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2010 NEWSLETTER OF THE ANAM CARA COMMUNITY ISSUE THREE
A Community of Prayer and Support for the Inner Journey into God
Restoring the deep balance
The Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park - a centre for spirituality and the environment
The call and direction of The Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park as a centre for spirituality and the environment is shaped both by the particular issues of our contemporary context and the wisdom and lessons learnt from the scriptures and pilgrims who have gone before. We live in a moment of crisis or crossroads. The environment is struggling and straining with the growth of population worldwide, the increased use of oil and other non renewable energy, principally by developed nations, and the growth of emissions and toxic waste. The marks of climate change alert us to the severity of the impact of humankind on the environment. We face the question ‘How do we live within and care for creation in a way that will enable creation itself to sustain and nurture us and the life of this planet?’ This is an important question for us to explore as we realize that the decisions we make and the actions we take in relationship to the environment can either further jeopardize the wellbeing and future of all creation including humankind, or open the path for sustainability and the wellbeing of all. Furthermore, the crisis of the environment is part of a wider crisis of faith, meaning and purpose. The voice of God seems to have become mufﬂed. Many people, out of touch with the ‘story of God in their personal lives, in their society and in the world globally’, have lost their spiritual bearings. Our past understandings of God often fail to engage the deep questions of today.
Edie Ashley These questions and issues of our day embrace both the spiritual and the practical: How do we understand God, ourselves and our world in relation to God in this new situation? What practical skills, techniques, understandings and technologies do we need to develop to refashion our living? A’Beckett Park, located on Raymond Island, is a vulnerable, fragile, sacred place that bears the risk of climate change and its own demise. The vision for The Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park as a centre for spirituality and the environment holds before us the dream for the restoration of the deep balance of all creation. The Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park is envisaged as a place of learning and care for the environment, a place of welcome and hospitality, of pilgrimage and journey.
Waterholes is the newsletter of the Anam Cara Community, a ministry of the Anglican Diocese of Gippsland.
Visit us on the web: www.anamcara-community.org
The Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park will offer leadership within the Diocese on environmental matters and give practical expression to the 5th mark of mission of the Anglican Communion that ‘strives to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth’. As we take up the journey for The Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park we turn back to the old sources of wisdom and being. We look to the scriptures and bring the questions of our time to engage with the time-honoured story of God and God’s creation. We reﬂect on the patterns of pilgrimage and monasticism that emerged during periods of crisis in past times. As we take up the journey for The Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park we are also open anew to God in this moment in time and place: • To hear the Spirit of God and in fresh ways to understand ourselves in relation to our world and to our God • To work with others who share a concern for the environment to demonstrate sustainability practices and to care for the natural environment of The Abbey and its surrounds • To learn new (or old) practical skills, techniques and technologies that will enable us to re-fashion our living so that we can live within and care for creation in a way that will enable creation itself to sustain and nurture us and the life of this planet • To share the journey and what we learn in our care for the environment with our community, parishes and church The Vision for The Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park as a centre for spirituality and the environment will be reﬂected in its Buildings, Gardens and Infrastructure, through The Abbey Program and through the life of the Community of St Barnabas. Buildings, Gardens and Infrastructure At the Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park will be rebuilt to minimize its environmental footprint and to demonstrate sustainability options:
environmentally designed 3.5 star motel style accommodation for visitors, reduced emission and use of solar and renewable energy, waste and water management. Planting and landscaping will give consideration to native and indigenous species.
