Spirtuality


6a00e54ecc070b883301b7c78443ea970b-115wiBeyond the Walls by Brad Chilcott

Who would’ve thought that one photo could cause so much trouble?

It wasn’t the first time I’d been criticized for my friendship and solidarity with the Muslim community, in fact I’d had some threats of violence when I spoke up about Halal certification but this one took it another level. Had I renounced the gospel? Sure, being friends with Muslims, but praying in a mosque? Did I even believe in Jesus anymore? The beard didn’t help any.

Had I taken the instructions “love your neighbour as yourself” and “love your enemy” too literally? Too far?

1 John 3. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

We know what loves looks like by only one measure. Jesus Christ. We only know what loves looks like because we know Jesus and what it looked like for him.

And if I had a Bible for every time I’ve heard a Christian use their love for everyone as an excuse to be bigoted, hateful, insular, selfish, fear-mongering, greedy and self- interested I’d be the library at the Vatican.

You’ve heard it like I have. This flippant Christianese about loving people for whom we hold our deepest prejudices and ugliest hatreds.

Let me say this –

If it sounds like hate, feels like hate and makes people feel hated then it’s certainly not love

There’s not some special form of love that only Christians get to know about that looks and feels a lot more like hate for those that it is directed towards, but in some super spiritual secret way is still love.

If it looks like prejudice, feels like prejudice and keeps us as far away from people as prejudice does, then it’s prejudice.

There’s not a special form of Christian love that looks like prejudice, feels like prejudice and distances and dehumanises people like prejudice but in actual fact is some secret kind of love that only Christians know of.

There’s no special kind of love where you get to be horrible to people, or pretend they don’t exist, a kind of love where you stay in your insular and ignorant world, judge people you’ve never met, protect yourself from difference and religiously maintain your privileged way of life and self-righteously sheltered paradigm.

There’s a reason that doesn’t sound a lot like love.

Because it isn’t love. It’s prejudice wrapped up in faith.

It’s ignorance wrapped up in religion.

It’s bigotry masquerading as Christianity.

It’s selfishness appropriating the name of the selfless one to excuse greed and insularity.

It’s our rampant desire for a comfortable, self-interested life using the one who gave up the trappings of heaven to set us free as an excuse not to give a damn about anyone except ourselves, our situation and our perspective.

That’s not love it’s blasphemy.

But seeing as that little rant doesn’t relate to anyone here in this room I want to move on and talk about some things that are a bit more insidious, a bit less overt and obvious but are nevertheless important to reflect upon if we are to apply this wild measure of love to our work in the community and world.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us.” There’s a CS Lewis quote that I find helpful to explain it in practice

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” ―C.S. Lewis

Another way of putting that could be “good intentions are not the same thing as love”.

Why? Because if we don’t do the hard work of turning good intentions into real outcomes for people then it’s likely that the “good” in “good intentions” is more about how good we feel about what we’re doing.

There’s a danger that we’re in fact congratulating ourselves for the intention to do good deeds, the videos we made to celebrate them and the likes on our Instagram account of ourselves with poor children rather than doing whatever it takes for the good of the people we say we love.

The phrase in CS Lewis’ quote “As far as it can be obtained” is key for us, I think. Love seeks the ultimate good of the loved person “as far as it can be obtained”.

Here are some very practical things that love does when love has the intention to work for the “ultimate good … as far as it can be obtained”.

1. Love intentionally escapes the echo chamber. In love we realise that it is easy to be surrounded by people, ideas, books and stories that affirm what we believe, the way we think, our theology, missiology and ecclesiology and we end up in a situation where we think anyone who isn’t doing it like us, or with us, must be naive, uneducated or willfully incompetent.

The echo chamber is when we find a bunch of like-minded churches, with similar culture to our own, and so do what they’re doing – it must be the right thing because they had a sick video and their people love it.

Love is not an excuse to be uneducated, or narrowly educated. Love is a steady wish for the loved one’s good as far as it can be obtained. As far as it can be obtained means being aware of the danger of the echo chamber where all our ideas, practices and projects are constantly being affirmed by those who we have become mirrors of.

2. Love is teachable and actively seeks out learning and critique. Love makes sure we’re at the cutting edge of community engagement, aid and development and have made every endeavor to learn from the best practitioners in the world about how to maximize our engagement with the people we say we love.

Love is not an excuse to do things badly. Love is not an excuse to be ten years behind. What I mean by this is that love won’t just send money, people and hours to any foreign aid and development project, or local community development work, driven by an emotional response we call love.

Love will, in seeking the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, actively seek to understand what it world’s best practice today and invest in that best practice.

If you don’t know what results-based accountability, asset-based community development or collective impact mean, it’s time to learn.

When we’re still behaving like the white Saviours who can solve all the world’s problems for them the photos look great but It’s not love.

