Tag Archive: Mark


[Earlier this year I had the great privilege and profoundly impacting experience of attending the BCM Kinsler Institute in Oak View, California – a.k.a a clusterfest: part birthday party, part conference, part church, part action planning meeting… – it’s worth noting that I can/am only speaking to my own notes from those sessions I attended and there were generally 5-6 options for every devotional and workshop spot so this is not conclusive coverage and the mistakes are my own. If you’re interested in this kind of reading there’s many more resources, articles and stories at the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (BCM) and Radical Discipleship websites]


Bible Study: Jesus, Disciple of the Story – Ched Myers

Need to be literate in the story.

Jesus underwent formation and had to discern call. Jesus was shaped in/knew his tradition – quoting, embodying, referencing… informs his consciousness and animates his imagination. “As it is written…” rooted in the story.

I will tell you something about stories,
[he said]
They aren’t just for entertainment.
Don’t be fooled
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off illness and death.
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.
Their evil is mighty
but it can’t stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
let the stories be confused or forgotten
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then.

Silko, Ceremonies

If we forget the stories, we are defenceless. If you aren’t grounded in this story, what are you grounded in? Land you are on is filled with stories – do you know them? Conquest, pain, animals… to be part of restorative justice in that place, need to know the stories.

Jordan is a river of stories (Red Sea) Exodus, Joshua 304. River is flooding, ford to cross. Israelites/Canaanites – Semitic tribes politically, socially and economically aligned with Egypt > tribute to pharaoh. Much as America don’t rule South America but control it through strategic leaders politically, socially and economically. Israel just got free, trying to be free of empire, the land they want is under empire/occupied.   This is why they go the long way round. Main roads controlled by Egyptians – undocumented immigrants finding another way >> old story. US Border Patrol, “boat people” in Australia. Chasing them or keeping them out. “The Man” holds the roads, bridges, fords…believe in a God who troubles the water. Ch.3 full chapter of ritual. The ark has to go first – carrier of the tablets. Instructions on how to be non-Egyptian. We are following a Way. Symbol – religious, social, cultural… Cherubim holding up a seat, empty, un-king. Manna economics, non-hierarchal structure of mutual aid. Ritual. Dip feet. Pick up stones, 12 stones, take them to the other side and build a cairn, 12 tribes. Alternative body politic with no king. Build a cairn on the Jericho side. Statement > attack Jericho. Dancing in the teeth of empire – started with going down to the river and getting stones. When Jesus goes down to the river – he dives down into the river – diving for stones. Lost the symbols because we’ve forgotten the stories or gotten confused about them. Elijah passing the mantle to Elisha (discipling) > first thing Jesus does is call disciples like Elisha did.

Apprentice of kingdom, land and story. Need to go into the left side of our bible to make sense of the right side – which constantly references the first half. New Testament stories are re-placed and re-grounded in the Old Testament.

Invites us as disciples to do the same. Let us be disciples of the kingdom as Jesus was, of land as Jesus was, of story as Jesus was. Scripture study informing out political and theological practice.


Walking Meditation: Charletta Erb & Todd Wynward

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Artist Manuel Cisneros, a native of Guanajuato, Mexico, came to California 12 years ago. The physical labor of moving large boulders around was satisfying, and the contemplative nature of balancing and composing his sculptures fed his soul. Often, he doesn’t know what a sculpture is going to look like until it’s finished; he enjoys the way the rocks, wind and ocean waves work their own magic on him. (quote from the Ventura County Reporter, 12/24/2014)


(photo credit: Mayra Stark)



Siyahamba (Zulu, we are walking in the light of God)
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos yoyo’,
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’,
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
[ekukhanyeni kwenkos’]
Siyahamba… ooh
[Siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamba, hamba]
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
[ekukhanyeni kwenkos’]
Siyahamba… ooh
[Siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamba, hamba]
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.


Christ came down that we might have love x 3 (hope, peace, joy…)
Hallelujah forever more


We shall not give up the peace
We have only started x3
Together we can work it out
If we only listen
Together we find victory
Hand holding hand


You shall be like a garden
Like a deep spring
Whose waters never fail


Preacher: Rev. Jin Kim -“Wasting our life for Christ’s sake”

Mark 14: wasted ointment – waste/efficiency/frugality – breaking in with intimacy?

‘To waste’ and ‘to lose’ come from the same word…
whoever loses their life…
“wastes” their life.

birdThink about making something of ourselves or making ourselves nothing. Called to “be a loser”. Exodus: survival – significance – justifies the risk. I am now privileged. Christian domain – homeless, penniless… What are we leaving for our children that matters? Can’t crap in the living room, that will affect the whole house. We’re all dirt. All full of shit. Good soil or bad? Loving God and loving neighbour – generosity and hospitality.

Seriousness is a symptom of empire. Unless you have lightness, levity, joy, self-deprecating humour… your software has taken on the operating system of empire > fruits of the spirit (live in THAT!). Need to detoxify ourselves of empire. THEN reach out – physically, emotionally, spiritually… was Jesus a great prophet but failed evangelist? Message of surrender that no one wants to hear.


Guide my feet while I win this race x3
Oh I don’t want to run this race in vain
Light my path…
Hold my hand…
Set my feet…

(Kinsler Institute photo essay)
This emphemeral art piece was created by Ted
Lyddon Hatten:”…when you are looking at something
you know isn’t going to last from bud to bloom or a
baby that will grow… you appreciate it differently”


Plenary panel: Radical and Integrative Theological Education – Eric Brown and Ndume Olatushani (Proctor Institute); Jin Kim (Underground Seminary); Dee Dee Risher (Alternative Seminary); Solveig Nilsen-Goodin (EcoFaith Recovery); Kate Foran (Word & World); Rebecca Stelle (Church of the Savior)

Opportunity to hear from a variety of grassroots theological education initiative practitioners – use/addiction recovery model, small mission-minded groups, mentors + mission with intensives…

Seminary – comes from the word ‘seed’

Borders – places of convergence.

There’s a higher degree of diversity
and richness at the edges.

If we do our job properly then we should not be sure if we are in church or a classroom or at an organising meeting or in a field. Welcome to the “clusterfest”. Planting, reaping, harvesting > movement building, church renewal or social uprising?

  • Alternative publishing and seminary
  • Can’t learn the new construct from the old construct. What is full immersion? Enter into what is new.
  • Freedom Circle (12 steps) addict to the worlds sick way of being. Theological reflection happens later. Surrender is counter-cultural: full disclosure of finances, surrender authority to one another e.g. can I attend this conference?
  • Dorothy Day wasn’t just sitting around talking. Alternative Seminary: Credo (belief) and contextualisation of that is important, met in a homeless shelter, had a sliding pay scale, connect ecumenically – progressives from each tradition, can’t feel like school (competitive) or be disparaging of one another.
  • Word and World – how do you read? Learned in Greensboro (at the Beloved Community). Understand t agenda of people trying to preserve power > then hear stories and perspectives of others re-placing the stories. Be the student/intern – change the conversation. Too religious for political people and vice versa.
  • In cell – started to paint the things I wanted to see. Listen to what was within – I was fortunate. Chose not to have a TV for the first 10 years in prison (a lot of inmates live in/through that).

Knowledge makes us responsible

(cont.) …I had to educate others. Survival – keep getting up and moving forward. Always a chance to change the world around us. I couldn’t say that to others if I wasn’t doing – want to disrupt the system have to allow my voice at the table to describe what it looked like from the inside. Have to do everything I can so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. ‘Children’s Defence Fund’.

  • Poverty not only economic but internalised. Need to work on both generationally. First African American lawyer and founder of the Children’s Defence Fund. Civil rights pedagogy – not just talking but singing and preaching it and erupting and disrupting onto the streets.
  • Underground seminary: Took graduates – do an internship to undo/detoxing from professionalism. Between 20-40 years old, in debt, over-leveraged – everyone paid what they could afford. Made them live together 8-9 houses. Interns live 4 doors from church intentional. Philosophical and ideological text polluted by smog – if you don’t go to the mountains or fly above it then you can see/don’t know there is smog. As much about unlearning as learning. This way of understanding is integrated into my church and family life. It’s a natural part of our lifestyle – would happen even there were no students. Invigorating. Church gives time to it but holds it lightly. Like a flash mob. When needed, will happen; when not needed, won’t. Traditional in Asian culture to go to a school of “{person}” – personalised authority rather than a school.
  • People and churches going into “recovery”. Individualised recovery vs. communal. Have a grant that funds interns and mentors. Learn from students/cycles. Ecofaith recovery asks “what can we do?” Grief work. Part worship, part movement, self-work… A lot of people might think “I can’t give up my car so I can’t criticise petrol companies” – what are other ways we can engage with the environment?

