“A common question asked in churches these days is, ‘Where are the children and their families?’ The answer in the BMF-supported Parish of Brisbane Valley is, ‘In the local state schools.’ All schools need caring and faithful volunteers from the wider community to support their important work,” says The Rev’d Loretta Tyler-Moss
A common question asked in churches these days is, “Where are the children and their families?” The answer in the BMF-supported Parish of Brisbane Valley is, “In the local state schools.” All schools need caring and faithful volunteers from the wider community to support their important work.
A meeting with the Esk State School principal in early 2022 became a wonderful “What if…?” visionary conversation. The principal, Ros, explained that engaging volunteers is great for student development, as well as for the wider community because it creates a vibrant local hub. We then set about creating an exciting list of activities so the church community can engage with the school community. This list includes facilitating the cash for cans program to gardening to reading with the students and serving in the tuck-shop.
Soon after I met with our other local primary school principal from Toogoolawah State Primary School. It was clear that this school had a similar desire for community engagement. From this conversation, six St Andrew’s parishioners started volunteering in the school’s new Ready Reader program. I, along with other volunteers, meet with Year 1 and 2 students weekly during term time for an hour. We are given a list of student names and each child’s reading level. The students first read a book to the volunteer and then chat about the book and how they connect to the story. The purpose of the program is to encourage students to enjoy reading, which improves their literacy.
The feedback from the school is that the kids love the program. More than half of the volunteers school’s Ready Reader program are connected to the parish. It’s truly delightful seeing the wider parish community connecting with both the church and the local school. The grateful coordinating teacher said that, “We have wanted to get this going for some time, but just didn’t have the people available.”
I also volunteer on Esk State School’s chaplaincy committee, along with other ecumenical leaders. One of the committee’s ministries is a monthly Chaplaincy Breakfast Club, which involves chats over toast or a simple hot meal, fruit and a juice or hot milo. The breakfast is held in an undercover area near the canteen. Gathering around food and drink in an informal way is always conducive to conversation and building community. The breakfast runs for about an hour and a half, which enables lots of time for one-to-one or group conversation. I recently had a chat over breakfast with a new student who has moved schools several times. It’s special being part of the student’s welcoming experience and seeing the student flourish at the school. I check in with the student at breakie club monthly and when I serve at the canteen.
I also serve at Toogoolawah State High School monthly. I have had many a heartwarming conversation with students while serving them at their canteen. Although quite fast paced, canteen serving is an effective way to initially connect with a large number of students in a cheery manner. These somewhat fleeting encounters flow into the wider community. I was delighted to recognise one of the students, whom I met at the tuckshop, working a stall at the ecumenical Christmas carols last year.
Students from the schools often call out to me to say hello when they see me walking around town. When kids recognise and greet me, I then meet their parents, most of whom are juggling paid work, the challenges of family life and running properties, and can often do with encouragement and connection.
Out of this work has come a goal of the Churches Working Together ecumenical group to work with the youth worker at the high school to initiate a Breakfast Club. This has emerged from a shift in inter-denominational conversations from “How and when can we worship together?” to “How do we work together?” This mind set shift has had other positive impacts.
While volunteering on the Chaplaincy Committee I recognised one of the teachers as an active Baptist Church member while volunteering in the local high school canteen. Out of these connections came an invitation to collaborate on the community carols by candlelight event that was subsequently held on the St Andrew’s, Toogoolawah grounds in late November. About 300 people joined in the festivities. At least four denominations were involved in the planning and facilitation. A student concert band with musicians from all three schools contributed their talent and instruments.
At the carols event, a leader from each denomination presented on an “element” of Christmas for five to 10 minutes. I shared about the origins and significance of the Christmas tree. As well as providing the venue, our parish hosted the tea and coffee, with another denomination taking care of the sausage sizzle. Each primary school child who attended the carols event was given a wrapped book as a gift, with the whole event funded by pooled resources.
In addition to regular volunteering and planned events, I also pitch in when required. At a recent Friday night pub dinner, I noticed that the school’s P&C was short on numbers to conduct their pub raffle. So suddenly I was sitting at their table scrunching raffle tickets and chatting with parents and their children. This fantastic opportunity to work with local families came out of the initial “How can we help, where can we connect?” conversation with the Esk State School principal.
Our parish’s goal is not to set up a traditional Sunday School. Instead, we have discerned that our focus needs to be on providing much-needed services to our local schools and to become familiar friendly faces to the children and their families. By being “the nice lady” who does tuckshop, assists with reading and chats over morning toast and hot Milo on a brisk morning, I am part of the wider school community supporting their work and their desire to become hubs, as well as creating opportunities for unexpected life-changing conversations.
I am looking forward to strengthening my relationship with our local schools in 2023. Our high school has recently employed a community youth worker. Our initial conversation was just as fruitful as my conversations with principals. We explored a number of ideas, including putting together food parcels for families she works with and starting a breakfast club. However, our first collaborative project will be creating “starter packs” for new families struggling to afford necessary uniforms and stationery supplies.
I am very grateful to the folk who support the Bush Ministry Fund – it is only with your financial and prayerful contributions that I, and other BMF-funded clergy, can serve in our roles.
Editor’s note: The Bush Ministry Fund solely funds rural ministry in our Diocese, and it is the only fund that financially supports rural ministry in our Diocese. The Bush Ministry Fund money boxes are a fun and easy way for individuals, families, parishes and schools to donate to bush ministry in our Diocese. Order your BMF money box today by emailing Helen Briffa in the Western Region office via email@example.com or by calling 07 4639 1875.
Faith book reflections •
Wednesday 1 February 2023
The book I have given away the most and why: The Rev’d Jim Raistrick
By The Rev'd Jim Raistrick
“I gave a copy of this book to the last couple I married and they told me that they read it together on their honeymoon! They say it helped them understand much about each other and even about relationships they’d had in the past that hadn’t gone too well,” says The Rev’d Jim Raistrick from The Parish of Surfers Paradise
In 2011 my wife, Leanne, and I began marriage counselling and this book was recommended to us as something we should read. I had thought it was going to be like the standard relationship books that tell you about what you’ve been doing wrong and how to be more attentive to your partner’s needs, but I was wrong. Every chapter contained an “Aha!” moment showing me that many of the things I’d ever expected in relationships, married or otherwise, had been incorrect.
To be completely frank, I was left feeling angry upon reading it because I felt that all couples should have this kind of information from the start. That’s what led me to begin buying it for engaged couples and for those who’d marked many a wedding anniversary. I’ve even recommended, given away and purchased it for single people.
The five “love languages” are words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch and receiving gifts. The basic premise of the book is that people are inclined to give love in the way that they prefer to receive love, and that better communication between couples can happen when each person gives love to the other person in the love language the other “understands”.
One of the quotes from the book that really resonates with me is:
“People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.”
At times I felt that my wife knew what I needed, but was willingly withholding it from me in some weird controlling way. However, in reality she simply had no idea I felt that way, nor I her.
I gave a copy of this book to the last couple I married and they told me that they read it together on their honeymoon! They say it helped them understand much about each other and even about relationships they’d had in the past that hadn’t gone too well.
