The Network

The Network
This blog is no longer updated. Please click the picture to hop across to The Network

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

John Brogden, Suicide, and Public Forgiveness.

I am sitting here early in the morning listening to news of John Brogden's suicide attempt last night. Brogden stepped down as leader of the NSW Parliamentary Liberal Party on Monday following media reports that he had harassed two female journalists and made a racial slur against Helena Carr, wife of former NSW Premier, Bob Carr. It is suggested that, in addition to the dramatic events of the last few days, an article in to-day's Daily Telegraph may have precipitated Brogden's attempt at self-harm. This story is said to be unsourced and uncollaborated. It appears to be stack upon stack of gossip.

Politics - and I have worked in and close to the profession - is dangerous territory. It is dangerous not only because of some of the personality types who are attracted to the profession but also because of the perceptions of those around them who may treat them deferentially for various reasons: attraction of power, self-interest and self-advancement. There is also opportunity for infidelity or promiscuity because of the sort of hours and mobility involved in carrying out political duties - not to mention the wide range of people who come into one's world. They are open to continuing scrutiny by the public and the media. They are continually under pressure from the demands of their constituencies and the competition within their own parties as well as competition with their political opponents. And there is the matter of their personal and family lives.

Brogden is not the only politician to have attempted suicide as a release from great pressure. Nick Sherry and Greg Wilton, two members of the Federal Parliament, have tried - the first unsuccessfully; the second, sadly, successfully. Nick Sherry was found in time and has recovered and gone on to rebuild his political career. A remarkable effort.

I have posted previously on the matter of public forgiveness. You can see these here, here, here, and here. I am concerned once again - how public figures achieve forgiveness, how a way forward is found following very public apologies. I believe that time is an important and necessary factor in forgiveness and healing. There was precious little time to bring this into John Brogden's life in an effective manner before he committed self-harm. But then there was no public record or history of forgiveness to contemplate, to consider for the future. There are examples such as Nick Sherry. There are political comebacks. But for grave public shaming, what is the recourse for the individual?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Paul's Last Post @ Greenbelt

Yeah, I was waiting for it and he did it. He called it The Last Post. Anyway, I was blown away by the description of the Light Service. How I wish I could have been there. Please let me know if something like this is happening around Melbourne.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Communion: Worship & Community @ Greenbelt

Paul has managed a third post from Greenbelt. It is a wonderful post concerning the high point of the worship experience at Greenbelt, the Communion Service for 20,000 people. Paul's post seems to me to be the next best thing to being there.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

More Greenbelt blogs

Pop over to Philip Purser-Hallard's Greenbelt festival blog and Andrew Chapman's Greenbelt in links. Willzhead has some interesting info. Pleased to hear that Richard Rohr, a fav of mine, is there.

Greenbelt on the blog

Andrew Jones, the Tall Skinny Kiwi (don't they turn up everywhere!) is talking about blogging at Greenbelt.

News from Greenbelt

Pop over to Paul's blog for some beautiful alternative worship experienced at Greenbelt. When you have done that, pop into the Alternative Worship site.

Greenbelt Festival 2005: Tree of Life

This is Summer Bank Holiday weekend in England. In Oz Lingo, this translates as a long weekend. This means that approximately 20,000 Christians of one sort and another are off to Greenbelt which is held at Cheltenham Racecourse.

Greenbelt is an arts and culture festival. The first ever Greenbelt festival was held in 1974 on Prospect Farm in Suffolk. The festival grew yearly in numbers from its initial 2,000 attendance and by the early 1980s, only 10 years later, there were more than 20,000 people coming to Greenbelt each year. These days, Greenbelters re-imagine the church as an infectious global conspiracy, working for God’s peace, healing and friendship in previously unimagined ways. Take a peek at the Year of Living Generously as an example.

Bloggers have packed up and headed off including John Davies, Maggi Dawn, and one of our favourite Christian cartoonists. Pray for fine weather, great times and the peace of God.

