Sermon for Retired Clergy

Canon David Lewis shared this sermon recently at the Southern retired Clergy luncheon and with his permission I would like to share it with you.

Popular, some years ago, especially for those times when we sing ‘songs’, was the one which had the verse “be still and know that I am God”. It is sung three times, before moving to verse two.  Calming, gentle, nice, and yet as is often the case, only half the story.

The words come from Psalm 46, which we have just said, and come in the midst of the battle, as an encouragement: to think on the truth that God is with us, — and as St Paul says (Romans 8:13 ) “If God is for us, who can be against us? !!”.

Paul goes on then to list some of the things that are against us, things that might separate us from God’s love, from Christ’s presence. (Note: (Separate) us from God. Not God from us, He is always with us!!).  Things that might cloud our realisation, our faith, that God is for us: things, (life’s happenings) such as: affliction, hardships, persecutions, hunger, danger,…his list goes on – for the battle we call life: goes on!

“Be still” in the midst of the battle, and remember: reassure ourselves that God is God, and God is with us, God is for us.

You can find the full sermon here.

Leaders and Followers

This blog is from an article written by James Oakley (Leaders and followers – equipping our children).

I want to raise my children to live well in community. I’m not willing to buy into the prevailing cultural notion of the rugged individualist. The Jack Bauer/John McClane/John Rebus type of character, who beats the system as well as the bad guys, is fine in fiction, but it’s not real life.

No, I want to raise my children so that they can live well and lead well in community with others. I was struck the other day, while listening to a recording of a talk given by Tim Hawkins, by the link that he draws between becoming a good leader and being a good follower. He even titled his talk ‘followership’, describing this as the missing key to great leadership. To become a great leader, it is necessary to be a good follower. To lead others well, you need to be able to model how to follow well. Living well in community with others involves the ability to submit to the leadership of others in that community.

Now there are a whole host of objections that sprang to mind when I was listening to this. I was thinking about poor leadership, or evil leadership. (And in this context I was hardly thinking at all about any current federal governments that happened to be governing the country.) I was wondering what he would say about when human leadership conflicts with God’s rule. Working through scriptures such as Romans 13 and Acts 4, Tim answered these objections.

Firstly
, it is prayerful. Imagine that your church leadership is considering a change in the arrangements for Sunday morning children’s ministry – a change that you’re unhappy with. A good follower will respond humbly and prayerfully to a leadership decision that he or she does not like. After all, we’re human and we make mistakes. We don’t always have the whole picture. I was challenged to approach God humbly, asking that he address my heart and attitudes. I must make room for the possibility that the decision is in accordance with God’s will, and that I need to change! Contrast this with a rebellious response, which will either ignore prayer entirely, or will pray asking God to change the decision or the leader!

Secondly, good followers listen. Having prayed, I might think that I’m still right and the leader is wrong. If I am properly submitting to authority I will respectfully ask the leader to explain, and will listen to the reasons for the decision, genuinely trying to understand. Again, look at the contrast with a rebellious response: the rebel is trying to gather ammunition for the coming fight, and trying to think up counter arguments.

Thirdly, a good follower will present his or her opinion. What if I am still convinced that the decision is poor? Then I will speak with those in leadership with as much persuasiveness, passion, reason, evidence and conviction that I can muster. I will advocate for the course of action that I am convinced is right. But I will do so with respect, and will avoid personal attacks. The rebel, by contrast, will speak about those in leadership. Their attack is directed at the leader, rather than the decision.

Finally, a good follower will either submit to the decision, working for the goals established by the leader, or will respectfully and peacefully withdraw. Even if I am convinced that I was right, my choices are to either support the decision, or to pull out of the involvement I had, acknowledging that right of the leaders to lead! A rebel continues the white ant campaign, and may even actively work against the decision.

This is a brief sketch, which would need adapting for different circumstances, but I hope that you can see the principles underlying it.

To read more of this article, please go to: Leaders and followers – Equipping our children

Of titles and character

‘Congratulations!’

I recently congratulated a friend upon his election to a new community role by commenting, ‘Congratulations! You have been collecting new titles with alacrity!’

His response, ‘I have a few titles. They come and go-but character is what really matters.’

What a wonderful response!

Titles can be fun: ‘The Right Reverend’ and ‘The Very Reverend’ are titles which raise a smile at their degree of overstatement. Surely being ‘reverend’ is sufficiently grand, if not challenging!

