Tag Archive: river

Sacred solitude


the river
invites you
not to be
but here


yellow pollen blossoms
seeds and pods
spring blooming
all along the riverbank
and blooming


quack says the duck
quack at once mournful
and warning
a calling or a sending
quack says the duck
quack at once guarding
and guiding
a calling or a sending


Talitha Fraser

IMG_5004Talitha Fraser

D         A          Bm                  G

We are dying – yet resurrected

Em       A                                  D         A

We are lost but have been found

D         A          Bm      G

This local – and this is global

Em       A7                   D         A

This is rooted in the ground.

Bm                                   D

Let us meet down by the river


G                                              F#

Where you are you and I am me


D         A                           Bm            G

We can talk and we can listen


Em       A7                D

In the river we are free

We do too much – and not enough

We are still and we’re dancing free

Take it serious – but not too much

Speak out, speak up, sit silently.

We are broken, but we are whole

We know wealth in scarcity

We are different, yet we are one

Richness in diversity

Written by: Talitha Fraser & Andrena Reale

Visiting the River


eucalypt tree branches overhead


Head is clamped in a vice.

Immobilising pain, immobilising

tongue and hand

I am unreconciled between who I wish I was

and who I am.

Longing for something (else) sacred

when I can run my hand through soft grass,

listen to the water going places and

be embraced by the over arching branches.

I feel like I have carried troubled violence

into a peacful place – the unrest within

I want to curl up here on the bank

a rest awhile – wake to the world being different

or myself.

What does it mean to be made in the

image of God?

Talitha Fraser

010– poetry + aesthetics + theology = theopoetics
– if theology is logical applied to God then theopoetics is poetry applied to God
– sense of place and spiritual quest = songlines

Poetry is ontology – Rowan Williams

Work of love. Poet is a seer/prophet/the songman > the paths we must take and sing in order to renew the world. “This becomes obvious the closer you are to death… I do not aspire to anything anymore except to be invaded by the roses in the garden”.

In the end end it’s a journey of imagination.

HOMO SAPIENS (Land of Gold, p.21)

If, to be alive, I am alive,
And if the witness to this
Is I, myself, watching the grass grow,
What is the meaning of the river?

Why does it sparkle, why does it twist?
In a slow meander, why do the weeds
Grow into islands, why is the sun
Sucking it into the sky?

Long have I dreamed
On the borders of creation
But seldom have I seen
The meaning of the river.

Now it is clear,
Established by the ages,
The river is myself,
An artery of the sky.

Sebastian Barker

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]

Mayra 11016722_10153155574714715_3033034683319964493_n (3)

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

ched&elaine(Elaine Enns and Ched Myers – photo credit: Reconciliasia)

“What is Radical Discipleship?” by Ched Myers

What this week is really about is to commemorate 40 years of the Radical Discipleship movement.  Radical Discipleship is NOT a dope slogan, or a mobilizing soundbyte, or a hip brand, or an ironic twitter handle.  Hell, these terms aren’t even cool anymore.  “Radical” is a term as unfashionable today as it was trendy in the 1960s.  The notion of “discipleship,” meanwhile, is entirely shrugged off in liberal church circles, and trivialized in conservative ones.  So let me explain why this is the handle of this Festival, why we insist on using the phrase.  The etymology of the term radical (for the Latin radix, “root”) is the best reason not to concede it to nostalgia.  If we want to get to the root of anything we must be radical.  No wonder the word has been demonized by our masters and co-opted by marketing hucksters, and no wonder no one in conventional politics dares use the word favorably, much less track any problem to its root.   //more

It is both curious and revealing that the notion of discipleship, in turn, is so marginal in our churches.  Curious, because discipleship is so unarguably the central theme of the gospels.  Revealing, because it shows how wide the gulf between the seminaries, the sanctuaries and the streets has become in North America.  The prevailing expressions of faith Among Protestant churches—evangelical decisionism, mainline denominationalism and fundamentalist dogmatism—are each deeply problematic in a society that is mired in dysfunctional politics, delusion economics and a distractive culture.  Faith as discipleship remains the “road rarely taken” here at the heart of empire.  We have yet truly to reckon with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous warning, delivered under the shadow of fascism, that “cheap grace is grace without discipleship.”

More than a half century ago the great Swiss New Testament scholar Eduard Schweizer reiterated Bonhoeffer’s dictum by asserting that from the perspective of Mark’s gospel, “discipleship is the only form in which faith in Jesus can exist.”  This theological challenge was subsequently advanced by Schweizer’s Australian student Athol Gill, whose teaching of Mark as a manifesto of radical discipleship helped animate renewal movements in the 1970s and 80s Down Under and deeply influenced our community in Berkeley.  I am thus a child of that theology, and so, in some direct or indirect way, are each of you.

