Messages of Hope

Month: June 2014

‘Mount Barker 9’

Published / by Sandy


On Monday 23rd June, we were part of a group of 9 faith community leaders who went to MP Jamie Briggs’ office in Mt Barker, the electorate that includes Inverbrackie Detention Centre, to ask a simple question, “When will the 983 children being held in indefinite detention in Australia be released with their families into the community?”

We vowed to stay in the office until we had an answer, and spent the day learning about the Jewish mandate to welcome the stranger from our fellow participant Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, singing a variety of gentle songs, praying and sharing stories of our faith journeys. When the office was ready to close and the answer to our question about the children in detention was still not forthcoming, we peacefully and respectfully declined to leave, resulting in our arrest for the minor offence of trespass. The police involved were kind, generous, professional and respectful of our commitment not only to the children in detention, being held in prison-like conditions, but also to seeing our country shift away from cruelty and towards greater compassion.

As noted in Sunday’s sermon marking the 37th anniversary of the Uniting Church in Australia, our uniquely Australian denomination and its predecessor churches have taken up the command of Jesus to “love our neighbours as ourselves” in public ways many times across the history of this country. ‘A Christian responsibility to society has always been regarded as fundamental to the mission of the Church. In the Uniting Church our response to the Christian gospel will continue to involve us in social and national affairs. We affirm our eagerness to uphold basic Christian values and principles, such as the importance of every human being, the need for integrity in public life, the proclamation of truth and justice, the rights for each citizen to participate in decision-making in the community, religious liberty and personal dignity, and a concern for the welfare of the whole human race. We pledge ourselves to seek the correction of injustices wherever they occur’. (UCA Statement to the Nation, 1977)

In a media release on Monday, Moderator of the Uniting Church in South Australia Dr. Deirdre Palmer comments, “the Uniting Church’s Code of Ethics for ministers in the Church specifically allows for acts of civil disobedience. This includes praying peacefully in the offices of members of parliament and engaging in non-violent direct action. Through this peaceful action we seek to challenge the government’s inhumane approach to the treatment of asylum seekers and encourage others to embrace a more welcoming response to those who seek asylum here.”

We both resonate with what our colleagues at Brougham Place Uniting Church, John and Jenni Hughes, said about their motivation as faith community leaders for participating in the peaceful protest on Monday:

Each week we stand in the pulpit and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. We feel our words are empty if we do not then live out what we preach.

We look forward to conversations with you about this experience and the issues surrounding asylum seekers. And we hope that in the spirit of the Pilgrim practice of solidarity, we may be united as a community in our concern for all vulnerable people, including asylum seekers and their children, and in our hope for deepened compassion in our public discourse and our policy-making as a nation.

Please note the forum about asylum seekers organised by an interfaith coalition to be held at Pilgrim on Monday June 30th, beginning at 6 p.m. with a shared dinner (please bring a plate to share) followed by the forum beginning at 7. Guests include Brad Chilcott (Welcome to Australia), Kate Leaney (The Welcome Centre), Libby Hogarth and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Grace and peace,
Sandy and Jana

SBS report

New Matilda

The Advertiser report

posted 27 Jun 2014 by Sandy

What if breathing is sacramental?

Published / by Jana

What if the most sacred thing we do is to con-spire…breathe with…each other. What if con-spiracy is especially hallowed in the shadow of grief, when breathing together is lost and yet the communion continues in ways far too mysterious to understand via even this most fundamental sacrament.

This sacrament doesn’t even require we do so much as open our mouths (unless you have trouble breathing through your nose). Our connectivity precedes our communication, which relieves a lot of pressure to say and do either many things or the “right” thing. As in the practice of meditation, if we bring our awareness back to our breath, fear subsides and is replaced by peace, empowering us to be filled with grace and guided by truth.

Conspiracy for and with invites awareness of the absoluteness of the common ground forged by breath. All living things breathe. My air is your air is my air is our air.