Abbey Extension Program Through The Abbey Extension Program, The Abbey Program will be shared more widely with community g roups, churches, and parishes throughout Gippsland. It is envisaged that The Abbey Extension Program will develop slowly through 2011 and in a more formal sense in 2012. Community of St Barnabas The Abbey of St Barnabas will be home to the Community of St Barnabas. It is envisaged that the community of St Barnabas will be a small Christian community, living in the extended Ena Sheumack house, committed in prayer and practice to the work of the Abbey. We would hope that the community will begin to form by the end of 2011/ beginning of 2012. The community with its own regular prayer rhythm, will engage in the work of the Abbey. This could include, for instance, hospitality, the discussion and development of sound practices in theology, ecology and care for the natural environment of the Abbey, development of music and worship resources. The community could include some gap year, sea-changers, those on a sabbatical year and other ‘short term members who join for 3-12 months, while others might have a longer term commitment. There could be musicians, theologians, administrators, gardeners, environmentalists and others– living, working and praying at The Abbey. For the period of the First Abbey Workshop, May 2011 – October 2011, we are looking to have 3 people at all times living in the Ena Sheumack House. People are invited to become part of a prayer and support team, to spend 2 weeks in Ena Sheumack supporting The Abbey Program and praying in St Barnabas. This invitation will be advertised widely in February. Please plan to be part of this prayer and support team at The Abbey. Edie Ashley
Abbey Program The Abbey of St Barnabas will be a meeting-place for pilgrims and travelers, those seeking: • rest, refuge or silence, a place to stay, a venue for conferences • a ‘hands on’ opportunity to care for the natural environment • a chance to learn how to pursue sustainable alternatives • the time to address soul-matters • company along the way • hope or inspiration to continue the journey Abbey On-site Program The ﬁrst Abbey On- site Program will be developed/trialled for the period May – October 2011. This ﬁrst program of retreats and environmental workshops will be developed in line with the following four stands: • Hospitality: allowing the environment to nurture you; • Jour ney: allowing the environment to nurture you; • Sustainability: issues of water, power, waste and ﬁre; • Natural Environment: care for the existing ﬂora and fauna unique to the area, replanting and regeneration of indigenous plants, care and protection of rare and threatened species, preservation of lakes and pristine foreshores. This program will be widely advertised in February 2011. 2
Before you Lord
Michel Quoist To be there before you, Lord, that’s all. To shut the eyes of my body, To shut the eyes of my soul, And be still and silent, To expose myself to you who are there, exposed to me. To be there before you, the Eternal Presence. I am willing to feel nothing, Lord,
to see nothing,
to hear nothing. Empty of all ideas,
of all images,
In the darkness. Here I am, simply, To meet with you without obstacles, In the silence of faith, Before you, Lord. But, Lord, I am not alone I can no longer be alone. I am a crowd, Lord, For men live within me. I have met them. They have come in, They have settled down, They have worried me, They have tormented me, They have devoured me. And I have allowed it, Lord, that they might be nourished and refreshed. I bring them to you, too, as I come before you. I expose the, to you in exposing myself to you. Here I am, Here they are, Before you, Lord. Michel Quoist, born in Le Havre on 18 June 1921 and died in Le Havre on December 18, 1997, was a priest and a French writer. His father had died early. Therefore Michel began to work at the age of 14. He sought meaning of life. In 1947 he became a priest. His work as a chaplain and a writer was focused on young people. As a post-war chaplain of Catholic Action in conjunction with major religious initiatives he published in 1954 Prayers which brought him a huge success: 2,500,000 copies have been sold throughout the world. His books are still being published and millions of copies have been translated into 27 languages up to now. His literary work is particularly well known in Latin America. Some of other titles of Quoist books: (1954) Prayers Of Life,(1965)The Christian Response, (1971)Christ Is Alive, (1972) I've Met Jesus Christ, (1973) Meet Christ And Live.
Soul Carer’s Letter
Anne Turner In a Waterholes edition last year I wrote of a sense of a call of God to begin a soul friendship ministry with those living with disabilities. This had grown out of my admiration for and inspiration found through the life and work of the priest and spiritual author, Henri Nouwen along with my own experience of a disabling condition which changed my life in my 40’s. Even though I was to discover my neuromuscular disease was genetic, it had lain almost dormant for the ﬁrst half of my life enabling me to achieve my ambition to be a High School Physical Education teacher and play sport at a fairly high level. Almost overnight I went from an active, outgoing, always on the “go,” type of person to completely bedridden with n o t h i n g working as it previously had. T h e j o u r n ey with the grief of this, facing the loss of identity