Imagination lies underneath our grief.

Teach leadership development that is spiritually grounded and organisational skills.



Workshop V: Immigrant Rights Organising – Guillermo Torres

We do advocacy. When undocumented people are picked up they are held by the police and then turned over to Immigration. Police are not qualified to make decisions about immigration.   Principles like these get used to abuse day labourers: utilise them then don’t pay them – they have no protection or right of redress.

What is the faith response to the crisis of children coming from South America? Have a vigil. Visit them and check the conditions where they are being held. Want to do more than pray… got together key faith leaders, politicians, service provision stakeholders and a refugee to tell her story. People that came to the US and were arrested for crimes then were sent home to Honduras and El Salvador – her house was in the middle of a gang shoot out… hunger… coldness… two days on a bus… rash… boy fell off the raft she was on and a another woman went into the water to get him… family were separated… father sent back to Honduras, they had no money and he is the main provider for their family… makes no sense? Kids who arrive in the US under 18 years of age get fast tracked and are given 7 days to make a case for why they should be allowed to stay.  Waves of immigration during the wars > became gangs in LA (shared language and friends) > deported back to El Salvador and keep gang structure.


(Kinsler Institute photo essay)

How do we connect to the children who have arrived? To their faith? To lawyers? To supplies? What if we created a collective network?

How do we find out where the kids are when this is confidential? Invited the people who might have that information to come to the meeting. What are the biggest needs?

  • Legal protection/services > Guardian Angels
  • Mental health services that can be used to build a case for asylum: violence, poverty, abandonment, sex trafficking (give me your daughter r we will kill the entire family)
  • Chaplaincy: sponsor, hospitality, integration into community, links to food/clothes/transportation, navigation.

250 kids were funded to get legal support, only operating at 40% because couldn’t reach more kids/families.

  • Accompany-er who is screened and trained who is with them through the whole process. Calls weekly. Moral and spiritual support.
  • Distribution centres for pallets of shoes, clothing, food, grant for $25K, vouchers for school uniforms.
  • Welcome centers/congregations – food, clothes, school supplies
  • Serving supplies (re job skill training)
  • Raise funds for legal aid
  • Skill/job training – sewing, welding…
  • New furniture

Doing all these things and haven’t
even named the coalition.

What can the church offer as special/unique gifts?

Love, compassion, justice – what moves you? …need to know what motivates groups.

Moral authority “self-interest” motivated by love and call of God on hearts – how are we awakened to our deepest connections? John 17:21 strategy > hope and compassion. Eph 2 implicit and explicit – explain and if you have to, use words. Immigrants become involved in advocacy and non-immigrant partners. Some politicians identify as religious – an interfaith response might canvas that, clergy bring influence and members bring influence.

Anyone plus God is a majority

Further reading on the Faith Communities Contribution to Unaccompanied Migrant Children see: Guardian Angels, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice of Los Angeles (CLUE-LA).
See also Our God is Undocumented – Ched Myers


Workshop VI: Messianism vs. Christology – Jim Perkinson


heidelberg project
Christianity needs to be redefined, transformed, reframed…

Make desperation yield beauty
in spite of itself

Google image search “The Heidelberg Project” – economic decline saw many factories closing and abandoned housing > lots of rubbish. This project using refuse as art attracts 2000 people a year – a community art project that is constantly evolving. Step out of art protocols – make people and places speak beauty. Utilises non-human actors: stones, water, clouds, doves, snakes… what is indigenous to the area. Detroit taught me to speak in tongues – use a difference vocab than your cognisance recognises. An African dance has motion/rhythm/call and response/exchange and a heightening of energy – they are learning how to speak the land, let them have space inside our bodies. The totem animal/plant has been there longer and knows how to survive. What voice is speaking in you? Big question. We are what we eat – is my ancestor my grandfather or possum or grubs? More honest to tell the story that way.

Domesticating ecology and dominating… 10,000 years domesticated plants, 500 years later domesticated animals to help with domesticating plants, now mostly metal technologies through fossil fuels. Functioned in band societies of c.150 people or less (most of us still only engage with about that number of people). We are not hardwired to violence – when have we lived not destructively? What do we have to learn from that period? Pastoral nomadism as resistance… Genesis 1-2-3… domestication happened as a result of the Fall not “advancement”, Cain and Abel – the farmer kills the pastoral nomad then builds the first city. Replacement for Abel is Seth (replacement), Inosh (vulnerable one) and Inoch (full metal jacket) > two lines out of Eve. Son of Man/Human One not Christ or Rabbi. Kibor Inosh in Daniel (one like the vulnerable one)… history of empire and kingship – Samuel – you will come to regret this… Saul, David, Solomon… 1&2 Samuel/1&2 Kings = forced labour of men and harems of women. Pastoral nomadism has counter imperial values. Abram first thing, leave the city, take animals, become herder, trees of Moray…

hospitality is how you hear
what’s going on in the next watershed

3 angels visit. Urban Sodom is degrading visitors.

David/Daniel/Isaiah – how does Jesus talk about them? Messianism

Abraham – hospitality
Moses – lives off the land
Elijah – fed by ravens > hunting
David – on the run renegade shepherds, playing the lyre, shamanic tradition
Paul – Galilean movement

We have enslaved matter.

Indigenous people are calling us to return not for in a forward spiral. To them space – organic life and everything else – squirrel and a rock have the same vitality.

Further reading: Principalities and Powers – Walter Wink

Building in cities represent the harnessed energy of animals, minerals, humans – they are still energised but they are warped. Bloated and starving. Hungry ghosts. “I am Legion” complexity of singular and plural. Internalised scribal principalities. Exorcises the people and the first thing that happens is people start asking “What was that? Haven’t seen that before!” >start asking questions.

Me. You. God has hundreds of faces. Return wild vitality to them. Jesus puts mud and spit on blind eyes and asks: “Can you see?”. Artists take mud caps and paint and ask us “Can you see?” The project was bulldozed twice and burned nine times – not everyone thinks it’s beautiful. Folk art marking it out as beautiful – as vital. Shocks you into recognition of where you are. Ethnic cleansing is happening through tax/mortgage/water cut offs. Detroit is seen as a blight and a problem. A deep weapon for surviving is codifying beauty out of pain: spirituals/blues/jazz/R&B/gospel/soul/funk/techno/hiphop… old school and underground forms… tagging, breakdancing, turntabling…Pain made into beauty.


Reflections from our chaplains

Lots of tensions/paradoxes:

Take seriously – not too seriously
Local – global
Find voice – listen
Be still – dance
Articulate – sit in silence
Doing a lot – not doing enough

 Isaiah 37:31 root downwards, fruit upwards.

Sometimes find ourselves with less time, less money, less love, less support than we would want. Not called to imitate as they did but the way they incarnated the Word/Spirit of God in their lives.

Digging down deeper – public acts of liturgy might encourage someone to go a little further.

Imaginative capacity – how do we expand this for ourselves and our imaginations. Easier to imagine another world than our own neighbourhood being radically different, incarnating a deeper imagination.

Moving from strength to strength:

  • Gifts of young ‘uns: new ways of seeing, energy, acontextual, less baggage
  • Keeping it real
  • Connections: art, music, cross denominations, people, creativity
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Manifestation of spirit
  • Ched’s jokes

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing – fuel, safe space, fresh air, spark rekindled.

Celebrate and nurture faithfulness.  Courageous is the loving thing to be.

We share with you
what we have received.

Movement – called to shine light not be stars, workers not heroes, move justly and lightly on the earth. “The world seen clearly, not sharp eyes but eyes moistened with tears…” Margaret Atwood.

Passion and compassion that leads us. Themes: touch my wound, leave sorrow behind >go to lead and feed.

We are enough.
Scattered but not alone.