Editor’s note: If you would like to share with other readers what faith-related book, including those with theological, spiritual, ministry, Church history or justice themes, you have given away (or referred) the most and why, please email the Editor, Michelle McDonald, and she will let you know what is needed.
Films & TV •
Monday 16 January 2023
By Jonathan Sargeant
“Amidst much talk about vocation in the Church, director Stephen Spielberg has created a thoroughly entertaining and multi-layered meditation on the subject that never fails to enthral,” says Jonathan Sargeant from St Francis College
Amidst much talk about vocation in the Church, director Stephen Spielberg has created a thoroughly entertaining and multi-layered meditation on the subject that never fails to enthral.
Memory is a tricky thing. For instance, the same series of events can be remembered differently by different people. Hence a film like Akira Kurosawa’s incredible Rashomon (1950) in which we see the same series of tragic events from the perspectives of different agents within the story. For individuals, memory can also be tricky. Events of the past may take on different shapes as we grow older. Sometimes these memories become sweeter as we edit out the unpleasant. Sometimes we may remember more as we gain the maturity to understand better the players in our pasts. Stephen Spielberg’s The Fabelmans treads a nuanced line between these two polarities in painting the past of his childhood and youth in this award-winning coming-of-age drama.
In telling one’s life story, a focus is needed. To use the cinematic metaphor, one must place the camera somewhere! It comes as no surprise that the film’s opening scene involves young Sammy Fabelmans’ (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) first visit to the cinema. After a careful parental briefing, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) is playing and a particular scene catches the child’s eye: the spectacular train crash. In that moment, Sammy is transformed; a life path, a vocation takes form.
Using the family camera he recreates the scene with his toys. His supportive parents (Michelle Williams and Paul Dano) think he is working through the trauma of the crash, but for young Sammy something else is going on. From there we see family life as only Spielberg can capture it, a web of messy, funny, shifting relationships. We see the creation of various short films he makes for scout badges, school purposes and the like. Into his teenage years, his eye develops, and a distinctive visual dexterity grows as the amateur films become larger in scale. Home movies begin to reveal the truth of events he didn’t notice in the moment. Another aspect of memory and the nature of filmmaking is explored. Family secrets are uncovered, and Sammy must grow in his understanding of his family members, putting childish things behind him.
In The Fabelmans, Spielberg has produced a lovely return to form after some less than stellar films in the last decade or so. With a script co-written by Tony Kushner, every actor has room to move, with lovely moments for everyone. Michelle Williams is amazing in a tour-de-force role that will be remembered for a long time. Paul Dano plays her perfect foil in restrained moments that belie another way to process turmoil. Bringing immense depth, teenage Sammy, Gabriel LaBelle is also a lynchpin.
The script makes space for some excellent cameos, notably from Judd Hirsch as Uncle Boris, who teaches Sammy about the nature of art, pain and family in an astonishing monologue. Another cameo rounds off the film and is worth the price of admission alone. Since most of us have seen at least a few of Spielberg’s films, there’s an extra thrill in noticing the moments in the filmmaker’s life that provided inspiration for scenes in films, such as Jaws, E.T., Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, just to name a few. Beyond that “nerdiness” there is a nuanced picture of the development of his art and how being an onlooker who captures observations means always thinking about camera angles. The flash when Sammy realises this newly acquired habit kicks in even during moments of intense loss is startling.
In telling the story of one’s life there is always the danger of creating an indulgent self-mythology that serves ego rather than truth. But in musing on the nature of memory, Spielberg has avoided that flawed method, instead connecting with some very human experiences that will resonate with many.
This film is “Spielbergian” in every sense. It’s honest, emotional, insightful, visually dramatic storytelling with luminous performances (from Williams especially!). It unpacks vocation as both obsession and life-giving nourishment, the light side of us and the shadow, capable of exposing truth and erupting joy in our lives as we struggle, frolic and inch our ways into our futures. There will never be a part two, you’d imagine, but what I wouldn’t give for one.
The Fabelman’s, rated M and directed by Stephen Spielberg, is currently showing in cinemas. Watch the trailer on YouTube.
Editor’s note: Interested in learning more about film, the Arts, and the many intersections with life and faith? Jonathan Sargeant teaches ‘DA213 – God in Contemporary Culture: Theology and the Arts’ at St Francis College. Contact Sheilagh, the College Registrar, on 07 5514 7403 or via firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Resources & Research •
Tuesday 31 January 2023
School hacks for families that help save time, money and the planet and foster collaboration and calm
By Margaret Abot, Sarah Hayward, Margaret Thurgood, Peter Branjerdporn
Two Margarets (a centenarian and a teen), an innovative Anglicare mum and a justice warrior dad share their top tips for families to make the school years easier
Routine and collaboration | Margaret Abot – St Bart’s, Toowoomba parishioner and future Prime Minister of Australia
When my dad was serving in South Sudan for many years I needed to help my mum with getting everyone prepped and ready for school. I have six brothers and sisters and there were four of us at school then – David who was 16, Anna who was 13, Abot who was seven and me. I was about 10 at the time.
My mum had work early in the morning. She used to ring me via Snapchat on my iPad to check in because I didn’t have a phone yet to see if we were all ready for school. My jobs were to make sure that everyone woke up, make the school lunches and make sure that Abot’s uniform was clean and everything. My mum finished work at 8 o’clock and I helped make sure that everyone was waiting outside the house by 8.15 am, so she could pick us up and take us to our two separate schools.
This was my routine. Routine is important because it helps you remember to get everything ready for school and helps you to be on time.
Finn and Emilia prove that weekly meal planning is child’s play at home in Brisbane in 2023
Meal planning | Sarah Hayward, Manager – Brand and Campaigns, Anglicare Southern Queensland
My husband and I both work full-time, so the afternoons and evenings are always a rush to get homework, showers and dinner all done before bedtime. In particular, we were finding the time to decide what to have for dinner, cooking and then convincing the kids to eat was straining, so we started meal planning.
Each weekend we sit with the kids to develop our menu for the week ahead. They’ll choose two meals each (we have two kids) that they enjoy eating at the moment – because, let’s face it, it changes weekly! I’ll then make up the rest of the week’s meals based on what groceries we already have that need to be consumed.
On certain afternoons when the kids have sport, we have a small window to get them fed, so we have a go-to list of quick meals (to cook and eat).
Some examples of our family favourites (including some tips) are:
Tacos: We shred up whatever left over roast meat we have from Sunday and add some cumin, paprika and turmeric as the seasoning.
Pork steaks with homemade coleslaw: Coleslaw can be prepped a couple of days prior and stored in an airtight container – we just use green and purple cabbage, carrot and add apple and a little lemon juice when we serve.
Spaghetti bolognaise: Make big batches of bolognaise and freeze it. We make it with some mince, adding lentils and heaps of veggies before roughly blitzing with the stick mixer to hide the evidence – you’d never know!
One-minute steak with veggies: Sprinkle some fetta and lemon juice over the veggies and the kids LOVE it!
The same idea can also be used for making school (and parent) lunches, helping to ensure that there’s variety and that it actually gets eaten!
Another important benefit to weekly meal planning is that our food bill has significantly reduced because we’re only buying what we need and not wasting as much. Win-win!