The Feast of Augustine

(This post is continued from yesterday's Feast of Monica)

And so our discussion went on. Suppose, we said, that the tumult of a man’s flesh were to cease and all that his thoughts can conceive, of earth, of water, and of air, should no longer speak to him; suppose that the heavens and even his own soul were silent, no longer thinking of itself but passing beyond; suppose that his dreams and the visions of his imagination spoke no more and that every tongue and every sign and all that is transient grew silent – for all these things have the same message to tell, if only we can hear it, and their message is this: We did not make ourselves, but he who abides for ever made us. Suppose, we said, that after giving us this message and bidding us listen to him who made them, they fell silent and he alone should speak to us, not through them but in his own voice, so that we should hear him speaking, not by any tongue of the flesh or by an angel’s voice, not in the sound of thunder or in some veiled parable, but in his own voice, the voice of the one whom we love in all these created things; suppose that we heard him himself, with none of these things between ourselves and him, just as in that brief moment my mother and I had reached out in thought and touched the eternal Wisdom which abides over all things; suppose that this state were to continue and all other visions of things inferior were to be removed, so that this single vision entranced and absorbed the one who beheld it and enveloped him in inward joys in such a way that for him life was eternally the same as that instant of understanding for which we had longed so much – would not this be what we are to understand by the words Come and share the joy of your Lord?[1] But when is it to be? Is it to be when we all rise again, but not all of us will undergo the change?[2]

This was the purport of our talk, though we did not speak in these precise words or exactly as I have reported them. Yet you know, O Lord, that as we talked that day, the world, for all its pleasures, seemed a paltry place compared with the life that we spoke of. And then my mother said, ‘My son, for my part I find no further pleasure in this life. What I am still to do or why I am here in this world, I do not know, for I have no more hope on this earth. There was one reason, and one alone, why I wished to remain a little longer in this life, and that was to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. God has granted my wish and more besides, for I now see you as his servant, spurning such happiness as the world can give. What is left for me to do in the world?’

I scarcely remember what answer I gave her. It was about five days after this, or not much more, that she took to her bed with a fever. One day during her illness she had a fainting fit and lost consciousness for a short time. We hurried to her bedside, but she soon regained consciousness and looked up at my brother and me as we stood beside her. With a puzzled look she asked ‘Where was I?’ Then watching us closely as we stood there speechless with grief, she said ‘You will bury your mother here.’ I said nothing, trying hard to hold back my tears, but my brother said something to the effect that he wished for her sake that she would die in her own country, not abroad. When she heard this, she looked at him anxiously and her eyes reproached him for his worldly thoughts. She turned to me and said, ‘See how he talks!’ and then, speaking to both of us, she went on, ‘It does not matter where you bury my body. Do not let that worry you! All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord.’

Although she hardly had the strength to speak, she managed to make us understand her wishes and then fell silent, for her illness was becoming worse and she was in great pain. But I was thinking of your gifts, O God. Unseen by us you plant them like seeds in the hearts of your faithful and they grow to bear wonderful fruits. This thought filled me with joy and I thanked you for your gifts, for I had always known, and well remembered now, my mother’s great anxiety to be buried beside her husband’s body in the grave which she had provided and prepared for herself. Because they had lived in the greatest harmony, she had always wanted this extra happiness. She had wanted it to be said of them that, after her journeyings across the sea, it had been granted to her that the earthly remains of husband and wife should be joined as one and covered by the same earth. How little the human mind can understand God’s purpose! I did not know when it was that your good gifts had borne their full fruit and her heart had begun to renounce this van desire, but I was both surprised and pleased to find that it was so. And yet, when we talked at the window and she asked. ‘What is left for me to do in this world?’, it was clear that she had no desire to die in her own country. Afterwards I also hear that one day during our stay at Ostia, when I was absent, she had talked in a motherly way to some of my friends and had spoken to them of the contempt of this life and the blessings of death. They were astonished to find such courage in a woman – it was your gift to her, O Lord – and asked whether she was not frightened at the thought of leaving her body so far from her own country. ‘Nothing is far from God,’ she replied, ‘and I need have no fear that he will not know where to find me when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.’

And so on the ninth day of her illness, when she was fifty-six and I was thirty-three, her pious and devoted soul was set free from the body.
[1] Matthew 25:21
[2] I Corinthians 15:51

Saturday, August 27, 2005


A memorial of the London Bombings
has had a low-key unveiling in London.

The plaque says:

Under this tree people of all faiths and nationalities,
united in grief,
laid wreaths in memory of those killed
on 7th July 2005,
following the attacks on London's public transport system.
Requiescat in pace

The Feast of Monica

Monica and her son, Augustine, have impacted greatly on the church. . Below is an excerpt from Augustine’s Confessions which shows Monica’s constancy in prayer for Augustine’s conversion and, of unique importance, a shared mystical experience of great significance.


