Treading Lightly @ Open Book

9781741148749In our third cycle for 2019Treading Lightly“–we humbly posture ourselves to learn from the hidden wisdom of the world’s oldest people.

With four decades under my belt as an Aussie, I confess to shame over hardly having a sense of the history and heart of my country’s Aboriginal peoples. It improved a tad after visiting Uluru and blogging on “Tjukurpa versus the Tourist,” letting go of my inner drive to ascend every peak; my formation as part of the respectful ninti (those knowledgeable about nature’s law), however, is unfinished business. As the saying goes, I must stand under my neighbour’s way of seeing the world in order to under stand.

2010_sept_uluru-307Moving forward into post-Christendom times where our fast-paced consumeristic “Church Inc.” has reached a dead end, we do well to slow down and live at God’s speed, considering a more grounded indigenous spirituality sensitive to the place Where Mortal’s Dwell. (Some call this a Patient Ferment courtesy of Slow Church, which suits our Quarry family just fine!)

I suspect that this may well speak to what it means to follow Christ as those living in God’s good world, yet displaced as exiles, looking for a humble way to bless God, neighbour, nature and self as an ecological whole: that is, seeking the holistic flourishing that is shalom.

Some may wonder what Christians have to learn from those our colonial forebears framed as a ‘primitive’ people, awaiting enlightenment courtesy of science and the Holy Spirit. And yet, we have reason within the Scriptures to expect wisdom from those who have discovered how to live in tune with God’s creational song-lines (also here), whether or not they knowingly call on the Messiah.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. (Romans 1:19-20; cf. Psalm 19:1-2)

In the past, God let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without witness: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. (Acts 14:16-17)

Jesus is, after, the Logos who created the world in wisdom, and gives light to all people (John 1:9). Eternity is hidden in indigenous and Christian hearts alike (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Every culture reflects the very good of creation, the brokenness and idolatry of the fall, and tells redemptive analogies (cf. Don Richardson’s work, e.g. Peace Child) foreshadowing healing action as a sign of when Christ sets everything right and God is all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

To be sure, when a community encounters Jesus, the divine, devilish and human may better be distinguished, relativising what once was sacred (Philippians 3:8-10). And yet, whatever is genuinely true, good and beautiful will be affirmed and enhanced through this synergy. We do well, then, to recognise and call out these gifts in the here and now, awaiting the day when the glory of the nations (including that of Indigenous peoples) is brought into the New Creation’s city of peace, for the praise of God from whom every good thing derives (James 1:17; Revelation 21:26). And on first glance, it would seem that traditional Indigenous worldviews share much more in common with biblical wisdom than that of colonial Europeans–this chart from Noel Payne’s academic work in 2019:

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Dhiiyaan-Northside-Church-NEWThis series, then, is an amazing opportunity to grow together, listen and learn–to embrace gifts from a people at once different to us and yet the same as image bearers tasked with cultivating God’s world, finding grace to heal our brokenness. With the help of friends like Brooke Prentis from Common Grace, and Billy Williams from the Dhiiyaan mob, we will celebrate our shared humanity, and seek GABANMA-LI. Meaning? We’re looking to heal, restore, and make whole, working together as one.

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This series is animated by these questions:

What can we learn from the traditional Aboriginal way of life to create real Christian community and a sustainable society in modern Australia?

What stories and symbols help us tread lightly and flourish in relationship with God, neighbour, nature and self?

crane-and-crowChrist’s Pieces pillar, Noel Payne, is the driving force behind this series. He first discovered this book, Treading Lightly, while studying Social Work; Noel loved the conversation between the two authors: Karl-Erik Sveiby, a Scandinavian knowledge management professor, and Tex Skuthorpe, an Aboriginal cultural custodian and artist. Through their friendship, we are taken on a unique journey into traditional Aboriginal life and culture, finding a powerful and original model for building sustainable organisations, communities and ecologies–a compelling message for today’s world.

The book focusses on the Nhunggaburra peoples of Northern New South Wales, but references a wider spectrum of Indigenous peoples and culture.

