Tag Archive: inclusion


We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


Value 4: Seeking justice for the poor

We value God’s priority for the poor and seek to prioritise the marginalised of Footscray.  We do not want to just show mercy, but instead offer our lives, in voice and activity, with those who we seek to serve.

Biblical basis: Jeremiah 22:16, James 2: 1-5


Let’s read the value together… what words/phrases stand out?

Who do we think are “the poor”?

Those who are poor in heart? in spirit? or without money?  It’s those who are poor in spirit that are worst off = those who feel empty.  When you eat you’re full. If you don’t eat you’re empty.

We need to be helping one another more.

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?
What can we learn from the bible about living the Value: Seeking justice for the poor?

Jeremiah passage brought to mind people such as Donald Trump and Gina Rinehart…

Who gets behind and left out? What kinds of people?

What does it mean to “have a huge head-start in the faith stakes”?
Know how to be grateful.



Jeremiah 22: 16-17

“Doom to him who builds palaces but bullies people,

who makes a fine house but destroys lives,

Who cheats his workers

and won’t pay them for their work,

Who says, ‘I’ll build me an elaborate mansion

with spacious rooms and fancy windows.

I’ll bring in rare and expensive woods

and the latest in interior decor.’

So, that makes you a king—

living in a fancy palace?

Your father got along just fine, didn’t he?

He did what was right and treated people fairly,

And things went well with him.

He stuck up for the down-and-out,

And things went well for Judah.

Isn’t this what it means to know me?”

God’s Decree!

“But you’re blind and brainless.

All you think about is yourself,

Taking advantage of the weak,

bulldozing your way, bullying victims.”

The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighbourhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.


The Message


James 2: 1-10

……..Sisters and brothers, if you really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, how come you still play favourites? If people walk into one of your meetings and you make a fuss of the ones dressed up to the nines and looking a million dollars, ushering them to the best seats in the house, while at the same time turning up your nose at those dressed like battlers, down on their luck, telling them to stand out in the foyer, aren’t you practicing apartheid, segregating God’s children? You’re as crooked as a judge who bases your sentence on the length of your skirt!

……..Get this straight in your minds, dear friends. God has turned the world’s opinion polls upside down. Those who have been deprived of what the world values have a huge head-start in the faith stakes. Their names are at the top of the list of those who God has chosen to inherit the riches of the kingdom. All who love God have an equal share in God’s promises, but you’re insulting some of them by means-testing your welcome.



©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net


Reflection time… followed by sharing time.

Who are “the poor” in Footscray?

Offer our lives – in voice and activity…

  • what ways are we doing this now?
  • what ways could we start?


I am on the 5.08pm train to the city – dusk sees the city lights hang suspended against a purple-grey backdrop of condolence. I go into this space with high hopes and low expectations I think, but I hope I see love. I hope I see love poured out.  It can be so hard to find safe spaces where you feel accepted, welcome, safe to express all of who you are. I hope there is a sense of welcome for everyone who comes tonight… including me!


Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby

Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can’t I?

…I have that moment we all have. Should I come here? Am I intruding on a private grief I have no right to?

I find a friend I know on the edge of the crowd.

“Thanks for coming.” she says.

“It’s important. I’m sorry it took something like this to bring us together”. I answer

It only needs to matter to one person. It’s not really about how it matters to me. For all those times you felt alone, you felt sad, you felt despair – can my standing with you now make up for those times? No… but it doesn’t follow that it’s insignificant now.


“May we be inspired to live differently because of our tears”
– Simon Holt



Forty-nine people have died and fifty-three others have been injured in the latest mass shooting in the US… plenty of Muslims and Christians are praying and acting in solidarity and support – these issues are engaged globally more and more.  Born, raised, educated, armed in the US… can you call it an Islamist attack? SOme of my grief is with the perpetrator who must have been desperate indeed to feel belonging somewhere. But it’s the stupid idiot pastor that’s quoted as saying: “I woke up to a world with 50 less homosexuals in it and I was glad” that will be what goes viral, spreading hate and fear and violence in its wake.  It’s not the the good news that is shared so often as the bad.We have a conscious choice about what we’re spreading but it seems something used more for evil than for good… what of courage and encouraging? hope and joy?  We pray for those weighed down by grief  – today and “all the days before”


My first visit to a freedom2be event, their mission is:

To save lives, prevent harm and empower LGBTI people from Christian backgrounds through reconciliation of their sexuality and/or gender identity, and their faith.