Not long before the day on which she was to leave this life – you knew which day it was to be, O Lord, though we did not – my mother and I were alone, leaning from a window which overlooked the garden in the courtyard of the house where we were staying at Ostia. We were waiting there after our long and tiring journey, away from the crowd, to refresh ourselves before our sea-voyage. I believe that what I am going to tell happened through the secret working of your providence. For we were talking alone together and our conversation was serene and joyful. We had forgotten what we had left behind and were intent on what lay before us. [i] In the presence of Truth, which is yourself, we were wondering what the eternal life of the saints would be like, that life which no eye has seen , no ear has heard, no human heart conceived.[ii] But we laid the lips of our hearts to the heavenly stream that flows from your fountain, the source of all life which is in you,[iii] so that as far as it was in our power to do so we might be sprinkled with its waters and in some sense reach an understanding of this great mystery.

Our conversation led us to the conclusion that no bodily pleasure, however great it might be and whatever earthly light might shed lustre upon it, was worthy of comparison, or even of mention, beside the happiness of the light of the saints. As the flame of love burned stronger in us and raised us higher towards the eternal God, our thoughts ranged over the whole compass of material things in their various degrees, up to the heavens themselves, from which the sun and the moon and the stars shine down upon the earth. Higher still we climbed, thinking and speaking all the while in wonder at all that you have made. At length we came to our own souls and passed beyond them to that place of everlasting plenty, where you feed Israel for ever with the food of truth. There life is that Wisdom by which all these things that we know are made, all things that ever have been and all that are yet to be. But that Wisdom is not made: it is as it has always been and as it will be for ever – or, rather, I should not say that it has been or will be, for it simply is, because eternity is not in the past or in the future. And while we spoke of the eternal Wisdom, longing for it and straining for it with all the strength of our hearts, for one fleeting instant we reached out and touched it. Then with a sigh, leaving our spiritual harvest[iv] bound to it, we returned to the sound of our own speech, in which each word has a beginning and an ending – far, far different from your Word, our Lord, who abides in himself for ever, yet never grows old and gives new life to all things. (to be continued)
[i] Philippians 3:13
[ii] I Corinthians 2:9
[iii] Psalm 35: 10 (36:10)
[iv] Romans 8:23

In Paradiso

A wonderful exhibition of religious floral art is under way at St Agnes's Anglican Church at Glen Huntly. It runs until August 31 and includes, on Monday August 29, a demonstration of church flower arranging by Peter Bennet and the Vicar himself, Nigel Wright.

The exhibits are magnificent and focus on the seasons - Advent, Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and feast days - and rites of the church such as weddings and funerals. For more and photos galore, pop across to The Trad Pad.

Do yourself a favour and visit the exhibition. Your heart will rejoice in these blazes of glory!

The Movement to canonize Michael Leunig

Muslim, Hindu, Chinese, African and Australian values

Now he won't like this - I know he won't. But I can't help it. It's been a long time comin' and out it will. I hereby launch to-day The Movement to canonize Michael Leunig. St Michael Leunig of the Pen that is mightier than the Sword. That's him. That's the new moniker.

In a world that has so many sectors spinning out of my understanding (I never did have much, if any, control), Michael Leunig is a shaft of God-given light penetrating a world which is losing colour at approximately the same speed as it gains chaos. At a time when OzPol is becoming strident, triumphal, and hell-bent on marginalization, Leunig gives us the alternative story.

I have heard that, historically, it was possible to declare a Saint by acclamation (bypassing the two miracles status) - so let's hear it for St Michael. Let's give him a golden halo around those greying curls. And when the iconographies are written and painted - please remember: he comes with a duck.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Swords or Ploughshares:Cindy Sheehan or Tammy Pruett

Surely I cannot be alone in finding obscene George Bush's promotion of Tammy Pruett against Cindy Sheehan? The loss of human life is immeasurable, it is beyond price, beyond our words. One wife and mother feels pride in six family members serving in Iraq. One mother feels inconsolable anguish over the loss of a son in a war that fails so many logic tests. What is the equation here? Six lives>One death? Triumph versus Grief?

Cindy and Tammy represent two timeless images. Tammy: the woman sending warriors off to battle with a smile, waving a handkerchief, speaking great encouragement - and perhaps a white feather in the mail for those who are tardy or reluctant. Cindy: the woman for whom the war has meant great cost, great loss, and finds no sense for solace.

Each of these archetypes co-exist. They are two sides of a coin which, if only we were a peaceful race, would not exist at all.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

...from Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Nostalgia for the Aussie Bloke

I get a bit lonely sometimes - lonely for the Aussie Bloke. The Aussie Bloke is more than just an Australian male. I grew up in the forties and fifties and I miss a certain sort of Aussie Bloke. The Aussie Bloke that I am nostalgic and lonely for looked and acted like my father and his friends. These were the days when men wore sports shirts with their trousers. They wore hats when they went up the street on Saturday mornings with their families. When they worked in the yard at weekends they probably wore an old slouch hat because, you see, they had fought for their country in World War II. The Aussie Blokes I remember were working class and blue collar but as I grew up and my world expanded I found them in white collar occupations too.