Margaret Thurgood during her primary school years in the 1920s
Prayer | Margaret Thurgood – centenarian Southern Region parishioner
In the mid-1920s when I was about seven years old I started school in Brisbane. I was driven to school every morning with my friend Helen after walking to her home in West End. She lived across the road from me.
Before we all got into the car, her mother used to enfold us in her arms and pray that we would be in God’s keeping all day. This morning prayer made me feel safe and protected throughout each school day. Helen’s mother was just a lovely woman.
I didn’t realise what a lovely act that was until I got older. I think her prayer also helped me give my heart to Jesus at an Evangelical Union meeting at the age of 18.
It wouldn’t hurt if all parents prayed for their children before they went to school every day.
Peter Branjerdporn and Ezra with some serious school lunchbox hardware in January 2023
Lunchbox switch | Peter Branjerdporn – Justice Enabler, ACSQ Justice Unit
My wife, Rachel, and I used to rush at the beginning of each school term to the nearest supermarket to see what lunchboxes were on special. We hated spending money on those flimsy bits of plastic because they always break before the first term ends, particularly if you put them through the dishwasher (who has time to wash them by hand, right?).
However, since then a friend introduced us to Planetbox! This stainless steel lunchbox is tough, easily fits into school bags, has little compartments enabling the kids to pack their own lunch more easily, eliminates the waste and cost of plastic wrap, and even comes with two leak-proof dippers with silicone lids.
It’s a great way to teach our kids about sustainability because buying fossil fuel-free quality products that last longer is better for Creation. Our two kids (one is in primary and one is in high school) are on to their fourth year with the same lunchboxes, so the higher set-up cost is worth it.
Moreover, the simple construction means the parts can be replaced over the years. Add the fact that all the different bits are dishwasher-safe, and the kids can also customise theirs with optional decal sets and a colourful lunchbox zip-up bag, makes it our greatest parent hack ever!
Editor’s note: If you have a school parent/caregiver or family hack to share with readers, please email an initial 2-3 sentence summary to the Editor, Michelle McDonald, at email@example.com.
Resources & Research •
Wednesday 1 February 2023
Major parish construction projects: reflection and tips
By The Rev'd Tania Eichler
“It’s important for churches to be discerning with their resources, including their properties. We discerned that in order to be good stewards and to ensure ministry sustainability that we needed to focus our mission where God is active…So we felt led to keep the Maroochydore property, and only sold the Mooloolaba property, investing the proceeds into our Maroochydore site redevelopment,” says The Rev’d Tania Eichler
Our parish’s redevelopment started 33 years ago. On 9 February 2023 it will be exactly 33 years since the original St Peter’s, Maroochydore hall burnt down in an electrical fire. Parishioners arrived for church the following morning to find the hall they had built with their own hands in ashes.
Hall number two rose from these ashes in 1992. Because finances were limited and we were planning for a forthcoming whole-site redevelopment, we were only able to erect a removable building. The temporary building could not contain toilets, so we made do with demountable toilets for 30 years, which meant many a dash in the rain.
The very helpful ACSQ Property Team, especially Laurel George and Hiro Kawamata, presented us with several different re-development and selling options. As part of our discernment process and in ongoing conversation with the Property team, we initially considered selling both the Maroochydore and Mooloolaba parish sites and purchasing a new site centrally located between the two Sunshine Coast suburbs.
It’s important for churches to be discerning with their resources, including their properties. We discerned that in order to be good stewards and to ensure ministry sustainability that we needed to focus our mission where God is active. The Maroochydore site, which is in the heart of the local CBD, is both visible and accessible to the community. There is also much need nearby, with many people sleeping rough requiring regular TLC, and increasing numbers of retirees and young families moving close by as residential developments spring up around us.
So we felt led to retain the Maroochydore property and to sell the Mooloolaba site. The sale proceeds went into a property trust immediately to accumulate interest for the future build, which was completed about 15 years after the sale. If we had held onto the Mooloolaba property, our missional effectiveness would have been diminished.
Parish of Maroochydore community members enjoying their new hall at a site redevelopment blessing event in November 2022, with Bishop Jeremy on the far right
If you are doing a site development, it’s vital to look to the future where you believe God is calling you. As we prayed through the discernment process, we thought and prayed ahead into the future and what we would need. So we considered how we could redevelop the site for God and God’s people, including for families and our growing outreach care ministry (we are currently applying for DGR status with the assistance of the highly experienced Teresa Day from the General Manager’s Office).
Throughout the whole re-development process we have been focused on the question, “How can we bring glory to God in this site redevelopment?” Our prayer led us to focus on future needs and where the energy and activity are happening so we can organically join in. Through our Parish Ministry Council (what we call our parish council), we developed this “St Peter’s Vision Prayer”:
“Almighty God, we give thanks for all the blessings you have given this parish over more than 100 years and for all who have worshipped and served you in this place. Living God, we read in your word how you led your servants of old to build places of worship to lift your praises and proclaim your faithfulness. We believe the vision we have before us for the redevelopment of this site is from you. We know that in our own strength and with our own resources we are not able to bring this vision to reality. We come to you, humbly relying on you completely for the fulfillment of this plan, knowing it will be to your honour and for the purposes to which you have called us for the growing of your Kingdom. Help us to work together in love and unity, in total obedience to your guidance and with total trust in you. Through Jesus Christ, our cornerstone upon which we build. Amen.”
We are thrilled with our new re-development, which was blessed and re-dedicated by Bishop Jeremy Greaves in late November.
The Parish of Maroochydore’s site was blessed and re-dedicated by Bishop Jeremy Greaves in late November 2002. He is pictured with The Rev’d Tania Eichler and the site redevelopment team
The site redevelopment consists of a new hall, with toilets inside that we consider to be a luxury; a semi-commercial kitchen; compliant amenities for people living with disability and their carers; storage on the ground floor; parish offices; and, meeting and conference spaces.
Part of the redevelopment was to change the church interior so that the congregation faces the beautiful stained-glass windows. The large doors were kept as part of our heritage building and are now a feature beneath the windows. The previous sanctuary area is now a bright and sunny children’s section where children can be part of the service, but not in a restricted area. A vestry and flower room is conveniently located in the opposite side of the church from the entry foyer.
There is a new covered concrete concourse between the church and the hall with a ramp, steps and gardens. This has created a lovely streetscape, as the hall and church building are now connected. We hold activities on the concourse, bringing life and beauty to the space. The covered concourse is very helpful when we have “overflow” – weather-proof speakers have been installed so people worshipping and serving on the concourse are engaged.
The concourse connects to the new 23-space car park, which is concreted and lined (our previous carpark was unsealed and unlined).
There is still work to be done on the Church Street side of the building to match the re-developed side when finances permit. Our Project Extras Fund is for this purpose and for other future developments of our site.
The Parish of Maroochydore’s site redevelopment includes a new hall; a semi-commercial kitchen; compliant amenities for people living with disability and their carers; storage on the ground floor; parish offices; and, meeting and conference spaces
We benefitted in our collaboration with the wider community during the redevelopment. We had thought we would be able to continue to use the church for Sunday services and during the week for much of the construction. This proved to be unrealistic due to the major reconstruction of the hall side of the church building and the addition of our lovely new foyer.
