Tag Archive: CCDA


2014 brett pool duncs

so today we fly back to americaland and i leave a changed man.

but maybe not in the way you would expect… i don’t feel like i have grown so much as i have regressed, but in a good way though. as in ‘returned to former state’ – or returning at least.

in some Christian senses i guess we have been living the dream – 19 months at the Simple Way [you know, the mecca of christian intentional community… will write something about that sometime], attending Wild Goose Festivals, CCDA conferences and involved in two non-profits… you know, changing the world. or something.

i was having lunch with my new mate Bill yesterday and i heard him say the words… he was talking about living an actively following Jesus life and really taking this stuff seriously and he threw in the line, “But of course you know all this, you’re living it”, which is great to hear of course, but my heart thudded a little bit when i heard it, because i feel i still have so far to go.

AMERICALAND: land of the free… king confused.

oh Africa, who looks jealously across the ocean at Americaland

land of hope, land of plenty

land of money and opportunity and adventure 

land of blockbuster movies and high speed internet and space tourism programs

and really bad mayonnaise. no seriously, i’m talking that stuff needs a new name cos that is NOT mayonnaise.

what the raiSIN-infested-custard were you thinking?

and i will be speaking in generalisations here so please don’t see it through a one-size-fits-all lens, and remember that Americaland is a huge country and our experience of it is largely Philadelphia and Oakland, and the church tribes we have encountered there and online…

but we have noticed that as advanced as Americaland is in many areas [and it is, or maybe developed is a better word because being more developed does not mean more advanced – i remember a glorious time when telephones were not able to be carried around with us and people at restaurants actually looked at and spoke to each other] there are some where it seems completely backward or in need of catchup. mayonnaise is one such area [throw all of yours out and start again] and another is banking systems [so much of backward in many areas of that] and public toilet doors [mind the gap!] and so on.

and your church. while there are incredible church congregations doing incredible things and while we have met some truly amazing and brilliant people and also been super privileged to find a congregation we enjoy being a part of in Re:Generation, your church as a whole [or in large pockets within the whole] feels very confused and in need of a bit of a shake up [and not because it’s not new or post-post-modern or ‘with it’ enough].

the church of Americaland has for a long time seen itself as the Saviour of the rest of the world in many ways – must. save. Africa. [wait, where is Africa? oh, there it is… must.save.Africa] but you seem to largely [remember the generalisations, if this is not you, let it go and move on] be taking your lead from the world and not from Scripture or the Holy Spirit [or the glorious combination of them both].

tolerance has become the big deal where the definition of tolerance has become ‘whatever you want to do or be is fine, anyone who tells you you cannot do or be what you are doing or being is intolerant and judgemental and Jesus who loved and embraced and welcomed all people is sad with those people for not just accepting everyone, however they choose to be. ‘

the church was always meant to be modeling the love of Jesus and the worship of God the Father and the power, love and discipline of the Holy Spirit to the world in a ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me’ kind of way which feels like it has been largely been replaced by a ‘this feels good’ or ‘this will keep people happy’ mentality which is just not evidenced all that much in the Bible.

there is also a strong sense of 1 Corinthians 1 dejavu going on…

12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Except that we have replaced Paul and Apollos and Cephas with John Piper and Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans and Shane Claiborne… being influenced by people is great [follow my example as i follow the example of Christ – 1 Corinthians 11] but when you start following people, that is when it gets dangerous and the cross of Christ starts to be emptied of its power.

church of Americaland – the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing… once our message starts to make sense and be completely acceptable to all those around us, we need to be checking if it is still the same message of God.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

and so, church of Americaland, there is so much good in you and so many passionate and committed people doing some incredible and amazingly creative things, but as a whole, you do seem quite confused and really in need of plugging back into your source and being led by Him. also it wouldn’t hurt for you to take some time in Africa [and beyond] just simply looking and listening and learning… you might be surprised at the work God has been doing there and what they might have to offer you.

