Monthly Archives: March 2013

Are Stadiums the new Cathedrals?

This week I made a pilgrimage to Melbourne to see one of my all time favourite American musicians- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I wasn’t alone in my pilgrimage … thousands of fans around the world have made similar pilgrimages. I wonder if stadiums (or is it stadia?) are the new Cathedrals in our fiercely secular country? There was certainly the call and response, the altar call, the faithful and the high priest. There was ritual and liturgy. We all knew what to expect and what part we had to play – supporting the star to crowd surf, reverently remembering the fallen, acclaiming the alchemy, respecting the hallowed ground and finding our own spirit nourished by the sound, the energy and the message. The standing up, sitting down, dancing, waving, hand clapping, air punching, sign holding, gentle swaying; all liturgical movements of their own like fingers in a glove, in place and in time.

Songlines that bind generations and cultures together sharing the same vision for a world where the worker is at the heart of society. No job too small or too big and certainly this was a band that has earnt its reputation as the ‘hardest working band in rock and roll”. They are like the union choirs and bands of old, blending their voices, instruments and message into one harmonious and triumphant wall of sound (yes there were a few moments that Phil Spector would have been very happy). Watching them work together was a master class in team work and collaboration. There was room for everyone. I kept noticing the guitar technicians, the lighting crew, the backstage staff, all worker bees buzzing around to be in the exact right place and the exact right time and never failing or faulting. When the final applause came the conductor, team captain, high priest and guru all rolled into one, patted everyone on the back before he left the stage, a job well done that they all did together. Yes a masterclass in leadership as well was thrown in.

Hildegard, my hunch is that your Abbey and the cathedrals you frequented were like this stadium too – full of pilgrims, talent and glorious sounds. Your music still brings me to my feet, fills my soul with joy and a message that sustains me. I can imagine you and Bruce sitting down together with your communities maybe on an E Street somewhere and discovering what your communities both have in common.

Arm the Homeless

Seeing Tom’s guitar shouting out messages that Woody Guthrie would have been proud, has plenty in common with your sisters leaving their homes and supporting your land reforms. The legacy of Clarence and his saxophone lives on and the homage paid by the faithful would be understood and shared as gift given and still being received by the next generation. You might have a conversation about recent elections – Obama and Francis – and discuss your own parts in those historical events. I know as an Aussie a long way from the US, how grateful I am to Bruce for helping out on Obama’s campaign and have given thanks more than once!

I love the continuous tradition that music enables of speaking truth to power, providing a vehicle for the masses to sing their songs of hope and fear, celebration and commemoration, grief and joy. I love the threads that come together when I can hear a celtic reel in an working class anthem or a drone echoing in a chorus or an organ chord progression that is ancient and commanding as ever.

Maybe the stadium is the new cathedral or maybe it isn’t – but I know that across the aeons we are all connected and kairos happens. That special and unique moment that connects me, in real time, to both Bruce and Hildegard; E Street and Bingen.

Check out the Notes from the Road #2 Melbourne

Rod Laver Arena, March 26, 2013

National Apology

Dear Hildegard,

It’s been quite a week for leaders on the political landscape – stepping up to the mark, not stepping up to the mark, resignations, sackings and apologising. In the midst of all the upheaval in Canberra, the hearts of mothers who forcibly had their children removed and given up for adoption had a moment in their long quest for recognition acknowledged and witnessed by the nation. I am such a believer in this idea of witness. Witness is solidarity’s sister. It is not vicarious. We could all see, first hand, the effect of forced adoption anguish and the residue of tears of lifetime etched in the crevices of faces, and in doing so we were not the same again.

Loss and grief is a journey that sometimes seems to have no final destination. To carry this around for a life time must be exhausting and relentless and I hope for many of these women and now adult children, they can at least take a rest from that journey for a while. I keep hearing Chuck Girard’s song Lay Your Burden Down in relation to these experiences and trusting that all involved can lay their burden down and rest a while. Where laying down isn’t an act of surrender but an act of rest of handing it over to another authority or sharing the burden so you don’t have to carry it all on your own.

