Category Archives: Welcome

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CELEBRATE WHAT WE HAVE IN COMMON NOT WHERE WE DIFFER

 Loitering and ‘being’ opens the horizons of the mind and heart, it also challenges prejudice.
Meeting people from around our world. people with who we have much in common, others who see the world quite differently from us, all make a rich and interesting tapestry.

At a Vigil held in the city of Melbourne where I work, after a tragic incident to place, I observed a diversity not always appreciated. Mostly this is often as a result of ignorance, fear and mistrust of other.

Sitting after the vigil with a man, a complete stranger to me, we held hands we chatted about what we have in common.

He a Hindu and me a white anglo-saxon commonly known as ‘a Christian”.

Both affected by what had happened, both deeply moved by the service and both saying how at times like this we need each other.

While we do love ‘our’ country, and want it to ‘be safe’ and for some just like ‘the good ol’ days’, we are called to love.

For those of us who claim to ‘love God with all our heart, strength and mind’ sometimes forget to love neighbour as self.

I don’t expect its always easy, its not for me, so together lets strive to get it, who knows we may even look back one day and claim these were the ‘good ol’ day’!!


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Love Others Radically

Love others so radically they wonder why.

This weekend it was announced by the Prime Minister that he wants to pass a law that says that anyone who has tried to come to Australia, illegally,  by boat since 2013 will NEVER be allowed to enter the country. It is being done as a “sign to the people smugglers of how serious we are” about border protection. That’s great , Mr Turnbull, but it’s not the people smugglers who are being effected by this, its the little people desperate to find a new life away from tyranny and oppression – they won’t find it here apparently. (Yes, I know that some of the boat people are trying to jump the queue and beat the system but the (documented) majority are trying to escape terrible lives. Just think, what would have to happen to you and your family to make you jump into a boat and risk your life? It’s not a decision that most of the people make lightly.)

I was listening to the radio yesterday morning and a politician (I don’t remember her name) confirmed to the interviewer that if someone has tried to come to Australia to seek asylum by boat, even if they are found to have a legitimate claim, they will not be allowed to enter the country EVER! My friend (who works for the United Nations as a lawyer) cannot work out how many U.N. statutes  and Internation Laws this new law (if passed) will contravene. Where is our nation’s compassion? Where is our love for our neighbour? When we will stop singing the National Anthem that says, in the second verse, “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share”?

Please don’t think I’m advocating that we do away with our immigration laws – I’m not. I went through the system to be allowed to live here, it was fair to me. I am questioning the fairness and justice of a law that contravenes many International laws and treaties for those legitimate people who have been so oppressed in their own country that they have had to make the difficult decision to flee and will be denied the right I have because of the way they travel; for many the boats are the only way they can get out. (And I’m very aware of the amazing privilege I have to be able to write this blog, granted to me because I do live in a ‘free’ country.)

The sign this week speaks of the Christian value of love – that love that Jesus speaks about and shows to others. To those who, in the eyes of the government of his time, didn’t deserve love; to those that did him all manner of wrong; to those who oppressed him and, eventually, killed him.

This ‘radical’ love is what we, as Christians (I would say decent humans), should strive for; a self giving love that sees others as equals; a love (and a way of life) that doesn’t judge the worth of others by what their job is, or where they come from.

Love one another because love is from God – to quote a book a read from time to time.

A very appropriate meme!


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Irony

Christian
Non-Christian
Oh, the irony
Before I go on I must say that the person mentioned in this blog does not express the views of all Christians or, for that matter, all non-Christians.
I had the dubious pleasure this morning of listening to a prominent church leader (an archbishop, I think) chime in with his ideas on the marriage equality debate. It was an entertaining few minutes, I actually laughed once or twice. Then it sunk in that this man was representing to the radio audience the views of the whole Christian Church and that horrified me because what he said is certainly not my view nor the view of most of my Christian friends (and non-Christian friends as well.) 
The two things that will stick in my mind from his, most illuminating, speech were these – 

  • that anyone who supports the proposed marriage equality laws is not ‘a whole person.’ 

and

  • there shouldn’t be a vote in parliament on the marriage equality debate because it is too important an issue to be decided by politicians. 