Gregson & Weight Funeral Directors approached us of their own volition, offering us the use of their crematorium chapel and morning tea room for our Sunday services, which we used for approximately eight months. Stella Maris Catholic Parish and St Vincent’s Care (which are across the road from our site) let us use their church building for Wednesday services, a room for Mainly Music on Mondays, and extra meeting rooms for our pastoral care meetings and the Wednesday home group. The Salvation Army gave us a room to use for Tuesday’s Mainly Music sessions. Home groups and intercessory prayer groups were held in parishioners’ homes. All this was an amazing blessing, and we are extremely grateful.
Special thanks should also go to Michael Michell of MAJP Investments, an independent local consultant who generously gave of his time and expertise to guide the project and project manage the construction.
We want to continue to grow in our relationship with surrounding agencies and businesses, allowing them to use our new spaces for conferences and events.
Top 10 tips for major parish construction projects:
Pray – prayer needs to be central at all times, whether in supplication or giving thanks.
Be discerning – seek to be good stewards of your resources and ask yourselves “Where is the activity happening so we can best join in?”
Keep in contact as you collaborate with the ACSQ Property Team – ask questions along the way, be transparent at all times, listen to their advice because they know what they’re doing and stay on top of necessary processes to maintain momentum.
Form working groups – based on people’s skill sets and time, specific working groups were formed from within the wider redevelopment committee.
Keep your parish community informed – we took photos weekly of the different stages of the development (including of meetings and construction milestones) so people could see the progress, know what was happening and pray for the project.
Adjust and pivot as needed, involving people in solutions – for example, the redevelopment committee were involved in decisions about the constantly changing space for our weekly community meal.
Reach out to the wider community – for example to ecumenical friends and local businesses for help.
Always have a plan – have a big-picture plan and plans for transition points in the broader strategy.
Put first things first – create a list of priorities for each stage.
Support, mentor and encourage your leaders – I undertook professional supervision for my support and in turn provided support, mentoring and encouragement to lay leaders who worked on the redevelopment.
Spotlight Q&A •
Wednesday 1 February 2023
Q&A with new Diocesan DFV Project Officer, mother and active Brisbane community member, Jenny Clark
By Jenny Clark
Meet Jenny Clark and find out about her 2023 work goals, her favourite scripture, what she does in her free time, what she would write on a billboard and her thoughts on the Voice to Parliament
Congratulations on your appointment as the new Project Officer – Domestic and Family Violence. What does your new role involve?
This is a new role that is focused on the 2023 roll out of the Ten Commitments For Prevention and Response To Domestic and Family Violence in the Anglican Church of Australia. The Ten Commitments were informed by the findings of the first known Australian Church study into the prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) within the Anglican faith community.
One of the findings of this study is that IPV among Anglicans is the same or higher than in the wider Australian community. Out of this study and other findings emerged the Ten Commitments, which call us all to look deeply at this issue and give life to strategies that will identify, respond and prevent domestic and family violence (DFV) in all its forms.
The Ten Commitments challenge the Church to start within its own communities, including parishes, schools, workplaces and Church agencies, rather than viewing DVF as something that only happens “out there”. A good place to start is increasing awareness of the forms DVF takes and how it might be identified and responded to. We are challenged to look beyond helping “victims” to understanding how violence is used and how, as a large institution, we can best respond.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
Firstly, to support the ACSQ’s Domestic and Family Violence Working Group, including its Chair, The Rev’d Gillian Moses. Secondly, to help implement the Ten Commitments, while supporting initiatives in parishes and Church agencies. And finally, to keep up to date with changes in domestic and family violence policy, programs and legislation.
Jenny, Lisa and Claudine from the General Manager’s Office at St Martin’s House in January 2023
What is your favourite scripture and why?
I don’t really have a favourite, but I often go back to Matthew 25.31-46 – the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which challenges us deeply to find Christ in every single human, and not just in people we like or who like us.
What person of faith inspires you the most and why?
I don’t really have one person that I would put on a pedestal, and I often think that many of our great faith leaders of the past would probably have been quite challenging in everyday life. Two people I would nominate in Australia are our first Catholic Saint, Mary MacKillop, and a much less well-known local woman Elizabeth Brentnall, who was a Methodist suffragist who lived in Brisbane. Both women left a strong legacy of faith in action.
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?
In terms of my role, the strengths of the Church include:
The size and breadth of the community at every level, from parishes to schools to community and aged care services and to the many smaller Church agencies.
The diversity of the community, especially in terms of geography and people.
The trailblazing Australian Anglican response to domestic and family violence (including the Ten Commitments) and the dedication to shine a light on domestic and family violence within the Anglican community before expanding outward to the broader community.
Why is the Uluru Statement From the Heart, including the Voice to Parliament, so important?
I think we are running the risk of the Uluru Statement becoming the most discussed, debated and argued, yet least read document in Australian history, which is surprising, especially given that the Statement is less than 450 words long.
The statement is such a beautiful and generous gift to all Australians that it should, and hopefully will, eventually be revered like the Declaration of Independence is in the US.
The change proposed is to enshrine an ongoing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution and that legislated details will follow with the “decision to defer”. The decision to defer detail is common with Constitutional changes – it is how the High Court of Australia was established, for example – and ensures that the legislated detail can be amended when needed over time.
What is the kindest gesture you have ever received or witnessed?
I have been a Director of The Lady Musgrave Trust for the last few years. The Trust is Queensland’s oldest charity focused on supporting young homeless women. The Trust receives no recurrent Government funding and relies mostly on fundraising and philanthropic funding. I have been amazed at the generosity of people touched by the stories of the individual women we assist.
Recently one tenant, who arrived with a suitcase, was gifted quality furniture by a corporate donor to set up a home for herself and her very young son. The impact of this far exceeded the material value of the furniture.
Jenny Clark and fellow Lady Musgrave Trust board member Leanne Raiser working hard in 2022 at the annual fundraising cocktail event
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?
“People rise to the occasion”, which came from a great boss whom I was fortunate enough to work with.
If you found yourself on a deserted island, what three things would you choose to have with you?
A needle, a fishing rod and a machete.
What book have you given away most as a gift and why?
Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences of Early Queensland. Tom was six when his father Andrew took up the role of Government Surveyor in 1837. Brisbane was still a penal settlement. Tom was educated by a convict clerk and mixed freely with Aboriginal children learning local dialects and being included in local ceremonies. In 1904 his daughter, Constance, wrote down his reminiscences and today, nearly 120 years later, it makes fascinating, sad and insightful reading.
As an active Brisbane community member, Jenny Clark engages in restoration projects at Balmoral Cemetery
If you could have a billboard with any text on it, what would it say and why?
“Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently, steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer” (Romans 12.12 – JB Phillips New Testament). I especially like the way this passage acknowledges that joy and sorrow are both part of our human existence and that prayer can help us embrace both.
What is your karaoke go-to song?
‘Ringer from the Top End’ by Slim Dusty – with my son who many years ago, aged four, sung this all the way across the Nullarbor.
What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?
I love the Balmoral Cemetery here in Brisbane and am active in the Friends Group there. It’s a beautiful and relaxing place.
Jenny and fellow member of Friends of Balmoral Cemetery in 2022
If you are having a bad day, what do you do to cheer yourself up?
Go for a swim.
What is your secret skill?
Making scones and pikelets.
What’s your unanswerable question – the question you are always asking yourself?
