Quiet Confidence

In recent days there have been books released with titles like Where is God in a pandemic?, and are these the ‘ends times’. It reminds me of a sign I saw in a country town asking ‘when will Jesus return?’ I wonder if it is people who live in western civilisations who ask these questions? There are places in the world where famine, warfare, and hardships part of the every day. It seems to me that the more privileged we are, the more we expect answers when we face difficult times. I wonder if it is because we feel unsettled as our norms are challenged? We experienced panic purchasing when news broke of a pending pandemic. I wonder if those of us who say the follow Jesus buy into that panic, or do we as Siôn’s sermon on Sunday suggested, be still in the quiet confidence that God is there in the middle of this with us and we don’t need to have troubled hearts? As humans we do have questions, we often find these questions come when we are facing difficult times, it in these times we need to reassure each other that God has not abandon us, God has not wound the world up like a giant clock and flung it into the universe and wandered of elsewhere, NO God is here and we are not alone nor abandoned. Those I meet with who live life in isolation, are often aware of the presence of God. We too can share in that. Let’s comfort each other knowing the assurance of the creators love.

PW 17/05/2020

Lock down Day 1008 Dear Diary,

Last Sunday was Sara’s induction. It was a great service and it’s lovely to have her on board with the Ministry Team. She is already proving to be a huge asset during this crisis, and there is no way we could be doing so much without her. Last week I was asked by a couple of people why we had “to rush” her induction service and not wait until this pandemic is over when we could all join together “as the church” to do this. Before we recorded the service, we thought about why we should and also why we shouldn’t do the service and the Ministry Team decided that we would go ahead with the Induction Service. The thinking behind this was simple – we have tried to keep things going during this crisis as normally as possible. We have kept services going – even adding other services to the calendar (like a Welsh Easter service and evening Vespers which we never normally do). Bible study has kept on (and it’s even grown), we’ve celebrated communion, found ways to sing hymns, started a book club, continued pastoral visits, are sending out the Monday Missive to keep as many people in touch as we can and are even doing coffee after services and during the week. So since we announced Sara’s induction in February (before this lockdown) we decided to keep it on the calendar. It was not a rush decision made at the last minute but a carefully considered idea to try and keep as much normality as we can. The church still meets, the church is still working, we met “as the church” for Sara’s induction, as we have for all the other services. In fact over 500 people met as the church for Sara’s induction and we have had overwhelming positive feedback. The building is closed, 320 Latrobe street is a quiet and cold place at the moment but that is exactly what 320 Latrobe Street is – a building. If this lockdown has shown us anything it has shown us that the Melbourne Welsh Church is a widespread and active community which reaches, literally, round the world. We have regular attenders at our worship services from Wales, Scotland, Germany, The USA, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and of course all over Australia. We think that having the services online is a wonderful thing and we are hoping to continue this, even when we get back to using the church building every Sunday. We are looking into getting the equipment in place before we get back to our buildings so that as many people as possible can share in our worship. Thanks again for listening diary. I had risotto for dinner. It was 16 degrees today with clouds. Ludo’s training went well. Alan started a new job. So nothing interesting really.


Stone Soup

A colleague of mine in the US wrote a post, which he has consented to share with us. It reminded me of the children’s book, Stone Soup, but with differences. Have a read, then I’ll meander through my mind on this one.

Grief Stew: thanks to Eric Wolf, ELCA pastor in South Carolina, USA

We’re grieving. Just to be clear, it does not have to be death which causes grief. That’s the EASIEST one to recognise but we’re grieving lives not lived, lives on hold, lives re-routed, lives transformed AND lives ended. And that’s bitter sauce.

When I learned how to cook, I was heavily influenced by my mother, who made a lot of chicken (I swore I would not serve chicken)(spoiler, I do serve chicken) and did not ever use salt. Ever. That I know about. My father had high cholesterol, and a low-sodium diet was absolutely necessary to keep him off of medications, so we all got to share that particular lifestyle. But the bitterness of salt in necessary, in portions.

When we left the US, we also left “cooking” as I knew it. Suddenly it was open-air markets (and yes, wet-markets, NOT recommended if you’re pregnant for sheer awfulness of smell alone). I no longer had to prepare meals, I had to plan, find, adapt AND cook. And I had to figure out substitutions. And I had to learn to make things like soft cheeses, grind and spice sausages. Oh, and some of the stuff I made was frankly awful. Seriously. And some of it was amazing.

When we lived in Turkey, as Americans we had access to some of the military commissaries and so we could get pork. EVERY-one wanted to be invited to our house for holidays for standing crown roast of pork (not lamb like here, which was another revelation for me) and a Mediterranean woman told me to ‘put pears in there’. I accidentally did what I usually do, rub the outside of the roast with a LOT of pepper (and some salt, sorry Mom). And peppers and pears was born. It’s really good. Everything we make, bitter or sweet, combinations of new flavours or old ones mixed in new ways, brings something to share to the table. I almost always halve pears, put feta cheese and pomegranate reduction and seeds, some walnuts and pepper in the oven and roast for the last fifteen minutes that any pork roast is in the oven.