I have to admit that this is not an ridiculous idea, or so I thought until the speaker followed up, answering a question, with the idea that yes, politicians have been given the mandate to start wars but not change the marriage laws, they shouldn’t be allowed to change the marriage laws as they are not qualified to do so.
If these weren’t such stupid statements I’d laugh. 

How can someone say that anyone who supports the proposed marriage equality laws is not ‘a whole person’? Does that mean that the 73 years old grandmother of 5 I was speaking to yesterday, who supports the idea of marriage equality, is not a ‘whole person’. According to a recent poll 72% of all Australians are not ‘whole people’ because they support marriage equality. 

I’ve heard the view about who is a whole person before from (primarily) Roman Catholic clergy and I’ve read the same view in (primarily) Roman Catholic publications, but it has always been aimed towards gay people. The Roman Catholic Church seems to view all LBGTQi people as not whole but never before have I heard it expressed that ANYONE who supports marriage equality is not a whole person. 

It seemed to me that I have to agree with the speaker on everything to be considered a whole person. I don’t and yet I feel quite whole but then again am I qualified to speak about that? Which brings me on to the second point.

Politicians are not qualified to make a decision on marriage equality.

What qualifications do they need? Is there a test that politicians should take to work out which laws they can change? 

They have the power to send our military away to die but they are not qualified to decide if legislation needs changing. From the way it was worded by the archbishop this morning it seems that it’s not just the marriage equality legislation they can’t change, it’s all legislation. They are unqualified. 

How does it work then? If they are able to drive a car can they debate the traffic laws (which relate to cars but not trucks obviously, unless they can drive a truck)? What about the laws on adoption and fostering – if they haven’t adopted a child should they abstain from the debate? Do they have to surf the internet to take part in a debate on the N.B.N.? They are elected to do this stuff. It’s what they do and, despite what I say sometimes, they do it quite well on the whole.
But this isn’t a blog about politicians, this is about Christians and how some of them don’t seem understand irony especially the irony about preaching one thing and yet doing another. I could go on and on about this but I’ll end with a short story and a Bible verse to demonstrate what I mean.
I have a friend in the U.S. (who happens to be gay). She works in a bar/restaurant and is given Sunday mornings off by the atheist owners to go to church because she is a Christian. One Sunday she went to one of the big churches they have over there. After the service the pastor came up to her and asked her not to come back to his church as he doesn’t want “her kind” in his church. The passage he had just finished preaching on was the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:40 – “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” 
She feels more welcome in the atheist’s bar – 
Oh the irony.


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Blah, blah, balh

Blah, blah, blah,
Just come to church
Oh we’ve put up many signs in the past few years. Some have been funny (at least to me), some have been thought provoking, some have had a lot of responses, some have had none at all.
This week – well, pretty self explanatory. Enough talking – come and listen to what we have to say.
Everyone is welcome. 

Now I know that every church says that but when you go you find that everyone doesn’t mean you or people like you. Lots of churches have hidden agendas about who is welcome  and who isn’t (some of them aren’t too hidden either). Some will question your sexuality, others will wonder about your bank balance, skin colour, racial background, do you have a place to live? These and other things are all ways that you can be excluded from various churches.
One of the tenants we at the Melbourne Welsh Church feel is at the heart of the Gospel is the idea that “all means all.”
We cannot decide who we let into the church of God – it is not our call – it’s God’s call; it’s his church after all. We are custodians and, if we understand the Gospel, it is very clear that all means all. The church is open to everyone – not just the ones we want to welcome in but everyone; absolutely everyone.
We will not get on with them all; we will not like them all; we should love them all. 
So blah, blah, blah, just come to church – everyone is welcome; after all – ALL MEANS ALL! and that includes YOU and ME.