Where do all the teaspoons go?
Note from The Rev’d Gillian Moses, Chair the ACSQ Domestic and Family Violence Working Group: The Anglican Church Southern Queensland (ACSQ) is committed to promoting and supporting a safe environment for all. Domestic and family violence is unacceptable. We offer pastoral care to victims of domestic and family abuse. The ACSQ is part of the Queensland Churches TogetherJoint Churches Domestic Violence Prevention Project (JCDVPP), which publishes resources for clergy and lay people.
If you are in immediate danger, call 000 for police or ambulance help. For a list of helplines and websites available to women, children and men, visit this page on the Queensland Government website.
Wednesday 1 February 2023
“A year ago people called me a pacifist”
By Fr Martin Arnold
“A year ago people called me a ‘pacifist’ and I often thought that the profession of arms was unworthy of a Christian. Many of my friends are principled pacifists who say that any kind of violent harm, even in self-defence, is morally wrong. Since the Russian Federation’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February last year, I’ve changed,” says Fr Martin Arnold, a Churchie Old Boy and Ukrainian Catholic priest
Please be aware that this content may be very distressing for some readers.
A year ago people called me a “pacifist” and I often thought that the profession of arms was unworthy of a Christian. Many of my friends are principled pacifists who say that any kind of violent harm, even in self-defence, is morally wrong. Since the Russian Federation’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February last year, I’ve changed.
First, I now consider that soldiers can be good, honourable and disciplined.
And second, I now believe that the study of war is essential for soldiers. And if you serve in the armed forces you need to study diligently so as to make war with minimal harm to both your own side and to the enemy’s.
People who have studied war, such as the recently retired head of the Australian Defence College, Major General Mick Ryan, judge that the Ukrainian forces have largely learnt how to fight in an honourable and disciplined way.
And they judge that the commanders of the Russian Federation have often been reckless and unwilling to learn from experience, and that their troops have often been inhumane and undisciplined.
I still commend my pacifist friends and admire their principled views.
But I also think that those who directly resist a brutal, murderous horde are doing good.
A turning point in my thinking came when I read about the Bucha massacre. Bucha is a pleasant town north-west of Kyiv – about as far from Kyiv as Ipswich is from Brisbane. The invaders came as close to Kyiv as Bucha, but then withdrew.
After their March withdrawal, the bodies of more than 400 civilian corpses were uncovered.
I read online that many had been summarily executed. A number of Ukrainians had been tortured. Many women and children were raped – I read about mothers being raped and killed in front of their children and even of a boy being raped in front of his mother. Children were among the dead.
I also read of an unarmed cyclist being shot and killed. And of people being executed because they bore a trident tattoo – the trident is a symbol of the Ukrainian state.
Following the massacre, international war crimes experts arrived to document the atrocities.
Demoralised and undisciplined soldiers will do appalling things. But General Ryan is not alone in judging that the depravity and scale of the atrocities indicate a policy of deliberate cruelty of some Russian Federation forces units.
After reading about the atrocities committed in Bucha, it became impossible for me to think of suggesting to Ukrainians at home, “You should consider ceding territory to the Russian Federation.”
How can the Ukrainian government or others willingly consider ceding any territory to an invading power that allows such cruelties as a matter of policy?
Ukrainians are grateful for moral support from abroad. Archbishop Welby, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew continue to call for peace and the cessation of the invasion.
But I condemn the pernicious teaching of the Moscow Patriarch Kirill that the death of a soldier fighting for the Russian Federation is a “sacrifice” that “cleanses all the sins that a person has committed.”
The Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has given the simplest and most practical answer to a journalist’s question about “a way out of the conflict.”
Ms Marin replied: “The way out of the conflict is for Russia to leave Ukraine. That’s the way out of the conflict.”
I ask anglican focus readers to pray that the Russian Federation forces leave Ukraine and that the Russian Federation makes reparation for the damage that it has caused.
Wednesday 1 February 2023
Common Grace calls Christians to vote 'yes' for Voice and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice
“I’m always astounded by the resilience and faith of our Aboriginal Christian leaders. They remind me of the impossibility of justice or restoration without relationship to Creator, the resurrecting power of Jesus, and guiding inspiration of the Holy Spirit”
Common Grace launched the national Listen to the Heart campaign this week, calling Christians to vote ‘yes’ in the referendum for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders, Listen to the Heart invites Christians across Australia to deeply listen to the calls of Indigenous peoples for justice, through Voice, together with Treaty and Truth-Telling.
Common Grace National Director Gershon Nimbalker said the campaign will give Christians a chance to reflect on the significance of the Uluru Statement From the Heart and then act together for change.
“I’m convinced of the power that Christians have when they work together with God to pursue the goodness that He intends,” Gershon said.
“Common Grace believes that as followers of Christ, we are called to love and respect our neighbours, to seek justice and righteousness, to repent and make amends for wrongdoing, and to work towards Reconciliation and healing.
“A constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament would provide a formal mechanism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to participate more fully in decision making processes that affect their lives and communities, ensuring their voices are heard.
“It’s a step towards better policy, towards addressing the harm and injustice that they have endured, and towards Reconciliation.
“Constitutional change is hard in Australia – only eight out of our 44 referendums have been successful. We know some parts of the Church are uncertain about this referendum, but we hear the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders calling us to act and a successful ‘yes’ vote is what the overwhelming majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples want.”
Common Grace Relationships and Storytelling Coordinator Safina Stewart, a proud Wuthithi and Mabuiag Island woman, said a “yes” vote would renew faith in ourselves as a nation and in the repairing process of Reconciliation.
“The whole of Australia would be gifted when our First Peoples can give full expression to our cultural beauty and have justice and self-determination restored,” Safina said.
“Whenever we yarn about topics like Voice, treaties, or truth-telling, we always come back to the topic of justice. This is because of the injustices that continue to wreak havoc in the daily lives and future of our people.
“We face much sorrow for our people, and much frustration at structures that inhibit the health, freedom and flourishing of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.
“Yet, I’m always astounded by the resilience and faith of our Aboriginal Christian leaders. They remind me of the impossibility of justice or restoration without relationship to Creator, the resurrecting power of Jesus, and guiding inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
“I would like to ask churches to pay special attention to the voices of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders who burn brightly for hope, justice and gritty grace.”
Common Grace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Coordinator Bianca Manning, a Gomeroi woman, said that the Indigenous Voice to Parliament will help bring healing.
“Jesus has heard the cries of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have been raising their voices for self-determination and justice for over 200 years,” Bianca said.
“An Indigenous Voice to Parliament, alongside truth-telling and treaties, is an important step on this healing journey.”
The Listen to the Heart campaign will include wisdom from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders, church resources, online training, helpful conversation tips, guidance for meeting with parliamentarians, prayers and much more.
Register online to join Common Grace on the journey to Listen to the Heart in 2023.
Common Grace is an Australian Christian movement for justice.