3. Love maximizes outcomes no matter what the cost – because it’s about the recipient and what they get out of our love acting towards them and not about us and our desire to feel like we’re good people.

In a small church community like mine, hundreds of people hours and thousands of dollars are invested in helping the people we love. In larger churches it’d be thousands of hours and tens or hundreds of thousands.

Across this room, across Australia, it’s incredible to think how much human and financial resource flows from our love for others.

Love, seeking the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, pays the price of ensuring this investment does the most good it possibly can. That sometimes leads to conflict when we learn that our favorite projects aren’t aligned with good development principles, or that our community engagement isn’t helping but is feeding a dependency mindset.

Love sometimes means educating people that there are better organisations, projects, activities to invest their time and money into, and others that need to be abandoned, or radically re-imagined.

Love is not an excuse to avoid the conflict that comes from assessment, accountability and education. In fact, love makes those things essential because love doesn’t ask, “How does this activity benefit me and my church?” or “How does this keep people in my church happy and comfortable?” love says, “How can I best obtain the ultimate good for these people we say we love?”

This is how we know what love is – Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. What would you give up for love of people?

Changing the way it’s always been done? Escaping the echo chamber and being challenged by new ideas and paradigms? Being willing to take your people on a journey towards world’s best practice despite the uncomfortable changes on the way?

Maybe it’s risking your reputation, like Jesus being seen with sex workers, tax collectors and sinners as we do whatever it takes to make our community engagement about them and not about us and our church-culture measures of success.

This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. Thanks.

Brad Chilcott

[Source: World Vision’s National Church Leader’s Summit – February 2015]

 

The Federal Government are reviewing the funding of Chaplaincy in schools around Australia. Mission Australia chaplains were asked to comment on the white paper. My comments were sent in via an email, but not included in our final submission, I didn’t get feedback, maybe they were not in line with the overall MA feedback.  But my comments were similar to this article I read recently from an ABC website by Scott Stephens.

No government funds, please: we’re

Christians!

There is no surer way of bringing the simmering debate about the role of religion in Australia to a full boil than by invoking the money and tax concessions given by government to fund certain religious activities. In no time, what already tends to be a fairly uncivil argument devolves into bitter invective against the supposedly theocratic designs of the churches from one side, and dismissive assertions of a kind of historically legitimate Christian “exceptionalism” from the other.

I believe that both extremes in this debate are wrong: the “secularists” because they assume that once religion is removed from public-political life, and consigned to interiority (where they assume it belongs, if anywhere), the secular space that is left will be neutral, benign and inherently just; and the Christian “exceptionalists” because they think that God’s providential care of the world can be mediated through political coercion, and because they do not believe that being on the payroll of the State is hazardous to the soul of Christianity itself… [read full article here]

It not be significant to many, but I thought it worth a mention. I finished a book this morning by Richard Louv. The book was called Last Child in the Woods. The significant part is that Richard (a guy who lives in the USA) is in Perth just for this morning speaking at a conference! Anyway I did not get to hear him but I finished his book instead. It was a great read for all people interested in the benefits of growing up with the outdoors in your blood. Good for teachers and parents and lovers of wild things and spirituality! Here’s what Louv’s website says of the book ;

n this influential work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond—and many are right in our own backyard.

I think Matty B emailed this to me once. I now must be reading a book he was reading then and so I too have come across this great quote, and I publish it for you (probably again, I am sure I put it in here once before!)

Parker J Palmer says;

…the soul is [ ] shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush, especially when other people are around. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently at the base of a tree, breathe with the earth, and fade into our surroundings, the wild creature we seek might put in an appearance. We may see it only briefly and only out of the corner of an eye – but the sight is a gift we will always treasure as an end in itself.

A Hidden Wholeness (58/9)

Question of the Day:
What is it that makes the universe friendly?

St. Bonaventure (1221– 1274) took Francis’ intuitive genius and spelled it out into an entire philosophy.

God is “within all things but not enclosed; outside all things but not excluded; above all things but not aloof; below all things, but not debased.” Bonaventure was the first to speak of God as one “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”

Therefore “the origin, magnitude, multitude, beauty, fullness, activity and order of all created things” are the very “footprints” and “fingerprints” (vestigia) of God, according to this Doctor of the Church. Now that is quite a lovely and a very safe universe to live in. Welcome home!

Adapted from Hope Against Darkness, Richard Rohr (p. 136)

With his arm elbow deep in muddy water Eddie looks up and winks and mentions that if this mud crab gets a hold of his fingers we had better watch out as we will all know about it! We were out on the Mangrove flats that the people of Ngamagkoon belong to. Eddie is part of the Sampi family, made well known by the Eagles player Ashley Sampi, a Bardi from the mob at Ngamagkoon.

