Waging Peace through Community

It seems the headlines of our papers, on-line news and through the airwaves are all fear based then followed up with messages to stay calm

When news of this broke I was in New Zealand, and listened and watched as  our community began to act in FEAR.

I don’t know about you but I was mildly amused by the rush on loo paper 😬, however I was less amused to hear of scuffles at the shops over essential items.

I find it difficult to understand people driving up to 200 Kim’s to find a supermarket in a rural community and stock up on item, with little or no obvious interest in the wellbeing of local residents.

Who recalls he call to BE ALERT NOT ALARMED, message we were repeatedly told during John Howard’s time? We were even sent a information sheet to stick on our fridge along with the terrorist hotline number.

Well here we are again, a new threat, and a time of concern for us all, now is a time, a time not to be fearful, rather sensible and aware.

It does sound a little doom and gloom, but that’s not the whole story.

There are individuals and groups responding in kindness.

Some examples I’m aware of which are rays of light.

My barber Caroline is offering to support those most vulnerable, providing her contact details and going to their homes to cut hair or pick them up and bring them into the shop.

Our daughter in-law Peri started a FB page in the Yarra Valley for people who had home grown produce available to share.

Communities are offering services to support those who may need shopping done, via community pages.

Another example of supporting someone through this confusing time.
A Melbourne Library opened up a shower block and put a chair out for a person living rough.

History is littered with accounts of community living in fear, not so much of viruses, more of the tyranny of war, hatred and bloodshed.

 You don’t have to look very far back to find such events, even in our own history, and there are always stories of individuals and groups who against the tide of anxiousness and fear rose above it to offer a different response.

We are human and we are all concerned about what is going on, let us be those who offer a different response.


So how should we respond, how do we stay calm and carry on.

We claim to be ‘different to the world’, that part of a world view that it’s all about me, rather all about us, so let’s be different, let’s listen to the still small voice of God.

At this point I think the words of the prophets and OT Testament writers offer some words of comfort, while the context may be different, the words are still relevant.

Psalms 46: 10

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,

though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;

though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord;

see what desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God!

I am exalted among the nations,

I am exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Selah

In the words of Jesus:

Peace. I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Friends please take care, however don’t allow fear and anxiousness rule your life.

Shalom

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Waging Peace through Example

Peace begins with a smile! – Albert Einstein.

This Lent we at the Melbourne Welsh Church are waging peace! In the every day we are trying to find ways to bring a little more peace to our own lives and the world around us. Sometimes its easy, sometimes its hard. Sometimes its big things that make a difference and sometimes its the small things. St. David’s (the patron saint of Wales) most famous quote is, “Do the little things.” they are most often the important ones. So what little things can we do to bring peace by example?

Albert Einstein gives us one good suggestion – Peace begins with a smile. Did you know smiling is consider to be contagious? In a world where everyone is super concerned about contagious things it is good to know that smiling does not require the use of hand sanitiser or toilet paper none of which you can get in Australia at the moment anyway. 

There are many, proper scientific studies to back up that ‘Smiling is Contagious’. A study at Pennsylvania State University says, 

Smiling activates the release of neuropeptides, neurotransmitters, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, which decrease stress levels, relax the body, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and serve as an antidepressant/mood lifter.

When a person is smiling, they are viewed as “attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere” (Sarah Stevenson). When a person sees another person smiling, his or her orbitofrontal cortex is activating, which processes sensory rewards. So when a person catches another person smiling, he or she feels rewarded, which is a good feeling.

So by smiling you are spreading a little happiness around and other research has shown, definitively, that happy people are usually peaceful people. 

Research also shows that even if you don’t feel like smiling the very act of doing it puts you in a better mood. It’s a win/win situation. You feel better; the people around you feel better; the world is slightly better. Actually a win/win/win situation. 

So spread a little peace around the place by putting a smile on your face. 

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Waging Peace for Lent

It’s Lent. Lent is about preparation through prayer, and repentance and we have decided that divisiveness and disagreement is something that needs to be addressed as something to give up for

Community events:  First, I want to thank everyone who helped us raise over $3000 for donation to the bushfire appeal.  We won’t stop caring about our community, even with the immediate threat of fire lessened, we’ll continue to be available for what is needed as we are able, I hope you’ll do the same. To that end, because there is so much BAD on the internet, false or misleading information, waging of dissent and disharmony, here at the start of Lent, we’ve decided to WAGE PEACE for Lent.   