and independence to name just two was my overriding spiritual discipline and without having already committed myself to the “inner” journey and the sheer grace of God I would not be the person I am today. It has always been my experience that God wastes nothing in our lives if we are prepared to say “Yes” to God. It takes a long time and much effort to reach the place of saying “how can this experience be an opportunity for new ways of God in my life?” There have been more opportunities than there is space to write but one of the greatest and most satisfying has been a growth in understanding of others with all types of disabilities; chronic and lifethreatening illnesses; those born with them and those where it has been thrust upon them. I have never lacked empathy but there is a great difference in merely being empathetic & walking in someone 3 else’s shoes. We can never say “I know how you feel” because we can never know fully another’s experience but there is an unspoken “knowing” where there is a shared experience whatever it might be. We have a deeper understanding of the limitations and the attitudes of others. Over the past years I became increasingly aware and drawn to those on the “margins” of the church because of their disability be it physical or mental. I knew ﬁrst hand what it felt like to feel ”swamped” in a wheelchair, unable to move out of the way of my space being invaded; how dis-empowering it is to have people speak to me from behind or to the side or stand in front of me instead of coming to eye level. I became more aware of when I did it to others & have tried to teach how to be with someone in this situation. At the beginning of t h i s ye a r, i t seemed the “right” time to begin a “soulfriendship” group for those with disabilities. It seemed we needed a safe place to grow our faith and express our deepest selves with a degree of understanding which comes from a shared common experience. I really felt a complete amateur, never having ventured with such a group before. Most of the participants I already knew from the cathedral congregation so there was already a relationship established. Most of the group have had & go on having experience of other groups catering for their needs but not really with regard to their spiritual needs. I also have wonderful support leaders to help so don’t feel alone in it all!! The group has formed a life of its own growing in numbers and depth. Some of the comments from those attending, testify to its power. “I feel safe here” “I feel free to be me and say what I Continued on page 4
Soul Carer’s Letter
(Continued from page 3) think” “I enjoy being part of a “circle of friends” “I feel I belong” There is a sense now when they are in the general church congregation that they have their own place and feel a true “belonging” and part of the Body of Christ. The sense of isolation which is such a huge part of living with a disability has been bridged to a small degree. The greatest lesson I have learned from others in the group especially those born with intellectual disability is they are generally speaking people “in whom there is no guile” as Jesus spoke of Nathaniel; a most beautiful childlike quality which has so much to teach us all, in a world where there is so much power play. The “Circle of friends” is the highlight of my life and ministry where I see the face of God in those who suffer from being on the “fringes”; and in those who care for them daily who live with the worry and uncertainty as to their future. I feel privileged to have been given this opportunity to grow in my own faith journey and knowledge of God and self through this wonderfully child like group of people from teenagers to the 60+ It has helped me continue to grow into fuller acceptance of my own limitations and disabling condition, which can often lay me very low. My circle of friends always gives me energy to continue with strength faith and hope. With love and prayers, Anne Turner
Contacts and information
Eastern Region Gatherer: Heather Toms - firstname.lastname@example.org, 03 5199 2711 Southern Region Gatherer: Colin Thornby - email@example.com, 03 5658 1086 Western Region Gatherer: Marion White - firstname.lastname@example.org, 03 5623 3216 Gatherer: Carolyn Raymond - email@example.com, 03 5191 8343 Raymond Island Liaison: Jane Macqueen - firstname.lastname@example.org, 0411 316 346 Website: www.anamcara-gippsland.org, email: email@example.com Joining the Community: Anne Turner - firstname.lastname@example.org, 03 5144 1914 Retreats, workshops, quiet days and worship events Jane Macqueen - email@example.com, 0411 316 346 Communications (Website and Newsletter) Colin Thornby - firstname.lastname@example.org, 03 5658 1086 Treasurer Kate Campbell - email@example.com The Small Print Waterholes is the newsletter of the Anam Cara Community. The newsletter is edited by Colin Thornby(firstname.lastname@example.org). Copyright in all material is held by the author or creator. All rights reserved. Statements in this newsletter are those of the author or editor, and are not necessarily approved or endorsed by the Anglican Diocese of Gippsland. Printed by the Anglican Diocese of Gippsland, Sale.
A Prayer of Transﬁguration
Christ Jesus, transﬁgured before our eyes, transﬁgure our lives that we may be able to dwell in your presence forever. Amen. (Chris Bennie wrote this prayer in response to one of the gathering times at the Mixed Lay Retreat in October 2010).