In Noel’s words, he wanted Open Book to consider Indigenous Australians because:

  • As a child I grew up with Indigenous kids and neighbours and enjoyed many friendships. My interactions with them disappeared as I grew older
  • I struggled to understand why my father was quite derogatory of them, though they were still our good neighbours
  • Many false historical understandings of them and their culture have been challenged by contemporary research
  • In exploring my own connection with the Celtic Tradition of Christianity, I have seen many parallels with Indigenous spirituality
  • Australian Aboriginal cultures have been on this land for 60,000 plus years, from which our society can learn wisdom.

u116_1_cover_image_1As we journey through this series, you may find the following sites and sources helpful to deepen your understanding:

Details below, and all welcome, whatever your faith commitment, tradition, or none.

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Over 5 Thursday sessions (August 29 – October 24) mostly at Noel & Deb Mostert’s house (66 Fiona St., Bellbird Park; call Noel on 0412156772 if lost) we will dialogue with Sveiby and Skuthorpe’s Treading Lightly [TL] and each other, discovering ancient Aboriginal wisdom to walk and work together in harmony.

Check out the calendar below for key dates, and pick up your paperback or kindle version of TL here, with a temporary PDF here.

{Want to join us virtually? We’re experimenting with Zoom so you can listen in, and share your thoughts, live streaming the experience. Download the pdf of the powerpoint slides (on schedule below, e.g., click link for TL1) to play on your computer, and then see what’s happening through a basic web-cam capture of the group. We’ll have a shared microphone so the sound won’t be great, but you should be able to hear what we’re each saying, add your own voice when you ‘unmute’ your microphone, and participate in the practices as best as we can short of teleporting materials to your living room! … https://zoom.us/j/396017392 … Log in around 7:00pm on the fortnightly Thursday to test your sound, then start the conversation with us around 7:20-9:10pm. New to Zoom? 50 second meeting joining video  here, and more detailed directions, especially for problem shooting, here.}

We have a soft-start from 6:30pm—feel free to rock up early and eat your dinner or share a cup of tea. (Park up top, on the left-hand side of our circular driveway.) At 7pm sharp we get into the night, finishing each night by 9pm with supper together and an unrushed chat over coffee. OPEN BOOK includes some basic spiritual practices and prayer, before unpacking the pre-reading scheduled for that night.

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For each week, it helps to think through how the reading provokes you in 4 ways:

1) Questions: what didn’t make sense?

2) Challenges: what did you think was wrong?

3) Implications: what wisdom does this offer for harmonious existence?

4) Applications: how might this help us live sustainably together toward shalom?

 

OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM | Sveiby and Skuthorpe’s Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People (TL)
(Click session # hyperlink for liturgy/ppnt slides–e.g., TL1 below–and page numbers for the next reading. Virtual/Zoom participation via https://zoom.us/j/396017392.)

August 29 | TL I: At Nik & Dave Benson’s (152 Tanderra Way, Karana Downs), watching the 60 minute 2018 Tinsley Lecture with Indigenous leader, Brooke Prentis, on “Reclaiming Community: Mission, Church and Aboriginal Wisdom” (videotranscript).

For the 4 remaining sessions we’ll get into the book, Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People by Karl-Erik Sveiby and Tex Skuthorpe (pdf, though buy your copy here), all held at Noel and Deb Mostert’s place, 66 Fiona St., Bellbird Park here.

2010_sept_uluru-402September 12 | TL IITreading Lightly pp. xv-40 (Intro-Ch. 2): In the Beginning + The Country Is a Story. We drew maps to capture our places and connections, finding our identity in the landscape.

September 26 | TL IIITreading Lightly pp. 40-95 (Ch. 3-5): The Knowledge is in the Story + Learning the Story: The Education System + Knowledge Economy. Includes ‘Dadirii‘, practicing deep listening and observing creation as a gateway to connection with our gracious Creator. Tree bark served as a sign of our layers, protecting life, but shed to allow growth.

