Yesterday I finally made it to 'the Green House' in Buderim. It is a remarkable place, embodying a deeply-grounded commitment to walking with the Spirit in, through, and with the land (and the people closest to the land). Heather Johnson is the coordinator, alongside family members and others in the local community, not least Aboriginal elders. Over the last few years Heather's original family land at Buderim has been turned over to environmental, Reconciliation and other spiritual endeavours, to create a lasting and living symbol for this and future generations (read more here). Linked to the Community of Aidan & Hilda, the Anglican Church at Buderim and SAILS, this work is an inspiration to me and to many others. Long may it flourish! To walk the grounds of the Green House is certainly to be surprised and encouraged in wonderful and unexpected ways.
Yesterday was but one vital example of the creative and healing projects of the Green House. On the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, two memorials were dedicated: one to those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who fought (here and overseas) in defence of their country, and one to South Sea Islanders (an important part of local history) who have fought in Australia's defence forces. This followed a lecture by Indigenous historian John Maynard earlier in the day. The dedication of the memorials was another moving step in Reconciliation, led by Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall and local elders. My hope and prayer is that it strengthens us all to similar further Spirit-led relationship and action in the days ahead.
Giving thanks today for the work of Indigenous historians, not least John Maynard (from the University of Newcastle) whom I heard speaking again yesterday at St Mark's Anglican Church Buderim. John came later than most to professional historical research and teaching, via family history enquiry, but he has nonetheless become one of the most lively and significant historians we have in Australia today. Grandson of Fred Maynard, the redoubtable political activist and the President of the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association (AAPA), and son of the noted jockey Merv Maynard, John's work has already done much to open up the buried, forgotten and often erased history of Australia and help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples find empowerment in the struggles and achievements of their ancestors, Australia's 'first peoples' in so many respects.
John was speaking in Buderim, on the anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations, as part of the remembrance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have fought for their country and the dedication of memorials. John spoke particularly, with his typical insight, challenge and informed passion, about Indigenous Australians who had served in the first world war: bringing their lives and contexts alive and moving us, at various points, with the notes of sadness, anger, frustration, solidarity and re-commitment to struggle which they evoke. This aspect of John's work is part of the national "Serving our Country' project, led by Prof Mick Dodson and others in Canberra, which will bring welcome light into neglected aspects of the history of Australia in this 100th anniversary year of the Gallipoli tragedy, and, most importantly, further enhance the identity of Indigenous Australians and the celebration of their lives by others too.
This week I spent two days reflecting together with others on the next steps in the journey of peace and harmony in Toowoomba. The first day was with other members of the Goodwill Committee, developed at the invitation of the Pure Land Learning College to help give community direction to the Pure Land Venerable Master's vision of Toowoomba as 'a model city' of peace and harmony. On the second day we joined by some other wonderful key community leaders, acting as 'critical friends' to help take forward our hopes and ideas. Thanks are also due to Prof Michael Cuthill of USQ for his able facilitation. For it was a very profitable time, developing our structure (even if I was asked to be GWC chair for the forthcoming year!), our shared sense of purpose and key areas of partnership with others. GWC groups are now working particularly on specifics for: the development of agreed community values for our work, Indigenous engagement, youth engagement, peace art, further multi-faith understanding and action, and grounding our connections with UNESCO through official partnerships such as the 'Creative Cities' program.
It was a delight last Sunday evening to see again Brothers Ghislain, Matthew and Alois (the Prior) from the Taize Community and even more delightful to take some of our parishioners and boarders from The Glennie School to share in Taize Prayer in St Stephen's Cathedral in Brisbane. This followed on from our beautiful Taize-style Candlemas Prayer the previous Sunday in St Luke's Toowoomba.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the remarkable Community in the little village of Taize in Burgundy, 100 years on also from the birth of the founder Brother Roger. It continues to act as an inspiration to so many people in so many places and situations in our world. Above all, its Christ-centred spirit of simplicity, solidarity and celebration speaks to young people who continue to join in 'the Pilgrimage of Trust' in such great numbers. The special Letter in preparation for this year's anniversaries is again a beautiful distillation of the Taize spirit and an encouragement to us all to walk together 'Towards a New Solidarity' with people of all Christian, ethnic and other backgrounds, with people of all faiths and none. Check our the Letter here.
The other day at home I found a wonderful book, related to my doctoral studies, which i had not really looked at properly. It is entitled England's Voice of Freedom: An Anthology of Liberty. First published in 1929, it was edited by the radical journalist Henry W. Nevinson, an active participant, among other things, in the women's suffrage movement. He was, unhappily, married to Margaret Wynne Nevinson, a leading (Anglican) Christian feminist and one of my personal heroines. Not surprisingly, there are a number of first wave feminist entries in the book, among a treasury of inspirational texts on liberty.
Nevinson's book is a timely reminder, in this 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta, of the amazingly deep, delightfully varied, and incorrigibly ingrained spirit of liberty in the history and very spirit of England. Of course there are other trends and spirits, not least: the arrogance, authoritarianism, and class-ridden contempt of many English so-called 'elites' down the centuries; an occasionally recurring mean and miserly insularity which can sap the soul of English delight and generosity; and the brutality and coarse violence which has often been close to the surface at home and, sadly, exported abroad. Living away from the land of my birth, I am well aware both of those failings and the danger of romanticising. All great peoples also have inspiring words and lived examples of liberty. Yet, for all that, there is something in the English heritage which, as Nevinson put it, is 'peculiarly English in the ideas of freedom' that have been passed down: 'something that appeals very intimately to the English man or woman born and bred... and nurtured unconsciously upon her ancient traditions as I have been'. Perhaps, at a distance, those unconscious elements can also become a little clearer?...