STOP PRESS: NUMBY NUMBY DEDICATION ANNUAL THANKSGIVING EUCHARIST
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The Symbol of the Anam Cara Community
A brief look at some books on spirituality
Book Review by Chris Venning This article brieﬂy surveys some trends in the literature of spirituality over the past three decades and more. Many of the authors and texts predate this period by far but my interest is in the currency of their impact on more recent spiritual experience and thought. The particular focus will be on a selection of authors and texts on my shelves that have been helpful in my own spiritual journey. To provide a context let me begin with some personal background. Born in Adelaide in late 1946, my school years were spent at Loxton in South Australia’s Riverland, where I also attended Methodist worship, Sunday school and youth group. I was a mystical child and remember many individual spiritual experiences and a deep sense of connectedness to God. The conviction that God was calling me to be a minister began in my late primary school years, was somewhat suppressed in adolescence but then was renewed as I approached adulthood. Looking back, I value the sense of spiritual integration I experienced in relation to church, creation and everyday life. In my late teens a gradual drift from the church was arrested by an evangelical conversion, followed shortly after by charismatic experiences and years of study in Bible and theological college. At this time CS Lewis and Christian writers of a more overtly philosophical or theological bent were my main spiritual reading, but emotional and spiritual nurture was being found more often in the Bible and personal prayer, and in religious biography, ﬁction and poetry than in intellectual reading. New perspectives were gained by the Jesus Movement’s embrace in the late 1960s and early 1970s of Australian and youth culture in ways that helped to close the gap between the worship experience of many churches and the increasingly informal and secular society in which we lived. If spiritual nurture was being found elsewhere, I had certainly come to ﬁnd great intellectual stimulation in the formal study of 5 theology, English literature and history. And for many history students of my Baby Boomer generation, including me, reading Manning Clark’s magisterial but emotive A History of Australia (6 volumes, 1962-1987) became a spiritual experience in itself. My instincts toward ecumenicity, eclecticism and inclusivity led me to embrace insights gained from church and religious traditions other than my own. Although I had always been eclectic and reﬂective, it was not until early midlife that the emphases of a more reﬂective spirituality spoke loudly and clearly into a life of ministry that had become increasingly meeting and task oriented. In my early forties I found myself on the edge of burnout. At this time two authors opened windows and doors on spiritual paths that were largely new to me. On a silent day retreat in 1989 I read at a sitting Elizabeth Goudge’s The Dean’s Watch (1960). CS Lewis apparently found that the writings of George MacDonald mediated God’s presence to him in a unique way; the writings of Elizabeth Goudge do this for me. And just as i m p o r t a n t l y, t h i s e x p e r i e n c e demonstrated to me how some ﬁction can be just as nurturing as the recognised spiritual classics. A few months later, during a week of personal retreat, I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline: The path to spiritual growth (1978). Family and church, school and theological study had all encouraged a focus outside of myself which resulted in an increasing disjunction from the more creative and intuitive, mystical and reﬂective child that I had been. The Evangelical and Reformed theology in which I had been mainly trained emphasised trusting in external ‘realities’ like the love of God and the cross of Christ, and a distrust in a journey inward. But awareness had been growing in me that although I knew what I believed and thought I no longer really knew who I was in an emotional or more deeply spiritual sense. Foster gave me Continued on page 6
The circle depicts the soul journey into God, inner circles and outgoing lines speak of making a journey within and without. The lines make up the sign of the cross, the central Christian symbol. The inner circles are an Aboriginal symbol for ‘meeting place’. We have received permission to use this symbol from the local elders, as they understood what it means for us as a contemplative prayer community.
Prayer is the gateway
Prayer is the gateway to the vision of God for which we were created. It is the means of free and conscious intercourse between the creature and [the] Creator and it expresses the union between the two. It is the art of spiritual living and will be incomplete if it includes only the art of the presence of God without the necessary complement of the practice of the presence of man. (Mother Mary Clare, Learning to Pray, Fairacres Press, Oxford)