Tuesday 31 January 2023
Knowing me, Knowing You: understanding the “A-word" (and it’s not “Abba”)
By Jonathan Sargeant
“The challenging point is that knowing oneself as an Anglican does not come automatically, depending on your definition of ‘knowing’. For many of us, we have a feeling of what being an Anglican is. Ask a group of Anglicans ‘What is Anglican?’ after church one morning and you’ll receive a varied collection of answers,” says Jonathan Sargeant from St Francis College
St Augustine of Hippo is reputed to have said, “Believe in order to understand and understand in order to believe.” A key idea for Anglicans is this – understanding our faith better helps us to live flourishing lives as Christians, participate in God’s mission and serve Christ. In other words, understanding who we are, what we believe and how we live out that belief is a crucial part of being a comprehensive Anglican in the 21st century.
The challenging point is that knowing oneself as an Anglican does not come automatically, depending on your definition of “knowing”. For many of us, we have a feeling of what being an Anglican is. Ask a group of Anglicans “What is Anglican?” after church one morning and you’ll receive a varied collection of answers, drawing on the meaning of the word itself, some historical stuff about Henry VIII, the presence of priests and bishops and much more.
In practice this means that when we experience and participate in worship, for example, we know what Anglican worship is. If we wondered into a different church, we might even get a feeling rather quickly that tells us we are experiencing something from another tradition!
The well-known Latin saying Lex orandi, lex credendi, goes some way to explaining this. One translation of this maxim is that “the law of what is prayed [is] the law of what is believed”. Therefore, the phrase is often interpreted as meaning that you can tell what someone believes by observing how they worship. The phrase sometimes has the addition, lex vivendi, to make the translation “the law of what is prayed [is] what is believed [is] the law of what is lived“. Therefore, one might be able to determine what people believe by looking at how they worship, and this will be expressed by how they live.
So some examination and exploration might help people who have a feeling of what Anglicanism is get to grips with the actual foundational ideas. The next question would be to determine what shape this exploration would take. What should the boundaries be? The fact that very varied answers arise in our answers to the post-worship question back in the second paragraph suggests those boundaries might be wide as well. Examining worship, its styles, words, and form in our Prayer Book would be crucial as our Latin exercise above suggests.
There’s history too. A little digging points to a distinctive church in England many centuries before Henry VIII was born. The traditions of Celtic Christianity, churches named after St Alban, the first recorded British Christian Martyr in the 3rd or 4th century and even the presence of St Augustine of Canterbury in the 6th century all point to a distinctive church in England long before Henry had his marital difficulties. So, sure, history would be important.
We’d need to look at how we organise ourselves, both geographically with dioceses, parishes and provinces, and also amongst our people, with bishops, priests and deacons and the laity rounding things off there. Add to this the nature of our legal system, with canon laws determined by our Synod and you’d start to get a distinctive sense of Anglicanism.
Underpinning all of this is our faith itself, grounded in the love of God whom we know through Jesus Christ and see in our Scriptures. That should be the place to begin! Of note is the very Anglican way we balance our starting point in Scripture with what we have come to know through our Church tradition and a lens provided by common sense and reason. Sometimes the metaphor of a three-legged stool is used with a leg each for Scripture, tradition and reason. The delicate, composed dance of those three ideas is what we sometimes call the Via Media, the Middle Way, as each informs and regulates the others.
The shape of our aims in mission are also key Anglican indicators. The “Marks of Mission”, as we call them are a particularly Anglican list of just what the Church is trying to do in our local communities, and nationally and internationally as well. Even our art and architecture are worth exploring, giving us clues about a faith that values investigations into the imagination as ways of being God’s people to ourselves, others and the world.
In the end, the stories of Anglicans like you and me would be crucial to rounding out our explorations of what it is to be Anglican. The lived experience of those who have come to appreciate serving in our Anglican schools, early learning centres, ministries and caring agencies, such as Anglicare, would inform this.
It should come as no surprise that the realms of Anglican things listed here are the foundational pieces of the Anglican Identity short course, created by the FormEdFaith team at St Francis College. That program, comprising of eight short online videos, a workbook and other digital resources, is freely available to individuals and groups wanting to understand their faith a bit better.
There are various ways to get a sense of just what our faith is all about, and the Anglican Identity course might be a helpful place to start!
Editor’s note: The Anglican Identity short course will be officially launched at St Francis College on 16 February at 4.30pm in Lecture Room 1. For more information or for free tickets visit the Eventbrite page.
Wednesday 1 February 2023
Tough Questions: When will Jesus return?
By The Rev'd Charlie Lacey
“Jesus is going to return and we cannot know when, regardless of what is happening in the world around us. However, of crucial importance to us is our state of readiness, a subject that Jesus addressed at length and is the theme of at least four parables,” says The Rev’d Charlie Lacey from The Parish of Springfield
During the season of Advent we focus on the immanent celebration of Jesus’ birth (his first coming), but also on our sure and certain hope of his return (Jesus’ second coming). Advent is a season of watching and waiting, as we pray that ancient prayer, Maranatha – “Come, Lord Jesus”.
Another year has passed, 2023 has begun and the world is still in a mess; perhaps more so than at any other point in most of our lifetimes. Undoubtedly, there are Christians all over the world echoing the psalmist’s prayer, “How long, O Lord?”
The New Testament is explicit in its claim that Jesus will one day return to judge the living and the dead and to put an end to all that is evil and unwholesome. From then on, God’s people will live with Jesus in a renewed and restored creation and death will be no more. Perhaps the best-known passage dealing with eschatology (the end of the world as we know it) is Matthew 24, where in response to the disciples’ question, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”, Jesus talks about various cataclysmic events, such as war, famine, earthquakes and the persecution of Christians.
In response to any sort of global or national upheaval, many Christians will say things like, ‘These are definitely the end times’, by which they usually mean that Jesus’ return is to be expected within a matter of decades, or even less. However, Jesus did not talk about wars, natural disasters, the hardening of hearts or persecution in order that we might plot them as way markers on some kind of apocalyptic calendar. Quite the opposite, Jesus stated that these things will happen, but if we find ourselves in the midst of the confusion that such events will inevitably cause, we should not be duped into believing that Jesus has returned or that the future hour of his return has been revealed.
If we think back over the past two-thousand years, there have been innumerable events (or series of events), that may have caused people to surmise that Jesus’ return would occur in their lifetime. For example, the bubonic plague that swept through Europe in the 14th Century, killing between forty and sixty percent of the entire population. A more pertinent example is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD70. The Jewish historian, Josephus, estimated that 1.1 million people died in what was one of the most devastating events in the history of the Jewish people. Indeed, this event, which occurred within the lifetime of some of Jesus’ disciples, was probably, in part at least, what Jesus was alluding to in Matthew 24.
In one sense, the “end times” began with the birth of Jesus and we are still living in them. This is the time that the prophets of the Old Testament longed to see. God’s kingdom has been established here on earth and one day, when Jesus returns, it will be fully established. However, we have no way of knowing when this will happen. Jesus told his disciples that not even he was privy to the timing, saying, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” If Jesus was unable to narrow it down, we can be quite sure that we will not be able to either.
Jesus is going to return and we cannot know when, regardless of what is happening in the world around us. However, of crucial importance to us is our state of readiness, a subject that Jesus addressed at length and is the theme of at least four parables. Jesus exhorts his followers to live as if he will return at any moment, which of course he could do. We are to be “ready” by following Jesus’ commands and by living the purposeful, fruitful, kingdom-focussed lives that he calls us to.