Moreover, if this one is ‘the right reverend’, where is ‘the wrong reverend’ or where is the ‘Not-so Very Reverend’, and who of these persons would we want to invite home?

Titles are important designations of leadership and responsibility. We are urged to pray for our leaders both within, and without, the Church.

Leadership will only fully fulfil its roles and responsibilities when infused with life-giving character. Character infuses life into leadership and life into the community.

We are not alone when seeking to strengthen our character.

Firstly, the Holy Spirit is at work within each and every follower of Jesus Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit is that of transforming followers into the likeness and image of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)

This is God’s will for us. (Philippians 1:6) We are being chipped away at or, more Biblically speaking, we are ‘being transformed by’ God, the Holy Spirit. Truly amazing!

Do you recall the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our character?

See Galatians 5:22,23: ‘love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ What a blessing!

Secondly, the Christian community is called to exhort and encourage one another in love and good works and so to grow the character of each and every member of the Body of Christ.

Thirdly, intentional character formation is aided by the intentional ministry of mature Christians who come alongside and assist in giving focus to the Holy Spirit’s work in the Christian’s life. This is often referred to today as mentoring: Christian mentoring. A definition (note 1):

Within intentional, empowering, unique relationships, Christian mentoring identifies and promotes the work of God’s Spirit in others’ lives, assisting them to access God’s resources for their growth and strength in spirituality, character and ministry.

Like my friend I can say,  ‘I have a few titles. They come and go – but character is what really matters.’

Thus we are all called to strive and pray:

Transforming Holy Spirit, work in my life and strengthen me to keep in step with your work in my life, that I may be being transformed into the image of Christ. Amen.

Shalom,

+ John
Bishop of Tasmania

Note 1:  A book by an Australian author which I have found to be very helpful is: Rick Lewis, Mentoring Matters, Monarch Books, Oxford, UK, 2009. Note 1 is on page 20.

WV Director’s Field Visit: Australia Program

WORLD VISION AUSTRALIA BOARD MEMBER’S FIELD VISIT

AUSTRALIA PROGRAM TEAM MEETING AND WARLPIRI COMMUNITY AT WILLOWRA,  NT

Bishop John and Mrs Gayelene Harrower, 21-27 August 2014

Our initial contact with the members of the Australia Program occurred on the Thursday evening of their week long gathering in Alice Springs. It was an easy introduction with valuable time spent in conversation.

During Friday, plenary and small group work canvassed work issues and the challenge of building comprehensive knowledge and communications across the length and breadth of Australia: a not insignificant issue. I participated in a governance panel discussion along with staff who specialise in governance in indigenous communities: a learning opportunity for me. Clearly, the regular gathering of the Australia Program team is strategic.

The Bruderhof Community from Elsmore NSW are keen supporters of the Australia Program and four of their members attended the gathering on Thursday and Friday. Their enthusiasm for the Australia Program is palpable and grounded in prayer, presence and financial generosity. The Bruderhof Community’s partnership with World Vision is also significant for our Christian foundations and engagement with the Church.

I spoke at the Alice Springs’ Anglican Church at the Sunday Morning Worship Services and the Parish hosted an afternoon World Vision information time where Liz Mackinlay, Liz Mullen and I spoke of the work. I am proud to say that the Anglican afternoon tea demonstrated generosity in abundance! :-)

Monday and Tuesday we spent with the Warlpiri Community at Willowra, a 4½ hour drive from Alice Springs. A key to the Early Childhood Care and Development project in which World Vision has been invited to partner, is the Reference Group of Yappa (Indigenous Women) to guide this work. The skills and advocacy capacity will then be applied to other areas of their community life. At the Early Learning Centre we observed a meeting of the Reference Group.  Our experience was enlightening, to say the least, and I must say that Project Facilitator Robyn Wagner’s gifting in capacity building was exemplary.

The evening campfire gathered the community and we shared food and chatted as the children played, camp dogs wandered and the wild donkeys brayed. A special time.