As I was growing up, there were images of them on the silver screen: Chips Rafferty, Peter Finch. Aah...Peter Finch in The Shiralee and A Town Like Alice. How fitting then that the current epitome of the Aussie Bloke, Bryan Brown, should reprise these famous Finch roles, if only for television. While there are Aussie Blokes around like Jack Thompson, and Tony Martin in Wildside, Bryan Brown is the one who, for me, best images the Aussie Bloke.

The War in Iraq: what would Jesus do?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Justice and Mysticism

Terrorism of the Righteous - Disarming the Violent Heart

An extract from
The Inner Eye of Love: mysticism and religion
by William Johnston. Published in London in 1981 by Fount Paperbacks. pp 177-178

St Paul says that the important thing is love. After extolling the various charismatic gifts he goes on to say that what is, or should be, common to them all is love. Without love the gifts are useless. And so he begins his canticle: ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal’ (I Corinthians 13:1).

Gandhi recognized this; but in his peculiar circumstances he preferred to speak of non-violence or ahimsa. This included compassion for the poor, love of the aggressor, love of justice. It renounced all hatred and use of force; but it believed in force of another kind: satyagraha means the force of truth.

To build one’s activity on love and non-violence demands the greatest inner purification. One must constantly rid one’s heart of inordinate desires and fears and anxieties; but above all one must cleanse oneself from anger.

In our day anger seems to be the chief enemy of love and non-violence. By anger I mean the inner violence which lies not only in the conscious but also in the unconscious mind of individuals and of whole nations. This is an inner violence which has sometimes been nurtured by decades of oppression and injustice; sometimes it has been further nurtured by domestic strife in the home; always it is the source of great insecurity, inner fear and awful weakness. This is the anger which may erupt into sexual crimes or irrational murder and terrorism.

Now if I come to recognize the anger which is in me(and this is already great progress in the journey towards human maturity) and if I ask a psychologist what I am to do with my anger, the odds are that he will tell me, among other things, to get it out of my system. ‘Get it out somehow! Imagine that your enemy is seated beside you and just roar at him – tell him what you feel! Or thump a pillow or a punch-ball or a sack of hay! But get it out!’

Now this may sound a thousand miles away from mystical experience. But in fact it is not. Because in the mystical path anger comes out – it rises to the surface of consciousness. Remember that I spoke of the Buddha sitting serenely in meditation while the beasts roar and the dogs bark. These are manifestations of my hidden anger. As I have already said, I must not make violent efforts to chase them away, neither must I enter into dialogue with them. I simply pay no attention to them – and in doing this I accept them. And then they vanish. In some cases, of course, it may also be necessary to speak about them to a friend or counsellor. But in my case I get them out of my system.

But when this is done, something still remains. And this is just anger. In other words, my anger has not been annihilated but has been purified. Now it is the anger of one who has seen, and still sees, real injustice in his own life and in that of others and refuses to countenance such evil. It is an anger which could be more properly called love of justice and is accompanied by a willingness to die in the cause of justice. In itself this is nothing other than a mystical experience. It is the living flame of love orientated towards action.

Such was the righteous indignation of the prophets. Such was the anger of one who made a whip and drove the money-changers out of the temple: ‘Take these things away, you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade’ (John 2:16). Gandhi, too, was moved by this just anger: he spoke frequently of marshalling all one’s spiritual forces against the oppressor and he fought injustice by fasting, by suffering, by accepting imprisonment and by non-violence.

Justice: what is it?

Justice is a cry from the heart.

It is a deep longing: deep seated in the hearts of humanity. It is universal. The cry for justice is no better expressed than in the Psalms of David, particularly in Psalm 35. The “How long, O Lord” of verse 17 can be echoed by those in prison, those in times of war, those who are the victims of genocide, those being oppressed, those whose land, economy and livelihood have been stolen, those suffering abuse and torture.

How long, O Lord, wilt thou look on?
Rescue me from their ravages,
My life from the lions!

And how we long to be vindicated, to be proved right and just. Psalm 35 takes us to this cry of the heart too.

Vindicate me, O Lord, my God, according to thy righteousness;
And let them not rejoice over me!

Justice is the wound.
Vindication is the healing we seek.