REFUSE THIS THING

so for me, this trip has been so good, and two things stand out:

[1] connecting with people who are passionate about following Jesus – i have been leaning towards staying in Americaland for longer because i love the Re:Gen community we are part of and the opportunities to preach and work with young and older people there. God is doing some good stuff there and it has been great to be a part of it and i definitely feel like i have a lot to offer and hopefully learn from them… but it was one night in Hillbrow [my first, back in South Africa] that changed everything for me and reminded me how African my blood is. and i’m not so sure it was Hillbrow. it was spending time with Nigel Branken and his family, who in the messiest of ways, are trying to re-imagine their faith in Jesus and live where they feel He has called them, as well as meeting some other great people in that community that night. it was reconnecting with my buddy Rob and his wife Nicky who are in the midst of planting a church with some friends. it was breakfast with Bruce and Bex and hearing how they are wanting to have an impact in the community where they are. it was listening to my old youth mate Fezile and how he is wanting to create a program to clean up the township where he lives. and it was lunch with Bill, listening to how he is wrestling with really wanting to follow Jesus completely and how that feels like it looks so different from the regular Sunday church meeting he has been attending and how that affects finances and hospitality and work ethics and beyond. and it was sitting with a bunch of people over a meal discussing how we could give away the pot of money we had all contributed to, to meet the needs of other people we know. and more. conversations, people, ideas, passion for kingdom things and transformation of the world as we know it – seeing the kingdom come on earth and not waiting for the big escape from this messed up world

[2] getting hijacked with worship music – we had an amazing gift from an old youth friend Kerstin and her husband Carl in being gifted the use of their car which has been an incredible present to tbV and me while we have been here. but it took us a while to realise there was more than one cd in the car and until we did, there was this worship compilation that i would just play over and over and two songs in particular stood out for me, the one being by a guy called Ben Howard titled ‘I will be blessed’ [anyone who knows me well knows that that is a unlikely title for a song that would be liked by me] – just a completely haunting song that just overwhelmed me in some ways and the lyrics don’t do it justice at all without hearing it so head off to Uncl Google, but here is the chorus:

Oh hey heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go
Oh hey, heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go

but just the gift of worship and having it around me every time i have been in the car has been so great for me and an even bigger gift than the car itself. it feels like my very soul [the whoness of who i am] has been bathed in this river of just holiness and love and grace and brought me so much closer to God and helped me focus on Him. a reminder of Who and what this is all about.

i have a plane to go and get ready for although i feel like there is a whole lot more to say, but the focus of this post is that for me this trip has helped me to become a little more unsettled than i’ve been – hence the regression [which is usually seen as a negative thing but can also be describing something that returns to a former state] – one of the biggest dangers of life as a follower of Jesus is that we settle – with the way things are, with the routine of life, with the squeezing down of our passion and belief that God and His church can actually make a difference in the world and actually just kind of semi-give up and start to resemble everyone else, in a kind of boring and bland and grey kind of way…

that is NOT what we have been called to – we have been called to live and thrive and be agents of transformation in a world that is desperately in need of God… i am so glad this trip has rekindled some of the fire in me and so expectant [and nervous] about what lies ahead… we have been in Americaland for a reason – it has been both great and hard and amazing and difficult and frustrating and exhilarating and angrifying and more… but it has been good…

and i’m not sure what is next or how it looks or anything like that [we are committed to church and non-profit work til August] but i want to continue to fan into flame the things that God is starting to work in my life.

if you’re a praying person, i can definitely use a lot of that. we both can.

my nickname is FISH which stands for Faithful In Serving Him – i am definitely not worthy at all of carrying that as a description of who i am, but as a path i try to follow and live out and aim towards, that is something i hold strongly to.

i love Jesus. i love His church. and i believe that when the church starts being the church, every one of us, then the world will be completely turned upside down.

which, ironically, is right side up.

coincidence

recently i shared an incredible story i heard in church of God being able to take a story that looked like it contained contradictory elements [people being told their adopted children were going to be two different sets of ages] and making them both happen, which you can read about here.