October 10 | TL IVTreading Lightly pp. 95-162 (Ch. 6-7): Leadership: All Have a Role + The Fourth Level. Includes ‘Unity amongst Diversity Leadership Practice‘.

October 24 | TL VTreading Lightly pp. 162-209 (Ch. 8-10): The Spirit of Death Arrives … + The Nhunggabarra ‘Recipe’ for Sustainability + Sustain Our World! Includes ‘Indigenous Food Gift Practice‘.

Post-series, wanting to keep learning? Start with the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and this great video of how one amazing statement came together.

To end 2019, we have a 2 Thursday night mini-series at Open Book (at Nik & Dave’s place, 152 Tanderra Way, Karana Downs), as we consider a Theology of Place and slowing down to the pace at which people are known. In short, we’re learning how to “live God speed” (https://www.livegodspeed.org/).
Nov 28: Watch the 37 minute doco, “Live Godspeed” and share impressions (slides)
Dec 12: Exploring 2 of the 8 x 10 minute small group videos and discuss: “Place” + “Stability” (slides).
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There’s no pre-reading, but if you’re interested, buy Julie Canlis’ accompanying book, Theology of the Ordinary here, and read her short article here. Their 8 session Small Group Guide is cheap to buy here, but a wonderful resource:
Session 1 GODSPEED – Watch in Community
Session 2  Place: Where are you?
Session 3  PresenceHere I am!
Session 4  PaceGod’s Speed
Session 5  IdentityLoved by God
Session 6  StabilityBeing Here
Session 7  NamesFace to Face
Session 8  MissionUnearthing Holiness
Hope to see you there!

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Open Book on “Laudato Si’: Care for Our Common Home”

In our final Open Book cycle for 2017 (starting Thursday 19th October), we go green! How does Christian faith relate to ecology? Does the Christ care about climate change? If we love the Creator, how should this affect the practices of his church? In short:

How would the Creator have us see and steward the gift of Creation?

Our conversation partner is the Argentinian, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. You likely know him better as the 266th Sovereign of Vatican City, Pope Francis (or Papa Francesco as Italians fondly call him), who took his name from the nature loving Saint Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis’s 2015 Encyclical, Laudato Si’ (“Praise be to You”) establishes an expansive theological frame of a creational “common good” and “ecological citizenship”, within which our lives and work can be situated. As the subtitle suggests, it’s on “care for our common home”–where humans are entrusted with a unique care-taking role from within nature, rather than dominating fellow creatures for our anthropocentric ends.

(This human-centred assumption is both amusingly and disturbingly exposed by animators Steve Cutts in “Man” and Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax in the song “How Bad Can I Be?”;  Prince Ea’s spoken word pieces “Dear Future Generations: Sorry” and “Man vs. Earth” are a tad more melancholic.)

That is, our Genesis 1:28 authority to “rule” and have “dominion” (kabash and radar in the Hebrew), as God’s image bearers, empowers the Genesis 2:15 purpose of this call to “care for” and “keep” creation (abad and shamar), in the same way God tends and cares for us, expressed in the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24-26:

Tillers_MakoHoranaiThe Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.

There has been a world-wide growing sense that unconstrained human activity and over-consumption has damaged God’s very good gift of Earth, becoming in Bill McKibben’s words Eaarth–an irreversibly changed and tough new planet on which we must make our way forward, humbled for having spoiled our home.

And yet, living out of a Greek/neo-Platonic legacy, many Christians have ignored the memo. Perhaps worse, in ecologist Lynn White’s classic 1967 essay, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” here, our western reading of the Bible may itself be uniquely to blame for the mess we’re in. We have a tendency to spiritualise the nature and purpose of humanity. You know, where God will burn up all physical things bright and beautiful in the end, taking the “real me”, my disembodied essence, to heaven for eternity … so cut the greeny talk and just get on with preaching and saving sinking souls off our Titanic planet. But is this who we truly are and what we truly believe? This precarious ecological moment may be reawakening an at once more ancient and future-looking reading of the Bible and framing of faith.

