Tag Archive: call


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?


I will lead you into the wilderness and I will allure you. In the still and quiet places you will hear my voice calling you. Calling you home. #wilderness #koraha

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Leviticus 19:33-34 New International Version (NIV)

33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

 

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Leader          Hear our cries of frustration, guilt, and anger, O God
                        As the voices of refugees are silenced by fear and the pursuit of power

Voices of lament

1 Hear our cries in despair – we cannot find our way home from here!
2 We seek a way to solve this
3 We seek a way to speak truthfully
4 We seek a way to bring change
1 Hear our cries in confusion as the issue is complex, the solutions are slow and the answers are never simple
2 The debate is loud and vicious as people seek to score points for power while detaining and compounding damage on vulnerable people
3 Why can we not see the public leaders who have compassion?
4 Why can we not find the public dreamers of justice?
1 Why can we not hear the public proclaimers of hope?
2 Hear our cries in despair at the powerlessness we feel,
3 To make the story turn out right
4 To overturn the actions done in our name
1 To inspire our neighbourhoods to renewed minds
2 To infect the public discourse with grace

 

…to infect the public discourse with grace.

Undo and remake me

painting of a naked woman in the dark

Undo and remake me
fit for Your purpose
I am here, send me.

 

Talitha Fraser

Who am I?

autumn leaves in sunshine

Who am I?
Who is anyone?
To know what feeds
Your soul-hungers
deepest need?
The monk reads
The sower seeds
The mother feeds
The workers deeds
The calling leads…

Follow the calling.

Talitha Fraser

 

Fools for love

059

This Lent with Easter Sunday falling on April Fools day Godspace are running a series on For love of the world God did foolish things… it’s bringing out/together all sorts of foolish ideas that are worth checking out. Below are a couple of links to contributions I’ve made to that blog on that theme.

Foolish Love: What words do we ever have to express our love well?

This piece is a story of the time I stuck up bad poetry all of the woods like Orlando from As You Like It…. you can read more here

Come, Be a Holy Fool

This piece is an invitation to follow the example to do foolish things for love too… you can read more here

May you encounter something Holy and foolish this Lent.

Taurikura, Talitha
have peace

 

there's no expiry on you graffiti footscray

Propagate love not fear if you see something beautiful, say something.

I watch The Holy Outlaw, 1970 documentary about Father Daniel Berrigan and as he’s moved between the courthouse and prison. The following is a quote of his exchange with a reporter.

daniel berrigan the holy outlaw you are not enough you will never be enough we are not prey sculpture of three people gertrude st

Q: What are your future plans?

     A: Resistance.

Poison tendrils grip
whispering:
“You are not enough.
You will never be enough.”
There is no qualification,
no job, no title, no recognition,
that could silence the voice.
Entwined within, around and through you
it is part of you,
it is part of who you are.
A cerebral cortex override
is required to live into the truth:
You don’t have to be small,
You don’t have to be still,
You don’t have to be silent anymore.
We are not prey.

Talitha Fraser

083

CL: First heard the term “intersectionality” after starting my blog Black Feminist Ranter which ticked several “oppression” boxes. It was a label applied to me to inform a sense of ‘place’. A description of where the intersections of oppression are overlapping. It’s in the feminist sphere that is being played out but dividing and othering instead of being done well. It’s not being used to subvert and challenge systems but by those wanting “ally credit”.

RH: How we use the word… it’s made equivalent to representation e.g. have a quota of female politicians but the systems don’t change. What about sweatshops? What about Western interventions in the Middle East? Supporting Hillary and the first potential female President is great but don’t say “She’s going to be great for all women” – be specific. Say “some of her policies are good” or “Hillary being President will be a good start” but not making sweeping statements like: “What’s good for women is good for all women”, that erases the experience of those her policies don’t benefit.

CL: Why did that election result get pegged on the non-white women? Hate that… everyone asking: Where are the African-American women? Stats show it’s white women that didn’t vote for Hillary.

RH: They had to ask – “Who will be worse?” All minority groups voted for Clinton.

CL: Similar here re Gillard. First Australian Prime Minister – a win for dissecting feminism but she was legislating in NT and making cuts to single mother benefits… I couldn’t fight on those issues because I had to defend on the left re gender.  We are being compromised in these situations.

RH:  Allies need to understand the dilemma and acknowledge it. Intersectional feminism should understand that dilemma but it doesn’t. It needs to acknowledge the reasons others might be unsure and have concerns. For example, media around the Wonder Woman film discussed the Zionist views of the lead actress and called for boycott.  I didn’t advocate for that. It’s only one woman’s opinion.    It should be ok that Arab women might not be able to jump on this empowerment train. Allies need to understand.  There’s a refusal to see.  e.g. “The Wonder Woman character existed long before this actress – the movie’s still worth celebrating!” I was called racist. Intersectionality was used against me… disappointing.  This placed not just Eastern feminism against Western feminism but feminism within the West.  Behind the scenes analysis of the politics what appears and doesn’t is far more interesting to me than the actual movie.