A brief look at some books on spirituality
(Continued from page 5) tools to begin the process of rediscovery of the inward Chris Venning. A simple but similarly helpful little book I read around this time also was James Fenhagen’s More than wanderers: Spiritual disciplines for Christian ministry (1978). As had been the case with my mid to late 1960s journey into Evangelicalism, the Charismatic renewal movement and Reformed theology, many of my peers were also – in the 1980s and 90s – rediscovering parts of our spiritual heritage that had been largely closed to us. Church leaders like Rowland Croucher were encouraging Australian Evangelicals to explore a more reﬂective spirituality with the assistance of a spiritual director. The Still Waters Deep Waters meditational series he edited, and to which he invited many of us to contribute, set a new benchmark for reﬂective theology of its kind in Australia. Meanwhile Lutheran pastor Aub Podlich and Uniting Church minister Bruce Prewer were publishing poems and prayer s g rounded dee ply in our Australian context, works like their Australian Accents (1988) which included material from the former’s Australian Images and the latter’s Australian Psalms and Australian Prayers. Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig produced widely popular illustrated books of l e t t e r s, p o e m s a n d p r aye r s t h at challenged our spiritual values, and poets like Les Murray unashamedly probed the nation’s spiritual psyche. In time I a c c u mu l at e d a l a rg e l i b r a r y o n spirituality, including more general reference texts such as Gordon Wakeﬁeld (ed.), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (1983); Keith Beasley-Topliffe (ed.), Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation (2003); and Bradley Holt, A Brief History of Christian Spirituality (1993). In the past thirty years writers like Anthony de Mello, Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen came to be read avidly beyond Catholic circles, and many of us rediscovered, too, the spiritual writings of St John of the Cross and Meister Eckhart and those remarkable medieval women Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen. There was also a dawning
interest in spirituality apart from the church and formal religious practice. This led to writers like Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Thomas Moore and M. S c o t t Pe c k , w i t h t h e i r v a r i o u s combinations of theology, mythology and modern psychology having broad appeal, as had long been true of writings by and about Freud and Jung. Spiritual writings from other religious backgrounds also proliferated on retail bookshelves, with Buddhism and the Dalai Lama and Suﬁsm and Rumi always popular. Some writers like Paul Coelho, author of The Alchemist (1988), wrote on spiritual themes without identifying overtly with a particular religious tradition. The above have all in some measure shaped my own journey of mind and spirit in the past twenty or thirty years, although my main focus has been the Christian mystics, past and modern. I gained a great deal of nurture and understanding from having a
rich resources of story and worship, and there are numerous other publishers of this genre. For those who want context, try Katherine Lack, The Eagle and the Dove: The Spirituality of the Celtic Saint Columbanus (2000); John J. O’Riordan, A Pilgrim in Celtic Scotland (1997); Norman Shanks, God’s Energy: The Spirituality and Vision of the Iona Community (1999). The major work of Celtic folklore is Alexander Carmichael’s collection of prayers and blessings, poems and songs from the Western Isles of Scotland, Carmina Gadelica (1900/1994); selections from it include New Moon of the Seasons: Prayers from the Highlands and Islands, Collected & translated by Alexander Carmichael, selected by Michael Jones (Lindisfarne Press, 1992). Lyn Wilde, Celtic Inspirations (2004), Robert Van De Weyer, Celtic Parables (1999) and Lion Publishing’s The Celtic Spirit: Poems, Prayers & Music (text and CD, 2000) are all attractive and accessible. Requiring a little more concentration and thought are Phyllis Jestice, Encyclopedia of Irish Spirituality (2000); Geof frey Moorhouse, Sun Dancing (1997); John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: Spiritual wisdom from the Celtic world (1997); Margaret Silf, Sacred Spaces: Stations on a Celtic Way (2005). Spiritual direction and retreat have their own large literatures. On spiritual direction (or spiritual friendship) I have texts by Peter Ball (2003), William Barry (1992), Barry & Connolly (n/d), Carroll & Dyckman (1981), Tilden Edwards (1980), Alan Jones (1982), W. Paul Jones (2002), Kenneth Leech (1977), Chester Michael (2004), Eugene Peterson (1989) and Janet Rufﬁng (2000). Of these I have