The recent Queensland election was a stunning reversal of the equally historic LNP landslide (at least in seats) of three years before. Although it has left the State Parliament in an interesting and acute balance of political forces, it was an emphatic rejection both of the authoritarian style of the Campbell Newman government and of the proposed policies of the lease of state assets. Is this simply a sign of the fickleness of the contemporary electorate and/or also a sign of a shift in people's attitudes to the politics of austerity?
Across the world there are a few signs of a turning away from the kind of politics and economics which reflect the relentless advocacy of large corporations and wealthy interests and which have steadily and disproportionately increased the wealth and power of the rich in comparisons to the rest of us. In both Greece and Spain, in the face of economic crisis, the general populace has begun to fight back against the recipes of more austerity forced upon them, supporting parties which have had the courage to take another line. It is too soon to say if this might spread. Queenslanders certainly can hardly be said to have suddenly become born again Socialists, particularly as the Labor state leadership is also politically cautious and committed to the further development of some problematic environmental and economic schemes. Yet when the Federal Government still talks about the problem being its communication methods rather than its concrete policies, one wonders if it is really listening. Its budget last year was a disaster in alienating many of the less wealthy, even before crass and clumsy remarks by the Treasurer about the poor and the most recent farcical announcement of a knighthood for Prince Philip. Paul Kelly published his song the Land of the Little Kings back in 1998 but it still speaks powerfully today. It would be nice to think that the people have finally decided to do something about it, even if politicians may still have tin ears.
One of the wonderful unexpected outcomes of our flag washing on Australia Day was a phone call I received from an active member of the Lock the Gate Alliance. This is a national coalition of people from across Australia, including farmers, traditional custodians, conservationists and urban residents, who are uniting to protect our common heritage - our land, water and communities - from unsafe or inappropriate mining for coal seam gas and other fossil fuels. The person who rang was unknown to me yet had felt moved to contact me by photos she had seen of our event. She expressed deep thanks for the gathering, telling me about her involvement with local people in Acland and further afield who had been so negatively impacted by unbridled mining development. She lives interstate but the photos of the event brought home to her the powerful mix of courage in adversity and deep distress in the people she had encountered. As a filmmaker trying to share such stories, she had frequently been torn, she said, by the need to encourage such people to tell of their experience whilst not seeking to make things worse. Initiatives like yours, she said, are so valuable as they provide people with something and somewhere to hold their grief, space for mourning, for healing and for hope beyond hope. She was, she said, today at best a non-observant Buddhist, yet she knew this was so needed.
It was a marvelous conversation, not just in justifying (if that were required) our gathering on Australia Day, but also in reminding me of the deep need we have in our contemporary world for meaningful community rituals to help hold share out common humanity and build solidarity in the midst of our pain and joy, our fears, hurts and hopes. For millenia the great spiritual and religious traditions of the world have offered this. They can still do much, if they are open to listen, to development and to creative partnership with others. We need also however, whatever out religious traditions or none, to respond afresh to the movements of challenge and grace in our own day. This has given me food for thought and, I hope, inspiration for further action. Indeed, my phone partner also reminded me of the work of another heroine of mine: Joanna Macy, an activist Buddhist who has so enriched us with her own creative community rituals, touching the depth of our hearts and the soul of our troubled yet astonishing world.
Penny and I were delightfully taken aback when the president of Toowomba's Garden City mosque invited us, with a few other Christian leaders, to the recent post-wedding reception of his son Adnun Abdullah Khan and new daughter-in-law Farhana Haider Chowdhury. It was lovely expression of the growing multicultural friendships across our community in Toowoomba and another step in the deepening of our relationships. One of the most beautiful moments was when one of the little Muslim girls present came up excitedly to greet Penny. She was in one of Penny's classes at The Glennie School last year and she had spotted Penny as one of the few grown-ups other than her family to whom she really wanted to say hello! In such moments God smiles most kindly on her many children of different faith.
I am not a great fan of what is called 'the pathetic fallacy', particularly in films when the rain, for example, comes down when times turn sad and miserable. There are some special occasions however when these things do seem to come together. A few years ago, this happened before the first Five Lands Walk on the NSW Central Coast. Some of us gathered on the beach for a special dawn ceremony before the main event. As one of our Aboriginal elders finished singing the final song whales appeared off shore, seemingly beaching gloriously in the joy of that splendid morning of spiritual renewal. The flagwashing we shared on Australia Day was similar moving occasion. Earlier that afternoon, on a hot day, I attended the solidarity event after the fire at the Garden City mosque. As we drove out to Acland the clouds gathered and, as we arrived, rain began. In that place of so much political and environmental conflict, it felt as if creation itself was weeping with us for the failings of our nation and world and that, like gentle tears, it was washing and healing us as we prayed together. It was a beautiful event. The liturgy touched many hearts. It lifted the spirits, not least of the Aboriginal elders present and of Glenn Beutel (who so gracisously welcomed us and who so ably the practicalities of the flag washing).
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.