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The 5 of us  began our journey in Broome 4 days previous. We were on what we called a “listening journey”, as part of a programme I run called OnEARTH for Global Mission Partners. We were there to listen to country, to story, to legend, to the people of the Dampier Peninsula –

  • Jawi
  • Bardi
  • Nyulnyul
  • Jabirrjabirr
  • Nimanburru
  • Ngumbarl

Before the arrival of Europeans, the natural environment on the Dampier Peninsula provided plenty of bush tucker for the indigenous people.  Creeks, tidal areas and the ocean are full of fish, dugong, mud crab and oysters and the vine thickets provide fruits and berries to make a varied and nourishing local diet.

Dampier Peninsula people still have a strong affinity with the sea and bushland, as we discovered along our journey.

After driving from Broome we arrived in Looma (120km S/E of Derby) with a population of around 400. We stayed with Natasha and Jamie Short, a wonderful couple who pastor the People’s Church as well as look after the community youth centre. They are fantastic people. Jamie is a White fella from Perth and Natasha, an Aboriginal from the Halls Creek area. They have been serving at Looma for about 7 years now and have 2 great kids.

2009 07 28_1108After lunch and a swim down on the stunning Fitzroy River we drove up to Derby to visit the Whites. Paul and Laurel White pastor the Derby Baptist Church among other activities.  They have bought the Aboriginal Training Centre just out of town and have big plans for growth and extension. Whilst there we did some manual labor… we raked up truck loads of dry leaves (fire hazard) and were asked to remove the stumps of 2 recently cut down Boab trees- hmmm??!!

Laurel White looked after us while we were there. She is a great lady, she has a wonderful gift of hospitality and generosity! Paul, her husband and pastor at the church is a pilot and was away in Perth during our stay.  Outside the life and ministry of the predominantly white church Paul and Laurel have some amazing relationships and ministries in Aboriginal communities.

Kimberly Aid – This business has began as a result of RFDS having bigger planes and not being able to access smaller community airstrips around the Kimberley. Paul and Laurel have got a bunch of medical people and pilots to donate their time to assist in evac when RFDS can’t make it in.

Kingdom Aviation – Paul and Laurel run a 3 plane ministry that flies all over the Kimberley sharing their faith, serving the poor and running programs in schools, parent support group, and other training.

Dentistry – Laurel is a dentist nurse and in her work in Derby has made many an indigenous persons dentistry journey easier as a result of special favours and ‘working the system’ that does not always serve people from remote communities very well at all. Her willingness to make all sorts of tough things just ‘happen’ for people who otherwise couldn’t get there was wonderful! She tells a great story too!

After 2 nights in Derby we drove ‘the back way’ on some very out of the way tracks to get to Cape Leveque up on the top of the Dampier Peninsula. Upon check in at Kooljaman we drove over the hill toward our beach campsite, as we rounded the hill the most amazing view was taken in to gasps from all on board – this place was paradise! Kooljaman is jointly owned by Djarindjin and One Arm Point Aboriginal Communities and sits 220km north of Broome. We visited one of these communities on the road on the drive up the Peninsula –

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Some 200 km from Broome, there are two communities very close together with about 60 Aboriginal (Bardi) people in Lombadina (first settled in the late 1890’s by Thomas Puertiollano who sold the land to the Catholic Church) and over 200 in the more traditional Djarindjin. We called in to Djarindjin specifically to catch up with Barry Ennis, the Principal from the Lombidina/Djarindjin School. We had heard through Sabrina 2009 07 30_0986Haan/ABC radio National that the EON Foundation from Perth had been helping the school set up a organic community Kitchen Garden. Barry showed us around the garden but was also good enough to spend time sharing with us the history of the the area. This community is not without some of the usual issues we read about in the media in remote Aboriginal regions, but there was something about the place that we all loved. We sensed a slowness and peace about it, a friendliness that  drew us in.

P6060072 copyOn our first night at Cape Leveque (and every subsequent one!) we made our way down to the Western Beach and watched the sunset – undoubtably some of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen!

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On Friday we went to One Arm Point community (Ardiyooloon). This community is the home of the Bardi and Jawi people who were the traditional inhabitants of the area. These people are still active in hunting around the local area and in most cases still using traditional hunting methods as they hunt for sea turtle or goorlil (we saw the evidence of a fresh catch along the beach!), dugong (odorr), and many many of the amazing fish (aarli) up there. They also collect the trochus shells and make jewellery, oysters, mud crabs and more. These people are proud of their hatchery on the point where they nurture all sorts of creatures in giant tanks.

