community…
- God’s love, Jesus healing and abundant life in God’s Spirit won’t be contained
- For us as communities of faith, theologian BILL LOADER reminds us,
we need to know… “when it comes to conflicts, wherever rules matter most
and people come second, we live in darkness”

And as a community relating to others, TO BE IT…

In it’s own way this connects with the story in Samuel,
Of the unexpected DAVID being anointed as Saul’s successor
He had to be sent for… to be considered… God continues to offer up surprises…

Sunday, March 30, 2014

LENT Photo #23 'Wanting to be Somewhere Else'

   'Green screen' technology is amazing... the capability to take a person or object 'anywhere' by using a green screen behind them to separate their image and put alternatives behind them... CGI, other scenes etc...
   I did want to paint one wall of my Synod [statewide] Office in Sydney green as a reminder of 'creativity' and 'possibility'... the one at the time didn't have a full wall that would work... I will sometime...
   Today it's a little bit tempting to want to be 'somewhere else' after a busy but productive week of meetings, catch ups, prep, workshop, worship etc and plenty going on... it's a week where I've rolled from place to place and had less than ideal sleep!! I'd love to go see 'Noah' at the movies soon to take that virtual tour via green screen. I'm interested in Aronofsky's purpose in exploring this story 'inspired' by the Scriptural Noah... as a stand alone story, not an attempt to stay true to any particular conventional retelling. As a Director he uses such stories to explore themes, not the other way round. Predictably those who want to domesticate the story and control the narrative are up in arms. The usual exercise in missing the point. If I don't like it or think 'inspired by' is stretching it I'll say so... but in my case I'll see it first!!

LENT Photo #22 'Postcode'

   Today is a day for exploring the idea that 'God's Spirit' always has an address or a context in which God is active in the world. What difference does this make? How is 'good news' shaped, perceived and communicated...?
Indeed on Saturday we participated in an excellent workshop led by Clive Pearson and exploring the most important question and critical task for any Christian from Mark 8 when Jesus queries "who do people say that I am?.... Who do you say that I am? [where the 'you' is plural and implies an idea like, 'by what you say and do and how you are a community', who do you say that I am?] We explored the idea 'who is my neighbour?' and who they 'say' Jesus is... how do the communities in which we live 'speak of' Jesus...
   We spent time exploring theology around Jesus humanity and divinity through well known hymns and the Apostle's Creed noting the huge gap "born of the Virgin Mary ....... suffered under Pontius Pilate" and formed 4th C Councils in table groups to fill in the ....... and we considered the flow ons and challenges if that had been done and experienced the conversation of attempting to to do that as a group... in just a brief time.
   In considering 'our neighbour' we were 'having a go' at doing that with a theological lens, not social data, but also eventually thinking about their hurts and hopes and what 'good news' might look like for them...
   We spent time in the latter part of the workshop, writing our own 'Epistle' having done some work on the particularity of Paul's Letters... especially thinking about how they were addressed to a community/church, addressing particular issues and offering exhortations and blessings. These community contexts and the issues Paul was addressing are important in exploring these writings which also all predate the 'Gospels'... It's even interesting to remember who he asked to be remembered to and the way these letters would have been read aloud from start to finish. All that has relevance for how we understand Paul's writing.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

LENT Photo #21 'Ship Song Project'

   The Sydney Opera House is a remarkable space for music, theatre and the arts in general. This song is a fitting celebration of that diversity and vision. For me it symbolises how the missional church should feel and what energy should be evident as people share in the task of engaging in God's mission in the world. Shared gifts, celebration, life, exploring real issues, asking questions, all ages, active and creative!! This could be a community of new life in the resurrection, a compassionate grace filled serving community calling people to turn around and see God and as they do, to build a community living out God's values and growing it's lived experience of all Jesus taught, lived and stands for...

In a busy week filled with tiredness it's just the track I will be keen to listen to today!!

LENT Photo #20 'Blind' Gurrumul


   'Geoffrey' Gurrumul Yunupingu played stellar guitar for 'Yothu Yindi' and is still an enthusiastic member of 'The Saltwater Band' who skyrocketed on the release of his first solo album... as his website puts it...

