Friday, 26 September 2014

Authenticity

Having been a University Chaplain (University of Adelaide, South Australia), and now a priest in an inner city church of a University town (Adelaide, South Australia http://stmarymags125.blogspot.com.au/) it is interesting to cogitate upon what University students might want in a church.
One person once said to me about a big evangelical church which they used to attend that it was a "meet market" and a "meat market". Lots of uni students went there, and young people like to go where other young people go!  Indeed that guy met his wife there!

But I also want to add another dimension, which is true both of our church (St Mary Magdalene’s Adelaide, and  of the Cathedral Church of St Peter, Adelaide):
that social outreach is important.
A very Anglo Catholic principle.
The incarnate God is met in the incarnate people!
Two decades or more ago a group of ‘earnest’ (quite the wrong word to describe the lovely kids who were uni students in the 80s) but genuine Christians ….sat around for weeks wondering about how they should put their faith into practice. Finally they just decided they needed to DO something. That something was putting on a slap-up meal for all comers on Saturday nights. That has continued for nearly thirty years. Diocesan parishes and schools volunteer every week.
Really looking forward to my first Christmas here, when the parish will outdo itself with a proper Christmas dinner for those who we are called to love.
I am impressed by the quality of University and young professional volunteers who staff this wonderful ministry.
It strikes me that most freshers get this as authentic Gospel…and so do I

Tomatoes

Jon Lamb writes:

It’s tomato planting time
Our recent run of warm weather has encouraged topsoil temperatures to rocket past 16oC, the recommended minimum temperature for planting tomato seedlings in the ground. 
At Kent Town, the topsoil is currently hovering between 17oC and 18oC with more warm weather forecast.
For tomatoes, cucumbers and other summer salad lines, it’s all systems go.

Been there, done that!!!  And looking forward to a garden that actually has some light.


Monday, 22 September 2014

The rubber hits the road

Last week as I was going home on Saturday night: in intended to stop in at the Collective (see below  important work),  I was waylaid by an important pastoral concern.   We stopped in at the Collective and had some soup. After I had been to the chemist, with my concern, and dropped her off...I witnessed an act of violence....a 20 year something guy...smacking a young woman across the face. Not once, or even twice!
I blocked the road with my lights on high beam...another youngish guy waved me through as if this is just what happened.
Thank goodness the taxi driver  on the other side of the road rang the cops (I hope).
Cannot help but think..........this is not like my last parish.!And the rubber  is hitting the road



The Collective of St Mary Magdalene
Week by week volunteers from parishes and schools meet with coordinators to offer a free meal to all-comers on Saturday nights. We probably don’t get how important this is. It allows some of the needs of people who are hungry to be met. It allows us who are well-supported, to be able to volunteer out of our wealth and good fortune to offer some sustenance to others. This is a good thing.
But it is of course not only the food (though that is important)  but the human contact. I have been struck in the few weeks I have been here how people know each other, and things about each other’s lives. So that there are meaningful and friendly conversations. How careful the volunteer coordinators are, also,  to respect the dignity of the guests. I think this, too, is just as, if not more, important.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

On being a charlatan

I don't know that I quite understand this image to the side.
But it might give us all some cause to think about the sort of image that we present, and the image we try to present to the world
We talk a lot, and expend a lot of energy (well I know that I do) trying to convince people that I am other than I am.
Yesterday I had an appointment with someone who had clearly forgotten I was  "duly appointed".....he managed to fake it quite well. He had lost track of the time, and his earlier appointment had cancelled. (I had sort of wanted to cancel too! but didn't because it's usually better tp get it over and done with 
But he faked it...I faked it ( I pretended Felicity, that I had done more practice than I had!) And I was sort of glad to get it over and done with....but he also "faked it well" so (were it not for the fact that I, too, am a charlatan) he could have got away with it. And it was OK
Are we all charlatans? I know I am!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