I can find laying burdens down an enormous challenge – wanting to chew over and revisit decisions or relive experiences – instead of shaking off the dust from my sandals and moving on. What is it that enables us to be free and liberated some times and at not others? Is it guilt, ego, pain, the lack of a witness? When you meet witness you discover the power of observation and deep reflection, you notice the details and the nuances, you hear all the modulations of the tones, you see the spectrum of colours. You have taken the time to be still to stare and to soak in and soak up and come to know (word witness root meaning is wit – to know and when you trace that back it is linked to vis – to vision and to see). The sea of witnesses to the apology about forced adoptions gave me a glimpse of a vision of a world where saying sorry brought healing, hearing those words brings reconciliation and forgiveness and being witness to the events of a world where it is possible for institutional power to hear the truth of the words spoken allowing the veil of shame to fall away. As the Quakers would say “speak your truth to power” I wonder if when I can’t lay my burden down it is because I have not spoken my truth?

I hear your voice Hidlegard in your song of light as it is only in the light that the witness can see and in doing so brings more light to the task of witnessing.

A National apology is something I am proud my country can do. As a citizen I give thanks for the work done on my behalf by the Senate to bring this apology to birth and a lighter journey for those who might be able to rest now and lay their burdens down. As a woman, a mother and a daughter I give witness to this event and all the other women, mothers and daughters whose lives are defined by the experience of forced adoption. As a spiritual sojourner, I step into the light so I might see more clearly and know more deeply what it is to forgive, be forgiven and to speak my truth to power.


First Day at the Office

I wonder how Pope Francis is spending his first day in his new office?

Will he have tax forms to complete, a National Police Check  to be submitted, authorisation for his bank to be filed?  I wonder if he will call home and check that all is well or get a text from a friend and a Facebook message from a younger niece or a tweet from his peeps in Argentina?

He won’t need a seniors card or a bus pass or a disability car park or show his union credentials to anyone. He won’t pop his lunch in the fridge or have to turn off the urn if it over flows, or keep an eye out for the courier. He won’t need to find someone to show him where the toilets are, or where the stationery cupboard is or to check that his payslip is correct.  He probably won’t need to learn how to access his email off-line while out of the office or need a new email address or learn another password to access the server.

In these days of 140 characters to communicate a clear message, I am truly impressed with the genius of this Argentinian who with just 7 characters has firmly, clearly and loaded with meaning, told the world, who he is and what he is all about: Francis.

What a statement and a powerful way to brand himself on his first day on the job. What fun it would be if we could all take a name when we take on a new job – what would yours be?  As he was leaving the Cardinals after a festive supper, and after thanking them,  he said “may God forgive you [for what you have done]”. I rather like this touch of connecting the collective to the individual and the underwriting of what has been a process of discernment and selection.  He is a man of science with a chemistry degree and also a MBA so he must know something about business as well. Anyone who survived the wicked years of the Pinochet years and with all that Jesuit training he obviously knows about governing and how to talk and think his way through problems too. I think Hildegard would be happy with the choice. She could share potions, politics and prayer with him and I bet she is sending some of her wisdom his way.

I am hoping, in Francis’s first few days in the his new job, that he will tap into the wise ones like Hildegard and Francis and remember that they are accessible to him as he gets to work.  I am hoping he will embrace the prophetic way and recognise himself as a shoot flooded in light.  As I too have new days in new offices I am embracing the image of the prophet and if I could choose a name to inspire me and to send a clear message it would be Hildegard.

“Who are the prophets? They are a royal people, who penetrate mystery and see with the spirit’s eyes.

In illuminating darkness they speak out.

They are living, penetrating clarity.