Justice goes beyond the jurisdiction of a court of law. The court is a human construct. The court administers justice on behalf of the community. It has the role of keeping community order and balance - but, as a human institution, the court is flawed. It can err. It can endorse miscarriages of justice. It can be partial. It can act against the powerless in the service of the powerful.

Justice as a natural law does not have the same errancy. It may work in hidden ways, sometimes in full view. It may work speedily, or grind exceedingly slow. It is inexorable. Hosea describes it so well in his metaphor of sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7). It is a similar idea to the Buddhist one

You may forget your actions but your actions don’t forget you.

Justice is both an ethical and a spiritual idea. It is a matter of the way in which we live our lives and the spirit which is expressed in our lives. Jesus says

every sound tree bears good fruit,
but the bad tree bears evil fruit.
A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit,
Nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
(RSV Matt 7:17,18)

Isaiah points out the details of this (Isaiah 58). It is not, as many think, a matter of The Ten Commandments. It is not a matter of sticking to the letter of the law, whether it is God’s or Human’s. It is about the spirit of the law. It is about its impact on ourselves, others, the community. Jesus spelt out the standard in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5,6,7). This is a high ethical and spiritual standard – for ourselves and the human communities in which we live. If such a standard of justice was universally practised and universally informing all human laws, regulations and practice what would human communities look like then?

Perhaps someone would like to comment on the vision of a justice based human community?
As for me, I know that
my Avenger lives.
(Job 19:25).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Answers & Justice: Jean Charles de Menezes and his death

The death of Jean Charles de Menezes continues to resound through the halls of power in Britain and Brazil. Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London, is in the hot seat and has many questions to answer - particularly since he admitted in an interview that he found out only 24 hours after the 27-year-old electrician was shot dead that he was unconnected to the bombings. Sir Ian told a press conference on the day of the shooting it was "directly linked" to the anti-terrorist investigation and that he understood Mr de Menezes had refused to "obey police instructions". This death highlights difficulty facing liberal democratic societies - and how flawed our human responses can be in the face of calamity. But liberal democratic societies also demand transparency and accountability and the death of Jean Charles de Menezes cannot be forgotten or swept away - we must remember him and the manner of his dying.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Abundance & Scarcity

Abundant Lemon Tree
in my backyard

Christians become very strident, unlovely and unloving over a number of issues - abortion, where some have turned to violence and murder, and Darwin's Theory of Evolution are two that come readily to mind. But, as far as I can recall, there has been no challenge by Christians to the paradigms foundational to modern Economics.

We read our bibles and go to church and pray and frequently talk about God's provision. In western society, we live in cultures where each day we make numerous economic transactions from purchasing our food to internet banking. Our governments have whole departments and their bureaucracies dedicated to economics. People are trained in our educational institutions in the field of Economics. The influence of Economics on our lives is such that it could be said to define us: our social status, our educational qualifications, our occupations. Yet the all pervasive theories go unchallenged.

The basic tenet of modern Economics whether Keynesian or Neoclassical is simple to understand and complex in its application. It states:

"Economics is the study of how societies use scarce resources to produce valuable commodities and distribute them among different people."

(P. A. Samuelson & W. D. Nordhaus, "Economics", McGraw-Hill, 1992)

This is the foundation stone on which the edifice called Economics is built.

Can we look at this sentence in respect of our faith and our belief in a Creator God?

Do we believe, do we accept, that God created scarcity and continues to sustain this planet in scarcity?

Scarcity is not unknown to humanity - drought, seasonal calamity, crop failure, plague, our own misinformed disasters. But is scarcity a prevailing condition across the planet? The answer is no. Resources are not scarce. In fact, our faith and our own knowledge of creation demonstrates there is abundance. We may have to increase knowledge to fully utilise resources but this is unrelated to scarcity or abundance.

And what is that modifying word "different" doing in that sentence. Why doesn't it read:

"...and distribute them among people."

Does the insertion of the word "different" mean that Economics as a discipline or science is happy to differentiate among people and populations, that economic discrimination is something that is tolerated within Economics?

I am not suggesting that Christians wait until they are professional Economists before commenting on this matter. I believe that intelligent people are capable of examining this one foundational sentence, the mindset from which all else is derived. In examining the implications of this sentence on the science of Economics and its impact upon our lives, let us posit another sentence:

"Economics is the study of how societies use abundant resources to produce commodities of community value in accord with creation values and distribute them justly to humanity ."