Many churches have missed the missional logic of resurrection, and struggled to see that “creation care is a gospel priority.” As the Lausanne Cape-Town Commitment II.2.6 says here, “We are also commanded to care for the earth and all its creatures, because the earth belongs to God, not to us. We do this for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the creator, owner, sustainer, redeemer and heir of all creation.”

(For more, see their Creation Care Issue Network, their Occasional Paper on “An Evangelical Commitment to Simple Lifestyle“, the Jamaica Call to Action, and the excellent essays in Colin Bell and Robert White’s (eds) volume, Creation Care and the Gospel: Reconsidering the Mission of the Church [2016]. The leading light in combining best theology and ecological practice is A’Rocha [international here; Australia site here; fb here; led by Roger Jaensch]. See also “Green Christian”, “Common Grace”, Mike Pope’s 2013 Tinsley Annual Lecture “Preaching to the Birds?”, and Byron Smith’s facebook posts on environmental activism. For some solid theological underpinning, see Richard Bauckham’s The Bible and Ecology, and Living with Other Creatures.)

Care of earth Att infographic-01The National Church Life Survey in Australia’s numerous reports on faith and the environment (here; podcast here) reveal that only 28 percent of Christians believe that “caring for the earth is an essential part of mission”, despite nearly 7 in 10 believing that “nature is sacred”. Only 22 percent disagree with the belief that “plants and animals exist primarily for human use”. (This is a radically different attitude to our Indigenous forebears, in “The Uluru Statement” asserting our integral connection to the land.) Not surprisingly, then, only a quarter of Jesus’ followers in Australia are very active in caring for the environment as part of their responsibility as disciples–roughly the same proportion of Christians who are even aware of Papa Francesco’s illuminating ecological encyclical Laudato Si’. Which is why it’s high time we delve into this gem.

(For commentary on Laudato Si’, see here for a Catholic introduction, here and here for A’Rocha’s Protestant take, here and here for secular commentary, and here for a taste of how the National Council of Churches in Australia have responded with an “Eco-Mission” project, drawing on the work of its member Clive Ayre. I’ve written about “Shalom and Sustainability” from an educational/curriculum perspective, in Clive’s ecological edition of the Australian Journal of Mission Studies here, December 2016, pp. 60-67.)

Church activities past 2 yrs infographic-01Thankfully, changing our habits isn’t rocket science, whether at the civic/political, local community and church, or consumer level! Churches have recycled, planted trees, hosted community gardens, celebrated environmental days or seasons, run children’s activities, worshipped outside in nature, worked on a project in their community and participated in advocacy campaigns for the environment in the last two years, according to NCLS Research.

Well, there’s always more to say. You can read my worldview notes on Creation here, or watch a stirring talk by celebrated Brazilian politician and environmental activist Marina Silva, for her work in saving the Amazonian forest here.

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You could also explore global climate change responses after the Paris accord here, and what this looks like in Oceania here. And for an artistic angle, see Robin Wood’s powerful images for the “Destroying Nature Is Destroying Life” campaign here.

Of the posting of links, there is no end, and too much reading just makes one tired! So, as the pointy end of this blog, can I simply invite you to join us in conversation as we consider a new way of being creaturely, stumbling imperfectly forward as we work in love for the care of our common home?

OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM | Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ (LS; website here)
(Click session # hyperlink for liturgy/ppnt slides)

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October 19 | LS 1, pp. 1-44: Intro + Ch. 1 “What Is Happening to Our Common Home?” (§1-61)

November 2 | LS 2, pp. 45-101: Ch. 2 “The Gospel of Creation” pp. 45-74 (§62-100) + Ch. 3 “The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis” pp75-101 (§101-136)

November 16 | LS 3, pp. 103-148: Ch. 4 “Integral Ecology” pp. 103-120 (§137-162) + Ch. 5 “Lines of Approach and Action” pp.121-148 (§163-201)

November 30 | LS 4, pp. 149-180: Ch. 6 “Ecological Education and Spirituality” (§202-246).