They are a blossom blooming only on the shoot that is rooted in the flood of light.” Hildegard

Pope Francis

International Women’s Day: The Gender Agenda

I always celebrate IWD one way or another – over the years my activities have included a day of fast, a day of prayer, breakfast with hundreds of others, dinner with women and supporting survivors of domestic violence, lunch with women friends, doing a playback theatre performance, creating a women’s music mix … and the list goes on!  This year I sent an e-card through my business online network of women – a first for me.

The UN Gender Agenda has defined the 2013 theme as:

“A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”

International Women's Day

Back in your day, Hildegard many women joined the convent to maintain their individual identity within the walls of the convent. Their dowries added to the wealth of the religious order and helped create land reform. The collective response is the only way to build a future. Just as Margaret Mead famously said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And when that group is made up of women and the change in the world is for women, the whole planet benefits.

Some year’s ago I opened a women’s church event with the Hail Mary. What I did was I asked all the women present to insert their own name in place of Mary’s and the rest of the room responded. It went like this:  The woman said her name e.g. “I am Jenny”  and we all responded in unison “Hail Jenny full of grace the Lord is with you”;  and then we went onto the next person. It became a litany and the room was indeed full of grace by the time we had finished. It was incredibly powerful and unexpected for all of us.  The international guest speaker for whom we had all gathered took a moment to collect herself she was so moved by this expression of the feminine divine embodied in this simple ritual.

The gender agenda for my church is to get back to the beginning where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3:28).  This is the earliest baptismal rite recorded. In a recent discussion on Eureka Street it was revealed that  ‘the category of cardinal could be given to lay men AND lay women’

I wonder what would happen if there was a group of women involved in discerning who would fill the vacancy at the Vatican? Actually I don’t need to wonder … it would be transformational. Cousins

X (plore) Factors


So I leave my boats behind

I’ve been reflecting on X factors. In algebra the x factor was that still hidden, waiting to be discovered variable, the key to solving the equation. These days it has found an audience applauding and giving x meaning as a special talent or quality. Both reveal the variable in a situation that is the essential impact – the essence – the delivers the outcome. So what are your x-factors? What are mine?

As I’ve been looking for work recently I have been scrutinised, tested, discussed, interviewed, challenged, performed. The investigations all drilling to discover the x-factor that will deliver the outcome the potential employer is looking for. Seems to me this is has a lot in common with a reality TV Show, however the audience, their customers and clients, don’t get a vote.  Will my x factors be the ones they are looking for?

I have learnt a lot of lessons over my life from being at the edges of the frontiers of many institutions. These lessons from the inside have revealed my x-factors – resilience, humour, improvisation, blending, conducting, facilitating, curiosity, bravery.

I think your x-factors become visible when you step onto the precipice and then you find out what x  actually means. You discover what shape it takes, what it tastes like, how it sounds and what it feels like to own it in your body and mind and spirit. I have also discovered the revelations bring compassion too – finding myself compassionate towards B16 is a very, big surprise!

I am exploring resignation and what that means – the resignation of the Pope, me resigning from a job, the resignation of living with a loved one with a life limiting illness.   How are my x factors are equipping me for the explorations ahead?

I am redefining my x-factors and X-plore factors.  I know all my exploring takes place often with the bare minimum of a map – just a hint of knowing where I am going and what I am going to need to get my there. However much I plan, there will still be unknown y variables out there to add to the x factors I bring with me.

I can bring my music, my poetry, my commitment to democracy and participation and my sense of adventure where-ever I travel. And it frequently is an adventure. Adventures might be unusual and exciting. They are typically hazardous and have plenty of unknown variables of their own!

I find myself on interior adventures more often than not, where I discover one of my x-factors being like a ear worm, wriggling its way into my journey to take me to some unknown landscape. The inner journey may  (or may not) be supported by an outer one. At times the pilgrimage is an internal labyrinth – the only way out is to go in and retrace your steps to get back out again.

While there are people who do extreme sports – I am more like an extreme pilgrim.

“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without the journey is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.” Mark Nepo