More about same-sex marriage

I had a very thoughtful and charitable letter from A who "respectfully disagreed" with my views about same-sex marriage.
I think it is now better to call it "equal marriage"
I wrote in reply
A
Thanks for your response to my blog
I have made a number of posts over the years …you may not have tracked them all down
On my blog a link might be:
http://stephenclarks.blogspot.com.au/search?q=gay+marriage
I have a high view of marriage, [ this may surprise you] and part of my discussion about equal marriage opportunity is about encouraging commitment, morality and in particular an environment in which children may be nurtured  with the assurance of love and security. This latter principle is one that is explicitly stated in the Anglican marriage services.
It does seem to me that the gender of the parents is secondary to the parents’ commitment to love each other. This is the primary environment out of which children will know that they are loved. And in that love to allow the children to know that they are loved.
We are all well aware that many homosexual people live immoral lives…..I want them to live committed, decent lives.
Sorry,
I could also re-write that statement : We are all well aware that many heterosexual people live immoral lives…..I want them to live committed, decent lives.
I have experienced a couple of extraordinary things in the last year. A homosexual couple (male) who have embraced twins into their lives. They seemed to think it was going to be a breeze, and it wasn't…my observation is that it has transformed their relationship. They are deeper people, more loving, more capable of embracing carefully the lives of the fragile.
Most gay people do not “choose to be gay”…they are born that way.
Did God want them to live a life doomed to failure? With all due respect, I don’t think God is like that. God does not make life particularly hard for 10%…!
It is not as if we have a God who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses! (Heb 4:15)
I do not think homosexuality is a weakness, any more than heterosexuality is. We struggle with both! We are after all made in God's image. Male and female God created us, ...is is too presumptuous to say "gay and straight" God created us!


Saturday, 30 August 2014

Humbled yet again!

What a full and diverse day I have had!  The parish was privileged to have our Bishop celebrate gently and humbly in our midst this morning; and then to have "low breakfast" with us...croissants and coffee and various forms of Spring Gully jams! (South Australians are nothing if not parochial)
+J was good, and I think none of us would have left feeling anything but encouraged by his words and insights.  I say to people...we come when the Bishop comes to allow our Bishop to exercise his ministry to us.  I think he did that this morning.
I like how he affirmed that the Anglo-Catholic presence is a legitimate expression of what the Anglican Church is like.

I did however have to "go away" to anoint the dying....who subsequently had treatment removed and, thank God, died graciously and well.  He was a fine and intelligent man.

Then my friend G came to the 5 p.m. Mass. He too is a fine man, he is a humble man aware of his limitations; and I don't think it is my job to manipulate people to come to Church. He is smarter than that! He came because he joins us in friendship,  at Craft Group,  and at the Drop-In Centre.

The Mass went better than last week and then I went and chatted to people in the lane (dinner was 10 mins late....a big ask for people who don't have food!) some were under the weather a number were wary of the priest....but I reckon I can wear that....and indeed ride it out....and hopefully develop some trust from them.
I have seldom, if ever, felt so alive as priest as I do today.

I prayed with some care for S & P who were married today. Some who know, and some (like N & P) who have known us for 20 years, would understand that this was not without significance.  I wish S well and pray for her life together with another.

Tonight I said Mass at 5 particularly praying for the Drop-In Centre. I chatted to a number: A vulnerable couple ( who I later witnessed shoutingat each other in the street what seemed like the scream of desperation...don't leave me alone); and a couple of really angry people...and why wouldn't you be...the rich couldn't give a stuff about the poor and are happy to blame and victimise them.  I did NOT vote for the Liberal government! (Or for that matter for a Labor Gogernment)
And my friend G!(spoken of above)....who is a damn sight more intelligent than the world gives him credit for just spoke kindly to me about what he could do.
It has been a full, difficult day. I am humbled....NOT humiliated,  at being allowed the privilege (totally undeserved) of being a servant of Jesus...my buddy. And we have the same Dad!

Friday, 22 August 2014

And dreamt amongst us!

My neighbour ( and I hope, increasingly,  friend) Hilary of the ATF kindly gives me copies  of current productions.  I am impressed by Portuguese priest Jose Tolentino Mendonca (Portuguese wiki here...or some  English commentary)
I made a couple of comments in my previous blog about Our Father who art in earth
A couple of comments he makes early on quoting from other writers
"Choose your place in the middle of a forest and withdraw to that place every day. And pray like this "Lord, I am here waiting for nothing!" " Lord I am here waiting for nothing""  and then again "What about ourselves? To whom will tell our story?"

This morning as I noted this in my journal I quoted John 1 and I wrote "And the Word became flesh and dreamt amongst us!" (normally and dwelt or lived amongst us)

Can I say this resonates deeply with those of us who often have conversations...important conversations...with people about how they want grow spiritually.  God encourages us to dream! And to dream expansively




The Lord's Prayer in Arabic.  