Radical Discipleship is about nothing more and nothing less than laying bare the roots of the personal and socio-political pathologies of our imperial society and its dead-end history, even as we seek to recover the roots of our deep biblical tradition: namely, the messianic movement of rebellion and restoration, of repentance and renewal, a “Way out of no way” that has been going on since the dawn of resistance to the dusk of empire.

This Way was birthed when Creator scattered humans from centripetal Babel in centrifugal liberation, and continued when Abram and Sarai bailed out of Ur and Moses and Myriam busted out of Egypt, and when Jordan’s waters rose up and Jericho’s walls came tumbling down.  Though often beat down and always marginalized, this vision of truth-telling and reconciliation-dreaming was remembered when Elijah read the riot act to Ahab, and Isaiah sang a lovesong lament to the vineyard, and Jeremiah bought a field in the bear market of occupation, and Ezekiel saw the wheel within the wheel, way up in the middle of the air.

It was this tradition that animated John the Baptist to go feral, troubling Herod’s business as usual and then troubling Jordan’s waters to re-birth a certain Nazarene upon whom the old Spirit of the Movement came to rest like a condor.  He rebooted the old movement afresh, accompanied only by clueless fishermen and faithful women of ill repute, by demoniacs liberated from imperial possession and peasants armed only with palm branches.  Jesus faced down the Mammon system with loaves and fishes in the wilderness, remembering the old catechism of Manna; redirected our attention away from Temples and toward wildflowers and birds; raised up street beggars and brought down fatcats to co-inhabit the Jubilee common ground his mama had sung to him about as a baby.  The Nazarene’s movement ground to a halt on a Roman cross, on which the imperial bill for the cost of discipleship came due; only to be rebooted again at an empty tomb from which the stone of impediment had been rolled away, so they say, so they say.

Which strange lacuna spawned a Pentecost insurrection of multicultural restoration and economic redistribution, a strange unleashing of tongues and pocketbooks that spilled out of a safe house attic into the streets in a popular theater of protest and proclamation just a few blocks from where Jesus had been lynched.  These shenanigans of course earned official backlash, which only spawned a smackdown of restorative payback, in which the murderous chief head of security charged with strangling this inconvenient movement in its crib broke down in the middle lane of the Damascus Road, struck blind with visions of his victims.  This chief prosecutor ended up defecting to the movement he sought to destroy, such that he had to be smuggled out of town in a basket like baby Moses, the hunter become the hunted.  This unlikely turnabout spawned little ecclesial communities of nonconformity, bread breaking and discipleship to Jesus throughout the empire, which we know about only through the tattered fragments of correspondence and liturgy and catechism that survive in what we call the Second Testament, today every bit as misunderstood and abused as the First.

These little communities spawned martyrs who rendered to God everything and to Caesar not much at all; and monastics who returned to the wilderness in the waning days of a decadent Roman empire in order to rediscover the evangelical disciplines of fidelity and poverty.  The movement was remembered by Franciscan nuns and friars, who bound themselves to nature and to the poorest of medieval society;   and by 14th century communitarians who defied feudal canons of hierarchy and vengeance; and by 16th century radical Anabaptists who refused to participate in the bloody religious wars of Christendom.  It was invoked by Baptist radicals and Methodist reformers, by Quaker abolitionists and Anglican visionaries in Europe and the New World, against the grain of colonial plunder and genocide.   It was the ground on which 18th century “Levelers” stood in their struggle against the privatization of the Commons–“Since then this Jubilee, Sets all at Liberty, Let us be glad!”—as did Luddites resisting factory culture in early industrial England, as did immigrant Wobbly and Jewish labor organizers a century later in Guilded Age America.

Above all, this tradition was preserved for us all by 19th century African slaves under American apartheid, who knew who Pharaoh was and where the Promised Land was, and who journeyed there on an underground railroad, singing:

  • “Go down, Moses, way down to Egypt land…” and
  • “I looked over Jordan, and what did I see…” and
  • “Nobody knows the trouble I seen…” and
  • “Oh freedom, Oh freedom over me…”

These old Jubilee anthems came alive again in the 20th century Civil Rights movements that reached from Selma to Soweto.  Indeed, a freedom song that was birthed in a Jim Crow jail was blown by the Spirit to cross-pollinate all the way to the Berlin Wall and Tianmen Square and the streets of Manila: “Deep in my heart, I do believe, that we shall overcome someday!!”