Guest speaker tonight is Padraig O Tuama – poet, theologian and group worker…

“Gay people are told structurally and personally they are less,
it’s an abomination to be told that or to believe it.”

Question: What’s a lovely thing someone said about you once?
Storytelling  creates safe space – curiosity moves people/creates space…

“Small gestures of human kindness are the beginning point of something nice”

Poem – The visit of the queen of the lesbians to the prayer group of men
who happen to be gay

When she came to visit
she said:
Don’t ask me.
I’m just the driver.
When she came to visit
she said:
Questions reveal much
about the secrets of the questioner.
When she came to visit she said:
Ask a better question lads.
She said: Misogyny is no respecter of your homo-andro-centric
little worldwinds.
When she came to visit
she said:
Just because you don’t want to screw us
Doesn’t mean you don’t screw us.
Don’t ask me to visit you.
Answer your own queries, queries.
When she came to visit she said:
Cook for us instead.
That’s what the queen of the lesbians said.

A friend of mine pointed out to me that of all the titles that the chief lesbian might choose for herself the word ‘queen’ would be one that she would leave for the boys…

Poem – day of the living

She entered a room full of the deviant queers
Everything from her ears
to feet was burning.

She looked around the slew of sinners
and everything that was in her said:
Just leave.

And she heard all the years of teaching
that participation
in this kind of congregation
is a degradation
a journey away from salvation.

And she sat on a plain brown chair
She sat, twisted her hat in nervous fingers
And she sat,
even though her history was screaming at her:

Leave. Leave. Leave.
Leave now.
Leave quickly.
Leave. Leave. Leave.

And at the introduction
she breathed when it came to be her turn.

She breathed and she said:
This is my first time in a room full of…….us.
She breathed.

Poem – what I needed to hear – “the wonder of God is where your journey begins”

“If a God could exist  that loved me,
what might that God say to me?”

“It has taken years to continue to live into the truth that if I believe we are from God and for God, then we are from Goodness and for Goodness. To greet sorrow today does not mean that sorrow will be there tomorrow. Happiness comes too, and grief, and tiredness, disappointment, surprise and energy. Chaos and fulfilment will be named as well as delight and despair. This is the truth of being here, wherever here is today. It may not be permanent but it is here. I will probably leave here, and I will probably return. To deny here is to harrow the heart. Hello to here.”

― Pádraig Ó Tuama, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World

Poem – returning “I hear you’re gay now, are you still Christian?”



“I need to be forgiven for a lot of things
but not my love”

Poem – Intercession for Lesbian and Gay Ugandans

This is not a liberal agenda.
Think about the people sleeping in the prison in

These are bodies like yours and mine.
Close your eyes. Please, close them.
Put the fingers of your one hand
to the wrist of the other
and keep your pulse a moment.

Are you calm?
Are you content, in touching your own skin
with your own safe and holy skin?

Think about the people sleeping in the prison in

This is not a liberal agenda.
These are people.
Not quite corpses…..yet.
And it’s not about forgetting all your morals
with some rationalist adjustment
or some sad subjective judgment.

The Samaritan did not sin,
yet still was hated,
judged and deemed a lesser kind of human.

Think about the people sleeping in the prison in

This is not a liberal agenda.

“There are serious things to pay attention to.
We need to name our marginalisation and our privilege.
We learn our own dignity by naming our complicity.”

poem – who do you say that I am?

You say it’s unnatural,
hoping I might speak of boybirds loving boybirds
or girlbirds loving girlbirds,
so that you can then say:
Why are you speaking about animals?
Is that how you see yourself?
And as for Sodom,
you speak with no regard for Lot’s daughters,
or all those other lost voices
in the unreported Abu Grahibs of our most recent century.
So how are we to talk
while we travel with each other?
I, for one, will carve my own fury into a pencil
and scribble midrash on the map of our shared future
hoping you might learn the names
of places you’ve never seen.
So listen!
Sex and the text
are strange things surely.
What we read
and the way we read
are two different things.
Let us hope that
lies be undone
and untruth be told out loud
so that a path may be revealed
before us

poem – the facts of life









i believe love wins


Today feels like a day for bright colours.  Uncharacteristically I am wearing one of the skirts I have made – full and colourful, no one around today to comment on it and I love that – what would we wear any given day if we thought no one would ever say anything?

