Category: radical discipleship


sculpture bunjil bruce armstrong moonee ponds land of the Wurundjeri Willam people

‘Every Bird’ sculpture by Bruce Armstrong, on the land of the Wurundjeri Willam people (in Moonee Ponds)

 

We weren’t able to share this spiritual reflection today as there was an urgent need to address a community response to the COVID-19 virus but it feels like the witness of radical call and holy, foolish hope is necessary too in these times. And also, here’s an Aboriginal written guide to Coronavirus preparation & care for Mob by Natalie Cromb… may the Spirit of the land protect us all and keep us safe.

 

A few years ago I went to a Bartimaeus Institute and heard Bill Wylie Kellermann share reflections on the Stations of the Cross walk they have done in Detroit for over two decades. In a public and political way, they meet and pray where people are suffering – a jail, the site of a shooting, places where decisions are made: courts, corporate offices; places where needs are met: a shelter, a soup kitchen. I felt a strong desire to do that in Footscray, Melbourne and it felt like a wonderful confluence to discover that IHH already do a walk for indigenous reconciliation based on the model created by Norm Habel.  The story I want to read together today seeks to make that link again between the faith that calls us to live our lives differently and the lens of Aboriginal spirituality.

Read the following text as one story – it has interspersed texts from Bill Wylie Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience and Norman C. Habel’s Reconciliation: Searching for Australia’s Soul (italics).

 

Aboriginal spirituality is the belief in the feeling within yourself that allows you to become part of the whole environment – not the built environment but the natural environment… Birth, life, and death are all part of it, and you welcome each. Aboriginal spirituality is the belief that all objects are living and share the same soul or spirit that Aboriginals share. Therefore, all Aborigines have a kinship with environment. The soul or spirit is common – only the shape of it is different, but no less important.  – Eddie Kneebone

 

 

For 4 months they have gathered and prayed: a Methodist pastor, members of the Catholic Worker movement and a handful of Catholic priests. Holy Saturday 1983 they gather to act at a cabin up the road from an air force base in Michigan with first strike capability for nuclear attack:

All of us had long ago concluded that such weapons were not only illegal by international standards and immoral by ethical ones, but also theologically blasphemous, the power of death writ large.

At 2:00 a.m. we begin the liturgy of the Word… there is in Christian liturgy no finer  collection of readings from the Hebrew scriptures: the story of creation, the flood Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the Red Sea Crossing, Ezekiel’s new heart and spirit, the valley of the dry bones called to live, and the like. A feast of faithfulness, passage and hope.

There in the cabin we also made intercession, marking names and peoples upon a sheet subsequently to be used as an altar cloth: children, the poor, friends in prison, soup kitchen guests, the dead and disappeared of Central America… a communion of the living. A solidarity of the spirit, this prayer for passage, this claim upon the future. After singing a hymn, we exited into the night.

At the barbed-wire fence we paused and circled in preparation for two symbolic deeds. The first was to light the Paschal candle. Into these, our dark times, enter the light of Christ. So we prayed, flame in hand. The second, indeed one with the other, was to cut the fence. …Twang! The security of death guarding death was broken in liturgy. The wall was breached.  

 

When we talk of God – and the old fellas know – God is not the Whitefella way, up above here. God is here with me. That’s the way it is. God’s not just grounded, hiding behind the butt of that tree. The presence of the Creator is there in the tree, in the land, in each one of us. You don’t need to do a Pentecostal type service, right? You don’t need to carry out all sorts of observances. You just need to communicate with the Creator. And that Creator’s always been with the Aboriginal people. (Gilbert 1996, p.62)

 

…the seven of us began our three-and-a-half-mile trek towards the high-security area, the loaded B-52s.  It had been our intention to paint at the foot of the runway, in six-foot high letters legible from a landing plane, CHRIST IS RISEN! DISARM! We had toted along supplies sufficient: buckets of yellow paint, brushes, rollers. The wet and freezing snow, however, foreclosed that plan.

We walked on, mostly in silence, lying down periodically in a fumbling comedy, to avoid the view of patrolling security cars. As the nuclear storage bunkers came into sight, we arrived at a small building, the enclosure for some sort of electronic equipment. Here on the walls we inscribed our message, paint congealing in the freezing drizzle. And here we carried the vigil liturgy another step forward: we renewed our baptismal vows.