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au%2Fnews%2Fartists-do-their-bit-for-bushfire-appeal%2F3921951%2F&psig=AOvVaw0E6Q7sjX1Y8LOawxrfBHLc&ust=1582938301183000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCMChh_SG8-cCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

To that end, we will look at Peace in Song for the first week in Lent, beginning March 1st.    This is an easy one because ON March 1st, something new to me is happening. With a rich traditional history, the Gymanfa Ganu will be on the 1st of March, St. David’s Day. We will raise the Welsh flag in song at 11am at the Welsh Church, but amount of music and singing is so encompassing that we have to go to a bigger place! So hopefully we will see you at St. Michaels Uniting on the corner of Collins and Russell Streets at 3pm.

It’s a singing festival!  And not just that, but a festival of hymn singing.  So many of the wonderful rich hymns that I know and love came out of this tradition.  To my delight, I am told that new hymns once made their debut at local Gymanfa Ganu, and then are practiced in the pubs in the evenings by the choirs learning them, or by choirs, conductors, song-writers, who are making their own new ones to present.  And larger regional and national Gymanfa Ganu follow.  If they are good, they are taken to a Gymanfa and shared wider and wider.

And we’re busy!  We’ve welcomed guests from Wales, to sing and conduct and even preach!  The voices, the singing, are pretty amazing.  With all these guests, and immersed deeply in the hospitality of the time, we’re waging Peace in Example for the second week of Lent.

The third week in Lent we will wage Peace in Community, and the fourth will be Peace in Creation.  Peace in Hospitality is our last week in March.

Lent is a season for ‘giving up’ things as we turn to look to the Cross of Easter, and we do so, with peace in our hearts and on our lips!


Welcome to …

As a child in Sunday School there was a song that began with …

“There was a dear old darkie

His name was happy Joe

Although his skin was black as soot

His heart was white as snow.”

There were more appalling lyrics, but you get the point.

I had hoped we would have grown out of our racist and prejudice in 2020, but apparently not.

Sadly there is debate among some Evangelicals and other Christians as to whether a welcome to country is important.

It appears for some if we acknowledge our First People that somehow we are not acknowledging God as creator?

I’m not convinced God would see it that way. I reckon if Jesus was walking around today, he would have more in common with the indigenous peoples of any country. Moreover I believe Jesus would acknowledge all first peoples.

Image from publisher’s site. 
Use of this image is not for commercial or promotion purposes, but to illustrate the idea of the possibility an existing (or pre-existing) relationship that is not mutually exclusive. https://secure.stpauls.com.au/product/97/Special+St+Pauls+Australia+Clearance/Fletcher+MSC,+Frank;+Byers,+Fabian+(ed)/7571/Jesus+and+the+Dreaming

Bigotry Bill

There will be Religious Freedom Bill in front of Parliament soon. As a church that should be a good thing right?

WRONG!!

And not just wrong – its very, very wrong!!

You don’t have to dig very deeply into the legislation to find huge flaws in the bill. A very quick google search comes up with hundreds of hits for people standing against it. But that is not usual, there are people who stand against every Act or Bill before Parliament. But usually it’s not the associate professor of constitutional law of Monash University. Luke Beck, for that is his name, has written that the Bill “appear(s) to be motivated by a desire to allow people to be nasty to others”.

The Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group call the bill, “Deeply flawed” and the Professors Simon Rice and Beth Gaze, of Sydney and Melbourne universities respectfully, have said the bill’s wide definition of “statements of belief” meant current unlawful acts of discrimination would “likely become lawful if based on religious belief”.

These ‘current unlawful acts of discrimination’ are not just against marginal groups. Before any major revisions take place here are some of the things that could allowed according to the Guardian who have collected these examples from various sources – 

Here are some Statements of religious belief that, if the bill is passed, will not be found in breach other federal, state and territory discrimination laws.

(These things could be allowed!!)

                                    A single mother who, when dropping her child off at daycare, may be told by a worker that she is sinful for denying her child a father.

                                    A woman may be told by a manager outside work that women should submit to their husbands or that women should not be employed outside the home.

                                    A student with disability may be told by a teacher their disability is a trial imposed by God.

                                    A person of a minority faith may be told by a retail assistant from another religion that they are a “heathen destined for eternal damnation”.

All that needs to happen is that these statements must be made in good faith; not be malicious or harass, vilify or incite hatred against a person or group; not advocate for the commission of a serious criminal offence but apart from that all of the above will be legal.

In the future discrimination against a person on the basis of religious activity will be unlawful.

So a public evangelist / street-preacher cannot be stopped even where they are in contravention of council bylaws and no matter how bigoted they are being.

Under this bill, unless it is against the law to refuse treatment, health practitioners are allowed to conscientiously object to providing a health service and no professional rules can override that right.