"Born blind, Gurrumul grew up as a member of the Gumatj clan on Elcho Island, off the coast of tropical North East Arnhemland. His fragile but powerfully emotive voice has affected the public in a way no other artist has done in this country.  This unique Aboriginal man sings songs about identity, spirit and connection with the land, its elements and the ancestral beings he is related to. His high tenor voice and aura-like persona creates emotion, compassion and a feeling of peacefulness and longing with audiences in Australia and around the world.
In today’s world where the media and the music industries are based around hype, fashion and disposable artists, Gurrumul has emerged as unique celebrity, who will ‘change the way you breathe’ (Brisbane Courier Mail, 2008) and change the way people listen to and experience his Yolngu cultural world through an accessible Western music style."

   He is a unique character, known for avoiding media hype and being picky about projects... there's a great story about him not really getting why everyone was excited to see he might collaborate on a duet with 'Sting'. He just didn't want to do it, including the irony of "Every Breath You Take" and it's line 'I'll be watching you' which just annoyed him... until at the last moment he agreed to go ahead. No disrespect to Sting, he's just his own man... but you can check it out here
   Gurrumul doesn't wear sunnies all the time, he's not self conscious about his eyes... he just loves his music and sharing his story through song and is just as excited to join his band as ply his own trade!!

   This week we read the story of a blind man, the subject of a miracle... through the ordinary elements of mud and spit... but we are also reminded, this man was not born blind because of anything he or his parents have done...
   Instead he becomes a voice from the edges, an unexpected teller of good news... urging us to grasp the unexplainable truth of God breaking into life and calling us to live differently...
   It follows the late night question from Nicodemus, the midday sun wrestle with the un-named woman from Samaria at Jacob's Well... something is going on here...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

LENT Photo #19 "World"

   Wow!! I have some liquid chalk pens!! For smaller groups or as one 'station' in the space a lenten or Easter Prayers of the People for the World could be a tactile drawing and writing on the globe in the places needing reconciliation and renewal, the object of God's mission in the world... at least that's what I thought when I saw this globe on the interwebthingy!!

What thoughts did this globe touch off as I saw it?
   In most contexts I'm engaging with people in ministry and mission in recent times the dominant way people have come to think about the Church, the Christian faith and it's central message seems to be aligned with the short horizon of their own experience [or the gospel as they have received or experienced it] as if that's where the emphasis of discipleship has always been...
   One simple example would be 'the altar call' originating in the 1800s which is admittedly an attempt to symbolise a response through action... however it's early popularisation was always about a corporate call TO something, not just OUT OF something. But that's not even the main game...

   The globe reminds me that Jesus talked most about 'the Kingdom of God' and the invitation to participate. The invitation came from surprising people and places [the wrong ones according to some]. It begs the question, what do you do when you find the gifts and grace of God where they are not supposed to be?
   The culture of the churches I mostly connect with is very verbal [and don't worry I could talk all day if required and miss all cues to stop] but faith sharing is so often seen as 'telling' and there's not enough being, with an outward focus on being the people of God engaged in the community... The 'telling' is too often answering questions nobody is asking or there are few opportunities where the conversation is with anyone beyond the existing congregation.
   So this symbol too, of the globe, would be the richer for the ability to be able to write names, projects and issues on it that people were directly engaged with [alongside those earnestly prayed for] as a sign of reconciliation and renewal actually being contributed to alongside God's activity.

Other challenges:
- Young people make meaning and shape faith our of their context and culture, not decades ago
- The challenges of modern science can inform faith not just challenge it
- The main thing is still the main thing
- Just getting the facts of the story right will not create discipleship
- All ministry is built on relationships but not manipulation

That'll do for now... a list of ten would be easy!!
WE make the road by walking...


