Tony (not in the photo left!) was one of my wonderful old Gateshead clergy colleagues. He used to threaten or promise (depending on your viewpoint) that when he retired he would stand for Council as a true left-wing Christian Socialist, and generally kick over the traces like our shared holy ratbag guru Jesus. Sadly Tony died before he could make good on that intention. Yet he remains an inspiration to me, not least because, for all his faults, his heart was true and he loved his people and his God. He also never gave up, even when it might have been far more convenient to do so. Every time I hear the words of Chumbawamba's Fade Away (i don't want to) I think of Tony and resolve never to fade away, albeit not necessarily as a left-wing politician/activist.
Now I don't have a problem with those who live in quiet retirement, particularly not those who are an immense source of prayerful strength and gentle kindness in Toowoomba! Possibly God, or life, will also have some way of turning me also into a prayerful watcher at a later age, like my near namesake the formerly chaotically activist Lincoln Imp. I will wait and see. What I do know is that I am not alone in not wanting to fade away Arriving at retirement age, uncle David for instance (that is his photo above) has recently struck out in a new direction, taking on a new charge as chaplain to the Anglican community in Warsaw in Poland. Putting aside any possible concern - he is my last surviving uncle! (and delightfully warm and encouraging to boot) - I am impressed. It is an exciting new responsibility but not one without its challenges, and not just those of the Polish winter and language. As Pope Francis has this week observed, Europe is full of much angst and the European Community has lost much confidence in its founding principles of human dignity and international unity. This is a concern both for Europe's minorities and for its poorer peoples, not least the Poles. The Anglican Church in continental Europe is often in a significant minority. This is certainly the case in traditionally deeply Roman Catholic Poland. Yet the Anglican presence is an important one for international understanding and solidarity, as well as in offering opportunities for worship and support for emigres (including growing numbers of African Anglicans) and others. I am therefore following my uncle's next vocational step with great interest, rejoicing that he at least has not settled for simply fading away - as if...
For more about the Anglican Church in Poland, go to http://www.anglicanchurch.pl
and to follow the Rev David Brown, go to http://revdavidbrown.com
Like her or loath her, Melinda Tankard Reist has made an impact. Listening to her in Toowoomba yesterday, I was struck by the challenge and cost of the activism she lives and calls others into. I would not personally agree with exactly everything she says. Yet she remains one of the foremost contemporary 'pro-life feminist' voices and her grassroots campaigning movement Collective Shout is a lively force against the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture. Melinda is also a powerful encourager and embodiment of activism. Indeed, as the Glennie School and others locally have found this week, she is a particular inspiration to girls and women to stand up for themselves and for the needs of others. Does Melinda sometimes overestimate the negative effects of pornography and over-emphasise prohibition and protection rather than choice and liberation? Perhaps. Does her socially conservative background cause liberal concern? Maybe. How far does she contribute to the deep and thorny challenges of working through shame and honour, economic, cultural and gendered power, and the place of eros, sexual identity and expression in our contemporary world? Feminists seem divided on whether they agree with her or not, and how she contributes to their cause. Yet, whatever her own failings - and all activists have them - all would surely agree that she is an impressive agent provocateur for activism...
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.