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Look at things differently

Look at things differently….
Why do so many Christians forget where this church thing all started? Why do we forget where we come from and who started all this?
It all started with a Jewish man who bucked all the social trends of his time. This man broke all conventions. You think I’m making this stuff up – Look at these examples
In a time when women where considered worthless (or even property in some cases) this man, Jesus, spent time with women; even Samaritan women, who Jewish people considered the lowest of the low.
Then there was the sinners – oh there were loads of them. The ‘establishment’ wanted nothing to do with them; Jesus spent the majority of his time with them. There was a man called Zac – he was a tax man for the invasion army. He was, to say the least, hated and yet Jesus had dinner with him – spent time with the worst of the worse.
The list goes on – lepers; prostitutes; the demon processed; the sick; collaborators with the authorities etc etc etc.
So with the example we have why do so many churches and so many Christians forget where we come from? Why do they (we) forget that Jesus walked and talked with ‘all the wrong people’ of his time? 
So here’s the thing – we need to talk with and walk with ‘all the wrong people’ of our time. 
Now I’m not sure who they are where you are but here, at the Melbourne Welsh Church in Melbourne, Australia, all the wrong people might look homeless, or like refugees, or maybe gay, or different from us, or maybe the same as us – hey, maybe we’re all the wrong people; maybe I’m all the wrong people and this Jesus guy wants to talk to me.
Now there’s a terrible thought….

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Kindness – a universal language

We were very privileged today to have Father Bob MacGuire talk to us at church. He is a true Melbourne hero – for those of you who don’t know who he is here is a little about him.
Father Bob really speaks the language of kindness and has been speaking it, practically, for over 40 years. He was inspirational at church today reminding us (in his own special and unique way) what church is really about. He told us that we, who wear the name of Christ, also bear his cross. That by saying we are Christian we are committing ourselves to a path that involves loving others and that can be hard sometimes. In the words of Professor Dumbeldore, 

“It’s the choice between the easy way and the right way.”

We read the end of Matthew 25 this morning – sheep, goats, hungry, naked, prisoners etc. and Father Bob reminded us that by reading it, saying our “Amen” at the end we commit ourselves to seeing the hungry and feeding them, seeing the thirsty and giving them a drink, inviting in the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting the imprisoned. Whoever they may be.
We have a mammoth task ahead of us. 
Father Bob has being doing it for 40 years and he has only just scratched the surface of what is needed.
Thank you Father Bob – for all you do. We will continue to pray for you as we strive to follow Christ’s example that we see in your work.


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Stangers and Friends

Getting to know your neighbours (strangers) is full of surprises I am discovering.

Each day i am out  ‘loitering with intent’ on the Melbourne Streets I have contact with people encountering ordinary  “stuff’ of life, just being.

This is different to the ‘work’ I have done in the past. 
No programs that have KPI’s, no ‘problems’ to ‘fix’, rather to BE with and journey with in the ‘ordinary stuff’ of life.

It is good to do, however ‘being’ is amazing!!






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Be Excellent to Each Other

25 years ago – imagine the scene – Jesus, in jeans, hoodie and baseball cap, sitting on the steps outside parliament house (or whatever legislative body you care to mention, they all have steps) with a large crowd of homeless people, drug addicts, a few prostitutes, tattooed lay a-bouts, the unemployed, various young people and the rest of the dregs of society looking for something to do. The crowd quietens as Jesus looks at them, opens his mouth and begins to speak. In loud, ringing tones, heard over the rush of traffic and the busy life of the city he says….

BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER

How cool would that have been?

“Be excellent to each other” was the catchphrase of Bill & Ted as they went on their excellent adventure. Do you know it’s been 25 years since the first Bill and Ted movie? If you are under 25 or have never seen the movie go and watch it right now then come back and read the rest of this blog!!!

Wyld Stallyns got it – they simplified a lot of the work of the church into 5 words – be excellent to each other.

So how hard can it be to be? What is it about “do to others as you would have them do to you” that is so difficult to understand? Why is “love your neighbour” not our everyday mantra? Why aren’t we being excellent to each other?

In a city (and a world) where profit seems to be more important than people the simple act of being excellent to each other can go a long way to making the city (and world) a better place. Yesterday, at church, Bubba reminded us that we need to actually ‘see’ people, acknowledge them and remind them that they are important and meaningful.

Across South East Asia there is a ritual greeting that started in Hinduism – it is “Namaste” and it literally means, so I’m told by Profs. Google and Wikipedia, “I see the divine in you” or to put that in a way churchy folk won’t freak about, “You are a child of God”.

How beautiful is that?

What a difference it would make if we all could see other people as children of God and not just strangers on different paths to us.

That guy who stands next to you on the tram – think Namaste – you are a child of God.;The nosy neighbour down the street who wants to know everything – she is a child of God; that annoying person who stares back at you in the mirror – guess what? Yep a child of God. I’m sure you get the picture, so

Be excellent to each other and namaste on dudes!


