Monday, June 30, 2014

PHOTO of the Week "Hearing Box"

   This is a photo of the back of a pew [uncomfortable wooden bench seat] from in front of me at Hamilton Wesley UC yesterday. I was there for the Closure of Ministry worship for AKB and I noticed this wooden box with plugs and volume knob.
   This looks to me to be a pre loop solution for those with trouble hearing... it's part of a very old in house PA system and looks suspiciously like two usb connections. The system at Hamilton has been replaced most recently by new speakers, a behringer desk with capacity to play audio. It supplements the now slightly older ceiling mounted data projector and the way all liturgy and clips are projected there for a handsfree experience participating.
   On the one hand we find a community attuned to the participatory needs of all attendees and yet the relics of the past are present in the values, worship style, preference for familiarity and timber boxes with volume knobs... and ability to offer hospitality freely to 'those like us'... while wrestling with the challenge to do that for all people...
   As an aside there's an older gentleman in suit and tie who sits at the back next to the old PA box. He probably oversaw the installation of the wooden box volume knob set up... who until the upgrade of the PA, was there to switch on mice and control the volume and needs during the gathering. I'm not sure what if anything is controlled from the wooden cabinet in that back corner... the screen, the projector, the lights? Yet there he sits as always...
   There's a spirit of inclusion and an openness that's a 'ball of potential' but there's also the need for the mind shift AKB spoke so well about... the idea that we are used to identifying with and inviting those who fit well and used to seeing people for the contribution they might offer. What about those in need, those completely unaware or unsure of their offering... a space of ministry, of care and of 'good news' for all. These are the kinds of spaces and ways of being that Jesus lived and taught... and this is the mission of God present where we live...
   What I saw in that little wooden box was a will to include, a catering for need in a different time and the way in which those former ways of engaging in this context are still there in helpful and unhelpful ways. Like a pair of glasses through which we look at the world [ones we almost find impossible to remove] those round such communities, with eyes to see and a story to tell, need to share their dream of a new space, a new way of being open and new 'resources' required for this culture making challenge.
   Anyhow, that's some of what I was pondering when I looked down and saw this image...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"How Long ?" a less clunky reflection...

Psalm 13
Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies
To the leader. A Psalm of David.
1How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I bear pain[a] in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me
3 Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken
5 my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.6 I will sing to the Lord
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
But I trusted in your steadfast love...

with echoes from Habakkuk...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"How Long?" A reflection

   A reflection drawing on Habakkuk and asking 'How Long?' but as a plea and reminder of our part in God's reconciliation and renewal of the whole creation through living by the values we are called to show... it's lament, it's sitting in and with the struggles of life and knowing in the end there's only God... and we are agents of change in this endeavour!! Love, God stretching and teaching us to live it out... following!! Scribing in the marks made by the mentor!!

"Let It Go" Pearl Jam style.....

Monday, June 23, 2014

PHOTO of the Week: "The Making of Midnight Oil"

   So I went to Manly on Friday and could have stayed all day taking in the detail of an amazing tribute to 'The Oils'!! Ross Heathcote and Rob Hirst have done an amazing job with posters from 'Farm' through to costumes, the Sorry suits etc etc etc... Using road cases and their lids was an inspired choice as anyone who knows the band knows that hand print logo sprayed on the outside of the cases.
   This photo is the road case containing music, poster and lyric sheet for one of my fav. all time Oils songs "The Deadheart" from "Diesel and Dust." It's the signature song for audience participation by trying to be first in the room to start the groundswell "do do do do do do do do do!!" when you hear that jangly riff and the thumping base that bring the sounds of the desert to life on this inspired album. Wow!!


"The Fault in Our Stars" rated M 126mins

 WARNING Film Spoiler Alert... and the same language and ideas as used in the film
  It's a sunny June day here and the family are in Sydney where I was yesterday!! I had thought about which of a possible [3] UCA worships I might attend this morning and which I intuitively thought would be the most constructive in my work and how I was feeling after a few really busy days. Either way I will be enjoying the curating of a keen bunch at SLYM+ tonight...
   When I got organised this morning I knew I had no energy for turning up somewhere I would need to 'contribute' and instead chose to do something to renew and recharge my own spirit [and that would be helpful in the long run as inspiration].
   After sorting our urgent need to buy a new washing machine [the decline of our twenty year old one is another story] I wandered into the cinema just in time for early session of "The Fault in Our Stars."
   A reluctant reader I heard of the film before I knew John Green had reportedly sold more than 10 million copies of his 'young adult' story or that the company accidentally released pre-order copies early and people had responded well to Green's plea not to vilify the well meaning staff but to maybe not read the book until the intended date or talk about it until the next day.
   Seeing this film was the right choice and has my mind buzzing about it's themes, story and relevance to my own recent experiences and insights from conversations I've been part of in person and through social media.