most carefully read Leech and Peterson, but all seemed to have their distinctive contributions. I also have Maureen Conroy, Looking into the Well: Supervision of Spiritual Directors (1995). On spiritual reﬂection and retreat I enjoyed Roger Housden’s Retreat: Time Apart for Silence and Solitude (1995). Retreat resources include Mary Batchelor, Seasons of Life (1990); Marcus Braybrooke (General Editor), The Bridge of Stars (2001); Anthony de Mello, Contact with God: Retreat Conferences (1997); Emilie Grifﬁn, Wilderness Time: A Guide for Spiritual Retreat (1997); Kay Lindahl, The Sacred Art of Listening (2002); Jan Pickard, Out of Iona: Words from a crossroads of the world (2003). Those attracted to labyrinths will ﬁnd Gernot Candolini (2003) and Virginia Westbury (2001) informative and interesting. Continued on page 7
spiritual director and attending monthly Taize services, and as a result of world travel, especially in the Middle East. Nor can the intellectual and philosophical aspects of spirituality be ignored when stimulating books like those by David Tacey on Australian spirituality continue to be published. Celtic spirituality has emerged as a special interest during recent decades, for me and many others. For me, I think it has restored something of the integration of spirit, creation, church and everyday living that was so important in my childhood and my mid-life transitions. Its use of story and song, nature symbols and wise sayings, vivid poems and prayers taps into deep wells of spiritual need and nurture. Like many another, I made my pilgrimage to Iona to ﬁnd it indeed a “thin place”, where heaven and earth seem unusually close. The community’s Wild Goose Publications produce many 6
A brief look at some books on spirituality
(Continued from page 6) For those for whom books often stimulate growth and new and helpful perspectives, I trust you will ﬁnd among these authors and texts a springboard to some new spiritual adventure, or the opening of a gate to a particular pathway in spiritual direction, reﬂection or retreat. I conclude with a Celtic prayer recorded in the nineteenth century by Alexander Carmichael (New Moon of the Seasons, 1992, p.150). I have printed my modernisation/revision below it. Thanks to thee, God, Who brought’st me from yesterday To the beginning of today, Everlasting joy To earn for my soul With good intent. And for every gift of peace Thou bestowest on me, My thoughts, my words, My deeds, my desires I dedicate to Thee. I supplicate Thee, I beseech Thee, To keep me from offence, And to shield me tonight, For the sake of Thy wounds With Thine offering of grace. (Recorded by Alexander Carmichael,19th century)
I do not see the road ahead of me
I thank you, God, For bringing me from yesterday To the beginning of a new day; For enabling me To earn eternal joy By seeking to live within your will. And every gift of peace You bestow upon me In thought and word, In deed and desire I dedicate to you. I earnestly beg you, I humbly plead with you Keep me from sin and harm, Guard me through this night, For the sake of Christ’s wounds And your Parental love and grace. (Revision by Chris Venning, 2008) Chris Venning
My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
The Burning Bush
Colin Thornby The story of Moses discerning God’s presence in the burning bush is one that captures our imagination, and says much to those of us who are called to walk in Jesus’ way. Moses was keeping the ﬂock of his fatherin-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his ﬂock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a ﬂame of ﬁre out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “ ... The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:1-12, NRSV) Even where I live, in Korumburra, the season for building the ﬁre to h e a t h a s f a i rl y much ended. Fire is one of those facts of life which which we’re very accustomed. In Victoria we have experienced the wrath of ﬁre, in those areas which were destroyed by bushﬁre in 2009. So we know ﬁre, and we think we have a handle on how it behaves, even when it is unpredictable and ferocious. Moses’ encounter with God’s presence in the burning bush could be termed a ‘theophany’ - a manifestation of God to a human being. Wonderous as Continued on page 9
Dedication of Numby Numby
Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park - 9 December 2010, 5.30pm The ﬁrst of the newly refurbished Numby Numby accommodation units at the Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park will be dedicated by Bishop John McIntyre on 9 December 2010. Refreshments will be served from 5.30pm. The Dedication will begin at 6pm. All members of the Diocesan family are very welcome. For catering purposes, please RSVP Kerrie (email@example.com) or Danielle (firstname.lastname@example.org), or phone the Registry - 03 5144 2044. Catch the 5.15pm ferry from Paynesville to Raymond Island.
