I learned today of the death of the Venerable Master Chin Kung, one of the world’s spiritual leaders (in the Pure Land Buddhist tradition) and someone who enlarged my life in many ways, particularly in the wonderful relationships he helped nurture among so many different people in Toowoomba and many different countries across the world.
The picture above is from one of the international journeys some of us in the Toowoomba City Goodwill committee took with the Venerable Master - here in Singapore, en route home from one of the UNESCO peace conferences he arranged and we attended in Paris. So much else has been nurtured however through the peace initiatives the Venerable Master nurtured through the Pure Land community he inspired - including, not least, in Toowoomba.
The Venerable Master, like Hans Kung, believed that people of faith could be forces for peace and good in our world, especially where they worked together, with people of all cultures, drawing on the best of all faith and human wisdom, because ultimately all is drawn from the same source and we walk best together. Indeed, without faiths working together, we lack and become harsh. He encouraged faith leaders always, daily, to share what we have which can build up, as he did daily in his teaching, whatever else he was doing and wherever he was in the world. He believed so much in the power of loving kindness, attentiveness, making connections (across traditions, cultures, centuries, and any distinctions) and he helped us in that work. His generosity also included being a partner in our Toowoomba City Labyrinth installation at St Luke’s Toowoomba - a continuing symbol of multicultural and multi faith walking together.
The Venerable Master’s legacy will, I know, live on and flourish - in the lives of all who knew him, especially his Pure Land communities who feel his loss so deeply at this time. My own love and prayers go out to my dear friends in Toowoomba in this, with thanksgiving.
What a beautiful start to 2016 at St Luke's, with a delightful New Years Day 'building bonds of humanity' community friendship tea at the Toowoomba City Labyrinth, organised by the Islamic Interfaith & Multicultural Association of Toowoomba. It was a great joy to offer and share hospitality together, as a symbol of our hope and mutual intent for the coming year. With music and dance, positive but concise speeches, food and drink and wonderful company (Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and all sorts), it was another sign of our 'model city of peace and harmony' in action.
It is hard to pick a special moment in the afternoon - a gorgeous Toowoomba summer day - as there were many, including the joy of many of our other faith friends, young and old, exploring St Luke's church building itself. Perhaps my favourite however was the men's dance (the first I think on the labyrinth), recalling the words of the psalmist (Psalm 133.1): 'how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell (and dance!) together in unity'.
It is a couple of weeks now since we formally launched the Toowoomba City Labyrinth
with a wonderful community ceremony at St Luke's and already it has proven a lovely boon to spiritual journeying in our city, with all kinds of individuals and groups using it. Labyrinth facilitator training will also start soon to enable more people to understand and lead others with this tool of spiritual growth. For an introduction please check out Toowoomba Chronicle's fine video piece here:
It is great to see the final - sacred jigsaw puzzle? - stage of our Toowoomba City Labyrinth coming together at this time in the grounds of St Luke's. We hope it will be ready for our Carnival of Flowers displays, focusing appropriately on being a pilgrim, and we are planning for a city launch on Sunday 11 October. Like ourselves, it is a reminder that we are always 'works in progress'.
Laying the foundations of a labyrinth at St Luke’s has been a beautiful symbol of our parish journey together. For we are named after someone – St Luke – who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles to encourage us to see our life and faith as a journey into the heart of God and a journey into deeper relationship with all those around us. Like the first disciples on the Emmaus Road, we are called to experience God in Jesus Christ as we travel with our parish vision: to be more deeply ‘focused in Christ, joyful and inclusive, compassionate in witness’.
Over the last few months we have been praying and reflecting together about the next steps we should take. It has been a very positive experience. For we have begun to discover new pathways building on our current strengths and shared Christian traditions. We have identified a MAP (short for Mission Action Plan) which we hope and trust will help us walk forward together over the next 3 years. Unlike the final stage of the labyrinth, it will not be fixed in stone. Some things will work. Some things will not. Other surprises will come our way. Yet our MAP will help us from straying from the pathway, helping us better attention to God’s love among us. in both our inward and outward looking journeys.
There are six aspects to our MAP, like the six petals at the centre of our labyrinth. By far the highest priority identified by members of the parish is developing our ministry with younger people, children & families (including seeking a new paid member of staff to guide and support us). Alongside this is a second priority of engaging with the new Pilgrim course – for existing and new members of our parish to grow as Christians. Thirdly, we particularly seek to develop a growing sense of the St Luke’s site as a, cathedral like, Minster for our city: as an accessible place of prayer for all (‘focused in Christ’), an open meeting place for people of different backgrounds (‘joyful and inclusive’), and a lively place to explore and bring together ancient and contemporary understandings of life, truth, justice and beauty (‘compassionate in witness’) – ‘in the heart of the City, in the heart of God’. May God bless us therefore as travel on.
Great to see - and hear - work beginning on the first stage of our labyrinth on the St Luke's Toowoomba site today. The project will place a petite Chartres design labyrinth in the grounds of the church building, beneath the wonderful east end window (a copy of the oldest window - the 'Blue Virgin' - in Chartres Cathedral, one of the great European medieval cathedrals associated with Christian labyrinths). We hope that this will further develop the 'sacred tourism' and 'spiritual garden' potential of the St Luke's site (the 'Chartres of the South'?), offering a valuable extra tool for contemplative prayer, experiential spirituality, healing and reconciliation. My wife and colleague, the Revd. Penny Jones (seen left pretending to actually dig out the foundations) is a fully trained and accredited labyrinth facilitator with the Veriditas international labyrinth movement. She has already run workshops in Toowoomba, as well as elsewhere, and we look forward to this being a beautiful addition to life in Toowoomba. More information about our project can be found on the Toowoomba City Labyrinth site.
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.