Travel for hours along dirt roads is hazardous and one of our tyres had given up the struggle on the journey to Willowra. Annette Fuller, ably assisted by Liz Mackinlay, changed the damaged tyre on our vehicle .
Changing a TyreOn Tuesday morning at the Early Learning Centre we joined about 12 children, some mothers and staff in the Playgroup.  The respect and acceptance of the three WVA staff: Annette, Robyn and Liz, was evidenced by their being greeted by the Yappa with their ‘skin names’. Of course, being related has its consequences. As Liz is a ‘daughter’ to one of the women, her ‘mother’ ordered her into the kitchen to make damper! We all benefited from this ‘skin name’ relationship at morning tea! :-)

Time travelling around Willowra allowed further glimpses of community life. I mentioned one item on Facebook and Twitter: “Just heard Qantas are upgrading Q Club Lounges. I expect the Willowra Q Club is on their list. :-)” It drew some interest!Willowra airport and Qantas Lounge

My comment sought to point to the challenges of remoteness and the necessity for capacity building in order that indigenous communities, in the pursuit of their hopes and dreams, determine the participation of stakeholders..

Upon reflection, the Warlpiri culture is so utterly different to anything we had encountered. One of the attributes that struck us was their gentleness and delightful sense of humour.

However, they have been, and continue to be, disorientated and dispirited by constant changes in Government policy and practice. We were told that each new Government throws out its predecessor’s policies and pours more millions of dollars into their own “great” new ideas and solutions. Tragically, little if any time is spent taking time to sit, wait and ask the community what are their hopes, dreams and needs. It takes a long time for trust to grow and dare I suggest that Governments like to make media headlines with their new policies and then stop 3 or 5 years later and the policies change. It is clearly a very slow process which is so foreign to the majority culture’s way.

Mistrust has tragic results: frustration, apathy, anger, withdrawal, which all makes subsequent engagements less likely to succeed.

We were very impressed with the World Vision staff who are clearly committed to patiently being with and walking beside indigenous Australians for the welfare of the children and their communities.

May this good work bring life in all its fullness to the original custodians of this vast and precious land.

Shalom,

Bishop John Harrower
30 August 2014

See also my World Vision Australia Director’s Field Visit to the Solomon Islands in 2010 to participate in the delivery of a Channels of Hope for Gender Program to reduce domestic violence. Solomon Islands: Media brief.  http://imaginarydiocese.org/bishopjohn/2012/10/23/solomon-islands-media-brief/

Mary Meets Mohammad: Review & Curriculum Guide

James Oakley worked as a lawyer with Legal Aid prior to his current role as the Children and Young Families Ministry Co-ordinator with the Anglican Church in Tasmania. I am grateful to James for reviewing both the documentary film and its Curriculum/Study Guide. James’ review:

There is a magical moment midway through the film Mary Meets Mohammad. Mohammad had already told much of the story of his time in immigration detention, but because cameras were not allowed in Pontville Detention Centre, we never saw his face. Midway through the film, Mohammad tells us how one of the guards says to him:

‘You’re going to freedom. You have your bridging visa. You’ve got half an hour – go and pack your bag.’

As Mohammad relays his awe and amazement at his release, his face fades into focus for the first time.

Mary Meets Mohammad is a film that gives human faces to the asylum seeker controversy in Australia. Mohammad and his Hazara friends in Pontville Tasmania lend their faces and names to the thousands of others who have fled persecution in their homelands – those thousands of men, women and children who are known to officialdom by their boat number and to the Australian public as statistics. Through Mohammad’s eyes, the viewer experiences something of the human cost of Australia’s asylum seeker policies – a cost paid in mental health, isolation, demonization and despair.

But Mohammad’s is not the only human face in the documentary. The viewer also meets Mary – a Christian pensioner whose attitudes and fears are echoed in countless homes, clubs, social groups and workplaces throughout Australia. Mary gives a human face to the many ‘ordinary Australians’ who feel threatened and disempowered by the perception of an influx of asylum seekers. The magic in Mary’s story is more gradual and more subtle, as her contact with Mohammad slowly releases her bonds of fear and unfamiliarity. Mary’s face shows her heart as it softens and warms towards asylum seekers generally and Mohammad in particular.

Not all people respond as Mary does, and we meet a number of ‘ordinary Australians’ whose views on Australia’s asylum policy are still governed by anxiety and misinformation. The strength of the film here is its capacity to evoke sympathy for these people, who lend their faces to those whose fears we might otherwise dismiss as mere bigotry.

Last year Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) released a Curriculum/Study Guide to help schools use Mary Meets Mohammad in their teaching. The guide provides helpful ways to use the film in studies of history, geography, society, government and politics, civic values, and English. The curriculum guide provides much helpful information about the legal, geopolitical and historical background to the asylum seeker issue, and gives numerous links to useful sources and authorities on the issue. The curriculum deals with this in a factually sound and politically neutral manner, encouraging teachers and students to evaluate for themselves the facts of the issue and their responses to it. I would think that churches that wanted to grapple with this complex issue would be assisted greatly by both the film and the accompanying curriculum.