Anam Cara Community Annual Thanksgiving Eucharist
Come and join us at the 2010 Anam Cara Community Annual Thanksgiving Eucharist. Each year we gather to welcome new associates to the community, to thank God for the year past, and to commission the leadership team for the coming year. • • • • Venue: St Paul’s Cathedral Sale Date: Saturday 27 November 2010 (yes,Victorian Election Day) Time: 11am, followed by a light lunch Further information: Colin, 03 5658 1086 or email@example.com; or Jane, 03 5182 8198, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Burning Bush
(Continued from page 8)
How do we know that we are not deluding ourselves, that we are not selecting those words that best ﬁt our passions, that we are not just listening to the voice of our own imagination?…Who can determine if [our] feelings and insights are leading [us] in the right direction? Our God is greater than our own heart and mind, and too easily we are tempted to make our heart’s desires and our mind’s speculations into the will of God. Therefore, we need a guide, a director, a counselor who helps us to distinguish between the voice of God and all other voices coming from our own confusion or from dark powers far beyond our control. We need someone who encourages us when we are tempted to give it all up, to forget it all, to just walk away in despair. We need someone who discourages us when we move too rashly in unclear directions or hurry proudly to a nebulous goal. We need someone who can suggest to us when to read and when to be silent, which words to reﬂect upon and what to do when silence creates much fear and little peace. (Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out) The ministry of spiritual direction (sometimes also called soul care, soul f r i e n d s h i p , companioning or other names) is a ministry of the church that has as its aim helping a person to grow in intimacy with God, which leads as a consequence to right relationship with all of creation. Spiritual direction is a time-honored term for a conversation, ordinarily between two persons, in which one person consults another, more spiritually experienced person about the ways in which God may be touching her or his life, directly or indirectly. In our age, many people dislike the term “spiritual direction” because it sounds like one person giving directions, or orders, to a n o t h e r. T h e y p r e f e r “ s p i r i t u a l companionship,” “tending the holy,” or some other name. What we call it doesn’t make any real difference, and we will refer to it as direction for the sake of ease. The reality remains conversations about life in the light of faith. Although spiritual direction has had a burst of new life, it is really quite ancient. Across both the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures, we ﬁnd people seeking spiritual counsel. The Queen of Sheba sought out the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus gave us examples in his conversations with Nicodemus, with the woman at the well, in the ongoing formation of Peter and the other disciples. In the early church, people ﬂocked to hermits in the desert for spiritual counsel. Across the centuries we ﬁnd striking examples in some Irish monks, in some German Benedictine nuns, in Charles de Foucault, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, and others. Today, spiritual directors come from many traditions and are clergy and lay. The whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of a person’s life, to get behind the façade of conventional gestures and attitudes which one presents to the world, and to bring out one’s inner spiritual freedom, one’s inmost truth, which is what [Christians] call the likeness of Christ in one’s soul. This is an entirely supernatural (spiritual) thing, for the work of rescuing the inner person from automatism belongs ﬁrst of all to the Holy Spirit. (Thomas Merton) Spiritual direction is often helpful if you ﬁnd yourself wanting a deeper relationship with God; your search for God is at a crossroad; you want to explore new ways to pray or if prayer has become difﬁcult; you feel the need for someone to help in discerning the call of God for you; you desire a companion on the spiritual journey. During a session, the director will spend most of the time listening carefully and attentively to your story, experience of your prayer and your struggles. In a conﬁdential and trusting setting, you will have a chance to talk about your search to know and do whatever God is asking of you in your life. If you’d like to ﬁnd a spiritual director or soul carer, contact the Anam Cara Community (email@example.com). The Community has a group of spiritual directors who have undertaken formation, and in whom the gift has been discerned. Colin Thornby
that is, if we stop there we don’t get into the depths of this beautiful reading. At this point in Exodus Moses is discovering who he is, and what he is ‘for.’ Intimately bound with this is who God is, and what relationship God has with Moses and the people of God. Each of us make this journey of discovery - not just once, but repeatedly throughout our lives. Who we believed ourselves to be when we were 10, 20, 30, 40, is often not who we understand ourselves to be when we’re older, and hopefully wiser. Tied up in that question of identity, and really, giving it meaning, is who God is, and what God’s place in our lives is. One of the problems with much of modern Christianity and spirituality is that it puts ‘me’ in the centre, and pushes God to the periphery. But we can’t understand ourselves at all without reference to who God is, and what God’s action in our lives, and in the world, is about. There is a great intimacy here. Each of us meets God in the burning bush of our lives. We learn who we are, and who God is, and what we’re ‘for.’ The burning bush is a bit of an enigma. Was it just a way of getting Moses’ attention? Abraham Heschel suggests not. Certainly, it was meant to get Moses to look. But more than that, it was meant to get Moses to stop, observe, wait and listen. When you think about it, it takes a little while to look at burning wood and ﬁnd that it isn’t being consumed. Moses would have had to look at the bush and wait, in order to see that it was not being destroyed by the ﬁre. God was drawing Moses into prayer and contemplation, which is, of course, drawing Moses into relationship with God. For contemplation is nothing more than sitting, loving God and listening to God. It is God who takes the active role here. It is God who reveals Godself, and God who calls Moses. It is God who explains, and God who sends Moses. This is one of the great truths of the life of the spirit - it is God’s work. We’re asked to
