Common Dreams Conference in Retrospect

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 and Crisis.

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 Land.

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 living.

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 Bonhoeffer

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 life.

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 Berrigan (Jesuit)

Everything we say about God is metaphor…

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 by much…..

We can 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”.

Taking a stand can be costly. Stand up for truth and justice: be surprised by joy (C S Lewis).

Trust is 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 ….

Trust is the basis of all courage.

Adele Nisbet September 2019

3 thoughts on “Common Dreams Conference in Retrospect

  1. Lauren Toogood

    Thank you Adele for some nuggets from the seminar. I ended up deciding not to go as I don’t know anyone and the logistics of getting around Sydney and the different night venues seemed a bit daunting. Hopefully I can make the next one but your shared thoughts give me a taste.

  2. Denis Freeman

    Adele
    I think Greg Jenks’s the dean T Grafton parish and he was the dean St Francis brisbane

  3. Diane Randall

    Just to encourage Lauren, we travelled together by train into the city for the Friday night meeting at Pitt St Uniting Church – groups of us found a place to have dinner, then we walked together to the church. So that wasn’t at all scary.
    I was worried about walking back to my accommodation in the dark, the first night. So I mentioned it to one of the hard working helpers, and she arranged for a group of us to walk back together. How good is that!
    I enjoyed the conference so much -can you tell?
    Please come along next time.
    Diane

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *