The Rev’d Jazz Dow is Mission Chaplin for Community of the Way, based at St Francis College, Milton. She also works part time for Anglican Board of Mission and is a mother to two young daughters.
How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church and in what roles?
I began attending an Anglican church in my childhood. I was ordained 10 years ago and did two curacies in Grafton and Ballina. After my curacies, my husband Samuel and I moved to Melbourne where I worked at Trinity College Theological School. We joined the Diocese of Brisbane in June 2018, where I am Mission Chaplain at St Francis College.
What does your role as Mission Chaplain involve?
I am responsible for facilitating the building of an intentional community of young people, Community Of The Way, which will commence next year. The community will be a place for young people aged 18-30 to spend time together in prayer, theological enquiry and serving the community while they go about their day-to-day lives.
What projects and activities are you currently working on?
We are looking at creating a community hub here at St Francis for young people. So, we are going to revamp a common room for them with young people from around the Diocese, which they can use for social events and Bible studies. Community of the Way will also be a part of this hub, and the intentional community members will host the space.
What have been the highlights of your role so far?
Definitely meeting young people from around the Diocese and being the spiritual director for the Senior Ichthus Camp in July. It was a courageous move for the church to start the Community of the Way and it has been a highlight for me to be involved in that, especially the Campfire nights where people gather in a relaxed fashion to share the faith story and how it connects with our own stories.
What are your plans and goals for the next 12 months?
One of the big goals is to build relationship within the inner city suburban area community to find out what the local community needs and what skills we as an intentional community have to address those needs. We want to partner with local community groups to foster community and help bridge gaps.
In order to help grow community, we are planning on having weekly Campfires next year on Tuesday nights that are open to everyone. People can come after work or study and gather around the campfire to discuss scripture, chat and pray, so they can enjoy some stillness in a busy week.
We are also planning on having regular community engagement workshops, which will be open to the broader community, covering Reconciliation, media engagement, nonviolent direct action, mental health first aid training, and campaigning and political lobbying for social justice.
Community of the Way will host the community building, community engagement training and the Campfire nights.
Can you tell us a little about your faith journey?
I started going to Church when I was young and I wanted to be ordained from the age of 12. My priest, Fr Gary, had a strong heart for social justice and a gift for storytelling and he inspired me. I participated in Ichthus Camps in the Grafton Diocese. When I was 18, I wanted to study theology, but I was told that I was too young. I was not in a hurry to be ordained, but I really wanted to study theology. When I was 20, I moved to Canberra to study theology, as my mentor told me that my stubbornness had prevailed and to just go. In Canberra, my faith and passion for justice were opened wider and my mind and heart were stretched in the Canberran triangle of politics, military and commerce, so it was an interesting juxtaposition to study theology, especially justice issues, in this context.
At the end of my Bachelor’s degree, I applied for the Beatrice Robbins Scholarship. I used the scholarship proceeds to explore Liberation Theology in Chile, Palestine and Israel. I also explored eco-church projects in the Church of Scotland and spent time in a Catholic intentional community, The Chemin Neuf Community. This period was pivotal in my life and led me to study a Master of Theology in Canberra. I met my husband, Samuel, in Canberra, and during our curacies we married and later moved to Melbourne.
How does your faith inspire you and shape your outlook, life choices and character?
My faith inspires me because I realise that God’s ‘Kingdom’ is so much bigger and more spacious than the empires of this world. Because of the spaciousness of God’s Kingdom we are connected to the earth and all of humanity in a kinship sense. There is an inter-connectedness with the earth and all who dwell within. When Jesus asks us to love our neighbourhood, ‘neighbour’ is a very broad concept.
I endeavour to live into this, but being human I do at times fail. Relationships are really important to me and I am very much a people person. As a mother, I want my kids to grow up knowing that community is bigger than our family and that they belong to this interconnected whole.
What is your favourite scripture and why?
My favourite scripture is ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10b)’ because this scripture encapsulates what God is about: abundance, generosity, people and earth flourishing.
What person of faith inspires you the most and why?
Oscar Romero because he was courageously willing to change his view. He started off as a person of the ‘institution’, but let his views change when encountering injustice.
Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives who used their daily context to bravely challenge the order of the day and they bucked the system to do what they believed to be right.
Most of all, I am inspired by my children, as they inspire me to live in the present and notice the extraordinary in the ordinary.
What are the primary strengths of the church and what is the best way to make the most of these for the benefit of our communities?
Ideally, the primary strength of the church is as gatherer of a diverse group of people in order to foster supporting and loving community.
What are the primary challenges currently encountered by the Church and what is the best way to overcome these for the benefit of our communities?
A major challenge I think is fear for survival, which can often keep us from living radically. I am not denying that this is a complex challenge to overcome in current times, but we need to explore what the theological concept of death and resurrection mean for institutions.
What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?
I dance in the kitchen with my kids. I spend time at Southbank. I watch Netflix.
What is your favourite book and why?
My favourite non-fiction genre is Middle Eastern fiction because most often it tells the story of people whose stories are usually overlooked.
What is your favourite movie and why?
It’s not necessarily my favourite film, but I really enjoyed the French film Amelie as it is about valuing the small things and noticing life’s details, for example the beauty of a raspberry. This film inspired the choice of our eldest daughter’s name, Amelie.
What place are you travelling to next?
My husband, kids and I are heading to Wontulp-Bi-Buya in Cairns, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education college.
Visit the Community Of The Way website for more information or to apply.
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