I had not foreseen the personal power of that moment: to look down in the runway towards the machines and their cargo, and there to “renounce Satan and all his works.” There I promised in a way not fully understood before to “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever I fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.” A life can be called back to such moments, indeed it may turn on them.

 

The Creator Spirit is crying because the deep spiritual bonds with the land and its people have been broken. The land that is crying because it is slowly dying without this bond of spiritual life. The people are crying because they long for restoration of that deep spiritual bond with the Creator Spirit and the land. – Rainbow Spirit Elders

 

The sky had begun to lighten. Birds were rousing. Shivering, we conferred and decided we had had enough of the dodging and weaving. We would proceed upright with dignity, in the manner of right worship. Here an astonishing phenomenon occurred, one reportedly not uncommon in such undertakings. We passed unseen! On one side were the bunkers, encircled with barbed- wire, lit like perpetual noon-day, driven roundabout by a constant patrol of vehicles, and observed from above by watchtowers, beneath which we processed. On the other side, parked for maintenance and refuelling, huge bombers stood in a line equally well-lit. It was as though the waters had parted. We walked unhindered to the open entrance of the high security area where the planes on alert stood ready to fly.

There, measured by a sudden flurry of activity within, we were finally noticed. Armoured vehicles and pickup trucks rushed to surround us. We spread our altar cloth of intercessions on the runway. About it we scattered blood, brought in small bottles, to signify the blood of the innocents, the blood of the Lamb. Producing the elements of the eucharist, we completed the service at gunpoint, surrounded by young airmen armed with automatic weapons.

We were a dishevelled band. Bedraggled, dressed in plastic garbage bags as makeshift protection against the unexpected weather, we were soaked nonetheless and cold to the bone. In witness and exhaustion, we suffered a sense of our own foolishness.

 

[The] land is a living place made up of sky, cloud, river, trees, the sand; and the Spirit has planted by own spirit there in my country. It is something – and yet it is not a thing – it is a living entity. It belongs to me, I belong to it. I rest in it. I come from there – Pat Dodson

 

The airmen held us in their sight but did not approach. Extending the service, we sang plaintive gospel songs and hymns of resurrection.  At long last an officer approached us.

“Are you,” he asked tentatively, “base personnel?”
“No.”
“Do you work on the base?”
“No.”
Then surveying the scene yet again, “Well, would you pick up your trash and leave?”

It was clear almost immediately that our breach of security was so severe an embarrassment that should we simply depart quietly, no record or mention need come to the attention of community public or even military higher-ups. We consulted among ourselves and declined.  The liturgy was complete in its own right, but it had momentum and direction we did not intend to abandon. Herded into a bus, strip-searched, interrogated by various agencies military and civil, we were in the end dumped unceremoniously at the front gate without charges.

Our friends awaited us with leaflets in hand. At the gate to the base and the doors to the churches in town we distributed the news. Leaflets described the cruise and it’s meaning for policy. They described our pilgrimage. And they offered this simple confession of faith:

We believe that God has already intervened in this dark history of ours.

We believe there is hope. Many people have yielded to despair. They can already hear the terrible sound of the door slamming shut on human history. But we are here to say otherwise. Someone is hidden at the heart of things, breaking in to break out, on behalf of human life.

We believe that God rules our common history. Not the Soviet Union. Not the United States. Not the NATO or Warsaw Pact forces. Despite their big and competing claims.

We believe that human beings (so says Easter) are free from the power of death in all its forms and delivery systems. We are not stuck with the balance of terror arrangements. We’re not in bondage to these weapons. We are truly and fully free to unmake them. Now. Not tomorrow or next week or next year. But this very morning.

We believe that God who raised Christ from the dead will also quicken our imaginations, and thereby our bodies and lives.

We believe this is the meaning of the resurrection. And we’ve come to say so. 

 

Individual Australians are not guilty for what happened to our families. But if you fail to respond to what you know that will be another thing. If you do not help to ease the pain, that will be your act for which you are responsible. – Pat Dodson and others at the 1997 Australian Reconciliation Convention

 

What arises for you/r community with these readings?

What is the significance of doing the 7 Healing Rites for 7 Sites walk as a community?

Have you ever had an experience of connection to or with the Spirit of the land? What was that like? How did that impact your faith?

Where are you feeling called to break into and break out of?