But there is a further, more radical edge to con-spiracy. Like breathing itself, with inhale and exhale, there are two aspects to the sacrament. If we breathe in unity, we breathe out diversity. There is an immediate dual awareness to the act of breathing. In breathing alongside others we notice that not only is breath where unity begins, but also it is where unity ends. Breathing is holy not just because all living things do it, but because all living things do it uniquely.

To conspire for and with, rather than against, is to be able to hold all of this together at once in the way breathing consists of both inhalation and exhalation.

Maybe we practice the sacrament of breath – we host the holy spirit, we celebrate Pentecost – when we allow ourselves to conspire…to breathe together, alongside one another in ways that honour not only our essential unity but also our equally essential diversity.

Conspiracy for and with; breathing together the truth of our unity and our diversity. This is our Pentecost spiritual practice. We practice in order that we might more fully embody our dream that one day compassion and solidarity will be like breathing to humanity: as automatic as they are essential.

posted 19 Jun 2014 by Jana

Reconciliation Sunday

Published / by Sandy

Today is Reconciliation Sunday, a day when we ponder a clash of worlds and, depending on whether you are of the First Peoples or the Second, we reflect upon hurts felt or inflicted, promises made and broken, things given and things taken, and what it means to go and walk a covenanting journey.

Reconciliation, the journey of covenanting, boils down to relationship, to sitting down over a cup of tea, sharing stories, laughing together, crying together. If I am not prepared to sit and linger for a long time, to eat with another, to listen to them with genuine interest and curiousity, to share their life if they invite me to – if I do not love, then I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

True relationship listens, lingers, practices patience, supports, turns up again and again, gives and receives, speaks in turn, loves. For those of us with power, privilege, education, and money, the challenge to truly practice these things rests heavier, I think. Those without them have much to teach.

As I stop, let go, relinquish control, wait, practice patience, open my hands and dare to receive, particularly from my indigenous friends, it has been my discovery that greater wisdom, greater love, greater compassion, greater knowledge so often exists in the other. I have things to bring. But so do they. I have things to teach. But so do they. And in that moment of meeting, without an agenda, relationship is born. We become people together, not a campaign and a campaigner, but friends, two people on a journey together, walking side by side.

John’s Gospel devotes three chapters to Jesus’ last words over a meal with his disciples. He speaks of them as friends, this motley bunch of people, drawn from quite opposite parts of society. People who have spent around three years following, listening, observing, arguing, eating, sleeping, walking, laughing, crying, puzzling together with each other, and being moulded into a reconciled community. They weren’t an obvious friendship group, but they became so.

This Jesus, the friendmaker, lived what he asked of them. Ironically, he was the overqualified one. Philippians tells us, Jesus left glory, majesty, splendour, riches and power behind, was born as a baby, parented by his creation who wiped his bottom, blew his nose, told him off, taught him how to love and respect and honour, trained him in life skills. Having spent 30 years learning about being human from those whom others looked down on – an uneducated woman from Nazareth with suspicions of adultery lurking in her background, and a carpenter – he then took time to become friends with a group of strangers.

In John 17, among other things, Jesus is reminding God that these people, because they are his friends, are now part of the life of the Trinity. ‘All mine are yours, and yours are mine’. His friendship with them grounds and cements the work of reconciliation that he was sent to do. Jesus asks God to protect this, to protect these ones that have been given to him as friends so that in being one, together, they might reflect the oneness of their God. Friendship makes reconciliation possible. True friendship lies at the heart of covenant relationships.

And these friends, empowered by the Holy Spirit, would go on next to change the world.

This Reconciliation Sunday, I would encourage us all not to campaign but to work on our relationships, particularly our relationships with the indigenous peoples of this land. Change, reconciliation, will not come through programs or directives or even policies, but through making friends.

Dr Rosemary Dewerse
Director of Missiology, Uniting College of Leadership and Theology
1st June 2014

(Rosemary’s full address can be heard by clicking on Hear Here on the top banner of the website)

posted 01 Jun 2014 by Sandy