Which sentence, as a Christian or as a person of faith, would you find reflects your values more closely? Perhaps the sentence I have posited is lacking and you can come up with something better? Then feel free to post.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Artist's Life

Jane Clifton
The Artist's Life

Last night I surfaced at the Melbourne Writers Festival, one of THE drawcard Writers Festivals in the world. I am a volunteer from time to time at MWF and I talk about this at Volunteer.

The blogosphere can be a small world at times. This week through blogging I have met Kitty Cheng of Peregrine Sojo - Kitty’s Kronicle. She discovered the MWF at Volunteer and suggested we go together. Kitty chose The Artist’s Life and I am so glad she did. When faced with a program as large and extensive as MWF, I know I can’t go to everything. So one has to prioritize. This meant that I had not considered The Artist’s Life yet what a treat it was.

It took the form of a panel session chaired by Jane Clifton.

The writers involved were Shalini Akhil, Merlinda Bobis, Alice Garner, and Gail Bell.
Shalini - the youngest of the women - was enchanting. In 2001, she entered a competition run by the Melbourne Writers’ Festival in which writers were required to pitch ideas for novels to a panel of judges and a vocal audience. She went on to win this competition, and considers it her first foray into stand up comedy. She later entered the national stand up comedy competition ‘Raw Comedy’, run by radio station Triple J, and went on to become a national finalist. Now studying Professional Writing at Deakin University, her first novel, The Bollywood Beauty, has just been published by Penguin Books. For all of us who dream of being published, her mood swings of anxiety and excitement, her post-published depression were a revelation and an insight into a fantasy fulfilled.

Merlinda Bobis blew my mind. A strong, sophisticated Filipina woman now living in Australia - her manner of speaking, the delightful, considered, powerful language of her speech, her discussion of the use of language captivated me. If I were to be a writer, hers is the mindset, the model I would aim for. I have not read her work but you can be sure that any day now I will be off on a Merlinda Bobis odyssey. One of my dearest friends, Sylvia who lives in remote Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory and comes from Manila, has just had her Christmas present selected.

Alice Garner has my utmost respect. Alice Garner is a Research Fellow of the History Department, University of Melbourne, where she obtained her PhD in French history in 2001. She is also a professional musician and award-winning actor, with starring roles in the campus comedy Love and Other Catastrophes and successful Australian television series SeaChange and The Secret Life of Us. She is the initiator with Kate Atkinson of Actors for Refugees. I have seen AfR in action and I highly commend them in bringing a difficult, angst ridden, and divisive issue to the Australian public in such a superb manner. Alice, the daughter of Helen Garner, has lived the artist’s life as long as she could remember: as a child in the household of her parents and friends and in adulthood in her own right and now with her musician husband and two children. All this and her soon to be published book, A Shifting Shore.

Gail Bell was the last speaker and, though a little younger than me, gives me hope that one day in these later years I might produce something wonderful like a book and be published too.

Kitty and I found it a wonderful night - and a great stimulus to creativity.

Treasures & Traditions

One of the oldest treasures and traditions and disciplines of the church is the

Prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours.

To-day's post is the Canticle from Morning Prayer (Lauds).

Daniel 3
All creatures, bless the Lord
Bless the Lord, all his works, praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, you heavens;
all his angels, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, you waters above the heavens;
all his powers, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, sun and moon;
all stars of the sky, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, rain and dew;
all you winds, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, fire and heat;
cold and warmth, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, dew and frost;
ice and cold, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, ice and snow;
day and night, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, light and darkness;
lightning and storm-clouds, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, all the earth, praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, mountains and hills;
all growing things, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, seas and rivers;
springs and fountains, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, whales and fish;
birds of the air, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, wild beasts and tame;
sons of men, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O Israel, praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, his priests;
all his servants, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, spirits of the just;
all who are holy and humble, bless the Lord.
Ananias, Azarias, Mishael, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him for ever.
Let us bless Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
praise and exalt them for ever.
Bless the Lord in the firmament of heaven,
praise and glorify him for ever.

Maximilien Kolbe, Maria Skobtsova, Martin Luther King Jr.

I have been meditating on the martyrs for more than a week now. It started before my posts. I edit St Thomas's monthly newsletter, Crossroads. I have a section within Crossroads entitled Fasts and Feasts in which I highlight memorial days from the church calendar for the month ahead. Crossroads is on the table for the congregation on the second Sunday of each month. Last Sunday, when Crossroads came out, the front page of Crossroads was given to the three martyrs whose memorial day fell on 14 August. They are Maximilien Kolbe, Maria Skobtsova, and Martin Luther King Jr.