What might public and political liturgical action look like in a time of social distancing, when Easter services and walks might not be on?

Waste not

Our garden isn’t in good shape, but in one particular corner the soil is full of rubbish – broken plastic, tin, glass… it’s kind of not that safe to work in. I’m trying to get time in our outdoor space regularly figuring every little bit helps, and at some point it will tip to beautiful. The other day I felt a glimpse of that when, in addition to all the rubbish above, I started pulling out whole bottles. After about an hour I had a bunch of them lined up.

I think that it might have been easy to think, “I’m just going to dig out this whole section and get clean fill in here”, but there was something to taking a slower approach, picking through and being more careful with my spade. Someone was careless putting all the rubbish out here but I will be care-full in trying to restore it. When we’re looking for ‘good soil’, maybe it’s important to know there may be things in the bad that are worth keeping as a promise of things to come.

Unbound

I gardened today in the rain because I picked up sales plants from Bunnings last week and I haven’t had a chance before now to get them in the ground. I know the odds on these plants aren’t great but I feel like they’re the underdog and someone needs to root for them [lame pun intended]. With our new business I’m working to fill in our boundless backyard on a budget with cuttings – foraged and from friends, seedlings, and these sale specimens… Look at how much life is in them. Look how far and wide and deep they want to go and how much they want to grow.

Gardening is good thinking time. It’s only mid-February and I am saying “No” to things. There’s no room. There’s no resource. But I wonder whether perhaps I am like this plant, with so much life in me that somehow I don’t need less but more. More time, more space, more light, more to drink (cheers!)… what does it look like to consider tending to myself in this way? This year I am eking out a writing day again and it feels kind of wonderful.

Unbound, just how big could I grow?

What if, when a season ends, or a job, a community, a relationship… what if we imagined it to look like this? That we have grown all we can here and there is no more room. We need a new space, we need a new environment.

Is your environment nourishing you?

a picture of sustainable gift tags celebrating love

Our friends Marita and Andrew got married today, a beautiful celebration of love and embracing difference. As a small token we gave them sustainable gift labels I had made… they will have many moments beyond today to celebrate together and consciously choose ways to love each other, and to give and receive love back and forth between them. A covenant of family, friends and community… a covenant of love that connects us all, one to another.

Leaf prints in Carlton, Melbourne from ochre coloured dust swept off
Latji Latji Country, 540 kilometres away

Read these brief stories about Jesus and William Barak. How can stories of others’ formation, knowing the lives they went on to live, inform how we might live out our own discipleship or radical discipleship within community?

Mark 1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan

This is our introduction to Jesus in Mark. Nazareth is so small and insignificant that it’s not mentioned anywhere other than the New Testament – a marginal village of maybe 400 people at the margins of the country Israel. Nazareth was based on the outreaches of Sepharus (the admin base of Rome and capital of Galilee)… other that being the birth place of Jesus this is mainly known for the Sepharus uprising, a rebellion of the Jews against Roman occupation. The Romans crushed Sepharus and enslaved everyone. Nazareth is only 4 miles from Sepharus and Jesus would have been 10 years old when this happened and he would have been able to see the city burn. Jesus and his Dad were techtons (labourers, construction workers) hired to help rebuild Sepharus for the colonial occupiers.

[Ched Myers, Bible studies series at the BCM Kinsler Institute 2015]

William Barak was born into the Wurundjeri clan of the Woi wurung people in 1823, in the area now known as Croydon, in Melbourne. His father Bebejan was a ngurunggaeta (clan head) and his Uncle Billibellary, a signatory to John Batman’s 1835 “treaty”, became the Narrm (Melbourne) region’s most senior elder. As a boy, Barak witnessed the signing of this document, which was to have grave and profound consequences for his people. (Culture Victoria)

Note: This Treaty was overruled by NSW within months.

And the second paragraph here, “I was born…”

william barak my story

What arises for your community with these readings?
Who are your community apprenticed to?
(traditions, elders, movements… tell these stories)
In either our personal stories, if people want to share them, or in the history of the community – what are the significant events of our formation?  What powers shaped us?
What powers might be shaping us/influencing our formation now?

tree with overarching branches

You are God’s servants, gifted with her Wisdom and visions
Upon you rests the grace of God like a woven cloak
Love and serve the Divine in the strength of the Spirit.
May the deep peace of God take root in you, the open arms of Christa sustain you and the eucharistic power of the Holy Spirit transform you in every way.

