Sunday 25 October 2015

Canvases Complete!

This weekend I had the wonderful privilege of sharing with a small group of women at our Contemplation on Canvas Retreat. We began the process on Friday evening reflecting on our past and the things that have shaped us in life. By the end of the night we had prepared the base of our canvas with different textures to represent stories and emotions. The canvases were left to dry overnight while we all got a good night's sleep to prepare for the big day ahead. 

The next morning we continued working on our piece by preparing the canvas. In doing this we symbolically embraced our past and celebrated it as part of who we are. It was then time to reflect on colours, symbols, words and images that depicted our present life moving into the future. We used guided meditation, listening to songs, reading quotes and pondering Leunig cartoons to assist us in finding the symbols that resonated with each of us.

Each person's canvas was unique, expressing the individual's journey. We shared in the group the story of the creation of our canvases. What an honour to be invited into each story in such an intimate way. Throughout the two days, we laughed together, ate together and were silent together. It was a wonderful experience.

After running this retreat for the first time, I am now set up to offer it to others. If you think this sounds like something you and a group of friends would like to do, get in contact and I can give you more details. I would love the opportunity to share the experience with more people.

Wednesday 14 October 2015


Silence is that point of hesitation
   where I peer into the light of my own reflection,
   where all becomes clear and my ambition melts away.
Silence is the hush before I breathe deeply
   and fill my lungs - no space left empty.
Silence is not the absence of noise
   but my choice to enter my own stillness - and be.
Silence is my soul's night time,
   a dark void to rest my weary spirit.
Silence is my sabbath where I realise
   I have been walking towards my own shadow
   and gently turn my face to the light.
Silence is not a space for sending forth new shoots,
   but for sinking roots deep.
Silence is a healing space,
   a balm for deep wounds
   and a knife to hidden scars.
Silence is not safe,
   a vulnerable opening for winds of change
   and exposing light to the dark corners.
Silence is .... transformation. 

Friday 9 October 2015

Ownership: Maintaining Control in a Fragile World

There have been a lot of stories recently in our media that have me wondering if our need for ownership is damaging our society. Many of us own the patch of land that we live on. We paid quite a sum of money, and perhaps are still paying, to claim ownership of our block, our little section of Australia.

The way our society views land as a possession has a huge influence on our attitude to sharing our land. The First Peoples of this land have a a very different view of the land. It is more about listening and being in relationship than possession and ownership. There is a lot we can learn from them. Is it any wonder that some people are so against accepting refugees into our country? The fear that we might lose control and ownership of our land is enough to have us metaphorically building our fences higher and stronger. But, is this land really ours to own? Perhaps, if we could learn to be stewards rather than owners of the land, we would have a much more generous view to sharing our land and welcoming the stranger.

Another area where people seem to assert their ownership is in the search for truth. We crave for some sort of security in life and so claim to own the truth. It makes us feel safe and gives us certainty in a fragile world. But, as soon as someone with a different truth comes along we feel under threat. Our own need to own the truth, to grasp hold of it defensively, causes us to react to difference in fear. Those who do not fit our picture of truth are excluded, oppressed or perhaps in a more subtle way, prayed for fervently that they might conform to our ways. Is the truth really ours to own? Perhaps, if we could learn to be seekers rather than owners of the truth we would have a much more generous view to sharing our wisdom with the wisdom of the stranger.

Patriotism, fundamentalism and materialism all contain an element of possession and ownership. As many of us heard in our churches last Sunday, Jesus answer to the rich, young man seeking eternal life was to give away his possessions. We could say, he was challenged to give away his sense of ownership. I wonder if he meant more than just material wealth? As we hold so tightly to the things in life that we most fear losing, do we really have the capacity to know the joy that they bring us. Perhaps our sense of ownership is what holds us back from living a life of love and compassion. 

Thursday 24 September 2015

Contemplation on Canvas

I am excited to tell you all about a new retreat that I am going to run for the first time in October. The content of the retreat has been born out of my own experience in combining my love for mixed media art and reflecting on my spiritual journey. During our time together we will spend time in personal reflection followed by a "messy" time of creatively depicting these thoughts on canvas. At the end of the retreat each participant will take home their own record, perhaps an artistic journal, of the journey they are on.

There is no need to be have any particular artistic talents to be part of this retreat. The techniques used are not complicated and are lots of fun. The retreat will be held at Margaret River Uniting Church on the 23rd and 24th of October. If you would like more information please have a look at the registration form or send me a message. If you would like to travel to come to this retreat, we may be able to assist with accommodation. There is a limit of 15 participants, so get in quick.

Monday 3 August 2015

Embedded Stories and Repudiating Doctrines

One of the really important decisions we made at the Uniting Church Assembly a few week's ago was to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Now, if you are anything like I was when I first read this proposal, you are probably responding with - what? I had never heard of the Doctrine of Discovery, let alone understood why we were being asked to repudiate it.

After some reading and listening, I began to understand something of how this story came together. A papal decree by Pope Nicholas V in 1452, gave Christians permission to invade non-Christian lands, to dominate and take the people into slavery. This is just one example of how the church, in the past, has used its power to overcome indigenous peoples. This, of course, is not an isolated case. All over the world, people have used religion to justify actions which are shocking.

But why was it so important for the Uniting Church, who seeks justice for the First Peoples of our land, to repudiate this Doctrine. Well, I think it has to do with how stories can be forgotten, but are still embedded in our collective unconscious. Like many others at Assembly, I did not know about Pope Nicholas V and his papal bull. I cannot even imagine being part of such an appalling violation. The story has been passed down, however. It may not have been recorded so much in books or in oral tradition, but the attitudes are still alive in our communities.