*Links to Mary Meets Mohammad  and the Curriculum/Study Guide.

I, Bishop John, attended the Premiere of the Film. See my Review: Mary Meets Mohammad.

Hospital Chaplaincy Services

During a briefing visit with the Chaplaincy Service at the Royal Hobart Hospital and Repatriation Campus, I learnt the following information about the work of the chaplains and the various reasons for which people request their ministry. I have their permission to share this helpful information with you. Please hold their ministry in prayer.

Chaplains work both denominationally and are also allocated to inpatient  and are part of the multidisciplinary team working together for the wellbeing of the patient.

Admission to hospital for treatment can cause a major crisis for patients and their families and carers. It can be a period of uncertainty and insecurity and often a time of separation from the people and community of which they are part.

It has the potential to start people questioning significant life issues and to question personal and spiritual relationships.

Pastoral care in its broadest sense is any form of sincere concern extended by one person toward another who is in need, and is performed with some degree of consciousness of God’s presence and love.

10 Reasons Why you Might Ask a Chaplain to Visit You

  1. You would like someone to pray with you for extra strength.
  2. You would like your community clergy person to come and visit, but you don’t know how to contact him/her.
  3. You would like to have Holy Communion.
  4. You have spiritual questions you would like to talk to someone about.
  5. You or a loved one is going to have surgery or an important procedure and you would like to have someone say a prayer with you / your family beforehand.
  6. You would like to talk to someone who is not a doctor, nurse, or somehow involved in caring for your medical needs.
  7. There is an ethical question that is bothering you and you would like a safe person to talk to.
  8. You are wondering about where God is because you feel like God is not listening to your prayers.
  9. You are scared and just want someone to talk to.
  10. You are thinking about having your baby baptized, blessed or dedicated.

Chaplaincy services operate at many hospitals in Tasmania. Please contact your local hospital for chaplaincy services. At the Royal Hobart Hospital the Chapel and Chaplaincy Department operates Monday – Friday 9.00 am to 5:00 pm and is located on:1st Floor C Block, Ext  8487. A Duty Chaplain is on call after hours.

Sparklit Book of the Year 2014

The winner of the 2014 Australian Christian Book of the Year is:

The Great Bible Swindle….and what can be done about it (by Greg Clarke, Bible Society Australia).

This introductory book is written especially for those who feel that they should know something about the world’s most influential text, but may have been afraid to ask, put off by the Church, found the black leather cover and cigarette paper pages ominous, or just never got around to it.

In the first half of the book, Clarke explores the question: “Why would I bother with the Bible?”. He then tackles questions like “What is the Bible, and what do I do with it?”

“What I want to do in this book is explain how and to what extent the Bible is behind so much of Western life. I want to look at where the Bible has influenced different aspects of life, in order to give you some sense of just what a scandal it is that many people have had this knowledge concealed from them.”

Listen to Greg Clarke on ABC 612 Brisbane morning show on whether you can consider yourself an educated person if you haven’t read the Bible.

For more information about the book see the following links:
The Great Bible Swindle
An interview with the author Greg Clarke

Tasmanian Anglican Articles – August 2014

I would like to encourage you to read the interesting articles about the life and ministry of the Anglican family in Tasmania and beyond, in the online edition of our magazine. Enjoy!

Included in this issue:

 

Review: Charlie’s Country

Engaging, thought provoking, feeling sad, comic, angry, frustrated!  – Yes, these are all components of my response to this excellent film: Charlie’s Country.

And did I mention that it is sooo sloooow! Ah! I hear, “You, white fella!” Yes, the pace of the film is itself a cross cultural experience for this fella (me!). This aspect of the film reminded me that the challenge to learn is heightened when the way we speak and listen is so very different. Note, ‘different’. Not wrong, just different! This latter sentence became a key learning for me during my cross cultural missionary training at St Andrew’s Hall in the 1970s.

Film Director, Rolf de Heer was interviewed following the film at the State Cinema North Hobart where it was shown as part of NAIDOC week. One of the many ‘takeaways’ from the interview and film was the emphasis on persistence in respect and the forming of a new way, a new third culture/way was thought provoking, where traditional indigenous culture and the new culture can be founded in respect and care. A genuine shared life together of the original custodians of Australia and the ‘white fellas’  has been and continues to be a long term project for all Australians. We must continue seeking and building this life together: to gather around the camp fires and learn each other’s hearts. This is a very great challenge given our mutual fragility; as ‘Charlie’s Country’ so vividly demonstrates.