Our response to the evil, chaos and uncertainty in the world around us is to remain steadfast and faithful to Christ, as we seek to live out his kingdom values, which includes fighting against all that is evil, both within ourselves and in the world. As it says in Romans 12.21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
So, before we make any New Year’s resolutions, let us ask ourselves this question, “How can I make myself more ready to meet Jesus when he returns?”
“Biblical Performance Criticism focuses not just on what is being said but how it is being said. It reminds us of the centrality of the audience. In our modern text-based culture with readily available multiple-translation access to the Bible, we sometimes forget that Scripture has closer affinity with ancient epic poems than modern history and literature,” says The Rev’d Dr Jeanette Mathews
There is a sense in which Scripture has always been “performed”. This assertion is literally true for the Israelite community and the Early Church. Biblical traditions themselves speak of performance events where God’s word was presented to audiences.
Great leaders, such as Moses and Joshua, retold the covenant traditions to their communities in order to re-ignite their commitment to YHWH (Deuteronomy 30; Joshua 23–24).
In the seventh century BCE, King Josiah gathered the inhabitants of Jerusalem and read aloud the book of the law of the covenant that was found in the temple (2 Kings 23).
Around two hundred years later the scribe Ezra read the book of the law again to the gathered community of returned exiles in Jerusalem, appointing Levites to translate and explain as it was being read (Nehemiah 8).
The story of the judge Deborah (Judges 4) sits beside the same story in the form of a song (Judges 5).
The song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2) was familiar to New Testament audiences and echoes of it are found in Mary’s song, which is better known as “The Magnificat” (Luke 1).
Nearly half of the superscriptions on Psalms give instruction for performance, with information about tunes (Psalms 22, 56, 60), instrumentation (Psalms 5, 55, 61), and liturgical use (Psalms 30, 92, 100, 120–134).
Luke records Jesus standing and reading from Scripture before an assembled congregation (Luke 4). And, all the Gospels portray Jesus teaching disciples and crowds in a variety of locations – teaching that is subsequently inscribed in the Gospels.
The New Testament epistles were recited publicly to congregations (such as in 1 Thessalonians 5.27). As was the Revelation given to John for the churches, with the book itself beginning with the statement “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy…” (Revelation 1.3).
The witness of the Scriptures themselves, therefore, remind us that the earliest transmission of Biblical material was in an oral/aural context because access to written materials was only available to a small section of the community. Those who did not have access to these materials or literacy skills were still able to hear God speaking through their traditions by hearing them performed.
The example of Deborah (Judges 4–5) suggests that the older tradition (the song) was preserved initially in oral form before being inscribed in text. In his commentary on Judges, American Old Testament theologian Professor Mark Biddle says of the poem: “…its structure, tone, and themes offer significant indications that the song once served a liturgical purpose and that, as a piece meant for public performance, it functioned to evoke a public response.” (Reading Judges:A Literary and Theological Commentary, Smyth & Helwys Books, 2012, p.63).
Even when these traditions became preserved as scripts, they continued to be circulated in communal contexts where they were performed orally by lectors or orators. In an oral culture, the same tradition will naturally be transmitted with variations due to different transmitters and different audiences. Written traditions served the oral culture.
One of the major contributions that Biblical Performance Criticism has for Biblical studies is to rediscover what has been lost with the domination of print and text culture. Rather than a focus on text alone, we emphasise performance, by which we mean a communication event in which traditions are re-expressed for an audience. (See Richard Schechner, Performance Studies: An Introduction, Routledge, 2013, p.29).
For the interpretation of a message, therefore, the whole communication event is important. Communication events include particular social settings, emotional dimensions, tone of voice, gestures, pauses and silence, and audience reaction.
Biblical Performance Criticism focuses not just on what is being said but how it is being said. It reminds us of the centrality of the audience. In our modern text-based culture with readily available multiple-translation access to the Bible, we sometimes forget that Scripture has closer affinity with ancient epic poems than modern history and literature.
Scripture was presented to audiences in its first iterations and continues to play to new audiences down through the centuries. Biblical Performance Criticism thus attempts both to establish the original performance event as accurately as possible and to analyse new performances of these ancient materials for new audiences.
Author’s note: This reflection is extracted from the article “Scripture as performance: Biblical Performance Criticism–what is it and how do I use it?” published in St Mark’s Review No. 249 (2019).
Editor’s notes: The Rev’d Dr Jeanette Mathews will be leading a pre-Lent introductory workshop on approaching scripture via Biblical Performance Criticism on Sunday 19 February 2023 between 2pm and 4pm at St Francis College. For more information and bookings, please visit the St Francis College Eventbrite page.
The Rev’d Dr Jeanette Mathews will be the preacher for the St Francis College Commencement Service (with recognition of Charles Sturt University graduations) on Sunday 19 February 2023 at 6pm at St John’s Cathedral. For more information or to reserve your place, please visit the St Francis College Eventbrite page.
Tuesday 31 January 2023
Liturgy: Making God our home
By Dr Peter Kline
“Liturgy, then, is not first and foremost about prayer books, or rituals, or religious spaces. All of these things are meant to make audible and visible a reality that is not captured or exhausted by any of them, namely, God’s love for our embodied existence – for our flesh. The challenge of enacting liturgy is to make God’s love tangible amidst actual people and the concreteness of their lived lives,” says Dr Peter Kline from St Francis College
One of my teachers in seminary used to say that what finally compelled her into the Christian faith is its proclamation of the presence of God at the extremes of human existence – at birth and death.
At Christmas, Christians celebrate with wonder that God is born, and on Good Friday, Christians contemplate the awe-full mystery that God dies. Easter is the celebration that God’s entrance into the extremes of human existence is not confined to the past, but is present for us now as God’s loving embrace of the entire sweep of creaturely life.
What compelled my teacher is how the Christian proclamation of God-with-us in Jesus is an enfleshed answer to the psalmist’s question: “where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139.7). The answer is “nowhere”. All of life, its ordinary and extraordinary transitions, its moments of joy and devastation, its processes of growth and decay, finds a home within the life of God.
The question for those of us who bear witness to the Gospel in Christian communities is how to give concrete form to this “nowhere”. How do we make real for people the reality that God is with us at each step of the human journey? The short answer is through “liturgy”.
Liturgy is the work of making God our home – God having first made a home with us. Liturgy is how we make time and space to dwell within the time and space God has made with us. Liturgy, then, is not first and foremost about prayer books, or rituals, or religious spaces. All of these things are meant to make audible and visible a reality that is not captured or exhausted by any of them, namely, God’s love for our embodied existence – for our flesh. The challenge of enacting liturgy is to make God’s love tangible amidst actual people and the concreteness of their lived lives.
One of the most meaningful liturgical moments of my life was a simple blessing and prayer that two friends spoke over my son a few days after he was born. Leo was born eight weeks premature and had to spend a month in the special care hospital nursery before coming home. Hospitals have their own liturgies, their own ways of marking time and space that make it possible for people to dwell and belong and receive care. In a special care nursery, the liturgies are, of course, “medical”, but they are also the liturgies of everyday life with infants: feeding, bathing, clothing, holding, singing, worrying, laughing, crying. About two weeks into our stay in the special care nursery, my friends arrived at the nursery, donned the proper PPE vestments, undertook the ritual handwashing, and offered a simple blessing and prayer of thanksgiving for Leo’s birth.