And I note that, by and large,  there is nothing in other religious traditions (Jewish, Ismlamic, Hindu..and even  non theistic Buddhists) that would prevent people from praying the Lord's Prayer. Perhaps also non-religious, (maybe even atheistic spiritual people can be open to this!) It is not the 'property' of the Christian Church. It is a true statement of openness to the God who blesses the reality of daily life

Nice day

I have no doubt that I suffer from SAD.
This is not about being "sad" but about the mood change that happens to some (perhaps even many) people when the season darkens.
So I am really GLAD that we seem to have turned the corner and are heading into Spring.
[I was really glad to go to Hawaii for July and August last year  (here and here). So I avoided the depth of the SA winter in 2013] . Not so this year. Glad it seems to be on the up!
There is a great deal of scientific  evidence  which tells us that SAD is a real issue in Scandinavia and to the North......I often wonder how I could have survived in the grey land of my birth...as beautiful as it is.
Anyway that is not my point today. It is to celebrate my total lift in mood now that the sun is shining.
Meditation and prayer are lifting. There is much going on in my dreams at this time....this too is something that happens in the change of seasons.
I dreamt of a wonderful white (but not dark) Christmas last night...it was almost frenetic. As a convinced Jungian I need to reflect on this....and it was interesting there was both panic and joy. Suspect this is the state of my present life!  Both personal, professional and religious.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Faintly amusing...if it wasn't for the fact that Ministers of the Crown think of themselves as princes!

I wrote to 'Senator' Abetz about the forthcoming push to get the Liberal party room to have a conscience vote about same sex marriage
He (allegedly) replied:

*Dictated by Senator Abetz and sent in his absence
 Dear Dr (sic) Clark,
 Thank you for your email regarding same-sex marriage.

For my part, I firmly believe that the institution of marriage is one that has been uniquely, over the centuries, the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of others for life.  I also believe it is the best environment in which to raise children. This is a bedrock institution of our society that I fully support and I do not support any efforts to make changes to this definition.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact me on this matter.

Yours sincerely


Eric Abetz
Leader of the Government in the SenateMinister for EmploymentMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public ServiceLiberal Senator for Tasmania
---------------
I replied ( this at least allowed me to vent that I am not convinced this is a genuine reply

(Please note that in my original email I informed you that my title was Fr (Father) not Dr….but that your automatic answering system doesn’t allow for my proper title!)

Thanks anyway for your reply. I thank you indeed  for bothering to reply( many of your your colleagues don’t bother)…but would respectfully disagree with your assertions  that “the institution of marriage is one that has been uniquely, over the centuries, the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of others for life.”

It is clear for example, even from the Hebrew-Christian Biblical narratives ( to which I adhere) that marriage is not so concisely or conveniently defined. As religious people we struggle with this.

The Hebrew Scriptures in particular point to a plurality of practice. The Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) for example, appear to have practised polygamy and concubinage. There are numerous stories throughout the Hebrew Scriptures ( the prophet Hosea, the great King David…and so on ) where their marriage ‘practice’ has been anything approaching monogamy.

From sociological perspectives, (my area of academic discipline) it is also quite clear that some cultures have practised polygamy, polyandry, and there are also a number of cultures where people who today we might call ‘transgender’ have been accepted and celebrated.It is simply na├»ve, arrogant (two curiously Western characteristics don’t you think?) and nonsensical to suggest that the Western pattern of, say, the last 50 years is the one and only definitive pattern by which we can and should live our lives.


I serve (and choose to serve) a community which is pluralistic and loving, who want children to grow up in stable families. There are families with children, where both parents are of the same gender.  And some where they are of a different gender.There are men who have committed themselves to each other. And women likewise! There are of course men and women  in loving relationships.   Almost everyone I know has at least one person in their family who is same-sex-attracted
As a Christian and a priest I want to do everything I possibly can to provide for children to grow up with parents who love them.I want people to live lives  in which they don’t feel guilty for just being who they are.

It seems to me that if the State can encourage the parents of children to live in committed relationships…then they should.  It is not the gender that is important. It is the commitment, to the relationship. To the family. To the children.I think everyone has this right. To be a committed parent; and to have parents who will commit themselves to their well being. What, on earth, does this have to do with gender?


Stephen

Didn't really think Abetz's response would be otherwise






Monday, 11 August 2014

We love the Church of God oh what on earth so dear!