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The Burning Bush
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co-operate (and it can’t happen without our answering ‘yes’), but it is God’s work. What have been the ‘burning bushes’ in your own life? Where have the moments of God’s presence, of God’s call, come from? Have you stopped to wait, to pray, to see? Or hurried on? Have you got so excited by the burning that you forgot to look for God? Did you hear the call of God? The voice calling you by name? The burning bush could be any number of things. It could be a circumstance, a person, a book, a relationship, a moment of time. It could be very comforting, or very confronting. I suspect, for Moses, that this moment was very confronting. He was caring for his ﬂock of sheep, fairly much minding his own business. And he could have kept on doing that, because God would not have forced him to become the shepherd of the people of Israel - he needed to take up that mission willingly. Based on my own experience of God, I rather think God would have kept offering burning bushes as ways of getting Moses to notice, but there would not be compulsion or arm twisting. Very often we need to be reminded that the burning bush in our lives is holy ground. I’m very fond of Gerald May’s book The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores The Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Darkness (HarperOne, 2005). In it he observes that observed that he now ﬁnds it hard to work out whether an event or situation has a bad effect, or a good effect. Sometimes the things that have seemed most good take us in the wrong direction, and sometimes the things that seem most dark take us deeper into God. My experience of a signiﬁcant darkness, having cancer, is that God draws great growth and opportunity from darkness and suffering. For me having cancer was a burning bush. The long hours I spent in hospital, attached to IVs and receiving poisonous drugs, were times when God helped me to grow deeper into him, moments when I was allowed to get a glimpse of the glory of
God. Having cancer led me deeper into knowing who God is, and who I am. My brokenness, my failures and my sinfulness are put into context by God - they are real, they are there, and they are barriers, but God makes the ﬁrst move, and asks me to travel with God, doing what God asks of me. Seeing these moments as holy ground, as fertile and as times when we can grow, change and be renewed allows us to have hope and faith, even when we’re in the darkness, or trapped in a swamp of despair. Moses’ response to this great revelation of God’s glory was to hide his face. God had appeared to him, and revealed himself as the God of his ancestors. This must have been an awesome moment - to have experienced God and suddenly to know who God is,
we grow into who God calls us to be, step by step and moment by moment. A key part of this growing is walking in the way God has for us. For most of us, this way will not be as public as the way Moses walked. But we can be sure that the walk is vital - for us and for those God calls into relationship with us. One of the tensions of the Christian life is surely that we make this individual journey very much within a community. Some ﬁnd that easy, others much less so. Some ﬁnd that the community, the church, is an easy place to be, a place where they ﬁt in, and where the ministry they are offered nurtures them. The words make sense, the activities help them grow, their identity as a person, and as a Christian is nurtured and they grow deeper. For some, the church is a hard place to be - sometimes almost an impossible place. It may be that the life of the church doesn’t speak to us, or the words no longer make sense. The church may deﬁne us in ways that don’t help us to ﬁt in, or we may experience the dark side of the church, and of the church’s ministry - abuse, or hurts. Ronald Rolheiser speaks of a ‘certain kind of leaving’, in these situations. Sometimes, even if there isn’t a p hy s i c a l ‘ l eav i n g ’ , th ere i s a distancing so that the pilgrim can continue to be there. Sometimes there is a departure, for a new place. Sometimes there is a state of being inbetween, of not having a home - a difﬁcult place for the Christian, and a place in which guidance is vital. Sometimes this ‘certain kind of leaving’ is to help us to see what the church really is - the Body of Christ. Stripped of the institution (and illusions about the institution), the reality of what the church is may become clearer. Christian life is lived in community, because we need a team to help us live the life. Part of God’s gift is this team, a way, at its best, of ministering to us when we are in misery and brokenness. God heard Israel’s pain and groaning, and God responded. God responds to our pain and groaning too, very frequently through fellow Christians, who accompany us on the way. So, what is your burning bush? What is God saying? How are you being changed? Sit. Look at the bush, and see if the ﬁres are licking the wood, but not consuming it. Wait for God, expectantly. Wait. Colin Thornby
and who Moses was. Hiding his face, to avoid seeing and being seen, would have been a natural reaction, and a reaction that we have in our own lives when confronted with God’s glory and invitation to be in relationship with God. How much easier to hide. But Moses had looked on God’s glory, and it changed him. Seeing God’s glory can’t help but change us. We need to remember that such a gift is given not to ‘puff us up’, but to create something new in us. An encounter with God leaves us with options, but if we accept the offer that God extends - to be in love with God - we can’t help but ﬁnd ourselves changed and renewed. Those parts of our lives that are dark and hidden are illuminated, healed and cleansed. Sins are brought to light, in order to be dealt with and healed. And
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