At the Tasmanian  film showing, I along with community leaders, politicians, Municipal Councillors and Church leaders, were informed by Tasmanian Indigenous Elders of RECOGNISE which is the people’s movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution. See, RECOGNISE. Although broadly supportive, my concern is that this project may take energy from the deeper issue of growing respect and understanding, working practically, so that we can build healthy and life giving ways to live together in this land, Australia.

The film is very well reviewed by Gemma Blackwood, Charlie’s Country: David Gulpilil confounds our romantic fantasies. A snippet:

Poster for Charlie’s Country. Image.net/Entertainment One films

In Charlie’s Country, Eurocentric fantasies about Indigenous men are deconstructed. For example, the main character works as a tracker – but for the police. Rather than being able to live off the land, his inability for long-term survival in the swamps of Arnhem Land is revealed.

Gulpilil and de Heer’s decision for the film to be a character study allows the banal daily problems and ongoing prejudices in Ramingining and Darwin to convey a much bigger social commentary about disadvantage and cultural misunderstanding and miscommunication.

Charlie lives in a self-made humpy because he feels the government provisions are inadequate. The film progresses through a register of emotional states, charting Charlie’s struggle to do things in his way. He tries to go bush in the traditional sense, but he’s all on his own and an unfortunate early wet season means he contracts bronchial disease.

Then, released after extensive rehabilitation from Darwin Hospital, he falls in with itinerant drinkers in the city and is eventually incarcerated, and for a while, silenced.

I urge you to please take the opportunity to view and discuss this important film.

Following my heartfelt ‘Sorry’ to the indigenous peoples at my first media conference as Bishop of Tasmania, I asked that the history of the relationship between the Aboriginal Community and the Anglican Church in Tasmania be told. Anglicare(Tas) generously funded the project resulting in James Boyce’s ‘God’s Own Country?‘. The book launch address at St John’s New Town, Wednesday 27 June 2001, is here.

Participation in events such as The Water Ceremony and Ecumenical Reconciliation Services continue to grow my understanding, as does reading and consideration of indigenous biography such as Yulki: Arnhem Land Priest  and Michael Gumbuli of Ngukurr. Also, listening to indigenous concerns such as the NT Emergency Intervention Response: An Indigenous Christian View.

Book: In GOD They Trust?

With a not insignificant number of professing Christians in our Federal and Tasmanian Parliaments my thoughts have been drawn to an important book, “In GOD They Trust?”. 

The book highlights the religious beliefs of Australia’s Prime Ministers over the last century and addresses the way in which their religious beliefs influence their approach to public life and national leadership .

The book is well written and researched. I found it very challenging and thought provoking, not just to the consideration of our former Prime Ministers’ leadership but also to my own leadership practise. In what way has the Good News of Jesus Christ truly influenced my leadership?

The book groups our Prime Ministers into eight broad categories.  To some extent they serve to highlight the various religious ‘types’ who have directed the nation’s affairs since Federation:

  1. The Good and Faithful Servant (Andrew Fisher, James Scullin, Joseph Lyons).
  2. The Ardent Seekers (Alfred Deakin, Billy McMahon, Kevin Rudd).
  3. The Righteous Straighteners (Joseph Cook, Billy Hughes, John Howard).
  4. The More-Than-Tribal Catholics (Ben Chifley, Paul Keating).
  5. The Enigmatic Presbyterians (George Reid, Robert Menzies, Malcolm Fraser).
  6. Labor’s Lapsed? (John Curtin, Bob Hawke, Julia Gillard).
  7. The Fellow-Travellers (Chris Watson, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, John Gorton, Gough Whitlam).
  8. The Gentlemanly Agnostics (Edmund Barton, Harold Holt).

The book was written prior to the election of our current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who is a professed Christian. As to deciding on which of the religious ‘types’ Prime Minister Tony Abbott seems to most embody, I leave to a few more years of grace. Certainly, our current Prime Minister’s leadership and its relationship to his religion is already drawing keyboard time from commentators.

See an interesting interview of the author, Roy Williams, by Simon Smart of the Centre for Public Christianity, here.

See also, Gillard’s atheism an issue? and Is Rudd’s Religion political opportunism? and Leadership: Kevin Rudd by Tim Costello.