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lent PHOTO #18 "Welcome"

   The Wayside Chapel is one of a number of places we sent groups of young people from our UCA Synod Youth Unit Summer/Winter Camps in the middle day to 'ground' our theme, input, group work and discipleship in unique experiences of life beyond their own stories. Other places included Redfern, Glebe and into the City to observe people & places but also to talk with a 'Big Issue' seller and hear their story. As we went along it involved serving, cleaning up and getting involved... not just listening!! It became a great way to make the values of God very real and broke down significant barriers to people sharing themselves...
   The Wayside was an outstanding part of this and I have thought often about how to connect there in an ongoing way... Graham Long invited me to make a contribution to Sunday Worship there just in the final months of the Youth Unit and I still think about taking that up from Newcastle from time to time!! I also wish we had a group coherent enough to invite similar experiences in fleshing out a lot of stuff that gets talked about along the way...
   In relation to Lent I remain impressed and inspired by Waysides work, ministry and sense of community... Lots of people from the famous to the committed community builders around that area give time and gifts because they see all the good stuff that happens there...
   Having also met, interviewed and been inspired by Matt Noffs, I am aware of the painful history of Ted's pioneering efforts and the way those efforts continue to motivate his grandsons as they seek a fairtrade, inclusive an just world and foster things like the amazing: Gideon Shoes; and the 'Street University.'
   Welcome is a huge part of creating and building community and welcome is what all the people from the fringes were whose stories we are reading week by week this Lent.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent PHOTO #17 "Vivid"

   For a variety of reasons, worship has been on my mind this last two weeks... it's been a busy time... but alongside thinking about what will reflect an intersection between God and the culture of those gathered in a number of different settings it's reminded me of those things I value, find engaging, make meaning through and/or don't mind being challenged by and so in no particular order:

- something that allows me/others to respond to God
- art and creativity with tactile visual things
- activity that is changed and reflects your engagement with it
- shared stories
- music live and/or recorded without necessarily needing to sing along
- a question I can think, pray, talk about or just reflect on
- people sharing about things that matter to them
- celebration of ways those present have engaged in God's mission in the world
- Exploring Scripture as a central thread and unique, prophetic & apostolic
- Recognising Jesus as the living word of God who fuels our 'following'
- Newspapers, photos, video, storybooks, 'stations', collaboration as standard tools
- breaking out into community spaces, not just 'the church'
- including surprises
- participation by as many people as possible in leadership

   Curating experiences for older groups, conservative groups and/or those resistant to change means [alongside committing to include something that stretches people] I have grown to appreciate fragments of the above wherever I find them. In movies, listening to music, at the museum, through street art, lost in my own thoughts etc etc... It needs to be 'vivid' with space to be experienced and not compromised...

It's a bit like the experience of watching an old black and white TV in my youth. You had to fill in the colours in your imagination and as I think back I can still recall significant cultural and sporting moments on an old valve driven TV... but somehow able to find meaning and add my own colour...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

LENT Photo #16 Rebirth

   Earlier this week I went for a short drive to Catherine Hill Bay [photo of the Jetty coming soon] and I stopped at several spots to take photos of how the bush was recovering and being rebirth-ed after the horrendous bush fires from summer!! Some of the plateau still looks like a moonscape but alongside the road there are images like this of burnt out trees and thriving healthy gum trees and undergrowth alongside...
   I was reflecting on the randomness of life, it's challenges and how in community we live this way sometimes. People experience pain, loneliness, hurt and growth, beauty or love right alongside each other. Sometimes it's less obvious, sometimes you see it in people hunched over, looking tired and drawn or just plain happy and laughing with friends.
   Rebirth, being made new, is not at it's best individually, it should be shared and should remind us our freedom is tied up with others. Our life's experience is lived in community and the message of wholeness, of abundant life, of saving is not a selfish thing, maybe it's the best of things when shared.
   It comes from really listening to how others seek to live, being grace, compassion and care for them... sharing stories, sharing who or what gives us hope and tagging them along...
They might be a learned person filled with questions, a friend suffering illness or injury, a woman shunned by those in her community who needs to be included, not judged... this is the nature of a world lived according to God's values. A place acknowledging that life sometimes and often sucks, but that we travel it together... if you were of a mind to 'follow' Jesus, this is what that would be about... personal learning, saving, meshed with life giving opportunities held in our own hands or that we see and are drawn into, whether we see it or not... looking back to wonder at how that person came into our path... asylum seekers sharing their story, Pam from across the street, a young person whose car was totalled in the wet weather, an old bloke looking for a chat, a person leading for the first time, someone vulnerable enough to share their thoughts or story, the mystery of pain and illness awaiting diagnosis or treatment, people tired from day to day living... and that was just this week!!
   According to the story, sometimes God is in 'the still small voice' or our actions of being like 'salt' or 'light' in our community... the focus being on others, or something like that anyway!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