We can salvage the stew. What we put in the pot is what we share, and the combinations are complex, confusing, confounding and crazy.


Freedom

In recent weeks many of the freedoms we take for granted have been taken away from us while we find ways to protect as many as possible from the virus.

Those who know me are aware I am the privileged owner of a motorcycle.

 Harley Davidson has often been marketed as a Freedom Machine, and I have to admit it does give you a sense of freedom. 

With open throttle releasing fuel through the 50 mm carburettor you over take the car or truck, with the sun on your back and the wind in your face cruising down the open road, riding the sweeping curves and open stretches of sealed road with the v-twin throbbing through fishtail exhaust for a brief moment there is a sense of freedom that pauses the cares of the day  if only temporally.

Once you’re home again and the helmet, gloves and cut has been removed the reality of life kicks in and the ride slowly becomes a memory, one that you hope can be revived another day.

Freedom true freedom does not, or so it appears to me to come from mere symbols of freedom, such as a motorcycle.

We have many symbols in our house, some of which are shown below.

But as I look at them, they don’t conjure images of freedom. They may represent the idea of freedom, but do they bring freedom?

There is one cross at the bottom, which we purchased while on the NSW South Coast a couple of years ago. Sadly, the town where the artist live was decimated during the fires last summer.

The artist is portraying the cost of, and sacrifice of war.

Toy soldiers lie at the base of the cross, the carcass of a dead sea bird has been placed on one side while in the other a $ symbol.

Freedom, true freedom comes at a cost, the other symbols one a cross the other a crucifix  these are also symbols of freedom, but again these of themselves are not what brings freedom, much like my desire to be free while riding, perhaps they represent a freedom which comes via the actions of one person, that is so much more than the mere representation of objects.

I wonder if in these trying times we gain comfort from the symbols around us, those things which are familiar, I know I do, BUT, what really inspires me more is the reality that true freedom and the thing that gets us through difficult times in that reality that true freedom comes from Jesus, who is the icon of God and who sent the Holy Spirit and here where true freedom is found.

Freedom that brings Peace, Joy and Love, in spite of the trying circumstance.


Distractions R Us

Dear Friends,

Firstly a quick check in. Are you doing ok? Take a little time now to sit quietly and just check that you’re doing well. Any signs of anxiety or stress? If so reach out to someone. Make a call, talk to someone. Give me or one of the ministry team a ring and just have a chat. 

So how is isolation for you? Many people are finding it difficult to fill all the time productively. I spent some time last weekend looking at various options of things to do while at home. 

If you are reading this via the Dawn and don’t want to type the search suggestions, and want actual links, in just email the office and we’ll send you an email with all the links ready to go.  In the meantime, move your mouse to the line below the suggestion and click when the words or link appears! Like magic.

So there are loads of things to do at this time. 

How about a virtual tour of the major exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria? Interested? Move your mouse to the line below and click when the words Virtual Tour appear.

If looking at art isn’t your thing what about making it? The NGV has drop by drawing classes – give one of them a go here – (move your mouse to the next line to see the link)

https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/playlist/drop-by-drawing/

While doing your art how about a nice glass of wine. Innocent Bystander are doing virtual wine tasting. I have no idea how It works but here’s the list and and the link to their Facebook page with more info. Fri, Apr 24: Gabbin ‘bout Gamay Fri, May 1: Chatting Chardonnay ((move your mouse to the next line to see the link))

https://www.facebook.com/ibwine/

When did you last visit Melbourne Museum? Well here’s your chance to have a virtual look round. Here’s their link – (move your mouse to the next line to see the link)

https://museumsvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum/at-home/

When you’ve finished at the museum virtually cross the city and head for a walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens. Their information is here. (move your mouse to the next line to see the link)

https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/virtualgarden

Fed up of the gardens – well learn to play an instrument. Fender have free guitar lessons for bass, guitar or even ukulele. Sign up here (move your mouse to the next line to see the link):

https://try.fender.com/play/playthrough/?utm_source=bouncex&utm_medium=popup&utm_campaign=PlayThrough_BXPopup&utm_term=fender&src=emaill00DTplaypopup

What about helping computers learn? You can play virtual Pictionary at Quick Draw. It’s an experiment to see if computers can learn to recognise human doodles. Try it here – (move your mouse to the next line to see the link)

https://quickdraw.withgoogle.com

Yoga class?

Want to visit a new city try here (move your mouse to the next line to see the link)

https://www.timeout.com/travel/14-world-famous-city-views-you-can-see-from-your-sofa

The State Library has loads to offer – books, music, learning. Go here and explore. (move your mouse to the next line to see the link)

https://www.timeout.com/melbourne/news/you-can-download-the-state-librarys-huge-collection-of-books-music-and-photos-for-free-032620

One of my favourite things to do is head to Melbourne Zoo. They have cameras set up on loads of animals – (move your mouse to the next line to see the link)

https://www.zoo.org.au/animals-at-home/

These are just some ideas. A quick google search will find loads more. Send in your favourites and I’ll update this list. Send your ideas to melbwelshchurch@bigpond.com and mark them Stuff to do inside. 

Stay safe and keep washing your hands. 

Siôn.  

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So how are you today?

Good morning, how are you?

This is the kind of question we often ask.

It has become something we do, often without really being prepared for any in depth response.

I’m just as guilty of this as anyone.

So what are we really asking?

Are we just being polite, just polite enough to appear interested in another’s wellbeing, or are we asking something which requires an honest and considered response?

In 2016, Ruth and I, along with our good friend Doc, had the opportunity and privilege to take a trip to New Zealand.

As part of that trip, we attended the NZ Chapter of God’s Squad cmc, National Run.

These times are held all over the parts of the world where God’s Squad have Chapters.

This particular year, the NZ Chapter President had arranged for us to meet at Parihaka.

Parihaka is located in the Taranaki region. (near New Plymouth for those who went to NZ with MWC).

In the 1870s and 80s reported to be the largest Maori village in NZ. (for those interested in history you might like to read up on the story)

The only other time I’ve been so emotionally connected to place was in the dessert in outback Australia, but that’s a story for another time.

I have included some photos from our time at the Marae. (meeting place).

I have maintained contact with the Marae’s Queen’s daughter and son in-law.

Below is the response I received back when I asked how they were….

We are on day one of shut down.

Dallas is an essential worker and has to go to work.

I’m an essential worker able to work from home so financially were okay.

Spiritually and mentally great for now and physically well…..

One could do with a bit of exercise.

What a great and considered response, a we’re doing ok, or fine thanks but, no, the response is very personal and honest. It covers so much more and is very personal. ( I sought and was given permission to use this).

During these times of life where what we are so used to has been interrupted by circumstances so out of our control, how will we respond when asked the question “how are you”? what will be your response? (and mine?).

It might be time for both the enquirer and enquiree to be a little more interested and honest. Of course this kind of personal and intimate conversation comes with trust and a relationship of mutual respect with people we know and trust.

Mount Taranaki has snow on the peaks all year.
The Hangi preparation @PW
The Meeting room @PW

The Meeting room was where stories are told, people connect through stories and sharing life. We all slept in this room, no shoes food or drinks allowed. Artefacts and pictures telling the history of the peaceful resistance of colonial invasion. 

So how ARE you today?

Category : Uncategorized


Peace through… um, I’ve lost track…

I THINK I am supposed to be writing about waging peace through hospitality, because we are waging peace through Lent. But I am going to go off script. It’s still waging peace, but it is to speak directly to the here and now. Lent is a time of reflection, so I am going to do just that.

I was pondering what to write today, and there was, I admit it, a temptation to wallow a little.   As in, “this is the Lentiest Lent that I ever Lented” kind of wallow.  But I have an admission to make.  Now that I am no longer feeling two parts confused and one part winging it … I kinda like the slower pace.  It’s quieter, have you noticed?  It’s less smelly.  I see WAY more people walking past my front gate than ever, and people wave from across the street at each other.  I stood on the balcony of a friend, an appropriate two meters apart, and we could see the lights on the OTHER side of the bay.  We could see down to Mornington, and all the way to Queenscliff, and there was almost no traffic on the highway, so we could hear birds, from way up high. 

from A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Don’t get me wrong, it was weird.  Surreal, even, but there is something to be said for one of the casualties of the coronavirus being Busy Backson, hurry up and rush about, overly scheduled, and utterly crammed scheduled at that.  I’m not advocating tossing the entire work-ethic out of the window; because one thing I have also noticed, is that we need PURPOSE.  And I think our houses will be tidy, our yards cleaned up and worked on, and projects that haven’t gotten to being gotten to.  I know OUR house has a list. Playing games as a family has come back, or sitting down to a movie, and taking walks together.

Did you notice that people we more willing to work on physical distancing (while gathering ever closer socially, but using technology), when we were doing it for someone else?  It’s like we need to be forced not to be selfish, and are more than willing to do so, with a little shove. 

Sure, sure, there are plenty of not-nice stories, and goodness, don’t leave the news on 24/7 or it will overwhelm you much sooner than it should, because it IS more than a little overwhelming really.  But there are also things like special hours for healthcare workers at the grocery store, and prioritising the delivery of groceries to those in quarantine or those who simply cannot make it to the stores as well.  We’re going to need to notice those things more and more, in case the stories do get grimmer and grimmer.  But, we’re moving slower now, so perhaps we won’t miss them as life flashes by out the car window. 

Category : Uncategorized


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. 

Category : Uncategorized


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!