The official film synopsis says:
"Hazel and Gus are two extraordinary teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them - and us - on an unforgettable journey.
Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS explores the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love."

   It's a great story built around Hazel's favourite book, inspired by a young cancer sufferers story where it was the only thing she'd read that remotely reflected her own experience. The book finished mid sentence, leaving Hazel [and Gus after he read it] with lots of 'what happened' questions... They are eventually able to use Gus' 'wish' to travel to Amsterdam and find the reclusive author. It's a disappointing meeting but the sightseeing to the Ann Frank House is pivotal and beautiful in telling what it means to be living Hazel and Gus' lives. It's a turning point in their deepening relationship and a visual playing out of Hazel's life carting around an oxygen cylinder.
  The film wasn't perfect [15 mins too long represented in a few clunky scenes] but it wrestles with God, life, how everyone involved is impacted by the illnesses and even just the first 10 minutes or so could start a long conversation about the 'lightweight' support group facilitator 'in the heart of Jesus' at the local church.
   It reminded me of why I am a Youth Worker and how my vocation has been clear for over 30 years... walking alongside people... whether doing so well or in a pale attempt... the amazing warmth I feel every time I see a young person [or any person really] as they are and as the ball of potential they could be when I've met them... or the pain I feel seeing anyone hampered from being all they can be, through circumstances, disadvantage... or in this case illness. The last thing I want to do is 'blame' people or judge them...
I am and we should be inspired by Jesus encounters with:
The Woman at Simon's home "he looked at her and spoke to them"
The 'Bent Over' Woman
The Woman at the Well... the list goes on...

   It reminded me of the false, insular, fake, struggling imitation of authentic community the church sometimes is [and my place in that]... of earnest faithful people blinded by 'right belief' or so wrapped up in their own experience they can't see how the context has shaped them in ways they refuse to let it do for others... because that would be a different and wrong shape, unable to genuinely speak to or embrace those on the edge of their own circle, let alone those in the community literally bursting from the pain of life. It reminded me of the Jesus who saved his most vivid and angry criticism for the shallower corrupted, fearful, insular and pedantic religious leaders of his day. It reminded me that a prophetic 'good news' of compassion, love and grace needs to be seen to be lived out in faithful following of Jesus, not in some rarified theological 'wank' or the 'bullshit' some people sprout as truth... failing to see the exclusive judgemental outcome of their stance....
   It's the Dr Phil question, "how right do you want to be?" that he asks every family member, choosing what they know to be right, over maintaining relationship with those in their family. It reminded me to be thankful for wisdom and second chances and a love of God that simply will not give up on us. It reminded me that everything doesn't always end well and pain "is meant to be felt"!!
   Yes, I made the right choice of where I went on Sunday morning this week...


Saturday, June 21, 2014

"The Making of Midnight Oil"

Spoiler Alert!!!! If you don't want to see any of the images of the exhibition at Manly Museum & Art Gallery for 'The Making of Midnight Oil' then stop reading now......

I made a flying visit to Manly on Friday for the opening day [I will go back and spend more than the 90mins I had] and it was the most amazing time reconnecting with all that this band's music and story means to me. I will write more about my conversations with 'Oils' drummer Rob Hirst and co-curator Ross Heathcote... and yes the exhibition is stunning... here's some of my 50+ photos!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

The School Chaplaincy Thing


   For the second time Towoomba's Ron Williams mounted a successful High Court action seeking to rule that Federal Funding for Chaplaincy in Schools here in Oz was invalid. Mr Williams concern has been a belief that Chaplains offering pastoral care [whether a mix of religious or secular pastoral carers] have no place in our Schools and even morso when the Coalition made it accessible to Christian groups only. It's a complicated issue that is not helped by misunderstanding or misinformation.... and the issues fall firmly at the feet of politicians whose ideology created the scheme.

The complexity is:
- The Chaplaincy program is about 'pastoral care' and not counselling or religious guidance
- The focus is wellbeing and involves all kinds of helpful contributions to the school
- The government has not helped by narrowing the restrictions on who can provide Chaplaincy
- Many Chaplains are also involved in presenting Special Religious Education/Instruction
- Their are differences in uptake and organisation between States
- The idea has attracted additional community funding
- Australia is increasingly secularised and the resistance reflects a deeper suspicion and rejection of the institution of the church
- The SRE/Ethics debate gets conflated with this discussion
- People mistakenly assume Chaplains are 'evangelists' and also where young people's lives, experiences and choices might be different to the ethics and values of the Chaplain, then this would cause a problem or lead them to offer advice from their own values framework
- Scripture Union coordinating in QLD and Genr8 in NSW help sustain people's confusion about what's on offer
- These perceptions skew the conversation
- The fundamental discussion remains about whether Christians belong in a Chaplaincy program offered in Schools through Federal funding

The great value of the idea comes through the variety of ways Chaplains engage in the Schools:
- resilience and self esteem programs
- welcome for new students
- mentoring
- sports coaching
- life skills and recreational activities

   If only the original idea had gained a broader support base and was less associated with John Howard's own enthusiasm for the idea. If only all kinds of religious and community groups were still able to take up the roles. There would still be some exciting opportunities for people to offer pastoral care out of their own sense of ministry and mission and show that regardless of any negativity from the community, church based Chaplains, alongside others, would prove themselves to be superbly gifted and skilled for the task. The lived reality of what Chaplaincy offers would be a credit to all involved... Instead, people's overarching objection to the idea is mixed with misunderstanding of what the role actually is and so here we are... I have certainly laughed at the number of media commentators and hosts who have offered strong opinions on the issue whilst almost universally acknowledging they don't know what Chaplains do... 
   For what it's worth the Government should have gone dollar for dollar with community groups and allowed it's competency criteria to determine a mix of so called 'secular' and 'religious' Chaplains, who in reality are subject to the same guiding principles, permissions and limitations...
   This is not a theological issue so much as a missional challenge about how those people involved could best use their gifts & skills to participate in God's mission in the world [whether you relate to that as reconciliation & renewal of the whole of creation and/or meeting the hurts & hopes of all people in the community...
It'll be fascinating to watch the next chapter unfold...


Sunday, June 15, 2014

UCA Basis of Union Wordle

   A significant and visionary document outlining the leaders at the time's understanding that what they were participating in was God's call to the whole church. It came at a significant time in history, is a historical artefact and points to a 'pilgrim people' on the way... at the same time Mike Riddell has a reflection for all of us that's a sobering assessment...

"The essence of the church has always been mission.
It is created by mission, renewed by mission, and participates in mission.
That mission belongs to God, and the church has stakes in it only insofar as it shares the life of God through Christ. To take part in God's mission to the world is to become a conductor of the divine energy which has been unleashed through the tearing open of the Trinity.
Apart from involvement in mission, the church becomes a tawdry relic; a dusty museum of religion, suitable for tourists and historians, but little else.
The creeping temptation of the church is to believe that it is an end in itself.
Power, wealth, security and the desire for continuity dog the life of the established church as they do any other institution.
The characteristics of the God made known in Jesus - love, vulnerability, redemptive suffering, service - are not nearly so attractive.
So it is that theology and praxis must continually struggle against the tendency to coopt God to the agenda of the church, rather than shape the church according to the will of God.
Such is the history of the people of God, who attempt to follow the moving pillar of fire.

God will not be contained. The attempt to construct boxes for the divine presence is doomed to tragedy. Those who invest their lives in such misguided pursuits will be left with splinters and the distant laugh of the Spirit. God is God or even better, God is who God will be.
It is no denial of the centrality of Christ to say that we are still finding out who God will be. Christian faith is not a deposit of information, but a relationship with the partner who is constantly luring and dancing in the direction of the horizon.
Many groups have assumed that they know the mind and intent of God, and been made to look silly as they clutch their supposed certainties while God moves on."

"Threshold of the Future: Reforming the Church in the Post Christian West"

Mike Riddell p174 1998

Bad Analogies

Poignant and funny!!

