Review: Stories from the Inside

2019, a podcast from Social Reinvestment WA

Stories from the Inside is a podcast from Social Reinvestment WA, a coalition of WA organisations, including the Uniting Church WA, working to fix our broken justice system. Each episode features one person’s story from inside that system and how the people around them – their children, partners, parents and siblings – have been affected.

Storytellers are honest and open about their experiences, and not afraid to own up to their own behaviour. The real impact though, is the stories of how they ended up on the journey towards the justice system in the first place. Stories of trauma, violence and neglect.

There’s Tyronne, who grew up in foster homes and when reported sexual abuse was ignored, and was then punished by his abusers. Or Theresa, with almost her entire family spending time in prison. Or Jennifer, whose son was incarcerated for something as simple as unpaid fines.

Hearing Renna’s story in the first episode really made me think about just how terrifying her situation was. Renna was homeless and abusing alcohol. She needed assistance and support, but  instead was met with aggression – something she’d come to expect from authorities. Continue Reading

Review: Survivor Memorials: Remembering trauma and loss in contemporary Australia

by Dr Alison Atkinson-Phillips, 2019, University of WA Press

I was surprised by this book. I know Atkinson-Phillips’ work from previous associations, so it wasn’t the high quality readability that surprised me. It flows beautifully and carefully.

I also knew it would be compassionate. As she travels to survivor memorials around Australia, Alison records the persons involved with empathy and the aesthetics of each site with sympathy. I often found myself quite moved, not because of any journalistic milking of my sympathy, but in the competent record of the story.

Why was I surprised? I just didn’t think that I would like the book all that much. It is a survey of record and I thought it would be laborious in detail and philosophy. Yes, it records in detail who did what and why, as a good researcher should. Yet it is skilfully framed within a history of memorials.

I half expected that the subject of memorials might be irrelevant to where I am at. However, as the story was placed out and the distinction between memorial and monument emerged more clearly, I found parts of myself. Continue Reading

Review: Grateful: The transformative power of giving thanks

By Diana Butler-Bass, Harper One 2018.

Reading small chunks of Grateful has been my morning reading for the last month. Gratitude, I learnt, is often missing as a spiritual practice in a selffocused world.

More and more people are finding this experience of God beyond the walls of traditional religious institutions, but often miss the church community itself and its shared spiritual practices such as gratitude. Gratitude can easily get buried in rote liturgy with religious words that have lost their meaning. Many claim gratitude in their daily lives, but Bass finds that claim to be at odds with the discontent that permeates modern society and dominates our political discourse.

This highlighted a gap, she argues, between our desire to be grateful and our ability to behave gratefully—a divide that influences our understanding of morality, worship, and institutional religion itself. In Grateful, Bass challenges readers to think about the impact gratitude has in our spiritual lives, and encourages them to make gratitude a “difficult and much-needed spiritual practice for   our personal lives and to inspire us to work together for a better world.” Continue Reading

Review: Summer in the Forest

Directed by Randall Wright, Heritage Films, 2018

This review was published in the April 2019 hardcopy edition of Revive. Sadly, Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, passed away yesterday. We keep all those who knew and loved him in our thoughts.

In this heartfelt documentary, we are invited to spend time in a L’Arche community. This film is not so much the life story of Jean Vanier, but a peek into his everyday life and the community he founded.

The L’Arche community was founded in France in 1964 and aimed to do away with institutions for people living with disability and build life together instead. People with varying levels of ability live together in community, sharing day-to-day activities and becoming friends – equals – rather than residents and staff.

After visiting an institution for people living with disabilities in 1963 France, Jean was deeply affected by the suffering of those who lived there. He left his job teaching at the University of Toronto and moved to France to live with the people he met, helping to revolutionise the care system in the western world.

The violence, he says, was hard at first, but over time it became a place of peace. Continue Reading

Review: Outspoken: The life and work of the man behind those signs

By Father Rod Bower, Penguin Books, 2018.

Born to a young unmarried mother through to his adoption, Father Rod Bower shares his struggles to establish his identity in the midst of bullying and his stepfather’s early death. He finds acceptance within Anglo-Catholicism, eventually going to seminary, ordination and appointment to the Gosford Parish with a deep passion for social justice.

His theology of billboard signs reveals a deep empathy for Jesus’ mission to the marginalised which in the modern context involves challenging attitudes towards ‘illegal’ asylum seekers, Islam, LGBTQ and climate change. Fr Rod Bower demonstrates how billboards gives the church a platform for sharing the Gospel in the public square, exposing the ethical failings of Parliament. Continue Reading