This vision animated as diverse a band of practitioners as Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Catholic laywoman Dorothy Day, Baptist preachers Martin Luther King Jr. and Clarence Jordan, Archbishop Oscar Romero and missionary nun Dorothy Stang (the 10th anniversary of whose martyrdom we commemorate this week).  From immigrant agricultural laborers organizing with the United Farm Workers in California’s fields of wrath in 1968 to store-front Pentecostals in Appalachia sitting down in front of massive coal trucks during the Pittston coal miner’s strike in 1989, the church has been reborn time and again whenever it has remembered that it is first and foremost a movement for radical personal and political transformation accountable to God’s dream of justice and shaIlom.

It is all this that we refer to this week in shorthand as the struggle for “radical discipleship.”  This conspiracy of life, hatched in a distant Sinai past, has ebbed and flowed ever since, right down to our time and place.   It lives among gay bishops and lesbian evangelists; Christian Peacemaker Teams accompanying those under Occupation in Baghdad or Bethlehem; Catholic Workers sharing life with the homeless; immigrant rights organizers celebrating Posadas sin Fronteras at the US Mexico border; and tree sitters defying pipelines.  It is embodied by every addict who walks the Twelve Steps to recovery, by every sinner who makes that long march up to the altar of repentance, and by every activist who seeks to bring comfort to the afflicted with gospel compassion, and to afflict the comfortable with gospel justice.  For only those who know their captivity can carry on this Freedom story.

We are here tonight, having gathered from the Four Directions, to remember, to celebrate, and to incubate another round of this long tradition of soul searching and struggle.  “Since we are surrounded by so great a Cloud of Witnesses,” as the writer to the Hebrews exhorts us, “let us too lay aside every weight and sin that restricts us, so that we too might run this race”  (Heb 12:1).

For us—most of us persons of relative privilege and mobility—Radical Discipleship is a call on our lives, one that disrupts the chronos timetables of empire with a divine kairos moment for transformation.   This summons from the undomesticated God originates outside of civilization, but also from deep within a groaning creation and groaning communities of struggle.  It challenges the entitlements and conveniences of the religion business as usual.  And the disturbing, animating thing about this call is that it always is before us, like Mark’s Risen Christ who can only be seen on the Way in Galilee.  No matter how long we’ve been in this or at this, we can never presume to have “arrived,” or known or done enough to be off the hook of this challenge, lest we think we “got this,” or worse, have “grown out of it.”  We are ever invited to encounter Messiah afresh on the Way.  But let us be clear, this One is almost always in disguise.

Which is why it is a good thing to convene as a community of conviction around this radical tradition once in a while, as kindred spirits struggling to make it flesh in our time.   We believe that movement-building is indivisibly relational, that no amount of social media sophistication can replace face time networking.  As my friends at Jonah House taught me 40 years ago, “the most apostolic duty of all is to keep one another’s courage up.”  We believe in curating spaces where radical Catholics and Anglicans and Baptists and Presbyterians and Anabaptist-curious types and Non-denoms and old and new monastics and seekers and post-whatevers and refugees from toxic Christian institutions can find and embrace each other as family.  Not only that, but also to BE church together.

Most of us spend a lot of time working the margins of our native or adopted traditions, and we know in our bones what it means to be demonized or tokenized, dismissed or invisible.  It is important sometimes to come together to realize that we have more in common with each other that with our respective institutional affiliations (if any), and that we can be more than the sum of our diverse parts if we decide to build common cause.  Here is this circle, you can talk freely and without apology about Jesus and justice, inclusion and discipline, grace and hard work, prayer and politics.

There is a ceremonial side to this gathering too.  To inhabit a deep tradition like the Radical Discipleship stream requires us to honor the past, to listen to elders, and to learn stories and histories.   We are delighted with the mix here, especially the different generations of the movement represented in this room, from old Palestine and disarmament heads to young permaculturists and Black Lives Matter activists.  We’ve tried to reflect that generational mix in the various workshops. But let’s face it, we activist types do not celebrate enough.  So above all, we are here to celebrate that which the dominant culture would render invisible.   We are family, and our movement will not be disappeared.

This week began yesterday with the Feast of the Transfiguration, that gospel encounter with both raw wilderness power on the mountain, and with the sacred story and the community of cousins committed to it.  So, may our faces shine this week as a result of such encounters.

(this and many other great articles, webinars, stories and books are available from BCM)

F*** off