Now, at 10:18AM, sitting in the Union at RMIT, with some copies of Chaplinesque – the newletter, not the weblog – in front of me, plus a sign saying, “THE CHAPLAIN IS IN! Chaplaincy @ RMIT” – I feel like I am selling something! And I feel incredibly foolish.
What am I selling? Maybe that’s the question for me to ask myself, sitting at my little pamphlet laden table? Not a plan, anyway. I simply don’t believe that “God has a plan for my life” as the fundier folk say. That’s pretty far from my theology, my idea of wholeness or “salvation,” if you want heavier words.
What I do believe is that there are opportunities to deepen both our experience and understanding of ultimate reality in the present moment, and that this can come from preparation by research, reading, talking, considering, by mindfulness. It can also come in taking time to simplify the mindset we generally use to encounter present reality by the practice of meditation and contemplation techniques that are found within the Christian tradition as well as in every other sacred tradition I know. And there is always – in the very middle of it - an element of gift – “grace” is the theological word here – in that this awareness can happen to a variety of people who do or do not prepare for it, and do or do not believe in it anyway.
And I believe that the heart of my ministry at RMIT and La Trobe, as well as what I do at St. Peter’s Eastern Hill and around the Diocese of Melbourne, is to provide times, places, and ways for people acquaint themselves with that reality, and to practice and experience their own opening into that deeper reality in the particularities of their own lives, history, and hopes.
I see the way of Jesus as the way for me to get there. And I am aware that a lot of people, perhaps the majority today – at least what I see in Melbourne – do not see institutional religion as a viable source for a living and vivid living tradition, and I am sorry, for it. For me, Christianity, Anglicanism, the Parish Church system all function as a viable path for me and has since I was 21 years old. I find room to meet God in the church and I see Jesus as a deep and spacious picture of the fullness of God in human form. But that’s not what I am pitching here, that’s not the most important thing.
The most important thing is for people to understand that their needs, desires, deepest selves, are largely unaccounted for by the icons and vocabulary of popular culture, as lately introduced. This is not to say that daily reality is tainted or unreal, it is not. But it is designed for mass consumption, to be chewed up easily with no great effort or aftertaste. And reality is bigger than that! We are bigger than that! Sometimes reality bites back!
So my ministry is to help people open the boundaries for self-understanding as well as for transformation; of themselves, their perception of the world and, finally, the world itself; by means creating a community of exploration, education, conversation, and a certain openness to that unexplainable gift that just might be in the centre of everything.
And now the hour is over. I got one phone call from someone on campus in the middle of it, had several people walked by and glanced at the table, pamphlets, me, with some curiosity but no great malice: nobody laughed, no one threw anything, I got through it. Time to go to the office.