Photo of the Week "98no"

   Last weekend I spent time in Scone but also in Cessnock on Saturday and Sunday, facilitating a "Living Our Values" workshop and reflecting with locals on the UCA through the lenses of it's founding values or basis, sense of call and the nature of leadership and power.
   This meant that I drove past a place of significance in my own story several times. This park and cricket oval is known as "Chinaman's Hollow" near Weston in the coalfields. I've had a bit of a look at how it was named through the history of agriculture and coal exploration but the first half dozen references are too general to assist. It's a turf wicket and the white picket fence is in excellent shape. It's part of my cricketing history for a funny and successful day out.
   I started a cricket team at my church after playing for another local one for a few years. The day I'm thinking of we were short of players. The fun started when my dad, Stewart gave spectating a rest and took the field to help us out. A ball was clipped off the thickish outside edge and ran away to the 3rd man area... dad took off after it and on turning, pulled a calf muscle and needed to leave the field. My brother Mark tells me I had told him he was too young but we needed him now anyhow!! He was the best player of a straight bat in the backyard from the age of six onwards and of course has several Maitland cricketing records to his name in 1st and 2nd Grade for Tenambit-Morpeth having only recently stopped playing.
   We lost early wickets and it was one of those days where I either get rolled for 3-4 or make a few. Not known for my running between wickets I used a heavy bat [at that stage of my playing career] and enjoyed finding the boundary by backing my 'eye' against most bowlers in the comp [unless as I say I was clean bowled or caught out for zero or a few]. The left armer 'Darcy' was my nemesis with the in swinger but otherwise I usually got myself out having a go....
   It should be noted I found a willing batting partner in Scotty Salmon [I never remember whether he made 13 or 30] who happily held up an end as I set about chasing a tough target with only 9 or 10 batsmen available and most of them having been and gone...
   I remember a lucky shot for six just over the fence at mid off to the left of the brick shelter in the photo. The bowler moved his fielder around to the left further away from the shed and the next one went just over long on where he had been standing. Some stern words and the bowler moved him to half way from where he was and where he had been. I didn't really mean to hit the next one straight over his head but this time 20m beyond the fence. It was a great day of challenging myself and most gambles coming off. The fielder offered the bowler the old snooker joke about the disappearing cricket balls, that "we were done with the reds, would he like to start on the colours?"
   Late in the day we approached their total and in lower grade cricket with two scorebooks and volunteers from each team and overs to spare [let me explain that] you usually let the batsmen get a few runs past the opposition so any scoring error is covered by the margin of the win. The scorers had let us know when we had 25, 20 and 10 runs to get and I was sure we were past the total when they kept saying "one more over, one more over"... I wondered if we had misunderstood and we were counting down to nearly 35 overs... I persisted in asking in case we ran out of overs....
The scorers called out that we were about 14 or 17 runs past their score, but I was 98 not out...
   In that split second I just knew I didn't feel right about batting on for a 100 that would put us 20 runs past the opposition. I still feel like I made the right choice... though it remains my top score and sits alongside 7-30 bowling, when we only had 7 players, as my two memorable Maitland cricketing memories... It's funny how that whole story came flooding back as I drove past on Saturday morning and stopped to take this photo in the fading light on Sunday afternoon... It seems a long time ago and only yesterday. It was a long way back from the old man's torn calf and my ten year younger brother fielding at fine leg to a spirited win!!

Monday, June 09, 2014

PHOTO of the Week: 'Tank Man'

   Tiananmen Square was the scene of a people's protest 25 years ago in 1989 and I still remember the common experience of watching significant world events from the couch at 'Rover' in Close St, Wallsend. The students and hundreds of people were shot by soldiers and to this day the story is little known in China where media censorship and tight controls around journalism are the norm!!
   While this has become an iconic image, it was even more chilling watching the footage of this young man, stepping into the path of the tank... an epic standoff. Sydney Morning Herald has a story about the mystery Tank Man

Sunday, June 08, 2014

'Pentecost' at Scone 8.6.14

And from OldTractorTinShed

1. Notices
2. Start
Welcome one and all,
You’re invited to enter into worship by taking time to reflect on God’s Spirit
Described by German Theologian Johann Metz as
‘The dangerous and liberating memory and presence of Jesus.’      
How do you see God active in the world and how does God inspire your faith?
Worship today is about having the space to stop, to pray, to wonder…
And to celebrate the birthday of the church…

3. SONG TiS 474 v1,2,4 “Gather Us In”

4. Clip “Worlds Fastest Indian edit” 3min 20

5. Prayer
Let’s pray,
God’s Spirit
Whose song breathed creation out of chaos
Whose tears drew from the cross
Whose dance greeted the empty tomb

God’s Spirit,
Who could not be contained by wind or flame,
Blessing the church with courage, peace and love

On Pentecost Sunday,
Inspire us to be your people at this time in this place
Hear our prayers of thanks for all we have and are
Hear our prayers of honesty and owning up
Prompt us to do and be better in your name
Hear our prayers of knowing we need hope and faith and love

6. SONG “Together to Celebrate” via mp3 David McGregor

John 7: 37-39
CLIP “Pentecost” Dan Stevers 2min 33 Acts 2: 1-21
The paid version of this demo

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind,
and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them,
and a tongue rested on each of them.
4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages,
as the Spirit gave them ability.

