Saturday 28 May 2016

This Rocky Outcrop

Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting for the first time with a person who I will mentor through a specific time of discernment. The time was spent hearing hopes and dreams and sharing stories of the journey thus far. I always get a little nervous when I am asked to take on this sort of role with people, as my journey has often been filled with a great deal of uncertainty. I especially feel inadequate when people are discerning a call to work for the church, as my experience has felt like a constant battle.

I told the person, as we sat having our cuppas, that I would not attempt to paint my path to ordination or the journey since with rose coloured hues. In sharing my more recent struggles in ministry, however, I was able to see that I have come to another landmark along the way. You know those points along a hike where you stop, take in the scenery and refresh yourself before embarking on the next chapter. 

The last couple of years have been challenging. I have chosen particular paths that have kept me in ministry and the church. These have not been the easy options. Far from it, it would have been easier at times to walk away. On the positive side, I feel I have chosen the path of integrity, freedom and hope. On the other hand, it is also the path of loneliness, challenge and uncertainty. 

My battle with the church is not unique. My wondering about the future of the church, it's lethargy in bringing about change, and the vocal Christian groups who speak with judgment 'on my behalf' all leave me feeling a dull sense of despair. The questions that have run around my mind are about being real in ministry, preaching with integrity and what it means to be a Christian in today's world. These questions all come from the heart, but there are another bunch of questions that runs alongside from the mind. How do I do this without upsetting the people in my congregation? What if people leave and we don't have enough money? What if? What if? Should I just stick with the status quo? Do I have the energy to try and be different? These are the questions that, implicitly, many church meetings have taught me to ask. 

So, what has brought me to this landmark? I find myself standing on this granite outcrop, relieved to be here on solid ground for a while. I have no idea what lies ahead, how the journey will pan out. But, for now, I know I have the strength to keep going. Why? Because I have met some fellow travellers who have encouraged me; speakers at festivals, colleagues willing to chat on Skype, a supervisor who gives me bread for the next leg, friends who are just there and congregation members who let me know they are still behind me. I cannot continue in my ministry in the church if it is not with integrity. I cannot go on remaining silent about things that are important to me. I cannot keep on pretending that I can make everyone happy. 

As my supervisor said to me recently, 'Have you read the stories about Jesus? Sitting on the fence is not following Jesus. And following Jesus is not about keeping friends.' I have been very slow to learn this. This week, my supervisor of eight and a half years let me know that our supervisory relationship would need to end due to health problems. I want to thank him for getting me to this rocky outcrop in the middle of this beautiful, rugged land. The journey continues!

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Building the Labyrinth

Some of you will be aware that over the last few months we have been building a labyrinth at the side of our church in Margaret River. The piece of land that it now sits on is the hoped site for a future hall of some sort for the church. Until recently, however, all it was doing was successfully growing weeds. It was decided that in the meantime we may as well make use of this space and build a labyrinth that can be used by the whole community.

We called for donations of rocks, plants and any benches or quirky garden ornaments that could be used in the area. We were thrilled at what came out of the woodwork. Even those who didn't fully understand what we were trying to do brought along what they could offer.

On our construction day, we had people aged 6 to 80+ lending a hand. Those who couldn't haul rocks helped oil the wine barrel that acts as a seat in the centre. When some got tired, they made cups of tea for everyone. It was a real team effort. By the end of the day the labyrinth was almost complete.

We decided to open our labyrinth for the first time on World Labyrinth Day - May 7th. With a bit of hard work the day before, everything was ready. The local newspaper wrote a great article about the labyrinth and our open day which gained a lot of interest in the community. ABC Radio South West were also keen to let the public know what was happening and conducted an interview on their breakfast show.

The open day itself was quite overcast with regular showers - not the best weather for an outdoor event. But this did not stop people coming to have a look. We had some wonderful conversations with people who were local and visiting from elsewhere. Some were familiar with labyrinths, some were curious and some wanted to bring their grandchildren to look when they visited.

I feel we have built far more than a labyrinth at our church, it is a connection point. It is a way to open up conversations with people about their spiritual life that may not have happened otherwise. People have noticed, shown interest and come to see. I am looking forward to the opportunities in the future.

Sunday 1 May 2016

Beyond the Rainbow

For the last few days I have been at the Sacred Edge Festival at Queenscliff Uniting Church in Victoria. How I came to be here is another story, and there are many I could tell from my time over the weekend. For now, allow me to share one small, personal reflection. Yesterday, I went to a poetry workshop led by Padraig O'Tuama. It was far too short, but reignited my passion for being poetic with words. 

We were encouraged to reflect on an inherited text. It could be anything, but a story that had impacted on us in some way. I chose The Wizard of Oz. For me, it is a magical story that expresses so much about life's journey. We were asked to reflect for a moment on where our story had connected with this inherited text. I struggled a little, coming up with philosophical statements about the journey of life and the people we meet along the way. Other than choosing it as a theme for my 40th birthday, I wasn't able to come up with any tangible connection. 

That night, we had a Persian feast and entertainment. The final song for the evening was Over the Rainbow performed by The Deadly Duo. I imagined that, perhaps, this had all been secretly orchestrated for my benefit. My chosen inherited text was gifted to me, wrapped in mystery and love. And there was the connection. The impact of the experience of Sacred Edge and the year that has led to this point was the touchstone with The Wizard of Oz. The thoughts flowed freely now and here is the result. 

Beyond the Rainbow

As a young girl
I dreamt of distant lands,
places over the rainbow
where bluebirds sang lullabies. 
I would sit comfortably
on the fence and dream...
and dream. 

One dawn, 
I opened my eyes
and I was far from home.
The journey began
one yellow brick at a time;
a road of hope,
a road of new songs
and new friends.
Not my own road,
but for any sojourner
wishing to seek out mysterious lands.

We will compose 
our pilgrim songs together.
Words and tunes
of courage, of fear,
of hopes and dreams,
of laughter and tears.
And the dreamy song
from the fence, of the rainbow
is left behind
for I am there.