Dear Friends in the Progressive Christianity Network and other interested people,
The Progressive Christian Network meeting at Merthyr Rd Uniting Church New Farm, Brisbane is please to advise that notable organist and soprano/choir leader, DrSteven and Mrs Adele Nisbet from St Andrews, Creek Street Uniting Church, Brisbane will be the guest leaders at our next Seminar in February (see below). All welcome.
The first month of the year has almost passed so I guess any new year celebrations are forgotten and we are ready to start up regular activities and commitments. We have grieved along with all Australians the loss of life, property, wild life, farm animals and livelihoods in the devastating bushfires. Today we have both celebrated our Australian life and mourned the hurt caused to its First People.
Shirley Erena Murray died peacefully in Paraparaumu, NZ.
Probably most of us did not know Shirley personally, but many have found her words of songs to be helpful on their own progressive journey. In Shirley’s own words: “Go gently, go lightly, go safe in the spirit”
PCN EXPLORERS: Wednesday 26th Feb, 10 am (for 10:30
Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Rd, New Farm
All are welcome to join us as Steven and Adele Nisbet help us explore some new songs that express our faith. New words to old tunes, new words to new tunes. Come at 10 for ‘eat, meet and greet’ and we will get started at 10:30. Finished by 12. Some venture to Moray Cafe for lunch – all welcome to that for more opportunity for friendship and further exploration.
Explorers’ first 2020 meeting will take place next Monday
evening 3rd February in
the ground-floor meeting room at Azure Blue (91 Anzac Ave Redcliffe 4020),
starting at 6 p.m. As usual, the first half-hour will provide an
opportunity to enjoy fellowship, with tea/coffee and biccies provided. Entry is
free, but a gold-coin donation to defray costs would be appreciated.
We will be starting to review and discuss what we think is a
particularly important and timely book, titled God, Ethics and the
Secular Society. Written by Melbourne-based Uniting Church
member and former ordained Congregational minister John Gunson, the book deals
with the vexed question of the future of the Church, and what such a future
might look like. According to the author, it is the end-product of a lifelong
search for the answer to the questions: How can we help to make a better
world?, How ought we to live?, How can we find the motivation to do the truth
when we find it? And what do we mean by the word ‘God’? Gunson finds the
answers in what he calls ethical ecology, and in the life and teaching
of an ancient sage – Jesus of Nazareth – who confronts us with the simple yet
profound challenge: “Overcome evil with good”.
In addition, we’ll discuss a very recent sermon titled ‘In
This Life’ by Rev Dr Roger Ray, Pastor of the Emerging Church in
Springfield, Missouri. Rev Ray gives a refreshingly candid and matter-of-fact
account of the ‘soul’, our mortality (or immortality?), and eternity, and how
our understanding of these should affect the way we act.
Our Explorer meetings are open to anyone prepared to think
outside the square and engage in friendly, civilised discussion about the big
questions of life. If you’re not a regular attender of our gatherings you might
like to contact Ian Brown (0401 513 723 or email@example.com) for
Wednesday, 31 of our group gathered to do some exploring of the meaning of
Christmas. Now, 90 minutes of discussion cannot be summarised in a few
sentences – you have to be part of the group to pick up on all of the threads.
A couple of things stood out for me:
when we literalise the Christmas story, we lose much of
the intense meaning of how the life of Jesus was a message to society
From the community perspective, does the church have
only 2 ways of communicating Christianity – Christmas and Easter? Does
that mean the essence of the Jesus story of his life and teachings is not
understood? How can we do that better?
Many of the activities that churches put their effort
into – decorated Christmas trees, Walk through Bethlehem, Christmas
lights, Carols evenings do little to help people understand the meanings
that the Gospel writers had in mind – the meaning behind the crafted
How do we help children and young people to think about
the meaning behind the story?
else may like to share their perspectives after the discussion. That is
probably best done through the UC Forum website or through the PCN
Facebook page. (Sorry I do not have the link for that, but if you search for
Progressive Christian Network on Facebook I think you will find it)
We are already planning for 2020, so do mark 10 am on the last Wednesday of each month in your new diary. We will start the year with Steven and Adele Nisbet introducing “Sing a new Song”. I am sure there will be time for singing some of those new songs – many to familiar tunes. Enjoy your Christmas!
Our friends at Progressive Christianity Network Qld will be discussing this at their final gathering for the year on 27th November at Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm.
What is Christmas all About? And what are we celebrating?
It’s a wonderful time, but I wonder …….
started a song I learnt many years back! Back then I did not think any deeper
than a manger, shepherds, angels, wise men ….
