Thursday, June 23, 2016

"Church in the Trees" as Winter Kicks In

   Last week I had the privilege of sitting in conversation with an elderly lady who has cancer. She was feeling the loss of independence and wrestling with questions around how these things happen and what the next few weeks held for her. We spoke about family and past, about belief and the end of life. I have said that I took the opportunity to share with her from my "inexperience." These are hard moments having had my own illness battles and a need to watchfully attend to check ups and blood test I am aware of the lurking nature of serious illness and the questions and the isolation. At the same time we spoke of none of those things, only attending to listening.  I was visiting as a help to a nearby congregation but I left my details with caring staff and wonder if we will speak again.
   I have visited others, those who've had an accident and are in rehab, those with chronic pain and the inconvenience it brings, others to catch up and hear more of each others stories. Two things are worth writing about. The first is the tiring privilege it is to get to know people beyond a veneer, even if that's momentary and just a beginning. The second is the smug inner smile of nearly thirty years of advocacy that youth ministry is real ministry, with real people, not half people. The things I have always held to be important around empathy, listening, conversation, being present and the vale of time invested are all equally valid and past experiences count. There's much to learn but it's from new experiences, not totally new circumstances or context. Sometimes I've been right [even when formation processes seek to remind you that this can't be true no matter how confident of it you are because it's held that 'sometimes the student actually doesn't know what's best'] 
   There's plenty happening... a new storage shed and table and benches on the edge of our Community Garden and the wonderful news the local 'Sustainability Group' or MAPS are interested in investing time and energy into our Garden!! This is a remarkable development. I have taken a personal interest in the Garden beset with problems and false starts and to see a group 'fall into place' makes me glad I chose to problem solve and invest time... especially as the MAPS group was not my doing. I look forward to Spring and some plan around art/space/spirituality/labyrinths and also [thanks for idea Lisa Wriley] glue-ing small signs to cutlery to label plants/vegetables in the garden to make our open invitation to grab stuff, an informed choice!!
   We are now into week three of a 'discernment exercise' with over 50 volunteer tasks and ideas on newsprint in our hall. There are post it notes and texts where people have spent time discerning where their gifts and talents could continue to be used or any new directions and opportunity for some to lay down a few tasks and allow space for others. The most exciting spin off is the way this process opens up and invitation to those who've joined our community in recent months... it's  low key focused process to make the invitation to get involved!! It continues... and includes some new missional efforts around frozen meals, a Movie Discussion Group and more...
   This Sunday we will reflect on and celebrate it being 39 years since the Uniting Church came into being. We will focus on: the logo; our identity drawn from the "Basis of Union;" what parts of our ethos make us UCA; things we stand for and are doing and how this local embodiment is seeking to engage in God's mission in the world as part of that story.
   Two new things are in the pipeline!! Despite a rocky start to the planning and logistics we have managed to secure 6 of the 8 Candidates for the Seat of Hunter, for an Election Forum on Wed 29th June. I'm excited that flyers and news articles got out there. I believe I did good work making sure someone else wasn't planning it and yet seeking community collaborators. I know people are glad it's on and despite 6pm end of June dark and cold I'm hopeful of a decent crowd for the first time this region votes in this seat. We are seeking to be "good neighbour" and offering this hospitality to all in the community!!
Lastly a reminder there's work yet to do!!
   I haven't had/made/found the time to personally follow up and seek to meet with the local Awabakal people and the High School Indigenous program leaders/elders. Instead I've had a number of second hand conversations with people who have sent me 'some details' and offered to send my contacts to those people should they wish to accept my overtures to meet and seek common ground. A 'known' Christian artist was suggested to follow up and I will do that because his 'Stations' art is quite famous!! So, no school art this year.
   At one point I was inspired to try to use our space as an art display space for NAIDOC Week. Some positive conversation saw an idea shared at a local network BUT there was reticence about this idea "in the church." How I wish I'd been in that room... 
I contacted the Lake Mac Council Aboriginal Community Development Officer who I've met to finally seek some of the contact details I need. I got lots of info!! We went a step further in the story of this being done before at Morisset and we are chasing Thomas or 'Turtle' who has previously had his work on display here and may now live near Gosford... 
   Check how great the pics look!! In the end we've run out of time for July BUT I'm now spurred on for September when it warms up, through personal contacts in the network and doing the work to build relationships of trust!!
   I don't know if we have space and time for anything more here BUT if we do then undies and socks for Wayside Chapel are on the agenda... never short of ways to be helpful!! 

Saturday, June 18, 2016