A feminist reworking of the Urban Seed/Credo/Seeds benediction for the Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies planning day.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
It is not as the world gives that I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not let it be afraid
Jn14:27

We have watched Australia burn for weeks. We thought to head out east for our hike but a thunderstorm is due and we’re not sure we can risk being in an “extreme fire risk” park with a threat of lightning. The You Yangs are in the traditional Country of the Wadawurrung People in the west, granite peaks arising in the plains offer panoramic views of the rain coming in, and to the east, the city. We had feared the weather would be “too much” but it was not enough – barely wetting the ground and not cooling the air. We are waiting yet on the Change to come through. We are waiting for change.

Photos from the Melbourne Climate strike 20 September 2019 and an excerpt from the Common Grace  2019 Season of Creation series: Rallying for God’s Beautiful Earth

Rallying for God’s Beautiful Earth

Week 4 – Cosmos

Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi is a Uniting Church minister and supply chaplain for Christian Students Uniting at Macquarie University. Tau’alofa challenges us to repent of our sense of separation from the Fonua, and to reconnect with the Earth family. Rally with her on Sept 20

My name is Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi, I come from the island of Holonga Vava’u, Holopeka, Koulo, Ha’apai and Vai-Ko-Puna, Pea, Tongatapu. In Tonga, when a person is introducing themselves to others through formal or everyday interaction there’s often an expectation to include the name of their fonua. This is not only to identify their place of origin. In fact, to include fonua in ones speech on Tonga and many other islands, is to trace family lineages, locate where your umbilical cord was buried, because that is the place where you and the rest of your family are rooted.

Because the fonua is the womb, the place from where you entered into the world and also the fonua is the whole earth community. In this sense it is the fonua who gives birth to the human: in your mother’s fonua you were nurtured, it is a part of you, and you are part of the fonua. The gravesite is also called fonua loto, meaning the centre of the fonua. This means someone entering through the fonua of their mother, and departing into the fonua loto. Therefore, in Tongan tradition, when we introduce ourselves and identify our fonua, it means we do not exist as individuals with the fonua. As a matter of fact we the people are the Fonua and the Fonua is a part of us.

The current protest of the native people of Hawaii to save the most sacred site of mount Mauna Kea from the construction of a thirty-meter telescope is a repercussion of the appalling ignorance of one’s relationship to land and people. Mauna Kea in Hawaiian tradition is the umbilical cord that connects Hawaii to the heavens and connects humans to land.

The Hawaiian educator, and nationalist Prof Haunani-Kay Trask says:

“Our story remains unwritten. It rests within the culture, which is inseparable from the land. To know this is to know our history. To write this is to write of the land and the people who are born from her.” (Trask, 1999).

Like the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia, the Hawaiian people have a long history of fighting for the sovereignty of their land.

One of the major issues is the profit driven tourism industry whose main objective is to transform land into revenues. Haunani Trask argues that major corporations together with elite political parties “collaborate in the rape of Native land and people (…) the prostitution of Hawaiian culture.” (Trask, 1999)

The views of the people of Hawaii concerning the oneness of human beings and the land is not foreign to the natives of the South Pacific.

Land is more than the soil that we walk on. It is not just ground on which we establish ourselves with a beautiful home, a hotel, mansion or a telescope.

The word to describe land in most parts of the South Pacific correlates our islands with one another. While westerners have tended to view our islands as small, undeveloped and isolated, in fact we in Pasifika are surrounded and connected by the vast ocean as well as our humanity, history, language and so on.

Fonua as mother, womb and nurturer.

In accordance with our connectedness by ocean, we share common values and beliefs towards the land.

We say fonua in Tonga. Samoans say fanua, and Fijians say Vanua. On other islands, land is Whenua (New Zealand), Fenua (Tahiti), Kainga (Kiribas), ‘Āina (Hawaii) and so on. Despite the slight differences in its meaning and pronunciation, our common belief about our relationship to fonua anchors our identity together as the people of Oceania.

There is a feminine aspect on the meaning of fonua, which means not only land, but womb. “Polynesians to this day honour the fonua as a womb from which new life springs.” (Halapua, 2008).