Pick up seed and carrying it away – store, feed family, drop… grow

Trip `11-'12 102Ventura River, Oak View

[Earlier this year I had the great privilege and profoundly impacting experience of attending the BCM Kinsler Institute in Oak View, California – a.k.a a clusterfest: part birthday party, part conference, part church, part action planning meeting… – it’s worth noting that I can/am only speaking to my own notes from those sessions I attended and there were generally 5-6 options for every devotional and workshop spot so this is not conclusive coverage and the mistakes are my own. If you’re interested in this kind of reading there’s many more resources, articles and stories at the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (BCM) and Radical Discipleship websites]

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Farm Field trip: Abundant Table sunrise ritual and CSA Harvesting

“The Abundant Table, is a sustainable, working farm that provides faith-rooted, land-based and farm-to-school experiential learning opportunities for school-aged children, youth, young adults and communities. We create greater access to sustainably grown foods for the benefit of all Ventura County residents, produced from a consciousness of ecological, social and spiritual well-being.  Our mission seeks to change lives and systems by creating sustainable relationships to the land and local community.”

photo credit: Mayra Stark

Bible Study: “Jesus Disciple of the Land”  Ched Myers

Watershed discipleship:

  • Watershed moment.Human exploitation and abuse cannot fathom the trouble we’re in. Climate change is the ultimate expression of colonisation.
  • Our discipleship takes place within watersheds >need resiliency and sustainability. How are we in relationship to our watershed?
  • Become a disciple of our watershed. Literacy and engagement by our land – what does the land have to teach us?


Isaiah 14:8 – Cedars being cut down. Used for straight wood for imperial temples and ship masts.

Kick start revolution by returning to wilderness source. 40 days in the wilderness (addicted to our appetites and amenities). Accompanied by spirit world and animal world. Vision quest and dreaming.

Further reading: Manna and Mercy by David Erlander

Dove/bird messengers… Holy Spirit not just in people. Not baptised IN Jordan but INTO the watershed. Holy Spirit came like a dove INTO Jesus. Spirit drives INTO the wilderness.

3 Temptations: economics, power, Bible (traditions complicit in the illness). “As it is written…” Jesus appeals to the scripture to defeat the temptations.

We need to reclaim scripture as our
most powerful weapon of resistance.
Stories are the best weapon we have.

Usually we think of wilderness as dangerous vs. safe and sacred. We’re not lost but find God there.

Jesus was apprenticing himself to wilderness and the Creator.

  • Constantly on the water
    • Preaching from a boat
    • Doesn’t have a pulpit/institutional space
    • Land as natural amphitheatre
  • Consider/See the lilies of the valley [imperative verb. Pay attention/Don’t miss this!]
    • One wildflower has more intrinsic value than pinnacle of built empire (Solomon’s temple)
  • Parables agrarian – good soil/harvest/fig tree. Centring pedagogy in stories that land teaches.
  • Light/vine/Living water imagery > not a metaphor but need to take this seriously. Roman aqueducts were taking water, desert scarcity. NEED healthy water.

We need to be recovering old ways becoming land and wilderness literate.

Liturgists: The Wilderness Way


Everything I need is right in front of me
Everything I need is right in front of me (x2)
Can we be manna, manna?
Can we be manna for each other? (x2)

Deep down inside of me,
I got a fire going on x2

 Part of me
wants to sing about the light,
Part of me
wants to cry, cry, cry }x2

Come gather round my friend
Welcome everyone
To the wilderness

Sabbath and Jubilee
and community

Activity: The People’s Mike021
People shout out words, what is holding us back from living the lives we’re called to? What are we afraid of? One person shouts it out and then we all shout it out together in chorus.


We need to match our commitment
to the pain of what makes us small.


<complicity>     <fear>     <professionalism>     <loneliness>     <racism>     <impatience>     <addiction>     <apathy>     <forgetfulness>     <lack of compassion>

At a Wilderness Way service we take off our shoes and declare this is holy ground. Then have “leaving”,


what are we leaving behind? Have a basket and put in it: wallet, purses, cellphone, keys. No place for that which distorts who we are and clouds our clarity. We pass through water (cross a river) as a symbol of baptism and anointing, that we are walking the wilderness way. We are grounding and cultivating “wild” disciples. Use a liturgy of liberation. We are leaving oppression and creating something new

“create the already
in the not yet,
and live in the face
of no evidence”

Done made my vow to the Lord
and I never will turn back
oh I will go, I shall go,
to see what the end will be



Close your eyes

Deep breath in

Deep breath out

Think of all those radical disciples who came before you in their own way working for social justice… they fought, sang, danced, prayed for you to be born… feel that power fill you up as we pray…


Preacher: “On the Edge of the Wilderness”: An Ash Wednesday Homily, by Jennifer Henry

(full text available per BCM blog)

Isaiah 58:1-12, Mark 1: 1-13

You and I, we are standing on the edge of the wilderness with Jesus; you and I, on this first day of Lent, driven by the Spirit; you and I, on this Ash Wednesday, made of earth and water.  Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.  Today, whatever our justice ministry, we are invited, reminded, compelled, driven to enter into the wilderness to confirm our identity, to remember our names, and to reclaim our integrity, finding each other along the way.

This wilderness journey is no idyllic trip to the cottage on Cape Cod or in the Muskokas.  It’s not a vacation spa in Ojai.  There’s nothing easy about it.  But neither is it a threatening place for us conquer or domesticate.  Nor is it a demonic space, as if somehow the wilderness is the only neighbourhood where Satan hangs out.  Those narratives—the narratives of my Puritan ancestors—do not serve us.

The wilderness is neither idyllic nor demonic—but it is true, a place where things get real.  It’s a place where with few distractions, the backdrop is stark, the contrasts are clear, creation is powerful, and false pretenses get revealed.  In the wilderness, there is nowhere to hide, and we must come to grips with our work, our lives for what they are.  It’s where you figure things out.  It’s a place where you can reclaim integrity, or lose it.

The first words of Mark’s Gospel reveal Jesus’ identity.  He is anti-imperial, the real “good news” (1:1).  He is in the continuity of YHWH, “as it was written in the prophet Isaiah” (1:2).  He is much more than the movement that preceded him, “the one more powerful that is coming after” (1:7).  His identity is marked in these ways, but also through the actions that connect him to water and earth.  Jesus’ first gesture is to claim his watery essence—two thirds of the water in his body is, like our own, from the watershed of his place, connecting him to all the vulnerabilities and possibilities of the Jordan.  He immerses himself in the Great River, intentionally locating himself, diving deep into place, the act of submerging INTO as critical an action for the inauguration of his ministry as the opening of the skies above.

And then he goes to the earth, reconnecting with the dirt that is the stuff of him, of us—ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Placed INTO the wildness, he is attended by the angels but accompanied by the wild beasts.  Verse 13 is intriguing: “He was WITH the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” This is confirmation of his place among the species, not over or above them.

Mark inaugurates Christ’s ministry by literally integrating him with water, with earth, placing him WITH his companions in the watershed, WITH all his relations.  The Spirit leads him, drives him, to the place where it gets real—the wilderness, where he is tested, but ultimately strengthened, his integrity confirmed.

I serve at KAIROS, an organization that brings Canadian churches together in common commitments to ecological justice and human rights.  At this time in our Canadian history, many churches and communities, many individual settler Christians, are poised on the edge of the wilderness, some of us maybe a step or two into the journey, but each of us desperately seeking to confirm our identity anew and reclaim our integrity.  It is a watershed moment.

Through our imperfect gestures of solidarity with Indigenous peoples over 40 years, and more recently through an extended national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we have become painfully aware of our multiple complicities as settlers, as Christians; painfully aware of how some of our ancestors of blood and faith were collaborators, or protagonists in colonial horror; painfully aware of our own alienation from the land that is inextricably linked to our violations of the people of the land; painfully aware of how our citizenship still links us now to the re-colonization of Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the globe through relentless resource extraction pursued in our name.

Convicted by the truth, we are working—very imperfectly—to un-settle ourselves from colonial injustice and re-place ourselves in right relations.  Invited, undeservedly by Indigenous peoples, we are striving through an embrace of justice to be reconciled anew to the land and the original peoples of the land. It is a wilderness struggle.  And, God willing, it will stay true, stay real, until we get it.  Until we understand enough, act enough, to find a new identity in restoration.  Perhaps as repairers of the breach, reconcilers in the watershed.