my own recent story contains more coincidence than miracle and so is a lot easier to explain away perhaps, but not to me.

a few weeks ago i attended the CCDA Christian Communities Development conference in New Orleans and after one session where i heard some incredible stories from this man Father Boyle who has worked with gang members for the last thirty years i was broken. i sat in the meeting hall [of i would say 2000 people capacity] as people filed out and they even started putting up dividers to close my edge section off from the main hall section where they were about to have an open mic session.

i was sitting and calling out to God with a sense of ‘what am i doing?’ in response to this message of this man who had dedicated his life to these young people and was seeing incredible results. i know God uses me through online stuff and speaking and writing opportunities when i get those, but in terms of face to face difference making i was just feeling completely low and useless. so really just a cry of ‘what difference is my life making?’

the room had mostly emptied when this older [than me] mom type lady comes up to me with a ‘Brett?’ kind of question and i say ‘Yes’ and she introduces herself. She is a South African who is currently doing a year of study in the States and she goes on to tell me how i had a huge influence in the lives of her two daughters [who are now i think 23 and 21] when they were at school and possibly her son as well.

like really? i am sitting crying out to God about my effectiveness as a God-following person in the middle of Americaland at a conference full of Americaneses and He sends a South African woman to come and look for me to tell me that i had some influence in her family.

coincidence? possibly. God-incident? it just seemed to be so well timed and perfect to be otherwise.

i’m not a big fan of the God-finds-me-parking-places theology because of all the times i’ve asked and He hasn’t and because some people tend to attribute things that were clearly not specifically God to God which to me tends to reduce the times somewhat when it actually is God. i also can’t get my brain around how God was able to bring that lady to come find me and how i completely believe that she operated in her free will both at the same time and yet somehow it just works – maybe God is more largely into the prompting and suggesting business than the picking-people-up-and-marching-them-like-a-robot-into-the-next-room business…

what i do know is that i was feeling low and broken and just really needing some encouragement from God and it came. in quite a dramatic fashion. i think i would have taken encouragement from an American right then, but God sent a South African. and it was a direct answer to the specific cry. so call ‘coincidence’ all you like, but i think i am going to hold onto ‘God-incident’ on this one.

# in a completely different and maybe way more random [to you] note, when i was involved in youth leading a bunch of us from Claremont Baptist were on this youth leader’s committee camp once and we ‘discovered’ this constellation we called ‘the horse’ which is very probably some other constellation or part thereof but it is the one constellation [well, apart from Orion and the Southern Cross] that i can actually pick out in the sky and it’s been a huge source of encouragement for me over the years [feels like a private constellation that belongs to a select few of us and i love sharing it with friends of mine when the opportunity arises] [actually i think Mark Chapman was the one who came up with ‘Barman’s vomit’ which didn’t really count as much cos it referred to the Milky Way which is already kinda named, but that one still gives me a smile every time i see it]

anyways, the point being that when i was flying back from New Orleans i had a window seat and ‘the horse’ was directly outside my window pretty much all the way home which felt like God putting the seal on a very special trip. that one is more likely to be shelved into the corner of coincidence but once again it was just there at the right place and right time [i don’t know that i’ve particularly noticed it in our two years of being in americaland] and confirmation that God has me and to just keep on, because He is faithful.

it is possibly a travesty of the highest order to take something that God has directly put in front of you and to minimalise it or discount it as coincidence and so i am going to use these happenings as opportunity to bring Him praise and glory and attention.

# actually one other quick memory i have from the conference was sitting on the other side of the room from this native american guy who i have seen around for three conferences but never really had much interaction with. during worship i felt like God had a message for him and so i went and shared it with him not knowing that what i was speaking about made any sense at all and thinking he was looking at me kinda weirdly as in ‘what the flip?’, But when i finished he took some time to share with me why he felt that what i had shared with him was from God and how it was really encouraging to him. Those kind of risk moments are great [especially when they work out which they generally tend to] because they are just completely encouraging and life giving to both parties and i look forward to hearing how the words i shared with him come to fruition.

so miracles and God-incidentses and words of knowledge/encouragement… it’s going to take me a lot more faith right now to believe that God doesn’t exist, than to believe and know that He does. how about you? any moments in your life recently where He confirmed His presence and involvement?