In Tongan tradition, when the umbilical cord (pito in Tongan) of a newborn is detached it is an important rite for it to be buried. The ritual is to symbolise the deep connection and relationship of one to the land of their birth. Hoiore makes the point: “For as the infant was attached and nourished through the pito in his/her mothers womb, so also the child is attached to the land and all life from it.” Native Hawaiians have also been known to bury their umbilical cords on the mountain Mauna Kea as a way of connecting themselves back to the sacred land.

Every human’s wellbeing springs out of what the land produces, whether we acknowledge that or not. We are part of the land and the land is us,

“it is the Oceanic understanding that we do not own the ocean or the sea, we are owned by them.” (Halapua, 2008, p. 7).

Since, we all lived in the womb of our mothers we were nourished and protected by the fonua. This makes us connected to and inseparable from it, and indeed the whole family of creation. If she is hurt or disrespected it affects every one of her children.

A poem

Fakatapu kihe tolutaha’i ‘Otua ‘oku ‘afio ‘ihotau lotolotonga,

Fakatapu ki he kakai ‘oe Eora nation moe kelekele tapu ‘oku tau fetaulaki ai he ‘ahoni. Kae ‘atā moau ke u fakamalumalu atu ‘i he talamalu ‘o e fonuaˊ keu fai atu ha vahevahe he ‘aho kolo’ia koeni ‘I Saione.

You knew me, before You formed me in my mother’s Fonua,

Through the pito, You, nurtured and nourished me, with all that sprouts from the fonua, it was I,

I who didn’t realise…

You are my mother,

You are the Fonua,

You are the Giver of life,

But it was I, I who did not realise…

Thousands of years ago, You led my ancestors to set sail across the world into the deep blue seas of the South Pacific.

You paddled, with them through the fluidity and its powerful forces it was there,

they first encountered You, the Moana, the Ocean.

I took a sip of my disposable coffee cup, and tossed it into the ocean,

She spits it out, And says:

Do you not remember? It was I who taught your ancestors,

how to read the stars, feel the warmth and coolness of the sea,

I am the moana your mother, I am sacred, My waves are embracing they ripple to bring you all together, you are my family,

Your tears fell into the saltiness of the Moana,

It lamented together with the community with the community’s

Known to us as the canaries of climate change,

But it was I, I who did not realise…

You graced our island and people with the gift of hospitality,

The grace and bonding between humanity and nature.

That bonding is a relationship we call the tauhi Vā or reciprocity.

The space you and I symbolised as a connection that is sacred and it is to be reciprocated,

I look to the narrow interpretations of the Holy book, it said,

Humanity is superior to nature, trees, water and animals shall serve you human creatures.

The Moana, fonua, animals, water and all of creation groaned her pain,

From the sins of anthropocentrism,

They all lamented together with their Creator.

She said, they said: Do you not remember the bonding I made with your ancestors in the fonua and the moana…

I formed you, nurtured you, protected you, taught you how to read, I graced you with hospitality, created a relationship between you and all creation…

It was I, I who did not realise…

Your change of heart for I, is not the change of heart I think about,

As if you’re a God whos wrath needs to turn into love and compassion

But rather love and compassion is already within you alone, for you are the source of all these things.

You bring us into a Settlement of wholeness and restoration.

As I go from here today, I will embrace the land fonua, ocean-moana, my relationship- the tauhi Vā all that you’ve created as a part of me and I am a part of them.

Amen.

diversity in language and liturgy

I went to an event this week that talked about racism and how most people make it to the level of “tolerance” but rarely make it to “acceptance”. Acceptance is the level where diversity is incorporated and celebrated. A panel was asked: “What signals that a space is safe?” And the answer is: “Evidence that you have done your own work on this.”

So, how a space is configured, it’s art and decorations might contribute to safe space but so too does language. Churches often talk about being spaces of “welcome” but in how many languages are you saying it? Do you express the multiculturalism of your community? Do you have it in Braille? Is it large print for the elderly? Colourful for the children? Indicate that those who are LGBTIQA+ are welcome?

I don’t necessarily mean literally having a welcome sign that incorporates all those things but holding space to learn from how someone with a Vietnamese or Sri Lankan cultural lens experiences God, what does the God who calls us to look and see, or hear and listen, mean to someone who is blind or deaf? What does faith in a triune God mean to someone with an extra chromosome? How does someone identifying as LGBTIQA+ who has been disavowed by their family relate to a Holy Father?