I can tell you today that the ancient words of Isaiah 58 are a strangely faithful companion in this journey.  This text, also the appointed one for Ash Wednesday, is poignant in its challenge to us but also in its promise.  Radical disciples know this text.  We know that it is likely post exilic, from the period when the people of Israel are returning from Babylon, struggling with the possibilities but also the challenges of community reconstruction after trauma. They are holding in their hearts the hopeful promises that come to us from earlier Isaiah, even while facing the day to day practicalities of nation-building anew. It is an unsettling time.

We do not know the precise controversy that provokes verses 1-5. Perhaps there were rivalries between different forms of religious observance. But the prophetic message is clear: to turn away from empty fasts and from religious piety that serves primarily one’s own interests. The critique here is not about the irreligious–those who do not know Yahweh or who have forsaken God—but those whose religion is found to be false pretense.

Speaking into our Canadian context, this feels like a piercing challenge.  Our colonizers were not irreligious.  Christianity was moral architecture to this project; it was fuel for the colonial fire.  The faith of so many of our Christian ancestors—of my ancestors—got distorted by racial superiority, their own interests in land and security, and a missionary zeal.  In the name of Christ, four Canadian churches sat with empire and collaborated with the federal government in a 130 year project of boarding schools intended to “kill the Indian in the child.” Seven generations of Indigenous children—young children– were isolated from their families, cultures, languages, and traditions in Indian residential schools run by the churches.

Seen through Isaiah’s critical eyes, and with the benefit of hindsight, what might we call that distorted sense of mission?  A self- serving religion—I fear so.  It not only failed to do justice—to accomplish the compassionate justice that is the prophetic challenge—but it perpetrated injustices in religion’s name.  In the schools, there was unspeakable cruelty, humiliation, and abuse—sometimes even in the name of Christ.

The problem is that it is a little too easy to join ourselves to Isaiah and criticize our colonial ancestors for their practice of faith.  The challenge of Isaiah in the present is to ask: “Have we really fully turned away from this kind of religion?” Are there colonial remnants in our faith? How might our religion continue to serve our own survival and security ahead of justice?  Are we actively seeking reconciliation to the land and the peoples of the land? Where do have residue of “subdue and dominate”—even in our more sophisticated stewardship concepts? Where are we still more monuments then Jesus movement, more institution than community convicted by the radical gospel?

Isaiah is clear: turn from false religion; embrace the ways of justice.  Beginning at verse 6 the prophet delivers the call to “loose the bonds of injustice, undo the thongs of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke.” Offer bread, home, clothing, hospitality…  This text, echoing similar themes in Micah and Amos, and anticipating Jesus’ teaching, defines true worship in terms of expressions of justice. This turns on its head all the ways in which we make false divisions between faith and witness and justice and peace, between acts of worship and acts of justice. Our expressions of justice are liturgies of holiness and faithfulness. Actions of justice are as a prayer. Justice is the fast that God requires.

For the Canadian churches, this means that their apologies for colonial complicity in residential schools and their prayers for Indigenous peoples mean little without a commitment to Indigenous justice in the now.  There is no way to decolonization that fails to address the situation of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, that is unconcerned with “boil water” advisories in reserve communities, or that ignores scathing deficiencies in First Nations education.

This means deep solidarity with Indigenous people who are demanding free prior and informed consent before any development project impacts their traditional territories, wherever that happens in the world. This means the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. For some settler Christians, it may very well mean standing in front of trucks with Indigenous peoples in British Columbia as they block the building of a pipeline across their traditional territory, or kneeling with Indigenous women in New Brunswick as they put their bodies between fracking and Mother Earth.  Our failure to do justice—to rise to the solidarity call—will confirm that not just our ancestor’s faith but our own may be for naught.

Today Indigenous peoples are seeking our partnership in justice—not for their own rights only, but for the health and wellbeing of the whole inhabited earth.  What a humbling and generous invitation.  In the movement originating in Canada called Idle no More, the message was a call to partnership in justice for the sake of our world.  The motivation was the Canadian government’s complete removal of environmental regulations and continuing rapacious resource extraction without limits.  The motivation was threats to our waters.  Indigenous peoples, with a closer connection to creation, were sounding the alarm and inviting us into the call.

This invitation to partnership is present also in the global cry for climate justice, echoing from the Indigenous peoples at the front of the New York Climate March.  Placing ourselves with Indigenous communities, welcoming their land wisdom, their creation literacy—something which we previously demonized and rejected—opens us up to re-placement and re-connection to the earth, air, and waters.  But it is an ethical re-placement in the watershed that respects and recognizes the First Peoples and their deep custodianship, which has no termination date.

Turn from false religion, embrace the way of justice…  Beginning in verse 8 is the final challenge, but it has turned into a promise—a promise of restoration, a promise of identity, hoped for renewed integrity, and new names.  In a wonderful series of “if…then” expressions, the prophet confirms that it is only from justice, that restoration flows.  If you embrace justice, then… your bones will be strengthened, your gardens watered, your ruins rebuilt.

It is this just action that will reveal your identity, that will change your name: “You shall be called repairers of the breach, restorers of streets to live in”(58:12).  Only this just action, will confirm your integrity.  For settler Christians, it may just be possible to find new names from the ones theologian Tink Tinker accurately but bluntly summarized as “liars, murderers and thieves.”  Maybe we could be allies.  Maybe we could be treaty partners. Maybe we could be companions in the watershed.  Just maybe, we could be friends, like in the peace and friendship treaties that were originally extended.  What we must be is “nation to nation,” in a new covenant written on our hearts.

For Isaiah, justice is the precursor to restoration. The “if…then” construction is essential.  We cannot expect reconciliation within our churches, within our country, without our tangible, sustained commitment to justice. Reconciliation will follow rather than lead actions for justice, which becomes a form of testing intention and resolve. What I love about this passage is that as clear as the critique of hollow religion, as clear as the call to justice, that same kind of clarity is also present in the commitment of restoration. Look at what is promised.  It is both personal healing—strong bones, satisfied needs—and communal restoration: restored houses, rebuilt ruins.

I need the promise of Isaiah because sometimes the horror at what we have done to one another, the depth of our failure to protect traumatized people or a traumatized creation, the relentless challenges of the present injustices—somewhere in there my hope is obscured. I can’t see for the anger or the guilt or the shame. I can’t see for the tears.

But Isaiah makes restoration tangible, a reality of transformation confirmed for us as Christians in the Easter event–in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Justice, peace, reconciliation can be so. It must be so. Our actions must live up to that promise.

Let me leave you with one example, one taste of restoration, that I recognize through Isaiah’s eyes:

It was Victoria Island, the traditional gathering place for Indigenous peoples on the Ottawa River that has a clear view of the Canadian Parliament buildings.  Our leaders, six Algonquin Kokoms—grandmothers—began with a smudge, followed by a teaching on the sacredness of water.  We were a mixed group, young and old, settler Indigenous and newcomer.  We blessed 200 water offerings from all across the country, and four from different parts of the world.  Each was sent as signs of commitment to protect watersheds when our government, in repealing environmental protection legislation, had abdicated its responsibility.  Each was sent as a sign of resistance to all that threatens our watersheds—tar sand in Alberta, fracking in New Brunswick, pollution in Manitoba.  Each was sent as a sign of connectedness, one watershed to another, by those being harmed around the globe by Canadian mining. 

Strawberries were shared, and water was poured on the ground as a sign of respect for Mother Earth. Tobacco was offered to the Ottawa River and there was a moment of deep shared acknowledgement of the Source of all water—all living things.  Public liturgy, held in the view of empire.  (From: www.kairoscanada.org/dignity-rights/indigenous-rights/gathering-of-the-w….)

One of the participants, a white settler woman, said this felt more like worship to her than many church services she could remember.  No doubt Isaiah would have agreed.  Closer to true religion than what sometimes happen in our churches.  In this place and for this moment, imperfect and humble, it felt a step closer to the fast that God required.  Watershed Discipleship. Reconciliation in the Watershed.