 

at CCDA conference this last week, one of the sessions led by Father Gregory Boyle really floored me. Father Boyle looks a lot like Santa Claus with his old man white beard and big smile and he has worked with gangs for the last 30 years in Los Angeles. some of the stories he shared of how he has seen God working in the lives of gang members were deeply moving.

This one in particular stood out for me:

Father Boyle told a powerful story of when he was travelling to go and do a talk somewhere and took three of his gangster guys with him. While they were driving there Manuel gets a phone call. It’s Snoopy [another gangster back at the base] and on speaker phone he tells them “I just got my ass arrested and I’m down at the jail and being charged for being the ugliest guy in the world. I need you to come down so i can prove they have the wrong guy.”

Father Boyle pauses for a moment as the laughter in the audience dies down, before saying, “And I realised… these are rival gang members… they used to shoot bullets at each other, now they shoot text messages.”

Stories like this encourage me immensely and fill me with the hope that this can happen again. And with people i know. How about you? Who are you pouring into? 

i shared this the other day as part of a CCDA post, but it is so powerful and deserves its own space… i hope you make time to really read it and meditate on the words.

This is a prayer that was prayed to remember Oscar Romero:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
Amen.

i especially like both the encouragement and challenge wrapped up in that last line:

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.

so yes, i thought CCDA stood for ‘Christian Community something something’ but after last nite’s session and God speaking to me after last nite’s section and just the general worship vibes here and then this morning’s session, i have to conclude that at least one of the C’s has to stand for ‘cry’ – i have been on the edge of emotion for these last powerful 24 hours and wish all of you could have been at this last session with me cos words are going to horribly fail to convey much of what happened.

Lisa introduced the session by mentioning a book she had recently read called ‘Everybody poops’ which sums up so much and which i’ve been saying for years [your poo is the same colour as mine, whichever power-hungry attention-seeking celebrity you are] and was a great way to level the playing field.

today’s focus was young leaders and specifically emerging marginalised leaders so we had mentors and young people on stage as a panel and they shared testimonies and were asked some questions. and after last nite’s proclamation that i pretty much mostly only stand up for Jesus, i was the first one on my feet after Daniel who has cerebral palsy finished his speech… yes, speech, a guy who battles to speak coherently introduced by a beautiful spirited african american woman who began by telling us to “Stop what you’re doing and listen!” – put your pens down and your cellphones away and just concentrate and you will begin to understand what Daniel, who struggles to speak in a way we can clearly understand, is going to share with us.

and it was so completely powerful, and i definitely needed the introduction that called me to listen and validated his voice as someone speaking for the physically challenged [i am so over PC’ness and can never remember which term or label is okay so sorry to whoever i may have offended if i did but get your head out your ass and can we just see people already – enough with the labels! and the constant microscopic dismembering of them. rant over.] but i stopped and listen and heard [a lot, not all, but a lot] of what he had to share and to hear Daniel talk about his ministry and his mission and his gifting and how he takes opportunities – flip it just blew me away [i later wrote in my notes ‘i want to be a person who really listens to people’ – i think i am a fairly decent listener of people but i don’t know that i would have ever recognised that Daniel even had a valid voice – largely cos of my fear of what if i don’t understand, what if this becomes awkward or embarrassing? you know what? so what? work through the awkward and embarrassing together]

so yes, i stood up and applauded loudly and was deeply moved by him, and the lady that so lovingly introduced him and helped validate or give foundation or invitation to his voice… 

and then they followed it up with this young woman [well young to mid thirties maybe] whose name i missed who started by saying a picture often speaks 1000 words and showed five pictures of herself looking pretty hectic which i only realised later were her five conviction police line-up pictures. She had gone to jail five times for stealing and had done a bunch of drugs “I spent 20 years with a needle in my arm” and was just a complete mess, until someone took a chance on her and made her head of Restorative Justice in some organisation and when she said she had no clue how to do it, her mentor responded with ‘learn. google it. read. figure it out.’