I was so pleased that this proposal was brought to our attention. The story of oppression that has been hidden underground for so long, known only to those who experience it day after day, has been raised to my consciousness. It is not so much about a papal bull made over 500 years ago, but about the way that story has lived on in our unconscious. I have seen evidence of it in my own backyard only this week. We will continue to remain blind to these prejudices unless we have the courage to face the stories which have made our societies who they are.

Thank you to Congress for taking away the scales from my eyes!

Sunday 19 July 2015

Wondering about Wholeness

I have just returned from a week at the 14th Uniting Church Assembly. The meeting was held in Winthrop Hall, University of Western Australia. Those of you who know this stunning building may remember the amazing mandala that is found towering in the front in the form of a rosary window. There is nothing like a mighty archetype of wholeness as a constant reflection point as we talked about who we are as the church and how we relate to each other.

The church talks a lot about wholeness. It is what we hope for ourselves, the world and others. Many of the stories of Jesus are centred around a search for wholeness. Our western society, however, has a way of disintegrating us, fragmenting us. We are divided into flesh and spirit; physical, psychological and spiritual; while all we long for is to be integrated and one.

As I meditated on the mandala, I became very aware of the ways that the church can fragment rather than bring wholeness. It was very clear that for some in the church the work of wholeness is a lot easier than for others. I certainly felt this privilege throughout the Assembly meeting. Not once did I feel, for any reason, that I did not belong, that I could not contribute or that I may be judged. I did, however, experience others making themselves extremely vulnerable; those who had difficulty expressing themselves in the dominant language, those who with great courage crossed cultural differences to engage in our way of making decisions and those who risked sharing their hurts of being judged for their sexual orientation.

As I looked into the faces of these people silhouetted by the mandala behind them, I was left with nothing but admiration. Their longing for wholeness and acceptance in the church was a struggle. The place where grace and wholeness should have been readily available had often be the stumbling block. It is a challenge to keep in sight the vision Jesus had for our world and our relationships. We get so tied up with doing church that we forget to be church. It is hard work.

My prayer for myself in the days ahead is that each person I meet will have that window of wholeness behind them as a reminder to work for wholeness for all people in all situations.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Sticking with the church

A little over a week ago, I was saddened to hear the news of the death of Marcus Borg. Since then I have read many articles and blogs praising him for his scholarship and his ability to communicate to those who had grown disenchanted with the traditional message portrayed by the church. I first became aware of Borg's writings early in my ministry training. It was like a breath of fresh air. I had read Spong and some other progressive theologians who were either very wordy and intellectual or tended to pull the rug of faith out from under you. Borg's approach was more accessible and gentle. In telling his own story, I could believe that there was a way through the muddy mire of theological confusion. It gave me hope. 

I have read many reflections that have described how Marcus Borg enabled them to remain a Christian. For me it was more that he helped me to stick with the church. There have been many times where I become tired of the church, it's politics and dogma. I have often wondered if it easier to be a genuine Christian outside the church. And then I read people like Borg who have been on this same journey, have reimagined what it means to be a follower of Jesus and have paved a way for others. 

I wrote a reflection only last week that expressed my frustration and longings. I titled it Enough.

Enough of words and trying to explain
I long to sit by the sea
Enough of prayers that righteously ramble
The silence is drawing me in
Enough of getting it right for all to see
Content in my skin I will be
Enough of judgment, labels and dogma
I rest in deep truth from within

Enough of perfection
Enough of survival
Enough of victory over sin

More stillness
More wonder, more awe, more life
More loving and breathing and whim

Enough of certainty, clubs and exclusion
Enough of pedestals, politics, platitudes
Enough of niceness, numbness, nameless
Enough of flat and fake and fickle

Take me to a place where the sun's rays warm my heart
Let the veil be thin
Let me soak in the mystery
And just be.... Enough.

We complicate things so much in the church. We forget that the vision of Jesus was about inclusion, loving people and being in relationship with God. Marcus Borg helped me to see that being a Christian is possible in the church. Sounds crazy - I know. And so now as I prepare to go back into ministry after three weeks break, I need to hear Marcus Borg fresh again. I need to strip away the tangles that the church puts around God and the person of Jesus and be excited again by the simplicity of what Jesus preached. Thank you Marcus Borg. 

Thursday 29 January 2015

Focussing the Vision

I have always admired people who seem to have a clear sense of call or vision for their life. Everything in their life seems to point towards the goal. They live with purpose, drive and a sense of satisfaction. I often wonder if the vision before them is as clear as it appears from the outside. I know that this is certainly not the case for me.

I seem to live my life trying to find the right glasses to get my life in focus. Some of you will know that my life after school began in secondary teaching. I justified my missing out on other university options as a sign from God that I was meant to be a teacher. I loved teaching, but after a while the vision became blurry and I knew it was time to search for new lenses to bring some clarity. I began studying theology.

The fog cleared and once again there was a clear way ahead; teaching Faith and Values. But no, a few years later (a long story) I was hit with a strong sense of clarity to explore ordained ministry. I thought I had found that sense of purpose that I had always admired in others. I had found the lens that gave me focus and vision. Hadn't I?

Maybe I have a restless soul. Maybe I'm just a searcher, a seeker. But it seems to me that this process of discernment and call is never ending. Whenever I feel I have made it, I have a clear vision, something changes and it all becomes a blur once more. The scenery is everchanging, perhaps becoming deeper. As it is with our own vision, a change in depth causes our eyes to refocus.

There have already been a few significant, refocusing moments since I entered into ministry. Each has brought with it some chaos, some liberation and some form of transformation in my life.  And so, I find myself once again attempting to refocus, find some clarity and sharpen my vision for what is ahead. Yes, there is part of me that still wishes for more certainty and security. However, I would give all that up for the depth and the refining that comes with continual discernment. So here we go again.