Moderator’s column: Jungle journey

It is often said that God is a God of surprises.

Every once in a while I find myself in a situation that I could never have expected or predicted. A month or so ago, I found myself in a dugout canoe, with an outboard motor travelling along the Irrawaddy river, in a rural and remote part of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. I had to pinch myself; how did I end up here?

The simple answer is that my jungle journey has its origins with the Karen congregation that meets at Uniting Church in the City (UCIC), Ross Memorial West Perth, and the movement of the Spirit.

The pastor of the Karen congregation is Rev S’Win Shwe, who trained in the Uniting Church’s theological college in Sydney (UTC). Last year, he invited me to have dinner with the president of the Pwo Karen Baptist church of Burma, Rev Mahn Benson, who was visiting Perth.

Fast forward four months and out the blue comes an invitation to speak at the 100th year anniversary service of the Pwo Karen Baptist church in Myanmar and at the opening of their renovated church in Yangon. Continue Reading

Editorial: Getting crafty

It’s no secret among people who know me personally that I love craft – specifically knitting.

This year, knitting has been put in the spotlight with the rise of the Pussyhat global campaign and I couldn’t be more excited to see my fellow crafters standing together for an important cause.

I’ve loved writing the feature article on ‘craftivism’ for this edition, and I’m hoping there are lots of you out there who’ll connect with it too. Click here to read it.

I learnt to knit from my mum while I was in primary school. We were on a family driving holiday and my brothers and I would alternate as to who would sit in the front next to my mum and stepdad as we drove along. My mum was knitting a jumper for me throughout the trip, and I wanted to learn. So my stepdad made me some knitting needles out of wire and when it was my turn in the front my mum would teach me the ropes.

I managed to make a top for a doll on that trip, so I must’ve picked it up pretty fast. In the years following, my nanna also taught me to crochet, and both skills have played a huge part in my life. Continue Reading

Review: Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible and the Church, edited by Preston Sprinkle

two-views-on-homosexualityHomosexuality commonly draws out strident views. Oppositional positions seem to be the norm; dialogue is often elusive. The editor notes this is not a ‘Christian’ versus ‘non-Christian’ debate: it is a discussion within the church.

Seeking to encourage deep engagement, evangelical publisher Zondervan asked two scholars to present an ‘affirming’ and two a ‘traditional’ view. Elsewhere, the editor says, the “question of homosexuality defies simple answers … I refuse to give thin answers to thick questions …” These scholars do the same.

Two authors were new to me. Knowing little about intersexuality, DeFranza’s work intrigued me. Holmes sees no room for same-sex marriage and with Hill (a self-identifying gay man) perceives celibacy as the only same-sex Christian option. Continue Reading

Review: The Good People, by Hannah Kent

the-good-peopleHannah Kent’s latest offering, The Good People, is a continuance of her culturally expansive and erudite work  following her award winning first novel Burial Rights. It is an imaginative exposition of the pagan superstitions of  ancient Ireland colliding with the new normal of an expanding Christian faith.

Following the death of her daughter and, subsequently, her husband, Nora Leahy is enveloped in grief and left with the care of her grandchild, a previously lively and bright child, suffering from unexplained loss of faculties and unable to walk or talk. Nora hires a servant girl to help care for the child as their valley’s fortunes decline.Continue Reading

Messages from the aether: International Women’s Day

Chat 10 Looks 3
www.chat10looks3.com

Made by news woman, Leigh Sales and the ABC’s erudite head political writer, Annabel Crabb, Chat 10 Looks 3 (a play on a song from musical The Chorus Line) is a podcast about literature, politics and food, so very much food. This is a conversational podcast that touches on current affairs and the lives of these two endlessly fascinating women. I recommend Bury a Liver Under the Roots for a listen as Leigh and Annabel discuss the US Election and Leigh’s successes in the sweet pea growing department. If this podcast doesn’t make you a bit smarter, you’re a cleverer cookie than me.

VIDA
http://www.auswhn.org.au/blog/

Blog of the Australian Women’s History Network, VIDA is a blog about women, history, activism and a whole suite of  other important issues. With contributors from all over Australia and featuring excellent stories and reviews about women and women’s issues, there’s a lot to love with this corner of the internet. Have a look at Day in the working life of a historian: Rebecca Lush, it is exactly as the title says, a chronicle of Rebecca Lush’s working day in her capacity of heritage interpreter on Cockatoo Island and curator at the Harry Daly Museum; it’s a fascinating read and engagingly written. A great blog for getting your head around women in history.

The History Chicks
http://thehistorychicks.com/

This podcast is a sassy introduction to fascinating women throughout history. Beckett Graham and Susan  Vollenweider, two women who love history and love talking about women in history. This is a great podcast for learning about the great women in history in a fun and easy way. The podcast is well researched and has a relaxed tone. I like Katherine of Aragon, the details of the story are fascinating and sometimes surprising.

Elaenor Nield

Moderator’s column: Life beyond the fishbowl

One of the greatest English rock bands, Pink Floyd, has a line in one of their songs that has always intrigued me: “we’re like two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl, year after year. Wish you were  here.”

These lyrics suggest, rather cynically, that living today can feel like living in a fishbowl. The more I thought about life being like a fishbowl, the more it seemed to me that there is some truth to the  idea.

Water magnifies every action we take, making it look way bigger than it probably should be. Life in a fishbowl means that small things appear much bigger. A rather innocuous comment can be  seen as a massive put down; a flippant remark can be taken as a serious rejection of a person; a mild, gentle criticism can be misunderstood as a character assassination.

In the world of the fishbowl, many things are exaggerated or magnified causing a distorted view of reality. Fishbowl thinking over scrutinises, dissects and then replays over and over again the  same unbalanced view of reality.

Every now and then, I think I suffer from this condition and I am not alone. Others in the church are also unconsciously affected by a fishbowl mind-set. Sometimes when I am in conversation, I  hear a grievance. They range from the trivial, to the important, to the very serious. Discerning which category they belong in is a prayerful, pastoral art. To reinforce the petty is not helping anyone. To minimise the serious is pastorally neglectful. Continue Reading

Messages from the aether: on a mission

UnitingWorld Blogs
http://unitingworld.org.au/blogs
The blog posts you’ll find at UnitingWorld Blogs are many and varied and absolutely worth reading. As an agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, UnitingWorld facilitates relief, development  and church connections with communities both near and far. I particularly recommend reading ‘Passing the Peace in South Sudan’ a recent post from Megan Calcaterra about how we understand  peace as Christians and how we often take it for granted. This blog is a great way to engage with the work of UnitingWorld on a people level in the words of those serving on the ground and representing the Uniting Church. Continue Reading