LENT Photo # 15 'Stories'

   Contemporary indigenous identity is expressed beyond Australia's north and a cohort of well know sports stars but certainly includes that rich mix of culture and engagement!! It's a reminder that Redfern, Malabar, La Perouse and beyond are still communities of vibrant culture and living. Every one has a story and every person's story is worth hearing. That's true whether you're a woman in Samaria who ventures to Jacob's well in the midday sun or spend your time in community facilities around Redfern, boxing at the PCYC or attending a Conference or the Markets in the Technology Park and Sheds.
   Stories cross cultural barriers, create community, define identity and determine our reality... how we seek and find connection with the ever present God is part of our story too...

LENT Photo #14 'Gathering'

   This is the painting that hangs in our entranceway at home and is an aboriginal artwork on canvass stretched over a frame. I bought it in Adelaide in 2005 at our UCA national youth event on the last morning for a few hundred dollars as a gift... I was grateful to the Community Worker for the Northern Synod contingent who sought me out on the balcony soon after the purchase, to thank me that whilst I had collected a bargain, he wanted me to know that by buying one of the three canvasses hanging up unframed, I had provided the petrol money for a group to head back home...
   The artwork is about women gathering bush tucker food for the group gathering... you can make out the ants and the witchetty grubs in the green X shaped pathways, the white snakes and the U shaped figures are the gatherers. It's a wonderful rich story of role, tradition and community life.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Handyman Blues" Billy Bragg live on Q&A

I now have two theme songs for what I'm not in life...
"Handyman Blues Billy Bragg
"Outdoor Type" The Lemonheads

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

LENT Photo #13 'Ordinary Love'

     Humanity seems built for relationships yet we also seem to have a propensity to stuff them up... selfishness, disregard, power, need, apathy and so on personally and globally...
   Into this comes a message of 'ordinary love' of the common good... a message about following values that lead to abundant life that's not at the expense of others... or is it?

More on 'A Destiny Together'

"Anthem" by TIDDAS with still pic and audio

Friends, colleagues, peers and punters gathered today in Canberra as part of the week of prayer & fasting for "A Destiny Together" as a commitment from first and second peoples to a better future together in Australia.
In reflecting on this I share one of my fav. songs... it's beautiful harmonies help the hard words sneak up on you from the perspective of a people who have suffered much at the hands of second and subsequent peoples arriving here in Australia.

Monday, March 17, 2014

LENT Photo #12 Aboriginal Portrait Mural

   So how long has this mural been on the end of this Wickham building? It wasn't there 12 months ago and after that I'm not sure... I'm sure it relates to the area and maybe specifically to the Mulubinba Co=Op or the Awabakal presence in the area including the nearby Daycare Centre... stunning artwork at the end of Bishopgate St facing the beginning of Wharf Rd. I saw it today just as I was passing by and thinking about the UCA week "A Destiny Together" and what I was going to read this week...

Painted by Melbourne street artist Adnate as part of the "Hit Bricks" Festival 2013
Thanks Newcastle Street Art Facebook!!

   I'm early with this blog post as the Uniting Church enters a week of prayer and fasting connected with "A Destiny Together" and a Gathering tomorrow Tuesday on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra!!
   It's about recognising indigenous culture and issues and that our futures are intertwined... It's about 'standing with' and seeking to understand each other and participating in a better future beyond the negative aspects of the Federal Government's intervention in northern Australia, beyond 'the gap' in health and education, beyond the idea that genuine aboriginal people are all in the north... There are a few things this is connected to and are a continuation of...