I feel nervous carrying my homemade 009signs to the marriage equality march – do I  carry them facing inwards until I get there?  Am I going to draw negative attention from people that are anti-gay or anti-Christian? You are making a choice, to set yourself out, apart, from ‘normal’ people going about their ‘normal’ day, doing ‘normal’things.

To be contrary, I line them up beside me on the seat at the bus stop while I wait – people idling in the weekend traffic read them but no one says 005anything and I am almost disappointed… let’s do it, let’s talk about how we’re treating one another.  People see the signs – rainbow broadcasting
makes the topic clear – no one says anything… aah, I have found a new way to be invisible.

Now at the train station, I put in my headphones as I step into the train carriage, block out an uncaring world and I am tapped on the shoulder…

“Hey, you want to join us here in the marriage equality corner?”

…I am welcomed in, a place, a space made for me and my signs.  they look me over assessingly, am I like them?

“I haven’t ever been to a rally before, But I have been to the Sydney Mardi Gras – I hope it’s like that – there’s a power in people coming together from all over, no matter what their age, race, religion, gender orientation is… there’s something really powerful about that, ay?”

Yes.  Yes there is.

How much riskier must it be if your clothes or mannerisms or something “give you away” and make you feel like you’re carrying a rainbow coloured banner with you everywhere you go… I’m embarrassed of the fear I felt of some kind of retaliation for sticking my neck out… is this a fear people live with going out their door every day?

The act of solidarity isn’t just showing up at the parade but being willing to put yourself in a position to share the experience of the person being marginalised – so what if someone did yell something out of a car on the way past or defaced the sign or comes into my personal space with aggression.  Is this something gay people ask of themselves every day? “Do I wave the banner today or mute something of who I am so I don’t attract attention?” As with all movements perhaps it requires some to be be ‘extreme’ with it to broaden the range of what’s ‘normal’… maybe that’s literally carrying a rainbow banner – drawing some of the attention away from you over there to me right here.

It’s not the same, hating me when it’s not my lifestyle choice.  You have to have a conversation with me to  find out why I’m doing it – and I’ll have a conversation with you about why you aren’t.



Creating the Right Space – CBM (Panel)

Considerations for creating spaces that are inclusive of people with different levels of ability:

  • Want belonging and feeling treated the same/normal even though we know we’re not
  • Eye contact but NOT staring
  • Participation not about my disability – wanting to engage like everybody else
  • Fundamental dignity: each of us have something to share/contribute
  • Atmosphere – feel connected
  • Send lyrics/talk text in advance and can direct it into Braille or audio myself (needs to be communicated if this is available and PDFs aren’t readable by the programmes)
  • Everyone should be respected as a beloved son/daughter of God – I want to contribute to Christian community > able to share gifts
  • Talk to me not around me as if I’m not here e.g. “Will she have tea?”
  • Need space to be honest about how we feel – don’t pray away my feelings
  • Have communion where they do (with them) e.g. if someone can’t access the alter – don’t just bring them theirs but have yours with them where they are
  • Push in a little bit – there is fear (of being pushed away, rejected, condescended to…)
  • How do you know you’re “in”? On a roster, invited home for lunch, take the communion cup around in my wheelchair.
  • Regular time, place and routine for L’Arche rhythms (known and familiar)
  • Can’t find love, can’t find friendship. Government can’t do that > spiritual communities are REALLY important
  • Care-fronting sometimes with a conversation
  • Time “efficiency” need to allow room for the spirit… can’t plan things. Let it be what it is. Let [people be themselves in their fullness (where people might talk more slowly or move more slowly… let their pace be OK)
  • LABELS: Don’t freak out about it. Don’t let it be your barrier to talking with me. Have names for us too “sighties” and “Sight-trash” – it is a characteristic of who I am like having brown hair. Unhelpful…. handicapped, sufferer of…, carry a cross, disorder… use person-first language. “wheelies” and “cripps” like “queer” turning this language around to a positive framework named and claimed. If you have a relationship with me, let me use the word for myself and learn from listening. In safe space don’t need a label to feel safe but sometimes in public we do (paradox) – label can be the easiest way to get empathy/understanding when someone is behaving in unexpected ways.
  • We have outsourced care and compassion e.g. Cert IV in disability – what would it mean to engage with me directly.