This Lent, I am going to continue the process of unsettling the settler that is still within me. It is time to get real: to ask myself again what colonial ideas and practices are still part of my fabric of being.  And I am going to work to re-place myself in the land of my chosen watershed, to work harder to reconcile to the earth in right relations with Indigenous peoples.  It is time to get real: what ways am slipping back to comfort and convenience away from ecological integrity, what ways am I ignoring racism, cause I’m just too tired to make a fuss?  In this wilderness time, I am going to strive to renew my identity as an ally, I am going to push my own church to greater boldness—to stand up in Indigenous solidarity, even when the empire pushes back and calls us names.

The Spirit may need to drag me into the wilderness—as she often does, in her unsettling, challenging, relentlessly liberating, but connecting way. But she will do it for my own good, for my own integrity, because she knows my name.  If she is successful, when she is successful, I expect I’ll see you there.

return again, return again
return to the land of your soul  }x2
return to what you are
return to who you are
return to where you are
born and reborn again

Humble yourself in the arms of the wild
You got to lay down low and
humble yourself in the arms of the wild
you got to ask her what she knows and
we will lift each other up (clap)
higher and higher }x2

we are the rising sun
we are the change
we are the ones we have been waiting for and
we are dawning


Plenary:  “Water Show” with Tevyn East, Jay Beck & the Carnival de Resistance



The Carnival are a traveling arts carnival and ceremonial theater company, a village demonstration project exploring ecological practices, and an education and social outreach project; all focusing on ecological justice and radical theology.

See their rich visual feast coverage of the Water Show here, with some highlights and a (trust me it’s awesome) Flickr album


Workshop III: Theopoetics and the Ecology of Emancipation – Chris Grataski

Further reading: Systematic theology – Robert Jensen “…the end is music”


I will look to the hills x2
Where my strength, where my strength, where my strength comes from
From the Lord, from the Lord is where my strength comes from
I will look to the hills x2
Where my hope, where my hope, where my hope comes from.
From the Lord, from the Lord is where my hope comes from

“To know the dark” or “to serve the dark” – Wendall Berry “to enrich the earth”

What is the Dark?

  • Theology
  • Ecology
  • Politics

Go deeper into the dark, the cloud of unknowing.  Sacred ordinary things, encountered the mystery of God in the wilderness >Theopoetics

Theology vs. Anarchal Primitivism – language, symbols, map and metaphor – step away from creation.

Stanley Hopper – imaginative, practical and sensuous. Reorder our mythological and metaphorical origins. Need mystery over explanation. Fresh religious language – joyful expression!

Amos Wilder – not rewriting theology, mobilising by humanising. Principalities and powers exposed as a farce.

Reuben Elvis – “The Poet, the Warrior, the Prophet” took theopoetics to language that speaks to a way of life, being a creature, naturally generates a bodily response.

Common thread – respond to a problem – the gap between religious practice and religious action. Language encourages dysfunction rather than faith… connection between bodies and imagination, tension between what ought to be and what is possible.

Buddhism – release narrative, what is
Judeo-Christian – what could be, works by fascination not force.

Description of theopoetics: not as a way of doing theology or speech but as poetic, speech movement, positive but haunted response to awareness of mystery.

Words fall short of describing God, should proliferate images! Points beyond itself, speech tempered by humility ‘a textural body of learning’.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) – Ecological science already underway before ecoscience was invented. Everyday rituals acknowledge debt to creatives (limit to strain food chain).  Local and holistic, spiritual and practical application of skills and knowledge over changing ecological and socio-economic changes.

Stories, parables, rituals – normalise and teach – not only how many fish are okay to catch in a season but understand what is likely to put them in a mindset where they would overfish (warning: economic, political, fear…)

Oral biblical tradition – remind people of ways of life that bind them together, not one thing, stories a cosmos vision. Authorise a way of being counter. Socio-literary way of understanding the text. Fictive but concrete and tangible historical reference. Parables/bibles normalise alternative ways of living.

We have failed by accident or intention – is the bible TEK? Not in hand of indigenous? Not in the hands of the people who the knowledge was local to? Text speaks to everything in that ancient way. Rupture between science and theology.

Permaculture – defeat of death makes sense e.g. cover crop lives/grows to die and be turned over to give nutrients to the earth. I die and my body goes back to earth.

Best way to ‘defeat’ death is
to collaborate with death.

Wendall Berry “lose your mind, do something that doesn’t compute”,

Principalities and Powers

Domestication (enslaving technology and minerals) rocks, mountains, rivers are alive as well as creatures.
Mark, Further reading: Binding the Strong Man – Ched Myers
John, by what authority do you do these things? By the finger of God.
Paul, incarnate is bigger and emptier than in creation.

Left alone the world would not destroy but restore. What is death? What is resurrection? Abrupt ending in Mark, unresolved tension. Live as if death had been defeated.

Composting of civilisation

  • Materials are the blood of the earth
  • Facilitate alienation (buildings/pavements)
  • Permaculture design discipline is committed to the cultivation of high diversity human habitat, needs woven into environment with human community.

Design entymology – sign/signature/apprentice to pattern and practices. Language, gesture, sound in most primitive scenarios – everything in the world bears relation to something else, have to pay attention!! Localised not industrialised language e.g. Seeds “code”, …going in potable water – even dogs know not to do that. There’s organicness about death and resurrection. Neutered it’s theopoetic ability to speak to things. Endless metaphors – creator, healer, provider… Theopoetics is the art of persuasion. Self-conscious fabling that has emancipatory intent.


Workshop IV: The Great Commission: Watershed Discipleship or Watershed Conquest? – Kat Friesen

Lived for a while in the Phillipines – using that as a model of watershed discipleship. .. Regulating upstream to minimise impact downstream, measure trees, carbon sequestration… “decided to expand their faith instead of their gardens”.  Christianity let them live within their limits and watershed – love of place inspires resistance.

Restlessness and mobility of cultre ans that’s rewarded. Witness > this threatens the gd news.  “Great Commission” colonisation/conquest > missions/Christology > business/economics.  Trauma of displacement – those who have no place of home >> how can you understand and proect “home” for others?

Home mission: usually aimed at immigrants/international students that might not have heard the good news.

Christendom theologies of placenessness (Ched Myers)

  1. A docetism the priveleges spiritual matters over social and ecological ones
  2. The presumption f human dominion over creation
  3. A theology and politics of presumed “divinely granted” entitlement to land and resources.

Used religious “doctrine of discovery” to take land, etc. given permission to international corporations to mineral rights, etc.

Principle of Contiguity – politically and geographically expressed ownership of large watersheds. Claim to mouth of river gave claim to entire drainage system and adjacent coast. Great Commission/Terra Nullius/Promised land “theology”.  Didn’t recognise land as inhabited when nomads/gatherers. Ezekiel c. 40-42 foreigners occupying land get land too.

In who’s hands are these texts interpreted? e.g. African American Promise Land > freedom.  Only legal precendent to refer is land-grab.

This is our legacy as Christians.

Watershed conquest: find the rivermouth first, claim the whole watershed for your  country. Lewis and Clark.  How is our visionhindered? What can’t we see?

Repentance before Reconcilation

  • repentance as metanoia
  • what are we turning toward?
  • everytime we say no to a way of destruction we say yes to something much more beautiful and life sustaining (Kathleen Dean Moore)

Watershed discipleship as Home Mission

  • antidote to placelessness and domination behind Doctrine of Discovery and Watershed Conquest
  • not to convert and conquer watersheds, but to inhabit, care for and learn from them
  • reinterpreting the “go” of the Great Commission.

We won’t save place we don’t love.
We can’t love places we can’t learn.
Can’t learn what we don’t know.

Find ways to maintain, support and encourage traditions. Learn names of animals and plants. Ecological knowledge in lots of languages.  Commissioned home, colonial repentance.


  • contextual – following trail of peple moving off the land, reading journals, camping, hearing stories from elders.  Replanting native species and taking away others. Don’t know place, don’t have stories, don’t have songs/music/TEK.
  • contrite heart – clean/renew heart. ‘daca’ to be crushed/broken heart. “Heart listening”. Violation against God not “just” people.
  • learning connected to discipleship:
    • centre to margins
    • (wrong) God in centre, take with you to be where God is not i.e. at the edges (colonising)
    • (right) Go to margins to hear from God and bring back.
    • Go to margins to be saved, not to save > Jesus is there.
  • stop injustices – don’t keep taking more land.  Stop continued dislocation.  Need to start. This is still happening.
  • [insert name of your river/watershed] “Maribyrnong” is just as sacred as the Jordan.
  • “Creator”, no one comes to God except through me, nations are intact – culture and identity intact.