In no particular order, playfully explore language and liturgy now that invites you into another way of knowing, follow links for more…

THE LORD’S PRAYER: MAORI & POLYNESIA

Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe;
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world;
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings;
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trial too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and forever. Amen.

The New Zealand Book of Prayer

ABORIGINAL LORD’S PRAYER

(there is a lovely sung version of this)

You are our Father, you live in heaven
We talk to you, Father, you are good
We believe your word Father, we are children,
Give us bread today
We have done wrong, we are sorry,
Help us Father, not to sin again
Others have done wrong to us and we are
sorry for them, Father today
Stop us from doing wrong, Father
Save us all from the evil one
You are our Father, you live in heaven
We talk to you, Father, you are good.

Easter to Pentecost

Wondrous God, lover of lion and lizard, cedar and cactus, raindrop and river, we praise You for the splendor of the world! We thank You, that woven throughout the tapestry of earth are the varied threads of human diversity. Created in Your image, we are of many colors and cultures, ages and classes, gender and sexual identities. Different and alike, we are Your beloved people. Free us, we pray, from fears of difference that divide and wound us. Move us to dismantle our attitudes and systems of prejudice. Renew our commitment to make this a household of faith for all people – gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, and straight – that all who worship and minister here may know the grace and challenge of faith. In our life together, grant us minds and hearts eager to learn, reluctant to judge, and responsive to the leading of Your loving Spirit. We ask in Christ’s name, Amen.
Rev. Ann B. Day, Shaping Sanctuary

Alternative language for Psalms and Scripture…

Child Play by Joy Cowley

Father Mother God,
every now and then you call me
to drop my burdens at the side of the road
and play games with you.
I respond sluggishly.
Carrying burdens can make me feel important
and sometimes I’m afraid to drop them
in case I suddenly become invisible.
But when I do let go for a while,
how simple life seems –
and how beautiful!

God of play and playfulness,
thank you for castles in the sand,
for swings and slides and soap bubbles,
kaleidoscopes, rainbows,
and wind to fly kites.
Thank you for child-vision
of flowers and stones and water drops,
for child-listening to the universe
humming inside a seashell.
Thank you for showing me one again,
a creation filled with laughter
and the enjoyment of your presence.
An thank you, thank you,
dear Mother, Father God,
for the knowledge
of your enjoyment of me.

Aotearoa Psalms: Prayers of a New People by Joy Cowley

Laughing Bird Liturgical Resources – Australian scripture paraphrasing.

Mark 1: 4-11

John the baptiser showed up in the desert preaching to the people. He called them to be baptised, to completely turn their lives around and receive God’s forgiveness for their toxic ways. Everyone came flocking to John from Jerusalem and from all the rural districts of Judea. They owned up to their wrongdoing and were baptised by John in the Jordan River, promising to mend their ways.
John was dressed in rough clothes made of camel hair and animal skins. He lived on bush tucker – grasshoppers and wild honey. This was the guts of his message: “After me comes the One who is way out of my league – I wouldn’t even qualify to get down on my knees and lick his boots. I’m only baptising you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”
During those days, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. The moment he came up from the water, he saw the sky open up and the Spirit coming down like a diving kookaburra and taking hold of him. And a voice filled the air, saying, “You are my Son; the love of my life. You fill me with pride.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton www.laughingbird.net


Dadirri – A Reflection By Miriam – Rose Ungunmerr- Baumann

NGANGIKURUNGKURR means ‘Deep Water Sounds’. Ngangikurungkurr is the name of
my tribe. The word can be broken up into three parts: Ngangi means word or sound, Kuri means water, and kurr means deep. So the name of my people means ‘the Deep Water Sounds’ or ‘Sounds of the Deep’. This talk is about tapping into that deep spring that is within us.

Many Australians understand that Aboriginal people have a special respect for Nature.
The identity we have with the land is sacred and unique. Many people are beginning to
understand this more. Also there are many Australians who appreciate that Aboriginal
people have a very strong sense of community. All persons matter. All of us belong. And
there are many more Australians now, who understand that we are a people who celebrate together.

What I want to talk about is another special quality of my people. I believe it is the most
important. It is our most unique gift. It is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to our
fellow Australians. In our language this quality is called dadirri. It is inner, deep listening
and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call “contemplation”.