  • Physical things – steps/access/etc. and atmosphere
  • Bad theology praying for us to be healed/whole > need to confront that. What do you think that says about my lived experience?
  • “Perfect” Jesus still bore scars from the wounds on his body – perfect in imperfection.
Parables of Non-Violence – Transfiguration Community (Bible Study)

‘Making Things Right’: the call to be agents of reconciliation, peacemakers, restorers of broken relationships. How?

  1.  What/who are the obstacles, the enemies, the hindrances to peace and reconciliation? Ego, culture, systems, celebrity, technology…

BIBLICAL: Portrait of the Enemy – Do we even know it? Do we take the existence of evil seriously?

  1. How do we resist these?
  1. Contemplative practice:
    • first disarm your own heart
    • the wrestling is not with flesh and blood but spiritual (the aim in wrestling is not to bring your opponent down but to remain standing yourself)
    • the arena is within us
    • then change from the inside out will happen

BIBLICAL: Jesus’ Temptation in the Desert (in the desert you have to answer some questions)

  1. Danger of outer journey without inner journey
  2. Story of 3 brothers: 2 activist, 1 contemplative

How does the kingdom of God come? How does lasting change happen (repentance)? Not by programs, ideas, ideologies or our mind being in control.

  1. Slow
  2. Hidden, in secret
  3. Non-violent, harmless growth or gestation
  4. Internal
  5. Surprising and inevitable fruit, in the face of formidable obstacles

Like a joke, pint is in the last line – fruit comes at the end.

Non-violence and love are the same. Self-emptying love – no power or manipulation of any kind: mental, emotional, physical…

Using power “for the best” > controlling

  • Ask forgiveness (brothers and sisters don’t walk away from me, walk towards me)
  • Daily discipline
  • Have to listen

Being silent re-sensitises us to what is really happening, awareness, intuition, feeling… Going in to look at God leads you to look at others. Can’t only breathe in, have to breathe out.


Contemplative Space: The Cave/Gregg Morris

A stoic mind and a bleeding heart
You never see my bleeding heart

And your light’s always shining on
And I’ve been traveling oh so long
I’ve been traveling oh so long

A constant reminder of where I can find her
Light that might give up the way
Is all that I’m asking for without her I’m lost
Oh my love don’t fade away

Mumford and Sons (lyrics)

christianarchyJesus Christ preached a gospel of love and peace with justice. But the history of the Christian religion is littered with every kind of evil. What went wrong?

If you have ever wondered – how can anyone choose to be “Christian” when so much harm has been been done in the name of the church? I can only say 1) that’s a very good question and 2) Dave Andrew’s has creditably tried to answer it.  It’s not enough to say: “Well, I didn’t do those things…” these stories form part of the history we are a part of and it is only when we know and accept that story that we can understand and speak for our place in it.

Literally, “Chapter 1 – A History of Christianity: A History of Cruelty” is a history of the faith spanning 4 eras:
-Councils, Creeds & Coercian: ca. AD 100-500
-Emperors, Popes & Power: ca. AD 500-1000
-Crusades, Inquisitions & Control: ca. AD 1000-1500
-Worldwide Evangelism, Witch Hunts & Genocide: ca. 1500-2000

Dave Andrews also talks about how his connection with the YWAM community broke down.

If you are working to reconcile brokeness with grace, to understand why you should (or anyone would) persist in the pursuit of faith when church/religion/community can disappoint you and let you down then this is a good read albeit a confronting one because it goes there, looking at the ugliness… (I’d recommend reading it with others or at least at time you are feeling strongly rooted/centred in your faith because it IS confronting)

(p.152) “When Christ was crucified, the hope of his diciples, that they actually might have been able to build a better world together, was totally shattered… Jesus was dead.  And all their hopes were buried with him.”