This has been a significant time for me and for the blog. Mostly, I am railing against injustice and destruction and promoting beauty and creativity. This has, albeit accidentally, over the past week, been a time for remembering. These martyrs have suffered the ultimate destruction on earth - the taking of their lives. Yet this destruction has underscored all that they stood for, all that is good, all that is humanity at its God-given best. In the coming week, I and the blog will move on to other things but the mist of memorialising the martyrs will remain in my spirit by God's grace.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Of blessed memory....

Graham Staines, an Australian missionary, and his two sons, Phillip and Timothy were martyred on 23 June 1999. The death of Graham and his children has had significant impact: in his homeland, Australia, in his adopted country, India, and in the hearts and minds of people around the world. Their story is told in a book, Burnt Alive - The Staines and the God they loved. Gladys, his wife, and Esther, his sole surviving child have provided a sustained, helpful, and inspiring Christian witness which India itself recognizes. Graham's life is a reminder of the impact of the love of Christ shining forth in a human frame to the benefit of those around. His death is a reminder to the church of its mission and its cost and its reward. Graham has blessed us all in his life and in his death. Gladys and Esther continue to bear witness of God's love, his forgiveness, his forbearance, and his constancy. Their sacrifice has been of a husband, a father, two sons and two brothers. It is from these, that we learn how to walk in Christ's footsteps and it is by their example that we are encouraged.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

About Martyrdom

What can be said about Martyrdom? Words are insufficient to describe the horror of the event and the glory, love and respect of the Church. It is, quite simply, breathtaking. Christians do not seek martyrdom - although the charge could be made of some in the early church. However, we have always before us the example of Christ and the Apostles. We are sustained and liberated by the death of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. The example of the martyrs sustains us too by reminding us of the path we have chosen and the task we are about. This is where singlemindedness in following Christ can lead us.

But to strengthen our hands and our knees, we have the words of Paul ringing in our ears and echoing in our spirits:
Romans 8:35-39 (New King James Version)
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written: “ For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Yet another martyr?

I have just been over to Scott Nichol's blog, Random Responses, where I found the shocking news that Brother Roger of the Taize Community has been murdered. You can find the Taize statement here and further reporting from World Magazine. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has issued a statement as has the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion. Thank you Brother Roger for your impact on the Body of Christ and your leadership of the Taize community. May perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

More Melanesian Martyrs

The funeral of the martyred brothers
24 October 2003

The Melanesian Brotherhood was founded in 1925. Seventy-eight years later, and sixty-one years after the violent deaths of the New Guinea Martyrs (below), in April 2003 seven members of The Melanesian Brotherhood died violently in the Weather Coast of the Solomon Islands. Harold Keke was held responsible for their deaths. The Brotherhood sought only to bring the Christian message of peace and died in that Christian service. May perpetual light shine upon them and may they rest in peace.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

More New Guinea Martyrs

333 Christians lost their lives in Papua New Guinea during the invasion and occupation of the island by the Japanese forces during World War II. The greatest number of those who died - 198 - were Roman Catholics. But there were also Methodists, Salvationists, Lutherans, Anglicans, members of the Evangelical Church of Manus, and Seventh Day Adventists among the dead. As we commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of Victory in the Pacific, let us remember them. The sculpture to the right is of Lucien Tapiedi who died with the Anglican martyrs mentioned below. This sculpture, by Tim Crawley, is at Westminster Abbey.

The New Guinea Martyrs

This week I have been busy editing the monthly newsletter, Crossroads, of St Thomas's Anglican Church at Upper Gully. In the newsletter, I have a section called Fasts and Feasts which highlights significant dates in the church calendar for the month ahead. On September 2, the church commemorates the New Guinea Martyrs. The story of the New Guinea Martyrs is a moving story which, no matter how many times I read of it, brings tears to my eyes. I included in Crossroads Bishop Neville Chynoweth's 2002 sermon on the topic.

To-day, Alan Ramsey in The Sydney Morning Herald has remembered the Martyrs again because yesterday was the anniversary of their deaths on 12 August 1942 [this date may not be accurate. Other references say the beheadings occurred on 6 August 1942.]. Alan has publicised further information in the form of letters by Mavis Parkinson and May Hayman, the fiancee of the Rev Vivian Redlich [photo above].