When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again. I can sit on the riverbank or walk
through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in
this silent awareness. There is no need of words. A big part of dadirri is listening.
Through the years, we have listened to our stories. They are told and sung, over and
over, as the seasons go by. Today we still gather around the campfires and together we
hear the sacred stories.

As we grow older, we ourselves become the storytellers. We pass on to the young ones
all they must know. The stories and songs sink quietly into our minds and we hold them
deep inside. In the ceremonies we celebrate the awareness of our lives as sacred.
The contemplative way of dadirri spreads over our whole life. It renews us and brings us
peace. It makes us feel whole again…

In our Aboriginal way, we learnt to listen from our earliest days. We could not live good
and useful lives unless we listened. This was the normal way for us to learn – not by
asking questions. We learnt by watching and listening, waiting and then acting. Our
people have passed on this way of listening for over 40,000 years…
There is no need to reflect too much and to do a lot of thinking. It is just being aware.
My people are not threatened by silence. They are completely at home in it. They have
lived for thousands of years with Nature’s quietness. My people today, recognise and
experience in this quietness, the great Life-Giving Spirit, the Father of us all. It is easy for
me to experience God’s presence. When I am out hunting, when I am in the bush,
among the trees, on a hill or by a billabong; these are the times when I can simply be in
God’s presence. My people have been so aware of Nature. It is natural that we will feel
close to the Creator.

Dr Stanner, the anthropologist who did much of his work among the Daly River tribes,
wrote this: “Aboriginal religion was probably one of the least material minded, and most
life-minded of any of which we have knowledge”…

And now I would like to talk about the other part of dadirri which is the quiet stillness and the waiting. Our Aboriginal culture has taught us to be still and to wait. We do not try to hurry things up. We let them follow their natural course – like the seasons. We watch the moon in each of its phases. We wait for the rain to fill our rivers and water the thirsty earth… When twilight comes, we prepare for the night. At dawn we rise with the sun. We watch the bush foods and wait for them to ripen before we gather them. We wait for our young people as they grow, stage by stage, through their initiation ceremonies. When a relation dies, we wait a long time with the sorrow. We own our grief  and allow it to heal slowly.

We wait for the right time for our ceremonies and our meetings. The right people must
be present. Everything must be done in the proper way. Careful preparations must be
made. We don’t mind waiting, because we want things to be done with care. Sometimes
many hours will be spent on painting the body before an important ceremony.
We don’t like to hurry. There is nothing more important than what we are attending to.
There is nothing more urgent that we must hurry away for.

We wait on God, too. His time is the right time. We wait for him to make his Word clear
to us. We don’t worry. We know that in time and in the spirit of dadirri (that deep listening and quiet stillness) his way will be clear.

We are River people. We cannot hurry the river. We have to move with its current and
understand its ways.

We hope that the people of Australia will wait. Not so much waiting for us – to catch up –
but waiting with us, as we find our pace in this world.

There is much pain and struggle as we wait. The Holy Father understood this patient
struggle when he said to us:
“If you stay closely united, you are like a tree, standing in the middle of a bushfire
sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred
and burnt; but inside the tree the sap is still flowing, and under the ground the roots are
still strong. Like that tree, you have endured the flames, and you still have the power to
be reborn”.

My people are used to the struggle, and the long waiting. We still wait for the white
people to understand us better. We ourselves had to spend many years learning about
the white man’s ways. Some of the learning was forced; but in many cases people tried
hard over a long time, to learn the new ways.

We have learned to speak the white man’s language. We have listened to what he had
to say. This learning and listening should go both ways. We would like people in
Australia to take time to listen to us. We are hoping people will come closer. We keep on
longing for the things that we have always hoped for – respect and understanding…
To be still brings peace – and it brings understanding. When we are really still in the
bush, we concentrate. We are aware of the anthills and the turtles and the water lilies.
Our culture is different. We are asking our fellow Australians to take time to know us; to
be still and to listen to us…

Life is very hard for many of my people. Good and bad things came with the years of
contact – and with the years following. People often absorbed the bad things and not the
good. It was easier to do the bad things than to try a bit harder to achieve what we really
hoped for…

I would like to conclude…by saying again that there are deep springs within each of us.
Within this deep spring, which is the very Spirit of God, is a sound. The sound of Deep
calling to Deep. The sound is the word of God – Jesus.