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Keep Jesus weird!!

Jesus is now so mainstream – I mean there is even a Ken Jesus now. 

It’s frightening how ‘accepted’ Jesus is, everywhere. He is talked about in parliament, he is mentioned in court rulings, he has books written about him by ‘nice’ authors; movies and T.V. shows depict this nice, kind, white guy with perfect teeth and hair and a voice makes honey look lumpy and scratchy. People don’t want to know him but he is ingrained in our national psyche, this nice, comfy man who kisses babies and tells a few stories about God and stuff.

For crying out loud!!! We have completely forgotten how weird Jesus was. We are ignoring how radical his message was (and still is).

You see Jesus was REALLY weird – he was a longhaired, homeless hippy who went around with his dropout mates telling really strange stories to anyone who would listen. He upset everyone with even a little vested interest in power or authority, he made the clergy feel very uncomfortable and he upset the order of things wherever he went. 

How is this mainstream? It wasn’t even mainstream in the sixties! 

For some following Jesus is far too comfortable, far too beige – HELP! We need to bring back the Jesus weirdness!

Walk with those who are marginalised – the poor, the homeless, the outcasts, the sinners. Tell the stories of our faith for they give hope to the hopeless and make the comfortable squirm. Live out the commands of the divine weirdo for they make us and the world a better place. 

Accept people where they are and for who they are; judge less and love unconditionally; spread the grace of God wherever you go. 

Be as weird as Jesus; our world needs to see him as he really is and not what he has become – let’s do away with the nice, kind, white guy with perfect teeth and hair and a voice like honey and remind the world of the of the longhaired, homeless hippy who went around with his dropout mates telling really strange stories and changing the world.



KEEP JESUS WEIRD AND CHANGE THE WORLD!


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church could be like THIS

So I’m back in the U.K. and heading to Leeds – WHY? I hear you ask – well for one simple reason to visit Harehills Lane Baptist Church – WHERE? I hear you say – Harehills Lane Baptist Church in Leeds, the church where Graeme Dodds is a minister – WHO? you might say – this guy…

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He preached at our church a couple of years ago and many people (including me) said it was one of the best sermons they had ever heard!

Anyway, I went to Harehills Lane Baptist Church – and I have to say that church should (or could) be like this!

I walked in and the first thing that hit me was the welcome I got – the guy at the door seemed genuinely pleased I was there. He explained a little about the service, asked me where I was from and was really nice.

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I sat down and everyone who came in (I mean everyone) said hello and as it filled people came over to talk and introduce themselves. Graeme came out and sat with me throughout the service, which was brilliant and was all about everything I had been to America to see.

The theme was traction – the idea of the ‘rubber hitting the road’. It emphasised everything I had hoped about the trip – the idea that doing is a vital part of believing. All that stuff in the book of James that faith without works is dead etc, etc. One thing, said almost in passing, struck a huge chord with me – “Pastoral work is important and it can be just a word, a phone call, a text or a facebook message.” God was speaking to me in that service – he really was.

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The community of Harehills Lane is amazing – we sang happy birthday to a lady in her 90’s, I talked to a Ugandan asylum seeker and a northern biker, we moved furniture and ate cakes – it was a brilliant morning.

After the service (which was superb and, as usual, I won’t go too far into detail because I want to use some of the stuff – especially the music)  there was a lunch that could easily compare to anything the Melbourne Welsh Church would put on. People freely mixed and chatted it, was like being in at home on any Sunday morning. It felt great.

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Another wonderful surprise was that Harehills Lane had a group going to Greenbelt and I was invited to join their number, I didn’t realise at the time what an amazing blessing that would turn out to be.

As with almost everything else I’ve seen on this trip so far it’s the little things, the simple things that make this church so special. Community is at the foundation of everything – you build the rest of the church on that. Harehills has got it right – their community is a warm, welcoming and worshipping one – it was a pleasure to share time with them. Thank you all.

After a bit of news from my folks the look of my week changed a bit – things were re-arranged. I missed visiting Zac’s Place in Swansea and I missed seeing John and Gail Rees but I was on my way back to Greenbelt after a gap of 16 years and I was excited!!!

Category : Community , News , SM , Social Media , The Trip , UK , Welcome


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