There will be more to follow on this week!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

LENT Photo #11 'Broken'

   It makes us who we are, our story, our lives, our interactions and how we build resilience and know that there's another world possible which we are invited to participate in building!! It's our ownership of the fact that despite the pursuit for happy-ness, we are mostly all broken in some way... because life is hard and we struggle!!
   The invitation 'to follow' Jesus is an invitation to life, not in trite terms of 'have I got a deal for you' or solely concerned with life beyond death but 'life in all it's fullness' which I was reminded today includes the ups and downs... so being broken it seems to me gives rise to wounded healers, is the space for ministry and offers us hope of another way!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

LENT Photo #10 'Bread'

   A Sunday morning sourdough toast is one of life's simple joys... the crunchy crust and fresh centre soak up butter and go well with jams or vegemite but it's also best enjoyed in company!! For me it's a symbol of life, hospitality and artisan creativity... sourdough is not easy to make, but the results are stunning!!
   'Bread' is Peter Reinhart's specialty and his TED Talk is a stunning encapsulation of the processes and organic change that takes place, expressed with passion here
   LENT is traditionally about 'giving up' where that creates opportunity for focus on God... people should choose that if it's helpful BUT I do prefer to think about FOCUS, whether on plenty or not much... I'd rather use time to connect with people, to share meals, to enjoy simple conversation and listening!! It's about breaking bread!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

LENT Photo #09 'Water'

   Officially opened in 1966, Mayfield Pool didn't have 500 kids there today for a Schools Fun Day as Wallsend did... lucky for me!! I like it's connections with the BHP Steelworks, the proximity of the dressing sheds, the hot shower and that there are always a small number of local characters there when you go!! Give a knowing nod and make your way to your lane and you are set for [in today's case] your 22 laps or so with only a few mums and toddlers and two old blokes around!! We have just come out of the 3-4 week Carnival Season with hundreds of kids each day...
   The pool must have had diving boards at the blocks end as I couldn't reach the bottom if I tried... the second half of the pool is 1m+ 'deep' so your lap gets easier going that way. It's good at this time of year as in the cooler weather there's no journey down the steps into the 23-25 degree water waiting to dive in and warm up... you just drop in at the deep end!! I'll be transferring to the Uni indoors in a couple of weeks!!
   I include it today because at this time of year such swims are 'just magic'... the sun is still out but it's that filtered autumn sunlight in a breeze. It means that when you stop doing laps the water is just refreshing and I for one can add a few laps and feel like I don't want to get out... I love that you are working hard and end up not in sweaty sports clothes but having a shower, even changing to todays clean clothes and wandering out to the car, ready to go... it usually means I'm ready for a nap by 3pm but not everyday!!
   'Water', the stuff of life, reviving, resistant, available in the developing world only through 'wells', like Jacob's Well... a place of questions and conversation, a place of honesty!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

LENT Photo #08 'Walk'

   This is one of series of images from a 'Stations' of the Cross or Easter focused public art installation. It was the inspiration for the Easter Walk I put together last year for Good Friday in Scone. I have since often thought about building stand alone timber frames with heavyish bases that could be placed around the city of Newcastle [probably with Council permission but asking them to keep quiet about it, or not asking]
   In that project they'd need to be things I never needed back and it would be a bonus if things did remain... maybe 2015? Anyhow, this seems to me a creative, communal, positive and engaging way to share the story and it could also be done via shop windows where you 'bomb' the area with map guides and liturgy but have permission for the installations... small country towns would do well with this and even a deserted street on a Good FRiday Public holiday might work as a 'walk' for the faithful... all I know is that without the most remarkable Easter Camp experiences now I and many others lack something in our restorative and challenging spirit as to how to gain fuel for our journey.
   For me the gospel is a simple affair that God is love and knows 'everyone has a story and every story is worth hearing'... the task of disciple makers is by far and away to invite others on that journey of following so that anything in our lives which is not fuelled by and connected to that relationship with Christ has the potential to be shaped, corrected, informed and challenged. Using a 'bullhorn' is just as ineffective as ignoring issues or allowing people to interpret their faith through an individualistic lens... It really is about the journey... the WALK

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

LENT Photo #07 Giving

   It was 32 degrees celsius, a little humid and a team had come together for a day with families who connected at Ermington in Sydney. UnitingCare, Uniting Conference Centres and the Uniting Church NSW/ACT Syond Youth Unit collaborated to make it happen.
   There were games, swimming, crafts, video, lunch and flying fox... this is where it got interesting as a small number of less able kids had come along. One stunningly generous Youth Worker and members of his voluntary team wheeled, carried and lifted kids so they too could enjoy the adventure!! There was no thought of self, just giving!! It still stands as one of my highlight ventures from 12 years at the Youth Unit!!