Today, I am beginning to hear the Gospel at the very level of my identity. I am beginning
to feel the great need we have of Jesus – to protect and strengthen our identity; and to
make us whole and new again.

“The time for re-birth is now,” said the Holy Father to us. Jesus comes to fulfil, not to
destroy.
If our culture is alive and strong and respected, it will grow. It will not die.
And our spirit will not die.
And I believe that the spirit of dadirri that we have to offer will blossom and grow, not just within ourselves, but in our whole nation.

Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann is an artist, a tribal elder and Principal of St
Francis Xavier School, Nauiyu, Daly River, N.T.
© Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann. All Rights Reserved.

Experiencing Dadirri

Clear a little space as often as you can, to simply sit and look at and listen to the earth
and environment that surrounds you.
Focus on something specific, such as a bird, a blade of grass, a clump of soil,
cracked earth, a flower, bush or leaf, a cloud in the sky or a body of water (sea,
river, lake…) whatever you can see. Or just let something find you be it a leaf,
the sound of a bird, the feel of the breeze, the light on a tree trunk. No need to
try. Just wait a while and let something find you, let it spend time with you. Lie
on the earth, the grass, some place. Get to know that little place and let it get to
know you- your warmth, feel your pulse, hear your heart beat, know your
breathing, your spirit. Just relax and be there, enjoying the time together. Simply
be aware of your focus, allowing yourself to be still and silent…, to listen…
Following this quiet time there may be, on occasion, value in giving expression in some
way to the experience of this quiet, still listening. You may wish to talk about the
experience or journal, write poetry, draw, paint or sing…
This needs to be held in balance – the key to Dadirri is in simply being, rather than in outcomes and activity.

It’s also worth looking up Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr’s Stations of the Cross and the Aboriginal Eucharistic Liturgy.

jars of preserves lined up on the window sill intentional community

This month marks the end of living in intentional community in Footscray for eight and a half years (albeit I will still be living in intentional proximity).

In that time, I have lived in six houses and with over 20 different people – some of them twice.  I’m packing at the house I’m in now to move again, and found it remarkable to have so much in the ‘storehouse’ to take with me preserved from various houses I’ve lived in. A metaphor somehow, of lives and home shared. I know my experiences of living in community will nourish me in the future as will the preserves I take with me and I’m conscious of the privilege of that.  Having good things stored up means the seasons have been fruitful. We have shared abundance together and there’s still some leftover.

I started this blog post wondering whether I might have some insight or wisdom I wanted to share but what comes are memories and gratitude:

Waking up my first morning in a new house to a stranger in the kitchen, the grief and grace of the days your good intentions come to nothing, the awful times when we weren’t sure we’d have anywhere to live, the raw joy when Maria got PR.  I remember working with Elizabeth Braid to create a grace resource celebrating something of Melbourne’s small alternative church communities, and the poem-prayer about negotiating everyone’s wants and needs:

A Prayer for the Share House

Take away my resentment that the dishes still have food on them, cold water-full sponge, soap bottle half gone…
and give me gratitude for the dishes that have been done today

Take away my resentment for the planned meal ingredients used and not replaced…
and give me gratitude for the food that has been provided today

Take away my resentment at the passive-aggressive pile of belongings outside my bedroom door…
and give me gratitude for the cleaning that has happened today

Take away my resentment for the sleep lost holding you crying after the nth fight with your boyfriend…
and give me gratitude that I have friends with whom to share life

Take away my resentment for the times you have company and I-just-want-to-be alone, for the reverse of that, and when we each want to be alone and the house just isn’t big enough for the both of us…
and give me gratitude for those moments…  the brief, beautiful moments… we get it right.

Take away my resentment for the things said, the things unsaid and those for which we do not have words but our spirit cries
and give me gratitude for the things said, the things unsaid and those for which we do not have words but our spirit cries

Amen

Today I add this addendum…

Take away those moments I felt like I failed, the guilt I felt falling short of all I imagined I should be able to be and do, all my ego thought I could.

and give me gratitude for my humanity, for leaning on and learning from others whose help I need – the seeds sown and fruit grown and the love. God, I’m so grateful for the love.

Thanks to all of you with whom I have lived, loved and shared life. May the road rise up to meet you and may it sometimes lead you back to my door.