Conference attendees BYO mug, write names on masking tape and use one mug all weekend washing themselves as needed.


 Sometimes the

medium is the message.

Keynote: Reyna Ortega, Sarah Nolan & Erynn Smith – Abundant Table Farm Project

Came to the Abundant Table and realised I had found my people.  Be unsettled AND experience joy as shared space.  Engages all part of myself.  Singing “I don’t know anything” playful.

  • feed school district – farm to school program
  • food bank
  • sharing abundance

Growing with grace;
Caring for the land;
Creating healthy communities;
Cultivating food justice;
Transforming young lives.

… seeds to change lives and systems
by creating sustainable relationships
to the land and local community.

“I have a place… I have a community…”

Education as animation – want others to have the opportunity and experiences I have had.  Rooted Futures: farm visit, healthy food at school/in homes, native healing plants.

Different Way – I’ve fought for that > loss of hope not to value the land and value ourselves.  Need to see and value each others goodness and Godness.

Can’t change the world,
but the world around us… yes

016sml[Earlier this year I had the great privilege and profoundly impacting experience of attending the BCM Kinsler Institute in Oak View, California – a.k.a a clusterfest: part birthday party, part conference, part church, part action planning meeting… – it’s worth noting that I can/am only speaking to my own notes from those sessions I attended and there were generally 5-6 options for every devotional and workshop spot so this is not conclusive coverage and the mistakes are my own. If you’re interested in this kind of reading there’s many more resources, articles and stories at the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (BCM) and Radical Discipleship websites]


Bible study: “Jesus, Disciple of the Kingdom” – Ched Myers

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 at the margins of the country. Based on the outreaches of Sepharus (the admin base of Rome)… what was it known for other that being the birth place of Jesus? The Sepharus uprising. 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. Jesus and his Dad were techtons (labourers, construction workers) hired to help rebuild Sepharus. Labouring under the bitterness of colonial occupation… this would shape your consciousness, this would have a huge impact… this is why context is so important.

Of all the people Jesus could have gone to he went to John the Baptist. Calling for change. Peripheral/wilderness. Wildman. Elijah. Spoke truth to power – defending people whose land was being taken by the King. Jesus discipled in a deep tradition.

He was apprenticing himself to the peripheral
radical edge of his own tradition.

Mark doesn’t do genealogy but what ‘testimony’ is it giving us? Traditionally and consciously apprenticing to? (Mark written during the uprising to overthrow the Romans 30-40 years after Jesus was killed) The authors wanted to frame their ‘call’ drawing on the narrative weight of the example of Jesus.

Who are we apprenticed to? [BCM – Martin Luther King}

What does the kingdom of God mean?

The true king of the world is God, that’s who we’re called to follow, to penultimately obey – no one else is higher (conflictive political statement, no empire likes to hear that)

We are disciples of someone who was himself a member of this anti-kingship.

Jesus had dark nights of the soul – watching Sepharus burn, seeing his Dad going to work building empire…

The kingdom of God is imminent, it is here – first sermon of Jesus.

Worship: Rev Robert Two Bulls – Lokota Taize

Profoundly moving to sing together a Taize song in the Lokota language.  I could not capture it but here is a link to an article written by Rob in Sojourners about writing the chants… what would it mean to us here in the South Pacific to have Wurundjeri… all Kulin Nations, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands language taize chants?

Preacher: Rev Arthur Cribbs

Isaiah 61 The Spirit of God is upon me

Mayra 11016722_10153155574714715_3033034683319964493_n (1)

Jesus in the temple, those words are fulfilled in me today. Challenge on us to say/claim this for ourselves… people are treating people like they don’t matter. Reach out right now and touch someone else, reach those further away, reach those not here… every person is sacred across all borders. Are these words prophetic or historic? The Spirit of what is on who? We need to understand the importance of God’s presence with us.

Ethics for police officers (e.g. treatment of suspects on arrest), ask: “What do you do when you’re doing what you think is right, society says its right, law says its right and someone says ‘Ouch’?” …Be who God intended you to be because the world is waiting for YOU.

(photo credit: Mayra Stark)

Plenary Panel: Forty Years of Radical Christian Witness – Rose Berger (Sojourners), Myra Brown (Call to Action, Spiritus Christi,), Tensie Hernandez (Catholic Worker), Joerg Rieger (faith & labour), Steve Clemens (Koinonia Community, Clarence Jordan), Shady Hakim (Christian Peacemaker Teams)

Rev Nelson Johnson (Beloved Community Center, Greensboro) by video conference

Language and words, name and claim, have great meaning. Took us 35 years to get the language right (accident, massacre… murder, assault…) I was exhausted. What gave me faith and meaning was rediscovering my roots. Labour/low wage fights in Greensboro… built community… the community became the union. Can have national implications if you do your job right.

Important to learn the story of your place. [what is the name of the water source in your watershed?] River flowed before and flows after. What we’re doing and what needs to be done. Have to appreciate the context to appreciate what they were doing. Strongest and most enduring movements came from knowing stories of our mothers and fathers. Drill down in a place and then gather in that place – become a foundation – work becomes more powerful. Not heroes but ordinary common people standing up against bureaucracy.

The culture of domination – that will be in the language you use. Sometimes can’t say anything, have to sing it out… poetry… how we understand is important and language is what we have to convey that . Language has to call us together, set direction without making what we’re trying to do matter.

Appreciating the fear and the pain of those affected by social injustice, my parents, hope even though I can’t see it >> gives me courage. Gathering together now, strengthens courage, strength and resistance, mourn with those who mourn… share joy with those who feel joy… become a community and transcend ourselves. Not in the fight for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children.

Lion coming over the hill – climate change. New threat. All bad times >> been connected to others. We need to reconnect with natives who are connected to the earth and creation. Beaten down – think only of immediate survival. Need to bring issue in a way that connects to their reality right now… solar panels on buildings in poorest neighbourhoods – opened up discussion. Community gardens is another example of that. White people need to connect their struggle to others experience >> make connections. “We are hooked into a mutuality” – MLK

Question to the panel: If I’m 18, 25, 33 years old… why/how did the tradition that you’re now with grab you? Give us the biography of the movement history that has changed your life…

Tensie Hernandez (Catholic Worker)

Young. Traditional. Immigrant pious Catholic. Only in passing heard of Ghandi and St Francis. Mid-80s heard word of some nuns getting arrested and wondered… why? Churning heart. Came upon a vigil in downtown LA on Good Friday – wanted to hand out bread from holy Thursday at school to homeless. They held a banner “God died today in Central America” – not St Francis or Mother Teresa but close. Invited me in. Good Catholic, don’t eat Good Friday. Catholic Worker Homeless Soup Kitchen invited me in, “come and eat with us!” I can’t. Fasting. We’re having shrimp. I definitely can’t!   What would Jesus do? Courage to have a living faith. Where are the people and the issues that we choose to live with daily. “You become like that which you are habitually with” – Don Sheats. Be transformed by that.

Steve Clemens (Koinonia Community)

Don Sheats – multimedia values – materialism/competition/militarism vs. cooperation/compassion/non-violence. Ballot number was too high for the war in Vietnam, decided to sign up anyway. Challenged to respond a different way. Koinonia not resistance but calling to be alternative and sustainable.

Myra Brown (Call to Action)

Daughter of migrant farm workers. First four years – oppression – experience shaped me and prepared me to be “caught”. Black Catholic church, 16 years old, asked me to preach and I said “No.” He asked me to pray about it (my Grandmother said, “When God goes silent, that’s it”). I’m black, I’m a woman, Catholic… I said: You open the doors and I’ll trust You and step through them. At 25, heard about Corpus Christi, first time worked with white people that were compassionate and ‘got it’, who worked hard to create safe space. We can’t call you a pastor but we’ll give you a title and you can write your own job description. Launch black civil rights/justice issues and see the fruit of that. Build on that. Worked with me to see what my gifts/callings were.