Drawing down imagery from the Jewish Scripture,
God’s Spirit came to the group ‘like a wind’
[the word for Spirit in Hebrew + Gk = wind, breath & spirit] echoes of Sinai/Babel.....
And we’re told they could speak in different languages and were understood by those of different regions and cultures who heard them…
THIS was the beginning of the church, during the festival of Pentecost!!

And in verse 42 later on it tell us,
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs
were being done by the apostles.
44All who believed were together and had all things in common;
45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all,
as any had need.
They gathered for sharing, worship and study… they were present in their local community and were revered for their community, serving and values…

In a very different story but with common threads…
Burt Munro was an eccentric from Invercargill in New Zealand,
where he pottered around in his shed tinkering with an old motorcycle [an] Indian] trying to fashion the perfect metal piston.
People thought he was a crazy old man,
with a crazy dream of cracking the land speed record on the US salt flats,
but by the time of his birthday party there were a few supporters
who turned up at the beach to cheer him on in the local challenge…

Sometimes the action of God’s spirit in community can look as simple as a dream
that catches peoples imaginations and gets them involved…..
I’m particularly thinking of the ones who jumped in to help give Burt a push start…

[shared a short story about my 'homeless' visitor all those years ago "Peter this n that"]

See the startling thing about that Pentecost
is that it means God loaded all his hopes, exampled through Jesus life and teaching, into ‘the church’ so you and I are called to look for ways we can live out the Kingdom of God…  in the here and now. Our task is to look for the activity of God’s Spirit in our community and to ‘join in’…

9. SONG + Offering TiS 135 v1, 2, 5 “All Things Bright & Beautiful”

God, we pray for a world in trouble not easily solved…
We pray for the people of Thailand, Egypt, Syria and the Ukraine,
We pray for those here in Australia, struggling, facing unemployment
We pray for those seeking asylum desperate enough to take to leaky boats to get here
We pray that #love makes a way
If prayer were enough there would be no war, no hunger, no poverty
If prayer were enough all people would love their neighbour as themselves
So help us we pray, to think global and act local in living our faith inside out
God hear our prayers.

11. SONG TiS 179 “Praise with Joy” John Bell
God sends you
God’s Spirit guides you
Jesus is your example to follow

13. SENDING OUT SONG TiS  781 “Father Bless Us”

Friday, June 06, 2014

"King of the Mountain" Midnight Oil

Here's song #01
Two weeks of celebration ahead of "The Making of Midnight Oil" at Manly Museum & Art Gallery!!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

"Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again" The Angels


There are a number of videos out there which could be useful this Sunday or Friday depending on your context...

Paying for the full version of this one

Veggie Tales creators offer this one for kids

Red cloth
A painting
Bunting or balloons
A birthday cake
Red cards to write prayers on
A Red t-shirt to wear leading
Flame shaped red, orange and yellow cardboard for craft
Aspects of worship in the different languages represented in the group
"Below My Feet" Mumford & Sons

Or will you be with a faith community in worship where none of this would be appreciated?

Monday, June 02, 2014

PHOTO of the Week 'Kev Carmody'

   Kev Carmody has been an inspiration to a huge number of indigenous and non indigenous Australian musicians, including Paul Kelly and John Butler. The collection of interpretations of his songs known as "Cannot Buy My Soul" is a stunning recording and he considers those songs are now those bands tunes. An example would be his admiration for the time and key change from The Waifs with "From Little Things Big Things Grow." The title song itself is a simple but profound testament to Carmody's outlook and his own soul.
   As a cane cutter and hard working man he found his way into music and education, able to achieve 'recognised prior learning and experience' to enter into a Music qualification and get post graduate awards so he could lecture at University. He has never lost his grounded sense of story or the significance of his background and tough life. In recent years his health has suffered and arthritis has made it hard to perform.
   At 'Bluesfest' in Byron the year I went, his was my 'Easter moment' set at the festival... transcendent!! It was honest, unadorned and then all of a sudden he invites a few mates onstage and three members of 'Midnight Oil' [performing earlier as 'The Break'] take the stage and blow us away with rock versions of some of Kev's best songs...
   Anyhow, when an artist like Paul Kelly looks up to you, there's something special about you!!