I write to Anglicans Online ( a very good thing!...to quote 1066 and All That)  this week

As a parish ( speaking of St Mary Mags) which seeks to reach out, in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, to the poor, the marginalised and those generally disdained by churchy and society; I note that this week there is much sad news throughout the Communion/World.
Death of a young boy  in Iraq, concern about the priest; Gaza...and it's senseless slaughter; oppression of homosexuals by the Ugandan Anglican Church; Ebola and so on.
May we stop "stuffing around" worrying about whether we can have women Bishops, be recognised as a denomination by the State of Italy.... as the King of Siam might say   et cetera et cetera et cetera

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Peter Sculthorpe...the sound of Australia

I came upon the music of Peter Sculthorpe quite late in the piece..
This is because I was a Britain and took a while to get up with what had been happening for 50 years.
My late arrival matters little, his death is deeply sad. (8th August)
But check out his vitally evocative music if and when you get the chance.
Here is a link to some of the understated yet vivid music which so captures Australia...its nature...its quiet (this seems to me a vital thing)..and its subtlety 
While I pray that he may know God's eternal presence, may we also be thankful for his musical gift to Australia and the world



Saturday, 9 August 2014

Illegal immigrants

It was interesting to change my electoral enrolment after 18 years in one of the most Liberal electorates of the country, to a marginal seat.
And find that even though I have been an Australian citizen since 1975, held an Australian passport for almost as long...that apparently the Australian Electoral Commission requires me to prove the same ...after nearly 40 years.
Bloody Cheek! (hence the awful pic!)
A copy of my correspondence to the "Honourable" The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison is below

The Hon Scott Morrison

Minister for ImmigrationCANBERRA 

2nd August 2014

 Dear Minister 

I recently returned a questionnaire sent to me pursuant to my application to change my electoral enrolment after a recent move from the electorate of Boothby to the electorate of Hindmarsh. I must say that I was shocked to be asked to provide documentary evidence of being an Australian citizen, which I have been since 1975 at a wonderful ceremony conducted by her Worship the Mayor of Whyalla, Aileen Ekblom.And,also, a copy of my Australian passport, which I have held since 1985. It is indeed a matter of great offence to one who has deliberately and proudly defined myself as Australian rather than British, and purposefully not held ‘dual citizenship’! I have been enrolled in the electorate of Boothby for the last 18 years; and also in the electorates of Adelaide (on two different occasions) of Makin, and of Grey and of the equivalent State electorates. It has been my privilege and democratic joy.
 It is incredible (but perhaps not surprising) to me that the Electoral Commission cannot routinely check citizenship status and/or the fact that a person holds a valid Australian passport. Particularly given the fact, I assume, they already have access to my previous address and electoral enrolments. 

Respectfully yours

I am absolutely sure I am a threat to the polemical lie of "Border Protection"!

Monday, 21 July 2014

I know that my Redeemer liveth

The first time I ever heard "Messiah" the soprano was Isobel Baillie. I had no idea who she was. If I am right in my reckoning and I was 11 or 12 then she was in her early 70s.
Let me tell you that if I can sing one quarter as well as that lady could sing when I am 70 then I will be pretty pleased.
Tonight another soprano, Sarah Nagy, (aka  Clark) will sing "I know that my Redeemer liveth!"
Different emotions swell up in me as I think of both of these events. As I listened to my daughter sing what I had first heard Dame Isobel sing (perhaps 1960) with such beauty grace and grandeur...I realised the truth of the words.
And indeed Handel's genius to be able to provide a melody which takes you into heaven.
I only pray as I administer Communion for the first time in my new parish Church tonight, that I will not be so totally overcome as to not  reiterate Job 19:25...I know that my Redeemer liveth!

And by the way ...the tiny little woman I saw aged 72...was every bit as beautiful as this picture when she was 27!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Transition


Moving is pretty awful. Whilst full of expectation, challenge and delight...there is so much stuff that needs to be resolved.
We have moved quite well, and still coping with everything else.
It is part of the irony of the modern age that 'no internet'  is one of our biggest worries. It puts a brick wall against certain decisions.

But I guess using the B Naylor maxim....mostly everything will be resolved in 6 weeks.
I hope so.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A Van Gogh Moment

A Van Gogh Moment













An unexpected tall visitor
appeared in the back yard today
growing between the felled blue gum trunk
and the faded red, straggly geraniums.
I spied her elegance from the house,
but she shyly turned her face away, sunwards.

When I drew close,
faced up to her with gentle greetings,
saw the radiant ring of yellow petals
fringing her fine black face,
I understood why Van Gogh
first painted sunflowers
for sheer joy in Arles in 1888.


Sue Cook
(a birthday present from my friend)