she is now the director of Restorative Justice and two semesters away from getting her degree and about to be married in January – a whole bunch of stuff she thought she would never be able to do because of who she was and what she’d done and the addictions she had been involved with and in.

she shared how at one point she used to live on the second floor of a building opposite a church and on Sundays she would sit on the balcony with a beer and look at all the pretty people going off to church and she wanted to cross the street and go with them: “I didn’t know how to cross that street. I just wanted to get across that street!”

she reminded us that “you’re dealing with a lot of young people who don’t really believe in themselves” [echoing the Unconditional Love we were reminded about last nite]

she told us that when she met her fiance who was brought up in a Christian home and had a faith background he didn’t want to know about her past in terms of letting it define who she was but was more interested in who she was now and who she was going to be.

She finished off by telling us that if we see someone in the street we should extend the hand and offer to try to lift them up. It might be hard for them. It might be hard for you. But just do it. Cos that’s what we’re about, right? Being our brother’s keeper? 

i finished the session by writing this in my notes: I want to stop being afraid of people I can love/help because I might “do it wrong” or not be able to understand them or know how to help.

man, this account doesn’t even start to capture today at all. just imagine a really emotional and really profound experience of viewing lives that had been touched and changed by other people who took the time [and often it wasn’t easy and often the stories don’t end like these ones] and energy to build into their lives – to love them and believe in them and offer them an opportunity to live and thrive and have another chance at being a world transforming person.

every person has value. do we see it? 

[To see the start of this series of talk summaries and moments, click here]

it is a travesty that i don’t have a video clip of this whole talk for you. this post will not do this justice. but hopefully i can share some glimpses.

but this one left me messed up. sitting in the hall long after the majority of people had left and even after they had cordoned off my edge of the hall so they could use the middle section for the time of open mic. that was about to follow. i was just left sitting there stunned and broken and crying out to God for a sign [and would you know He sent one – who God? Never. i thought He didn’t exist or something? Oh well, must have been just a coincidence then. But no it was God!] and thinking and silently praying and watching and just trying to take it all in.

This guy called Father Boyle [who someone later said had been on Dr Phil before and i imagine given him a hard time cos he was on it!] came and did closer to a time of stand-up comedy than a talk [at 50 to 60 years old i imagine and without appearing to try to hard – just comes naturally to him but had crowd in hysterics – amazing storyteller. Has worked with gangs for 30 years i think it was and looks a bit like a friendly Santa Clause type but also a hint of no nonsense although completely passionate.

# first story he tells about this gangster called Chuckie – the police told him they were looking for Chuckie for 3 murders so Father Boyle goes looking for him and finds him with a bunch of his friends and calls him across to him [typical ‘grief’ from his friends as if he was being called to the principal’s office] – a few day’s later Father Boyle is preaching and mid sermon Chuckie comes into the church and starts shouting at him from halfway up the church “You wanted to see me, here i am. [What would have happened in your church service if this had happened? A well positioned usher quietly tries to remove him from the service?] Father Boyle stops the service and says, “Okay, let’s do this now and push pause on the message i was giving. Leads him to the Lord.’ Three days later he gets a call from the police that Chuckie has been murdered.

# second story he tells was a prompting he has to go and tell this gangster Corey about the gospel. Corey listens but responds with “Not now” – the next day Father Boyle gets a message that Corey was shot in the head, dead.

Romans 5.8 it was “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Good reminder! Not get sorted out and then we’ll talk salvation – saved first and then cleaned up afterwards.

# big focus on Unconditional Love

He read out a prayer that was prayed to remember Oscar Romero:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
Amen.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that. This enables us to do something and to do it very well. So powerful!

# He spoke of a verse in Habakkuk 2.3 which reads:

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay.