CL: My voice can be sought out to fill a diversity quota.  e.g. speaking on Aboriginal Beauty Pageants – didn’t see celebration of Aboriginal beauty as worth working for (dress, heels, make up…) told I’m denigrating my racial identity. White panellists get slut shaming… called fat… whore… but not racial commentary.

RH: I get racial and gendered criticism. “This Ruby Hamas bitch has both clit-envy and penis-envy” – manages to be offensive on Arabic, Muslim, terrorist, gender – so many layers! I shared it on my page to diffuse it. Not about me but anyone who shares these characteristics.

CL: Comments on how I look, highly gendered, but go back to words like “quadroon”.  I sometimes take the piss or shut it down… I’d like to be called a whore for once and not something that’s dissecting my race! I was on a panel of feminists once – I said something about “smashing systems” in my introductory statements and was sidelined for the rest of the panel – the white feminists talked amongst themselves.  Those that have to navigate gender + race + disability – they are more extreme/radical because they have more to overcome. It was a horrible experience. It was a basic entry-level discussion, why weren’t we part of that conversation? I was only asked for “special comments” re race in the closing questions.

RH:  Any event invitation I receive I’m asking , am I token or not? Do they value my voice and what I have to say? And then I say, whatever… they’re still giving me a platform.  I long for the day I’m asked to talk about politics, and my experience… not as a labelled pigeon-hole “Muslim” or “Aboriginal”.

CL: The person who is Trans and Aboriginal and woman and has a disability and from a low class background… we need to amplify her voice.  Smash at all those levels at once.

RH: If they are liberated, everyone is liberated. “identity politics” shouldn’t set us against but with. I’ve always tried to bring identity politics back to broader oppression.

CL: The show the Handmaids Tale – loved it at first, then I started to see the mainstream reaction.  Women enslaved, bred, imprisoned… with religion used as justification. That was one generation ago for me. Oh, white women are going to be treated like Aboriginal and African-American women. In the book the slaves are unequivocally white, coloured people are shipped off to die from radiation.  Some kudos to the author for sticking to what she knows but in the TV show, in this Fascist, Puritan,  authoritarian world… women of colour are also selected for breeding with wealthy white men and I should believe it?! This is white-washing racial dynamics. “This is just around the corner for us” This white response is not helpful compared to that of people of colour which says: welcome to our world – this has already happened and is happening.

RH: “Can you imagine if there’ll be a war?!” [re Trump/Korea] Yes. I have already lost half my family to that. I don’t need to imagine what that’s like.

CL:  When we are blended into white narrative, we’re not given our own.

RH: Given a female Dr. Who – that was a big deal.  An Arab actor was recently cast to play the leading role in Aladdin. An Arab not in a role as a terrorist or savage illiterate – those roles that have been used to perpetuate negative stereotypes.  Can’t just think about gender (woman as Dr. Who), that an Arab man is cast in the role of Aladdin is far more significant for me.  Is feminism the new weapon of whiteness? We hardly heard anything about that casting at all.

Question: How do you balance the need to be calm to be taken seriously vs. expressing righteous/legitimate anger?

CL: A bit of anger is good, use it to tear the system apart. I have no obligation to make racist, sexist, wealthy people feel safe.  e.g  Heritier Lumumba in doco Fair Game, laughed along with racist insults in the locker room to try and fit in… you never win that way.  We need to use our anger in legitimate and practical ways.

Question: What would your top-three recommended structural interventions be?

CL: I’m part of the union movement. Anything that draws attention to the structural issues.  Intersectional engagement is often superficial.  Highlighting – make sure other voices are heard e.g. An Aboriginal man will have different views than me, or a more conservative woman… there is not one homogenous view for women or for Aboriginal people.

RH: Acknowledge there is a problem.  Still at that level… can’t think of a list of structural changes yet when still trying to get people to acknowledge that there’s a problem. Need to be given power/influence – in media, politics… I guess I’m still trying to find that answer.  I don’t think we’re close to solving that.  Need to see more women from non-white backgrounds opinions valued… to talk in general terms.

Question: Do you have any advice for emerging voices?  How do you decide which point of view will be appropriate to speak from, how do you get past that/prevent silencing?

RH: I didn’t write about anything happening in the Arab/Muslim sphere for ages.  Mortified when something I wrote was appropriated by people who hate me.  I don’t wear a veil but cultural still encouraged to be quiet, modest… I learned to pick a time to broach it. Try to ever do it in a way that isolates Muslims, there’s sexism and racism across all cultures.  I cop a lot of backlash from my community but lovely messages from young Muslim women makes it worthwhile – scarcely – becomes ammunition for racists.  I had to learn that I can’t be responsible for how they use or mis-use my words.

CL: I was terrified to talk about violence against Aboriginal women.  That conversation is used to assimilate to whiteness and religion, a conversation owned by conservative Aboriginal people, for example if I write a piece protesting Dondale and Invasion Day turn around and say “why don’t you care about violence towards Aboriginal women?” Used to indicate that I don’t care.  Exhausting process to do but I counted the numbers over the past two years.  I need to defend space for my own voice. This argument is used to denigrate my other work.