Shady Hakim (Christian Peacemaker Teams)

Israel/Palestine conflict, people on the ground living gospel restored my faith (1996) 5-6 people living in the conflict zone. Met Ched and Elaine (1998)

Rose Berger (Sojourners)

Mennonites offered land if joined fighting and said no. Married Irish Catholics. Arkansaw – cross burned in their front yard. 4 years old seeing saints and angels. Emergency response card – Nicaragua. I anoint you in honour of Micheldech, kicked out of church – been kicked out of churches with my parents before… picked up a copy of Sojourners – advertised for an internship. Anti-nuclear protest/test site. Lord is there truth to be found here? I wake up and go to work. I hear: “Yes.”

 This festival is about hearing and telling these stories –
stories that have midwived these people,
now they midwive others…

Workshop I:
Resistance & Public Liturgy: Non-violent Direct Action as Gospel Witness

Bill Wylie-Kellerman (St Peter’s Episcopal Church Detroit)

Author of/Further Reading: Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Reflections of Liturgical Direct Action

Worship is categorically political – subverts all other allegiances. Baptism a sacramentum (protest against Caesar). Combined with civil resistance rather than direct action cloaked in piety. Ref: Freedom struggle ‘50s funeral liturgy “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” Emmett Tell addressed a white woman in a store, beaten, Mother insisted on an open casket. Liturgical confrontation. Montgomery bus boycott – Christmas, let’s not go shopping; Birmingham Children’s Crusade, running out of gas, put on jeans and walked – Good Friday; MLK arrested, wrote letter from jail – Easter Sunday. During the Freedom Struggle church was the place you went out from, sang songs and shared worship… by the time you went out the door the dogs and the hoses were already beaten… singing went out into the streets. Liturgical dimension to those directions – trained with Ghandi. Doing service and worship at the same time. Direct action involved both of these things at the same time. Cadenceville, Berrigan brothers – homemade napalm burning files – standing in a circle praying. Stringfellow “politically informed exorcism”.

 Liturgical action
implicates the church

Good Friday – blood
Ash Wednesday – nuclear ash/fires
High feasts like Easter and Pentecost – power/fear of death/bondage of death liturgy and action
Passover – liberation
Beneath the feasts are egrarian – lambing, harvest, earth, turning world… layered with history and politics
Pentecost – first time the disciples act

This is the Gospel pattern we are invited into.

Steve Clemmens (Koinonia Community)

In the year of the election, made a roster, each peace group had a week of public action at the Pentagon. Did a prayer Pilgrimage to the Plantex Plant in Texas in February 1981. 3 days of prayer and discussion prior to the action. Ephesians Ch. 6. Gathered in a circle. Scaling fences in blizzard. When act on faith not fear, faith increases. I had no fear that morning. Reading scripture – on the run, in jail, in exile – a lot of it was written by these people. Became a front page story. Raised questions for a Catholic staff member who asks his priest who asks the Bishop who issues a statement telling them to walk off the job. Would fund people who did that as choice of conscience… 25 years later in 2005 School of America vigil, Centre for Global Education visit where Romano executed along with Jesuit priests and women. Abu ghraib (treatment of Iraqis in prisons) – enter base to pray in front of school. Never act alone, community “with” me. Gathered two days before trial to discuss, how to bear witness, pray “don’t contest” pro se plea. 3 months in prison. Listened to my fellow inmates. Listening in the belly of the beast. Heshua’s “incarnating our prayers”. Conversation with family of origin. Prayer vigil. Labour Day weekend – bloody handprints (Bill Wylie-Kellerman). Ploughshares > beating swords into Ploughshares. Larry Rosenbaum – retreat to discern action. In community, go around circle and name fear.

Inside: in service of power – get out in service of the action/Holy Spirit. Lit Paschal candle.

Seal on the tomb : cut the fence even though we could’ve climbed under it – resurrection.

Want to write “Christ lives, disarm” in paint but it was snowing. Renewed baptismal vows. Renounce Satan and all his works.Liturgy and location informs things. Did Eucharist at gun point.

“we believe God has already intervened. Breaking in to break out on behalf of humankind. Recognise authority of God,
not of [name who…]
we believe [name what…]
we believe in the meaning of the resurrection
and we’ve come to say so”

Further reading: Catonsville 9 Statement by Daniel Berrigan
Further reading: Tribes of Yahweh – Norman Gottwald

Where is resurrection happening? Move stations every year. Waterboarding > read story of washing feet. Moral conviction – what if people had sat on the tracks in front of trains into Auschwitz?

 Good news is relative to how
willing you are to read the bad news.

Workshop II: The friendship of Berrigan and Stringfellow – Bill Wylie Kellerman

Futher reading: Stringfellow “Instead of Death”; Dorothy Day; Merton “Desert Fathers”; Underground Seminary; Jacques Ellul… “I freaked in” (instead of “I freaked out”); Modern Spiritual Masters series, “Stringfellow: Essential Writings”

Further watching: Hit and Stay: History of Faith and Resistance” (video) – not hit and run but hit and stay >consequences and responsibility.

While the trial was on – festival of life every night. “Death shall have no dominion”
Act of resistance as simple as offering hospitality (hiding Berrigan for c. 6 months)
Paradox: It’s worse than you think it is, you are freer than you think you are… (Stringfellow)


A Statement by Anthony Towne and William Stringfellow of Block Island, Rhode Island, concerning Indictment No. 7709 in the United States District Court for Rhode Island:

Grave charges have been made against us by the public authorities and we have pleaded innocent to those charges because we are innocent. In due course, a jury of our fellow citizens will have opportunity to uphold our innocence and we await their verdict with cheerful expectations.

Daniel Berrigan is our friend. We rejoice in that fact and strive to be worthy of it. Our hospitality to Daniel Berrigan is no crime. At a certain time and in a certain place we did “relieve, receive, comfort and assist” him and we did “offer and give sustenance and lodging” to him. We did not “harbor” or “conceal” him. We did not “hinder” the authorities.

Father Berrigan has and had no need to be concealed. By his own extraordinary vocation, and by the grace of God, he has become one of the conspicuous Christians of these wretched times. We have done what we could do to affirm him in this regard. We categorically deny that we have done anything to conceal him.

We are not disposed to hide what light there is under a bushel.

Our indictment has not happened in a void. We cannot ignore the scene in which such a remarkable event takes place: the manifold and multiplying violence of this society, the alienation between races and generations, the moral fatigue of Americans, the debilitating atmosphere in which citizens become so suspicious and fearful of their own government that they suppose silence is the only safety and conformity the only way to survive.

Because we are innocent, we believe that we would not have been indicted but for the pervasiveness of the spirit of repression which has lately overtaken the nation.

In that respect, we consider that whatever happens to us will in truth be happening to all Americans.

And so, to our fellow citizens, we say:

The violence must end.

All violence must stop.

The vainglorious war in Asia must now cease, but, more than that, the war enterprise must be dismantled and the military predominance in our society must be reversed.

And the violence of political terrorists must end now. Arson, kidnapping, bombing in fact sabotage the social change the nation so pathetically needs, and such tactics are just as wrong and just as futile as the violence of war and racism and repression.

The psychological violence, sometimes officially condoned, by which citizens are accused and impugned without opportunity for appropriate reply and are otherwise harassed, spied upon, frightened or intimidated must be stopped now.

These are all works of death. Only when our country is free of them will it be a society in which men can rejoice as human beings.

We make this statement as our Christmas greeting—especially to Daniel and Philip Berrigan, to all prisoners of conscience, and to all Americans who wish to be free.

William Stringfellow

Anthony Towne

Block Island, Rhode Island

Honouring the Cloud of Witnesses – Susie Henderson Hanson

Memorial Altar Building050copy

Over the time of the conference a space will be set up to go to remember those who have gone before or cannot be here with us. We do this remembering for many reasons:

As an act of resistance to those who want efficiency, to get ‘over it’ quickly

  • Stages of grief
  • Tasks of mourning
  • Reclaim burial ground
  • Institutionalised
  • Indigenous
  • e.g. Cyclers who do a memorial ride every time someone dies riding a bike – laid down their bikes, reclaimed the street, pause traffic.
  • Isaiah 61 – restoration is work done by the mourners, through process of mourning

Beyond reminiscing

  • Cloud of witnesses that came before
  • In the river
  • Stronger
  • Belong in community
  • Gives courage and hope

Go and honour own sense of life. Honour those who have gone before. Cast a net. Tie a prayer tie, write a name, share tobacco… cut or mend or adorn the net – welcome to engage with it – alone or with a friend.