I do wonder more about the meaning of Christmas and its celebrations each year.
Do you? Do you have a new understanding?
Let’s explore Christmas together at our next PCN Explorers meeting on 27th November, facilitated by Paul Inglis. There are many books that look at Christmas, drawing on new research and thinking. We have attached 2 one page documents that will introduce our thinking. I hope you have time to browse them in the next 10 days before we meet. Request these from Paul . Maybe you will have other resources in your own library. You might also like to look at Jo Holden’s blog on “I don’t believe in the virgin birth”.
for some starter questions for you to play around with and meld with your own:
what you have read about Christmas from a ‘progressive’ Christian viewpoint:
What was an aha moment for you?
What makes you say – “that is something I have not
when did you say – “that does not sit easily with
do you think of the statement that Christmas is a celebration “under
O’Dwyer wrote: I once had a letter published in The Courier-Mail recalling
how, many decades ago, there was a move to “put Christ back into Xmas” and
suggesting the churches should vacate 25th December, leave it to the secular
world and celebrate the birth of Christ sometime back in September. How do
you react to that suggestion?
PCN Explorers will meet for the last time this year on Wednesday 27th November, 10 am, Merthyr Road Uniting Church.
Come at 10 for eat, meet and greet and we will start our conversation. Some people like to continue the fellowship at Moray Cafe after the discussions so maybe you would like to plan for that also.
Today’s gathering of the PCNQ Explorers at New Farm was another excellent interactive discussion, this time including practical exercises.
Discussion leader, Brian O’Hanlon, is a member of the group, a frequent homily presenter at St Mary’s in Exile, South Brisbane and author of:
A Path to Peace based on his work with veterans experiencing PTS, and
Experiencing the Spirit
Brief notes from the session
Scripture, especially the NT is often seeking enlightenment from a position of love
Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is within and around you
The Buddhist concept of Nirvana similarly calls for a quietening of the mind (taming of the ego)
An enlightened person lives without judgment, with acceptance, awareness of the eternal dimension, the sacred
Matthew Fox, from the recent Common Dreams Conference – What the world needs now is a sense of the sacred
Eckhart Tolle’s concept of the mind is open to God/love when it is empty
Damascus Road experiences are brain activities of experiencing enlightenment or liberation from/of the ego. But there are also many examples where the outcome of an experience of enlightenment where the ego is not completely managed leads to a dogmatic view of life – the ego has not completed the awareness experience. Many examples in history of people who have not managed their egos and taken others on pathways to destruction
Dogmatic thinking comes from the left side of the brain – shifting this allows/prevents the spiritual ego stopping an advancement of awareness.
Ego is your past insisting it is you now.
Example from Philippians 2:7 – but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave being born in human likeness. And being found in human form
Ego is a verb, a process and like power can be good or bad
A balanced mature ego is found through silence/meditation/emptying the mind.
Brian took us through exercises to demonstrate to ourselves how this can be done. It was good to have a psychologist’s perspective entering our very diverse discussions.
Our next gathering will be on
Monday 4th November – to hear Lozang Tsultrim talk about Tools for
Happiness: a Buddhist approach to finding happiness. Lozang is
Carla Pearse’s adopted name since being ordained a nun in the Buddhist
tradition ten years ago. She has gained degrees in Counselling (UNE, Armidale),
Social Science (UQ, Brisbane) and International Studies: Peace and Conflict
Resolution (UQ), and has decades of experience in pastoral care, suicide
prevention counselling, and running mindfulness workshops and retreats in
Queensland, New South Wales, Nepal and India. I’m sure Carla will be happy to
answer your questions about Buddhism to the best of her ability!
As usual, we meet at 6 p.m. in the Azure Blue coffee shop (91 Anzac Ave, Redcliffe) for tea/coffee and bikkies, after which Lozang’s talk will start at about 6:30. All are welcome. For more information please give me a call on 3284 3688 or 0401 513 723.
COMMON DREAMS 2019 a reflection by two members of the PCNQ
Steven and I attended this gathering
during July, at Newington College and Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney. To be
honest, we were also attending the Royal School of Church Music Winter School
and as these two events overlapped, we missed some sessions of both.
However, COMMON DREAMS was the fifth
gathering of its kind, drawing people from across Australia, New Zealand and
even further afield. The fourth was held at Somerville House in Brisbane in 2017.
The vision for COMMON DREAMS is described
by Rev Greg Jenks, an Anglican minister, former Principal of St Francis Theological
College in Brisbane, but now Dean of Bathurst Anglican Cathedral:
Common Dreams is intended to be an
interfaith and ecumenical project to promote, protect and expand the role of
reasonable and tolerant religion in the public space. The significance of
Common Dreams as a name for this movement is its potential to invite us beyond
differences derived from culture, ethnicity and religion into a shared space
where we have common dreams for a better future.