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Singing praises turns to a squawk

My recent singing of praises for an early spring has turned into a squawk. Yesterday the weather turned icy cold and brought snow to some unlikely places : not the usual ones in the Alps. Snow came to sea level localities like the Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland. Snow clouds loomed over the Dandenongs all day but I have not heard of any snow there. I have heard that snow fell at Mitcham a few suburbs away. But then it is rather high above sea level. At 1.40pm it was 8 degrees at Upper Gully but an hour later the sun was shining and the prospect of snow evaporated. There is only one certainty about Melbourne's weather - and that is its changeability. To-day it is quite cold and to-night temperatures in our neighbourhood are expected to go down to 4 degrees Celsius.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Transfiguration and the southern seasons

I have included a photograph of a fruit tree in blossom in my back yard. It is being transfigured from winter barrenness to spring glory and then will come fruitfulness. It occurs to me what Transfiguration could mean for us in the southern hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere, Easter - the Feast of the Resurrection - comes along with the full impact of a northern spring which is missing from southern celebrations. What an impact - an impact in which nature tells its own story - might occur could we of the south feel if we made a major event of Transfiguration.

The Transfiguration

To-day is the Feast of the Transfiguration. It brings to me the message of how much our world needs to be transfigured - from war to peace; from destructivity to creativity; from ugliness to beauty.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Blogging in the Early Republic

I love this article. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing new under the sun. As I blog away, I frequently feel like the scribes described in Matthew.


It seems that the religious right in the US have discovered the concept of "intelligent design" and are using it to promote their views on creation from a literal biblical interpretation. I usually refuse to enter into debate on creationism and interpretations of the prophecies in the Book of Revelation. I refuse because I regard such debates of little relevance. Generally, they produce more heat than light and people who propagate a literal creation dogma or their own interpretation of Biblical prophecy don't want to look intelligently at another point of view, another angle.

Now this co-option of the term "intelligent design" puzzles me. Someone might enlighten me - but from my place on the mountain top it looks like - at long last - someone in the creation science brigade has read a book. Coz what's new about the concept of intelligent design? I thought that it was at least as old as Nicolas Copernicus. Since when has the Christian church taught anything else? I will have to brush up on some reading though from what Professor Graeme Clark has to say. Professor Clark refers to William A Dembski's book - so it's on the reading list.

But when everyone is putting a lot of time, money and energy into this crusade (or jihad?), I would like to remind them of post Planet Earth final exam questions. Yes we have the questions for this exam before we have to answer the questions. This is what it is all about.

Friday, August 05, 2005


It looks like miners may have another go at destroying Kakadu. Almost certainly, ERA will have another crack at opening Jabiluka. Again, the Mirra people will have mobilise to protect their beautiful country. ERA's record, along with that of the Office of the Supervising Scientist, in protecting Kakadu and the Magella Creek system from spills is poor. My own view is shifting as more information becomes available on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The problem with uranium is waste - its security and its disposal. So the jury will be out for quite a whiile. Perhaps, the Oz Feds interest in uranium mining would be more tolerable if the foundation of that interest was Australia and a search for clean fuel. It is not - it is doing this in China's interest and the interest of mining companies. Any doubt that this is the case has been wiped away by the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. So Mammon will spread its destruction again. Not only that, it challenges our very sovreignty. The dominance of China and the US in our trade and international interests makes issues like republicanism, the monarchy and even Aboriginal sovreignty look as though they have Mickey Mouse status.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


The Immigration Department has done it again - and to Harry Seidler, a leading Australian architect with an international reputation. It all happened twenty years ago so it proves what many have said - that the culture of the department has not gone wrong recently but is a long held disease. Harry Seidler was quoted yesterday as saying that they all ought to be sacked and their jobs advertised. Seems like a good idea to me.

Monday, August 01, 2005


To-day has not been the day for tilting at windmills, ranting and raving, or being agin the government. Melbourne's weather has been perfect: clear, cool, crisp and sunny. It has been a day for feeling indulged and indulgent, for thinking beautiful thoughts, and for looking at beautiful things. To-day I wandered around the garden with the camera. The garden is blossoming beautifully: cavorting camellias (see one above), audacious azaleas, magnificent magnolias. The lemon tree is abundant. The herbs, however, need a bit of discipline. The basil has disappeared with the frosts - although the coriander and Italian parsley and the traditional parsley and the silver beet have thrived - and the rocket is bolting. It has beautiful white flowers as you can see but will, almost certainly, turn to seed. Let's hope the creation copyrighters have not interfered with the generative capacity of the seed and I will be able to have seed to plant some more.


To-day, August 1, is the birthday for all horses. To-day they all add an extra year to their ages irrespective of the date on which they were born. May they all have a happy day with clean straw and loads of carrots and sugar cubes. And in case you really want to make an effort - you might like to make your horse the Horses Birthday Carrot Cake!