In a complete plot spoiler, I’m about to tell you how it ends (so feel free to skip this and buy the book) with Dave Andrew’s conclusion and call to live the Way of Christ as it was intended:

(p.167-169) “Christ calls us to be a network of residents working towards community in the localities where we live, so as to realise the love of God for all people, particularly those on the fringes of our society. Christ himself is our example, and his spirit serves as the inspiration for the simple, practical, compassionate path he wants us to take, regardless of the difficulties along the way.
His expectation is that we would not slavishly copy him, but voluntarily make the same kind of choices that he made, and that he encouraged his diciples, like Peter, to make: to accept life, to respect life, and to empower people to live life to the full.
Christ calls us to know God, the surce of all life, more fully, and to cultivate the disciplines that will help us to develop a relationship to God in the midst of our ordinary everyday lives.
He calls us to live in sympathy with the heart of God, sustaining ourselves, supporting one another, and serving those around about us, in an increasingly steadfast, faithful and life-affirming manner.
Christ calls us to be aware of ourselves, and the gift of life, that each of us can bring to the community.
He calls us to scknowledge not only the reality of our brokenness, but also the potential for wholeness in our relationships, and our responsibility to grow collectively as people, in our capacity to speak truthfully, listen attentively, and work co-operatively, for the sake of the community.
Christ calls us, over and over again, particularly to remember those people in the community who are forgotten, who are rejected, neglected and ignored.
He calls us to affirm our commitment to the welfare of the whole of the human family, and to make ourselves available to brothers and sisters who are marginalised, in their ongoing struggle for love and justice.
Christ knows we disagree about many things, if not most things, but he wants us to agree on at least oen thing: the need for us to join together to develop communities in our localities that reflect his compassion by being more devoted, more inclusive and more non-violent.”

Communion at FCOC

I have been away in NZ recently for my foster sisters wedding, most of my family are non-Christian but this sister converted to Catholicism to be with her partner and accepted by his family. I read 12 Corinthians 13 in the ceremony – “love is patient, love is kind…” Weddings have a way of bringing lots of different people together and we all need to put aside our individual preferences in favour of these two getting married. She is Maori and he is Samoan so there were different parts of the reception in different languages and around the speeches we’re all trying to follow the correct cultural protocols. We arrive at the reception and realise that our Mum’s speech as Mother of the Bride requires a waiata following her words – we realise there’s one song we basically all know from primary school which echoes the reading – Mum leads off from the front and we have to stand and join in from where we’re sitting and move to stand behind her – it’s only as we get there that we realise other women, family and friends are standing and moving to sing with us also.

Te aroha – loveNZ_Mons wedding 112bw
Te whakapono – faith
Te rangimarie – peace
Tatou tatou e – all of these

This was profoundly significant… I thought attending the wedding was a bit like sharing communion: sometimes we need to speak a new language/learn a new culture to show love; participating in a covenant can mean putting aside our individual preferences – going out of our comfort zone – in order to achieve something bigger together.

In sharing this celebration cup together, we are reminded of the bigger call on our lives to walk a different way, of putting aside our individual needs to further the greater good we believe in – the kingdom of God. Let’s take a moment to sit in silence as the elements are passed around and reflect on where God is calling us into communion.


When we toast a couple – linking their names, blessing their shared life together, wishing all good things… let us invoke God’s blessing on the life we share together and all the things we wish for for our world and for each other… to the kingdom of God!

Sharing Hospitality

This week Simon Holt came to the Spiritual Reading group and read aloud from the first chapter of his latest book.

Here’s a teaser… “The quest for meaning, intimacy and community seems ever more urgent.  The table beckons. It beckons because, at its core, the table is about such fundamentally human things as intimacy and family, identity and communication, reconciliation and romance, covenant and community, redemption and friendship, sustenance and celebrations, beginnings and endings. The table beckons because it plays host to so much more than biological necessity.”

We went around the group and shared ideas of table from our family of origin – dinner at my house was often cooked sometime in the afternoon then people ate where they liked, when they liked, what they liked (you could always have toast or 2-minute noodles if you didn’t like what was on the stove) – this was not normative of the group where the table was a place of sharing food and daily life together, there might be rules that you don’t leave the table without saying something you are thankful for/doing a bible reading/everyone is finished…

One idea I found intriguing was the idea of not being allowed to ask for anything – training in mindfulness – the only way to get anything is to be aware of others needs and for them to be aware of yours expressed by a need to care for one another: Would you like any…?  Can I pass you the…?

These days I have next to no regular rhythms of food sharing. We are sharing hospitality but it is irregular… if, as Simon says “eating is a social and political act of profound consequence, one that expresses tangibly our communty identity and citizenship.  And as one of the most routine activities of life – one that marks the rhythm and flow of everyday – eating is embedded at the heart of what it means to be human.”

How can we make who we eat with, what we eat and when, more intentional?

3Nov13 003