Bem Le Hunte, There, Where the Pepper Grows, (HarperCollins, 2005) is a compelling read, tracing the story told by protagonist Benjamin, a Polish Jew who, fleeing Nazi occupation with wife and childhood sweetheart (circumstances of wartime survival inform us these are not the same person), ends up in Calcutta. Here, with attendant complications, they make their life together. Benjamin is well on in years as he tells his story; it is post 9/11, and his life experiences that embrace – up close and personal – the horrors of World War II, the partitioning of India and Pakistan and the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Centre well qualify him to reflect on the counter-balance of interfaith harmony at a grass-roots level. His story is not so fanciful when one considers that the author, born in Calcutta (Kolkata), bases her characters on real situations and events. It was the contemporary circumstance of Australia’s stance on mandatory detention for asylum seekers that prompted the writing of this story, however. In this context, it is a great compliment to India and a sobering rebuke to more well-off countries who, in recent times, have responded with fear driven mean-spiritedness when faced with refugees seeking a safe home.
Some of you already know that each post here can have “tags” (single words describing the nature of the content – usually found at the end of each post). I’ve been a bit slack in the past, not bothering with them. Here, I find that I can take a tag, something like “Restoration Movement”, click it, and up pops a whole range of blog links on the same topic. Since revisiting Barton Stone territory I had the feeling that this 19th century church reformer and founder would have been quite at home in today’s “post-everything” environment – intelligent, unorthodox, passionate, forward-focused yet still able to link up with the more conventional and intellectually austere Campbell side of the movement for mutually beneficial outcomes. This tag I clicked on at least tells me I’m not the only one thinking this way about Stone’s contribution. Must start reading up a bit more about him.
Here we are migrating over from Blogger which has faithfully hosted my ramblings for the last few years. I blame Scott Vawser because I have taken his lead and, like him, I like to tinker. There seems to be a few possibilities here. Just be patient though, ‘cos tinkering takes time.
I got quite attached to my little Asus eee laptop while travelling. The size of a paperback book, it did everything I wanted – lots of photo storage, web, email, office suite – everything. Alas, it’s advantage is also a disadvantage – it’s small enough to steal and that’s what happened to it in the post church service chaos of last Sunday.
So I’ve been a bit grumpy as I’ve gone through the motions of filing police reports, pawn shop notifications and insurance claims.
Then I came across this story in Anthony de Mello’s The Prayer of the Frog (Anand Press, 1989), p92
The great buddhist saint Nagarjuna moved around naked except for a loin-cloth and, incongruously, a golden begging-bowl gifted to him by the king who was his disciple.
One night he was about to lie down to sleep among the ruins of an ancient monastery when he noticed a thief lurking behind one of the columns. “Here, take this,” said Nagarjuna, holding out the begging bowl. “that way you won’t disturb me once I have fallen asleep.”
The thief eagerly grabbed the bowl and made off – only to return next morning with the bowl and a request. He said, “When you gave away this bowl so freely last night, you made me feel very poor. Teach me how to acquire the riches that make this kind of light-hearted detachment possible.”
Don’t know that I would have passed my “golden bowl” over so easily, but I recall Jesus saying something very similar about the things we get attached to.
For another take, check out the discussion on this site on how to deal with thieves! It’s a lesson on “how not to market the church” to thieves or anyone else for that matter. Perhaps Nagarjuna can show us all a few things about how to follow our master!
I’ve just updated some links in the sidebar to the left, mostly around the Stone-Campbell theme. I find I’m talking in terms of “Stone-Campbell” rather than “restoration movement” these days, as the latter term can be and often is misconstrued. As ever, it is a meeting with individuals who engage the challenges of their time with principles that are transferable from the age of the New Testament to their milieu, and which we can keep on discovering and applying to the unique challenges and opportunities of our own time, that pays dividends. This calls for flexibility rather than rigidity, and all too often (myself included) apologists for “restoration” have been trapped in structures and understanding of New Testament practices that have been brittle and unbending. Stone and Campbell seem to have been effective counterpoints to each other – with Stone’s emphasis on response to the movements of God’s Spirit and Campbell’s concern for doctrine, structure and correctness. Together, perhaps, both eclipse these characteristics with a focus on the unity of Christ’s church so that evangelistic endeavour might be effective.
Anyhow, the Disciples Historical Society link takes you to a range of interesting sources, articles and reflections that explore the Churches of Christ story, and the Great Communion site has lots of ideas on how to prepare for an event that promises significant opportunities for the world-wide Stone-Campbell spectrum of the church at large.
I occasionally post “sustainable energy” news clips to the PeaceChurch mailing list, particularly where the church in Australia is adding something to the debate. Responses are inevitably mixed – no less earlier this week when I posted the following:
Some 40 religious leaders (including Churches of Christ, as well as leaders from Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Baha’i faiths) sent a letter to the Fed Government “calling for immediate and decisive action on climate change”(8.8.08)It coincided with a visit to Australia by Pacific church leaders who are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change on the region. The letter can be seen at http://mediaroom.victas.uca.org.au/?p=330
Some of the feedback (with permission from all sources) can be found in the comments section on this post. You may like to continue the discussion there, remembering that light is more illuminating than heat – which, given the topic, sounds like a terrible pun!
Trust the Disciples to put up a succinct yet pithy summary of World Convention that takes us onto the next step – preparing for the “Great Communion.’ See their site here. You will also find a link to a slide show of convention highlights there. My own pictures are on Flickr, albeit with restricted access. Contact me if you want in.
This short post is for the benefit of those who are concerned that I’m still holed up in an airport somewhere. I am home and running to catch up with all sorts of things. Will get back to blogging ASAP.
Arrived at LA airport about noon. The plane for Changi leaves in 13 hours so plenty of time to cool my heels – reading, blogging, waiting to check my bag in. A deaf bloke circulates the tables selling pens and little stars & stripes badges. I buy one of each. Shortly after the PA system begins blaring announcements warning passengers they are not obliged to give money to “solicitors.” I’ve been a soft touch all the time I’ve been here – apparently over generous when tipping and falling into conversation with “solicitors” and inevitably slipping the odd buck here and there. I am really surprised at the low rate of pay here. Service people and even “solicitors” go out of their way to be friendly and polite. Should not enterprise in hard times be rewarded, or am I exacerbating “the problem?” This is one cultural reality I think I would find difficult to get used to if living here longer.
A number of delegates to the convention were impressed when I said that I was present largely through the largesse of my home congregation at Wembley Downs. So this would be a good spot to say thanks to folk like John & Margaret Somerville and Ken Patterson and my church board and elders who prodded me when I was humming and harring as to whether I would attend this gathering. It seems that congregations that are alive to the passion and vision of the Stone-Campbell heritage, while enthusiastic in a local or regional setting, are straining to catch the global vision. Many jurisdictions are experiencing the anxiety of restructure and are thus internally focused. It will always be incumbent upon a few, across all three streams, to be a kind of “global Jiminy Cricket” – voices to keep reminding us that we need to remember where we came from in order to know where we are going. So my thanks to Wembley Downs for their largeness of vision and the will to put strength (and their minister) behind it.
By the way, Jenny tells me a lot of folk have been reading this blog and discussing it. How about bringing the conversation on line and using the “comments” box at the end of each entry. You can sign anonymous!