Here at One Arm Point we stopped and and chatted with a wonderful couple called Brian and Violet Carter. Their son is the Chairman of One Arm Point Aboriginal Community. This lovely old couple can tell some stories! Brian moved to Derby as a pilot in 1956, later married Violet and have lived in One Arm Point community for many many years, to look at Brian you know he is not Aboriginal but to listen to him speak and hear his heart beat, you know he is on the inside! They both sat with us and shared some great insights into the local culture, politics, and … well fishing and tides :)  Brian and Violet are both followers of Christ

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and asked us excitedly if we had seen their ‘church’. It was a roof and some poles with a piece of shade cloth they were quite happy with – we fell in love with these guys and their beautiful faith and love for life and one another.

P6070117 copySaturday morning saw us pulling into Eddie’s place at Ngamagkoon, just south of Kooljaman. We had asked if Eddie could spend a few hours with us telling us about his people and their culture. He was willing and would even show us the basics of living in a coastal Bardi community. We drove out into the Mangrove Flats and went on foot (with spears) into the thick mud searching (and finding!) some VERY large crabs hiding under trees. After crabbing we headed back to the Melaleuca scrub (not venturing too far in as there were sacred ceremony sites in behind) looking for bush honey and pollen. With our ears against the trunks listening for bees we wandered through the scrub until Eddie found the right spot, cut it open and allowed us to sample the most

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beautiful tasting honey and pollen (tastes like sherbet). Interesting, one white person we met, not knowing or respecting much of Aboriginal culture told us with some disdain that “Aboriginal people set fire to everything!

2009 08 01_0804But Eddie taught us that his people light the bush to thin it, also to make it better for collecting their fire wood, as well as for hunting the stuff in the long grass, such a different window we were now looking through! From there we went out onto one of the most stunning coastal scenes I have seen. The Ngamagkoon people’s land has a creek running out into the ocean where they do much of their spearing and fishing from.

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This site was one of untouched bush and mangrove reaching to long white beaches and crystal clear aqua coloured lagoons. After extracting our car from the soft sand we headed back to Eddie’s place to bid him farewell and be told that we were welcome back to his country and community any time.

This time with Eddie was more than we could have hoped for and all voted it as the highlight of our trip that was drawing to a close faster than we wanted. We headed back to camp for one more afternoon sleep (a tradition we embraced…or did we start that one?), a fire with some reflections of our time away, and a dinner of local Barramundi, Kangaroo and … cow! Eddie mentioned that morning that there were a few ‘stray’ cattle around :)

Sunday morning, time to make our way back to Broome for a 1pm flight to Perth. On our return down the challenging stretch of unsealed road we took time to visit Beagle Bay Community. It was looking very nice and manicured after a week of political meetings discussing a report written by an old school mate Steve Kinnane. I read Steve’s book Shadow Lines while we travelled this week. The book follows the lives of his Grandmother (a Mirrawong woman stolen from Argyle Station in the early 1900’s) and his grandfather (an Englishman) through to today. What a brilliant read! (See below)

The Beagle Bay community is located 120 kilometres from Broome. In the centre of the community there’s a beautiful church, built of stone from 1914-1918 by German Pallottine monks, who settled here around 1901.

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On entering the Sacred Heart Church you can see a stunning pearl shell altar. Coloured windows create a special mood in the building. But, we forgot it was Sunday and church had already started and we had a plane to catch, so we missed the insides :(

The community’s name was derived from the vessel “Beagle”, which moored at the bay when the priests were looking for a suitable mission place in 1889, ironic really as this was the ship Charles Darwin sailed on. It was much of his work that was used to base most of the atrocities done to our Aboriginal people!

Shadowlines

If you are wanting to connect and learn more with the rich lives of the first Aussies, grab a copy of The First Australians (SBS), or Read Steve’s book Shadow Lines (2003, Fremantle Arts Press). One review says that … “Shadow Lines revolves around two people born a world apart, a half caste Aboriginal woman by the name of Jessie Argyle, and an Englishman named Edward Smith. Edward was born in 1891 and emigrated to Australia in 1909 as an eighteen year-old. Jessie was born in the Argyle region in the far north of Western Australia in 1900, and was taken from her family in 1906 under the newly created Aborigines Act of 1905. This book makes the often dry history of Western Australia since white colonisation come alive, and is probably a far better way to learn about the sordid history of this state than by way of the official history textbooks.

What Kinnane has done here is weave together a rich tapestry of historical tales”…read the rest here.

Not everything we saw ‘impressed’ us. Not every road taken in order to work among the people of the Kimberley would be a road I would have taken. This makes neither my road right or the road we observed wrong, just different tracks people take and our reactions to them. We went to look listen and learn from all we encountered, I trust this is what has happened.

Well I have to say that sometimes I love my job – last week was one of those times :)

Thanks to The Wembley Downs Church of Christ (where I hung out for the first 18 years of my life! As our new friend Eddie might say “they grew me up”) for making this trip a reality and for those who travelled the journey Dennis R, Steve M, Matt B and Ken V – What a great a bunch of guys to hang out with for a week, Thanks!

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pulling-off-upside-down-mission

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