The theme of this year’s conference
was Sacred Earth: Original Blessing, Common Home. It was a focus for advocates
of spirituality and social change, providing inspiration for progressive
seekers and sustenance for practical dreamers. International guest, Matthew
Fox, leading exponent of creative Spirituality, addressed the conference with
topics such as Spiritual but not Religious: the future of religion and of
spirituality and of the Earth; On being Deeply Human in a Time of Earth-Crisis;
But there were so many inspirational speakers – Norman Habel and Anne
Pattel-Gray lead us in Time to Publicly Acknowledge the Creation
Spirituality of our Aboriginal Custodians; Jonathan Keren-Black (Jewish
scholar) spoke on In Judaism it is actions that count above all in healing
the world; Rod Bower, from Gosford’s Anglican Church challenged us with his
understanding of Common Home and A Just Society; Ro Allen, Victorian
Commissioner for Gender Equality, showed us through honest dialogue and courage
how to Honour the Rich Diversity of Sex, Sexuality and Gender within the
Cosmos; and Rev Margaret Mayman of Pitt St UC gave the final keynote – Holding
Hope and Acting Out: Engaging Tradition and Doing Ethics in Times of Conflict
We have come home, inspired and
emboldened to look for ways we can put into practice our common dreams.
Here are some sound-bites which I
can share with you. I hope you might find something that engages your thoughts,
your feelings ……
We have twelve years left – before
it is too late – to change direction in response to the climate crisis.
We are the first species who can
choose not to become extinct. We haven’t made that choice yet!
Rabbi Hershel, who walked with
Martin Luther King on the Selmer bridge, said of his own actions “I felt my
feet were praying”.
Beware the sole path of rational
thinking – look to intuition, deep feelings, mysticism. Rationality should
serve intuition because this is where values come from.
There is nothing wrong with the
world today other than we have lost the sense of the Sacred.
Thinking and defining needs to be
led by experience and tasting. How do we do this – through silence, through the
Arts, which will then open us to the Holiness in all things.
The Mystic is the Divine Child in us
– the Arts will nurture this.
Albert Einstein believed God is the
oneness of creation. The Cosmic Christ points to the Divine in the big spaces
as well as in the little spaces.
The story of Abraham’s journey into
Caanan has important parallels and lessons for us about our place in this land
we call Australia, which is, was and always be Aboriginal land.
Abraham, the peacemaker, respected
the peoples of the land.
We ask the same.
Abraham recognized the God of the
We ask the same.
Abraham and the peoples of the land
shared mutual blessings.
We ask the same.
The western concept of buying and
selling land is not in the aboriginal ideology.
The wind existed before everything
else in the stories of many indigenous peoples.
Life without wonder is not worth
The transcendent spirit becomes the
inner presence of God in our hearts.
In our communities, “fitting in”
isn’t “belonging”. A just society is about “belonging”.
PHILOXENIA means loving the
stranger. This points to the act of hospitality.
“Jesus – the Man for Others” – Dietrich
The Feeding of the Five Thousand – a
metaphor for “if we share what we have, there will be enough to go around – and maybe even more”.
Trying to be religious in the public
domain often results in what we say getting lost in translation. We need to
find better ways of acting as well as talking!
We are called to Act Up, that
is, to disrupt the establishment.
But we are also called to Act Out,
which means exploring God’s expectation of love, justice and a shared joy of
Being disturbed by what we see
around us can give us courage to Act Out into society.
We go to a theological reframing to
help us understand the sacred in the world: we have been evolving this
understanding for ever – there was Abraham, then there was Jesus, what next??
“If you want to follow Jesus, you’d
better believe you look good on wood” – Daniel
Everything we say about God is
God is our experience of God!
Jesus was the incarnation of love
and freedom: he showed the divine power of LOVE and that we have the FREEDOM to
act. Faith is believing this!!
The opposite of bad is good. The
opposite of EVIL is the SACRED. There’s more good than bad in the world, but not
find inspiration in the words of Italian priest and philosopher Thomas Aquinas
(1225-1274) and German theologian Meister Eckhardt (1260-1328). For example – Aquinas
said “The proper objects of the heart are truth and justice”.
stand can be costly. Stand up for truth and justice: be surprised by joy (C S
the basis of courage. How do you learn courage? Go to courageous people.
COURAGE – this word means “a large
heart” – a heart so full that it sustains us for whatever ….