So soon a doctor could refuse to provide contraception to all patients or to prescribe hormone treatment for gender transition because he/she doesn’t agree with it.

                                    Or a nurse can refuse to participate in abortion procedures or to provide the morning-after pill to a woman admitted to hospital after a sexual assault.

                                    A pharmacist will be able to refuse to provide the pill to women for contraceptive use

Although the primary aim of the bill is to prohibit religious discrimination there are a range of exemptions that will allow other religious discrimination to happen:

                                    Religious hospitals, aged care providers or accommodation providers such as retirement villages may discriminate against their staff on the basis of religion both in terms of hiring and to set codes of conduct requiring them to act in accordance with that faith at work.

                  These are just some of the things that could happen, and I haven’t touched on education, social media and the workplace that have their own major problems under this bill.

                  I’d love to be able to say that these examples are far fetched and in reality will not happen but, unfortunately they are not, all of these things, and worse will happen if the bill is passed unchanged. 

                  Many of the major churches and their leaders, many Muslim and Jewish leaders have already spoken out against this bill; whether they will be heard and listened to is yet to be seen.

The Uniting Church in Australia, in its submission against this bill, echoed the concerns of legal experts, saying the redrafted version of the bill does not “get the balance right”.

“To be a welcoming, inclusive, multi-faith and multi-cultural society, it is important that people are able to freely practice religion without fear,” Uniting Church president Dr Deidre Palmer told a forum in Sydney last week.

“But privileging statements of religious belief at the expense of other people’s dignity and wellbeing is not something we support. Christians in Australia are not persecuted. In Australia, churches aren’t victims. To cultivate some kind of victim status is disingenuous.”

Professor Beck, who we heard from at the beginning of this blog, says the practical effect of the right to make statements of belief was to establish “the right to be a bigot”.

As Christians we are not victims and we would like to believe that bigotry is not a religious freedom!!


God of the little things

Sometimes, it is the huge things that catch our attention, fires that turn the sky to blood and the ash in the air making our breath short. Sometimes it can be pretty epic. But sometimes, it is the little things that remind us, usually in a small voice, that God is with us.

How can this be? We’re in the midst of an existential crisis unlike many we’ve seen before. Yeah, since 1852, there have been some pretty astonishing crises: Napoleon assumed power in France in a coup, Crimean War, US Civil War, Great War, World War 2, Krakatoa, Fall of the Ottoman Empire, Spanish Flu – we’ve seen a lot.

unsplash-logo
David Clode

But take a moment, and take a long look at something. One minute. Solid, just sit and look at the drop of water on a leaf, and see if you can find three things about it, in it, that it makes you think of, that you wouldn’t have thought of, if you hadn’t taken that one little minute.

Because yeah, it’s the big things. But God is also in the little things too, the details, the finer points, the minutae. Take a peek.

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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’!!


we are what we believe we are (C.S.Lewis)

Last week was the anniversary of the death of a mate.

Leigh was a young man I got to know through working with adolescents in ‘out of home care’.He was 13 when I first met him, always  likeable as a teenager.


I reconnected with Leigh after his release from prison.

Together with the support of his Nan, Aunty and many others Leigh began a new journey.

His courage and effort to make change was amazing.

Leigh had reason to be ‘angry at the world’. 

He had reason to be angry at some of the people in his life.

From time to time this anger did surface, but he always came through it.

As I sat with his Nan, who he adored and who stuck with him through thick and thin, but never let his sometimes ‘bad behaviour’ go unchecked, we spoke about how much he was missed, and how he believed stuff about himself that was not true.
At the table was one of Leigh’s aunties who along with her family adored him too.

We chatted and shared memories of Leigh.

As I was leaving I was handed copies of three letter Leigh had written but never posted.

One to his mother, one to his brother and one to Nan. 

As I read these the Leigh we knew and loved, his true self shone through, thoughtful, reflective, caring, loving and honest. 

Leigh was part of a very broken ‘system’, one which has been in the spotlight again in recent days. (There were those in that system who encouraged and supported Leigh too).

We miss Leigh, and will remember him for who he was, not for the person he sometimes thought he was, because much of who he thought he was reinforced by a system where compassion and love often give way to harshness and punishment.

It’s been a year since you departed Leigh and those who loved you best, miss you most.







BEWILDERED PERPLEXED PUZZLED

By now you will be aware of the events in part of the CBD in Melbourne.

We as a part of the community have been involved in the community support.

There is nothing more to say, so I’ll leave you with our sign message….

JESUS
WEPT


SEASONS GREETINGS

PEACE ON EARTH AND GOODWILL TO ALL. 

MAY JOY, PEACE AND LOVE SURROUND YOU THIS CHRISTMAS.