Keynote: Myra Brown and Rev Mary Ramerman (Spiritus Christi Church)

Up above my head I hear freedom/justice/healing/music in the air (x3)
And I really do believe there’s a heaven somewhere

Asked: “Jesus, can I go with You?”

Role of layperson/women in the Catholic church – got in trouble for touching the Eucharist, asked “If it is Jesus, why isn’t it okay for a woman to touch Jesus?”
(photo credit: Mayra Stark)

Mayra 11016722_10153155574714715_3033034683319964493_n (5)>importance to speak from my own voice for what I deeply believe
> cannot make everyone happy

LGBT community: everyone counts, everyone is welcome, sharing night once a week.

2 Hands – one extending welcome, one outstretched to poor.

3000 people at the church. 1000 met to organise/advocate to save Corpus Christi. You can cut back the flowers but you can’t hold back spring.  Corpus Christi (body) > became Spiritus Christi (spirit) } Catholic but inclusive.

God has given a message – we are created in God’s image. Not allowed to be priests mocks this message. How we’re treated at church reinforces the messages of how we are treated at work an at home. Conversation provoked in offices/workplaces around the city and the state > look to the church for leadership. When Matthew Shepherd, a young gay man, was crucified on a cross – the church was silent.

Young man says to a wise man “How do I get to be enlightened like you?”
“Are you willing to be called names, dragged through the mud, vilified until you’re 45?”
“Yes.   …what happens when I turn 45?”
“Oh… you get used to it.”

Became able to say you know what? I don’t deserve that. People are more sacred than the altar. People are gifted with dreams and visions – community is to celebrate that with joy. Ubuntu: I am because we are. Do ministry that does people no harm. Make a decision – participate in my own oppression or stand up for my community. I have been liberated, no one is free until everyone is free… relationships that were there at the start won’t be there at the end and that’s ok.

Our dreams need to be bigger than our fear.

Song – Seth Martin
(tune of Are You Sleeping?)
I know nothing x2
Not a thing x2
Nothing about anything x2
This is good x2

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We kicked off the Bartimaeus Institute tonight and by way of introduction to the space, one another and the content we did an exercise in replacing Mark’s prologue in our bioregion – it was great to hear some of the native stories of California, Minnesota, Texas, Saskatchewan…

(we acknowledge the people of the Kulin nations as first custodians of the land on which we work and play – and ask you forgive our ignorance and accept this as a light story in entering into the spirit of the exercise and representative of a desire to learn our own context more deeply…)

The Australian midrash went something like this…

Aunty Joy Wandin was up Broken Hill way sharing stories to remember the Dreamtime and people from all over, from as far away as Sydney and Melbourne, were coming to hear, and were baptised by her at the confluence of the Murray and Darling Rivers.  Aunty Joy wore simple clothes from a second hand shop with a possum-skin cloak overtop and ate good bush tucker like yams and witchety grubs.

She shared at the gathering, “The one who is more deadly than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to clean his dunny.  I have blessed you with water; but he will give you the blessing of the creator spirit – the Rainbow Serpent.

William Barak came from Waggawagga to be baptised in the Murray/Darling River. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens part and the spirit descended like a sulphur-crested cuckatoo on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my mob, and I think you’re deadly.”

And the Creator Spirit immediately drove him walkabout. He was in the outback for forty days and tempted by the Waa the Crow Trickster with the promise of shiny things from the mining of oil, coal and uranium;  Barak was with the wild dingos, platypus, wombats and other animals, and gentle bunyips waited on him.

Now, after Aunty Joy was locked up, Barak went up Penrith way, also sharing stories of the Creator Spirit from the Dreamtime, and saying, “Listen, the time for the healing between people and the land is here.”

And as he walked along the Nepean River, he saw Wilam huffing petrol and Hassad – a doctor in his own country but here just a taxi driver – and said “Come with me – I have something else for you to do.”

– – – – – – – – – – – –

The task of replaced thoelogy is to reclaim symbols of redemption which are indigenous to the bioregion in which the church dwells, to remember the stories of the people of the land, and to sing anew its old songs.
These can then be woven together with the symbols, stories and songs of biblical radicalism.
This will necessarily be a local, contextual and personal exercise
(Who Will Roll Away The Stone, 1994)

you can’t save a place you don’t love

you can’t love a place you don’t know

you can’t know a place you haven’t learned


As applies not only to our neighbourhood, country, world – but also to the bigger historical creation story we find ourselves in .

An exercise in stretching the metaphor but I wonder whether if there’s so much to see in the questions in Mark whether there might not also be something in his exclamations if they serve as an indication of the things he felt strongly about/speaks to with authority…?

1:25 Be silent and come out of him!
1:25 A new teaching – with authority!
1:40 Be made clean!
2:7 It is blasphemy!
2:12 We have never seen anything like this!
3:11 You are the Son of God!
3:34 Here are my mother and my brothers!
4:3 Listen!
4:9 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!
4:39 Peace! Be still!
5:8 Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!
5:41 Little girl, get up!
6:2 What deeds of power are being done by his hands!
7:9 You have a fine way of j the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!
8:33 Get behind me, Satan!
9:7 This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!
9:23 If you are able! – All things can be done for the one who believes.
9:24 I believe, help my unbelief!
9:25 You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!
10:24 Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
10:47 Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
11:9 Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
11:10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!
11:21 Rabbi, look!
12:38-39 Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets.
13:1 Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!
13:6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.
13:21 And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’ – do not believe it.
14:41 Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
14:45 “Rabbi!” and kissed him.
14:63 You have heard his blasphemy!
14:65 Prophesy!
15:14 Crucify him!
15:18 Hail, King of the Jews!
15:29-30 Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!
15:39 Truly this man was God’s Son!


I’ve been reading Binding the Strong Man by Ched Myers, it’s a much more challenging way of reading the bible than I’ve ever been exposed to before, and not just because I needed a dictionary beside me to understand it, it’s really grounded in something real and therefore relevant – for the first time the bible isn’t some collection of myths and legends or a problem solving oracle. Basically I can’t read it and not help feeling moved to respond and called to discern what this looks like for my own context… is that not what a bible study should be?

In Ched’s words (p.11) Mark’s gospel originally was written to help imperial subjects learn the hard truth about the world and themselves. He does not pretend torepresent the Word of God dispassionately or impartially, as if that word were innocuously universal in its appeal to rich and poor alike.  His is a story by, about, and for those committed to God’s work of justice, compasison and liberation in the world. To modern theologians, like the Pharisees, Mark offers no “signs from heaven” (Mark 8:11). To scholars, who, like the cheif priests, refuse to ideologically commit themselves, he offers no answer (Mark 11:30-33). But to those willing to raise the wrath of the empire, Mark offers a way of discipleship (Mark 8:34)

Here are some questions I pondered on my way to work one day – what are you discussing as you walk along? what things?

Mobile hospitality

Fortnightly we do a blanket run – load blankets, a thermos of hot coffee and some bikkies on a trolley (in summer we switch to ice blocks and juice) and wander the streets and laneways of Melbourne on Sunday nights from about 9pm.

When we first started to do the run and we weren’t sure where we might find people, we’d often reflect on what we might look for ourselves in a place to sleep and then look for places that met those criteria – somewhere dark, sheltered from wind/rain, private…  it was interesting to learn that actually well-lit and populated places are much safer, for everyone actually but especially for a single woman. This was important in coming to understand why the issue of homelessness can feel like a ‘visible’ one. We did not end up needing to look very hard at all to find people to share hospitality with.

Three runs in a row we walked past a woman sleeping on the mat out the front of a jewellery store on a main street in the CBD.  Each time we saw her we offered her coffee or blankets and she didn’t speak – either mutely shaking her head or ignoring us completely.

The fortnight after that…?  We sat together for twenty minutes over a cup of coffee.  She told me her name, offered me a cigarette and told me a little about her three imaginary friends who were sitting with us.

The fortnight after that…? Just a silent head shake “no”

After that…?

I haven’t seen her since.

This isn’t a story about sharing the ‘good news’.  She didn’t start coming to the free lunch we run.  I didn’t advocate for her on any issue or find her housing or work or bring about reconciliation with her family.  I have no idea if she even needed any of that.

It’s hard sometimes not knowing what has happened to someone.  I noticed you were gone and I hope that you’re ok.