It was a very simple gesture on one level, but it also witnessed to what I take to be the point of all Christian liturgy, namely, to make it seen, heard, and felt that, wherever people are, whatever their circumstances, a home with God can be made here.
Christian liturgy does not require “religious” spaces or settings, even if creating such spaces is one of the things it does. Nor does Christian liturgy need to compete with or displace other liturgies, such as the liturgies of a hospital, or the liturgies of other faith communities.
The reason is because a Christian approach to liturgy is rooted not in the separateness of “religion” over or against “the world”, but in God’s joining us in the flesh. God’s birth and God’s death, which took place outside of the bounds of self-enclosed and self-justifying religious meaning, make the time and space of our ordinary, messy lives the site of our embrace by God.
The challenge for Christian communities, then, is to show in concrete ways, in the lives of actual people, how no corner of life is left unwelcomed into God who, even at the extremes of our lives, is our home.
Editor’s note: If you found this feature interesting and you would like to know more about studying theology at St Francis College or about the Semester 1 2023 subject ‘DL3001Z / DL9031Z: From Birth to Death: Life, Loss and Liturgy’, please visit the St Francis College website or contact the College Registrar, Dr Sheilagh O’Brien, on 07 5514 7403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday 1 February 2023
$19m upgrade to Meilene Aged Care home now completed
Anglicare Southern Queensland celebrated the completion of a $19 million redevelopment at its Meilene Residential Aged Care Home in Bundaberg yesterday, boosting beds and jobs, with a formal blessing by Bishop Cam Venables
Anglicare Southern Queensland celebrated the completion of a $19 million redevelopment at its Meilene Residential Aged Care Home in Bundaberg yesterday, Tuesday 31 January, with a formal blessing by The Right Rev’d Cameron Venables.
Anglicare Southern Queensland’s Chief Executive Officer Sue Cooke said that the redevelopment adds an additional 36 beds to the home, upgrades to all accommodation and community areas, along with the grounds, and will create up to 144 new jobs for the region.
“We know that Bundaberg has an ageing population as well as a higher proportion of people with chronic health conditions including dementia, compared to the rest of Queensland. With that, brings an increased demand for aged care services,” Ms Cooke said.
“The redevelopment of Meilene includes an extension to all accommodation areas, taking the home from 52 to 88 single ensuited rooms, including an expansion of our memory support unit from 16 rooms to 24 rooms.
“The redevelopment has added a further sense of community for our residents and visitors by improving access and connectivity. We have also invested in significant refurbishments throughout the entire home to create a modern, comfortable and quality residential environment.
“We’re thrilled to celebrate the completion of the redevelopment, and ultimately offer improved access to high-quality residential aged care in regional Queensland.”
Hutchinson Builders completed the redevelopment over six stages with complete works including improved multi-purpose community facilities that can be used for special events and celebrations; an upgraded community area; a self-serve café and lounge area for visitors that opens onto an outdoor area; a multimedia and library area; new outdoor children’s play area; new furnishings, fixtures and fittings throughout the home; individual air conditioning to each room; and, improved car parking.
The Right Rev’d Cameron Venables did a formal blessing of all areas of the home, which was followed by a delicious lunch and a tour for all visitors and families.
Anglicare Australia’s plan to raise the rate of JobSeeker and tackle poverty
Anglicare Australia has laid out a plan for the next Federal Budget to lift millions of people out of poverty by raising the rate of JobSeeker and other key payments
Anglicare Australia has laid out a plan for the next Federal Budget to tackle poverty by raising the rate of JobSeeker and other key payments.
Anglicare Australia’s Submission to the next Federal Budget includes:
Costings showing that JobSeeker, Parenting Payment, and Carer Payment could all be raised to $88 per day.
This would pull almost 2.3 million Australians out of poverty, including 840,000 children.
These measures would cost $198 billion over 10 years, less than the $254 billion cost of the tax cuts.
Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers said the Government has an opportunity to lift millions of people out of poverty.
“Since coming to power, the Government has been focused on cost-of-living pressures and incomes. The next Budget is their chance to help those on the very lowest incomes – people living on JobSeeker,” Ms Chambers said.
“JobSeeker and other Centrelink payments are languishing far below the poverty line. People trying to live on these payments are bearing the brunt of soaring rents, rising living costs, and a safety net that isn’t keeping up.
“Keeping people in poverty is not saving money. It is simply shifting costs onto families, communities, and services like ours.
“Raising the rate of these payments would ease that struggle and lift millions of people out of poverty, including hundreds of thousands of children.
“All of this can be done for well under the cost of the Stage 3 tax cuts.
“This is a clear choice. If the Government can afford to push ahead with tax cuts that are unfair and unpopular – polling shows that most of the biggest beneficiaries do not want them – then it has no reason to abandon action on poverty.”
Tile artisan honours family tradition of religious respect in Jerusalem
By World Council of Churches
In 1919, three Armenian families – the Balian, Karakeshian, and Ohanessian families – were brought to Jerusalem by Sir Ronald Henry Amherst Storrs, then military governor of Jerusalem, to renovate the 16th century tiles at the Dome of the Rock in Al-Aqsa Mosque
In 1919 three Armenian families – the Balian, Karakeshian, and Ohanessian families – were brought to Jerusalem by Sir Ronald Henry Amherst Storrs, then military governor of Jerusalem, to renovate the 16th century tiles at the Dome of the Rock in Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In those days, the artisan families came from the city of Katahia, Turkey. Today, Nishan Balian, the third generation of his family, continues to craft ceramic tiles in Jerusalem, carrying the same name as his grandfather. He took time to reflect on how he sees his work as part of his family’s tradition of building bridges between religions.
“I am proud that Armenian Christians renovated the beautiful tiles that we see even until this day,” said Balian, the artisan behind beautiful ceramic tiles we see not only in Jerusalem, but in France and other locations.
He recalled the Balian family’s context decades ago.
“People lived together in harmony across religions,” he said.
“The story of my family gives a beautiful example that religions can live together and produce beautiful art.”
The art, he believes, transcends the divide between people and between religions.
“My family’s connection to the Dome of the Rock renovation is a great honor; we are famous in Jerusalem because of that,” he said.
“Today I do ceramic tiles for synagogues; mosques in Qatar and Dubai; and churches through the world including in Jerusalem, France, and elsewhere.”
Geometric decorations and tiles in mosques hold a special place in the hearts of many Muslim communities, because paintings of human beings are not accepted. As early as the ninth century, tiles were used to decorate mosques, holy shrines, palaces, graves, and religious colleges. Today, decorative tiles are a tradition, and the Dome of the Rock is especially important – it is revered by Muslims as the spot from which the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
The tradition of religious respect – grounded with creativity – that began with Balian’s grandfather lives on. But Balian is concerned about recent divisions and expressions of hatred.
“Unfortunately, things are not what they used to be, and today I see a divide in Jerusalem – but it is a political one,” he said.
“I do not characterize the tension as a religious conflict.”
Regardless, he said, the divide is growing, and Jerusalem is not what he used to know 40 years ago.
“There is no longer that pluralistic touch that characterized Jerusalem for centuries and made it unique around the world,” he said.