Dulux Let's Colour 'Prohibition'

A metaphor for so many things...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

LENT Photo #06 'Confession'

   Confession/Lament/Hope all tied up in one action of writing on some gum leaves and leaving them on the cloth. Frustratingly, "Bad" U2 covered by Luka Bloom didn't play on the Mac... it did in testing!!

Monday, March 10, 2014

LENT Photo #05 Journey, what following is...

   The Labyrinth has been around for a long time, but many people have discovered it's contemporary shape, including stations with different tactile mediums, for 'stops on the way' journeying to the middle and out again... in Lent it might be a sparse experience or a way to re-centre or an opportunity to stop in the same way I enjoy lap swimming. Although huffing and blowing it's still possible to stay with your own thoughts and process stuff up and down the pool... questions, shoulds and shouldn't haves!!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

"Invisible" U2 RED Edit

"Invisible" (RED edit)
It’s like the room just cleared of smoke
I didn’t even want the heart you broke
It’s yours to keep
You just might need one

I finally found my real name
I won’t be me when you see me again
No, I won’t be my father’s son

I’m more than you know
I’m more than you see here
More than you let me be
I’m more than you know
A body in a soul
You don’t see me but you will
I am not invisible

That's right
I'm leaving the invisible world

I don’t dream, not as such
I don’t even think about you that much
Unless I start to think at all

All those frozen days
And your frozen ways
They melt away your face like snow

I’m more than you know
I’m more than you see here
I’m more than you let me be
I’m more than you know
A body in a soul
You don’t see me but you will
I am not invisible
I am here

There is no them
There is no them
There’s only us
There’s only us
There is no them
There is no them
There’s only us
There’s only us
There is no them
There is no them
There’s only you
And there’s only me
There is no them

LENT 1 @ Scone today at 9.30am

   It went OK, but not everything worked!! That's OK, there were experiments and they were acknowledged as such... I do get frustrated when a song file doesn't play after being inserted into a slide, when it has played several times in preparation... so we missed "Bad" U2 by Luka Bloom as a backing for our activity...
Explaining some things we were doing went too long and my hunch that [2] songs would have been better was correct. At the same time people's annoyance when things go over one hour frustrates me as they also prefer [4] communal songs if not [5]... The announcements placed at the start and taking up time give away the focus of the community on itself or at worst a lack of understanding of the need for this time to be curated as an experience for multiple learning styles, different cultural needs and a missional edge. That's alright, 2 weeks time will only go for 45mins to give the time back...
   Pictured are dry leaves with words, sentences, scribbles of owning up, lament, hopes and thoughts of alienation and distance... I probably shouldn't have said I'd love to take a chainsaw to the pews when I invited people into a discussion in [3]s. People appreciated thoughts springing from Al McRae's great LENT EVENT stuff.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

"The Making of Midnight Oil"

   Manly Museum & Art Gallery have put together an exhibition that will travel but starts at the space in Manly from June 20th until about September 2014!! Rob Hirst has been involved [and it's a fitting location] and I'm only disappointed I wasn't asked to contribute a drumstick, t-shirt or album cover... the band s own archive of stuff and the fact they video recorded lots of full shows will make this an interesting dip into a great story!!

Jim Moginie and Neil Murray

   These two seem to have disappeared from Lizottes gig guide, which I wasn't getting to tomorrow night, so there's still a chance for me to get my act together elsewhere!! Neil Murray's material is just as iconic and humble!!

LENT Photo #04 "40"

   Jesus spent a significant 40 days in the 'wilderness' taking time to restore, to reflect and make time and space for the struggles and difficulties ahead!! It invites us as communities to think and practice how we can be places and spaces for significant encounters with God, whether in times of plenty or times of 'drought'!!
   This illustration by Si Smith is from his '40' series and the AV is available via Proost UK

Friday, March 07, 2014

LENT Photo #03 Giving up Chocolate


LENT Photo #02 Temptation

   A contemporary take on the opening week theme... temptation to focus on and allow a whole range of things be your 'God'...
James Janknegt