Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting ready to move!

In three days, right after the Christmas Day service, my best friend and I are heading out for an amazing trip! First stop is Singapore, then points north with a White Christmastide in Sussex. I will try to keep some photos and impressions online as the journey progresses. And it's usually not difficult to document endless pleasures and diversions.

But first, getting some cleaning done and preparing a major Christmas Eve Feast!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Farewell from the Senior Chaplain

Dear Friends of the RMIT Chaplaincy,

The season of Advent is a time of great tension and creativity within the Christian community. Culminating with the birth of a new relationship between the most sacred and most mundane in a very surprising way and place, it is both an end and a beginning. It is also a time when new ways often come clear. This has been especially true for me this year.

I have decided that 2008 will be my last year as Senior Chaplain: there are several reasons. First, the job has changed remarkably as the number of chaplains has increased from 3 to 8, and while I have deeply enjoyed recruiting and coordinating a collegial community of professional religious volunteers who bring considerable gifts to RMIT, it has changed the focus and scope of the work. New rooms in the Spiritual Centre and increased relations with student clubs and societies embedded within faith, wisdom and justice traditions have also brought new responsibilities and duties. To juggle all these, along with increased and welcome requests and referrals for pastoral care from other University areas, within the existing and limiting structures and budget, has proved both difficult and frustrating. At this time I will likely request a year “on leave” as an Anglican Chaplain on this campus, but I will consider that option over the summer as I reconsider the priorities of my work at The Merton Centre and Trinity College, University of Melbourne.

There are so many people to thank: Chaplains Jo Dirks, Riad Galil, Rob Miller, Yvonne Poon, Simon Rande Tony Salisbury and Chaplain Soma (plus Linda Kent as our able assistant) have made the job a real pleasure. Working with Sergio Fabris as the Wellness manager was a privilege and joy, and I wish Kitty Vivekanda well in that interim position. Jane Stewart was remarkable in her oversight and we shared some happy moments. So many more should be thanked, but I must stop here.

“Opening Silence”, our regular meditation sessions, has been a bright spot for me in the last few years, and it might be good to gather one more time. I know it is late in the semester, but I will be sitting in the regular place at the regular time (Spiritual Centre, Thursday, starting at 12:30) I hope to see you there,

In any case, please know that the good people of RMIT, past and present, have given me much joy in this time, and to quote the American poet, e.e. cummings, “I will carry you in my heart.”



PS - if you wish to keep up, check my website: themertoncentre.org or visit my blog, chaplinesque.blogspot.com

Monday, December 15, 2008

POETRY AND THE OLD MAN - I just wrote this!

Poetry and the old man are friends,
Have been through many rooms and times,
Served a shared apprenticeship for all
The curved rhythms in the midst of words.

Poetry remembered many moments
Like sunlight coming through an open window
Or laughter down the hall. It loved to
Weave past and present towards some promised future.

Then things changed and even the silence begins to send its own message;
The spacious place between the beginning of breath and the start of speech
Breezed in and left packages not needing to be opened. Now
Poetry and the old man have less to say

But they listen more, with open ears
To growing things, moving light, silent addresses
That leap like the ocean spraying the sky, and
Suddenly make everything wonderfully wet.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

An update from a previous post - published in this month's edition of The Melbourne Anglican

American-born Robert Whalley, now living in Melbourne, was jubilant at the news of Barack Obama’s election. He explains why.

I’ve cried more on the US Election Day than I have in the last eight years. But tears of joy this time, and hope that the land of my birth is opening a new door. For it seems a graceful sign that a man with the name of Barrack Hussein Obama, with a Kenyan father and a mother from Kansas, a youth spent in Indonesia and an education spanning the Pacific from Jakarta to Honolulu to Harvard, and married to a woman descended from Africans kidnapped as slaves into the American South hundred of years before; will soon be moving into the White House.

In a land where there has been much racism, much to say “Sorry” for, this may mark a surprising turnaround for the image and identity of the United States, one we might not have foreseen in recent times; and I pray it means an opening for mercy, compassion, hope and even a possibility for peace in the future for all of us.

I moved to Melbourne from Berkeley, California, shortly before 11 September 2001 and still remember the affection and support I got from my new neighbours, friends from church, that wonderful memorial service at St. Paul’s, and even one stranger on the Bourke Street Mall who heard my accent and wished me and my country well in that sad time. All showed affection for what the US stood for at its best. So it saddened me (and many others) to see what shortly felt like an avalanche of propaganda and piety, justifying incursions and invasions likely linked to industry and oil and the interests of the rich and mighty.

This grief came into sharper relief when Katrina swept over New Orleans like a parable of judgement.

I was in a local parish facilitating questions about University Chaplaincy the Sunday after the hurricane when one man noted the similarities of the Old Testament lesson for the day – the Israelites getting across the dry bed of the Red Sea while Pharaoh’s army gets mired in the mud – and the situation in Louisiana. As I responded to him I realised that while I had always seen America in a traditional line with biblical Israel, a small people getting past the old tyrannies, making towards the wilderness, to a new community of grace and justice, it could no longer claim that place. For America now was closer to Pharaoh’s army (whether in Iraq or Louisiana) protecting the mighty over the poor and fragile, with lower priorities for those who hunger and thirst. I recalled the words, known to every American, on the Statue of Liberty not far across the harbour from where the World Trade Centre used to stand: Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free / The wretched refuse of your teaming shore, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

So when this election result came, it brought me tears of joy. If the country of my birth, that great ship of state, can turn around, make amends, repent and move towards being an agent of change and healing, mercy and justice for all colours and kinds, a light to the nations, it may be that the golden door is opening to a new beginning for us all.

Robert Whalley is Senior Chaplain at RMIT University, Director of The Merton Centre at St. Peter’s Eastern Hill, Melbourne, and an adjunct tutor at the Trinity College Theological School.