# We are called to cultivate a community of kinship, so much so that God might see it and recognise it.

Father Boyle told a powerful story of him travelling to go and do a talk and taking three of his gangster guys with him. While they are driving there Manuel gets a phone call. It’s Snoopy [another gangster back at the base] and on speaker phone he tells them “I just got my ass arrested and I’m down at the jail and being charged for being the ugliest guy in the world. I need you to come down so i can prove they have the wrong guy.”

Father Boyle pauses for a moment as the laughter in the audience dies down, before saying, “And I realised… these are rival gang members… they used to shoot bullets at each other, now they shoot text messages.” [getting emotional again just typing it! do you realise the transformation locked up in this story?]

# He told another story about a 16 year old in his office and i can’t remember the specifics of the story but he finished by saying, “Kinship happens so quickly. I defy you to tell me who’s the service provider and who’s the service recipient… cos it’s mutual!”

# At one point in his talk he mentioned how this last week he buried his 193rd gangster youth… in 30 years… that is a hard one to walk.

# He mentioned a whole list of things that these rehabilitated gang members are working on and the one was a formerly abandoned bakery that is now called ‘Homeboy bakery.’ Former enemies now work together baking bread.

# He mentioned one of the failed businesses they attempted was Homeboy plumbing. He was surprised that nobody wanted gangsters in their homes. Who would’ve called that?

# They have a free tattoo removal service – there is no place in the world where tattoos are being removed as frequently as there.

# He mentioned something like 15000 people go through their drug rehabilitation centre each year.

# Another funny story was when oscar award-winning actress Diane Keaton came to their ‘Homegirl diner’ [used to come regularly]. The one day she was served by Glenda who as she took her order stared at her for a bit and said “I think I know you from somewhere. I’ve seen you before” Diane Keaton humbly stated something kindly about “perhaps having one of those faces that people think they’ve seen.”

But when Glenda came back with her food she exclaimed, ” No, now I remember where I’ve seen you before. We were locked up together.”

# Father Boyle reminded us that one huge aspect of Jesus’ prayer in the garden was the phrase “that they may be one”

“Our compassion is not measured in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to be in kinship with them.”

– We are called to reach in and dismantle the messages of shame and disgrace that the people on the margins constantly hear in their ears.

# Father Boyle reminded us of a less mentioned aspect linked to the Acts 2 church – “and awe came upon them.”

# “It’s impossible to demonise those you know. You just can’t sustain that.” 

And pointed out that ultimately it is no surprise that “they may be one” turns out to be our deepest longing too.

And finished off by saying, “This conference is not a place you go to, it’s a place you go from!”

i wish you could have been there for the whole thing!

[To read the next post on some inspiring young people and the encouragement to reach out a hand, click here]

so this morning Halle Berry [well not quite, Michelle someone, but she looked a bunch like Halle… no, I’m not saying that the speaker looked like Halle which if you say it out loud is a  lot more humourful but moving on] gave a standing ovation worthy [not from me cos great amazing speech and all but i tend to keep my standing for Jesus unless something really does something different to me] talk on the topic of incarceration and it really was incredibly good and gave a lot of insight and [shocking] information on the topic but for most of the talk i was sitting there thinking internally ‘okay i get it – we have a big bad bag of smelly poo here – i really get it – but please don’t leave me with a big bad smelly bag of poo – tell me something i can do about it’ – and towards the end she did a little bit but then there was a panel afterwards [with her on it] that dug a little bit deeper and got a little bit more practical and story-full on the what we can do aspect [although she called for a movement, so pretty much something huge is needed cos the issue is so flippen smelly-bag-of-poo big and bad!] but ja quite a heavy topic. i didn’t take a lot of notes cos it was needing to be munched as a whole rather than appreciated as sound bytes, but did get a few thoughts:

# Charity is not enough. We have to work for justice!

# We have to take on the system.

# There needs to be [and I’ve thought this for years] a shift from a punitive approach when it comes to incarceration to a more compassionate and restorative approach! 

The system is the way it is… but it’s not the way it has to be… Such a powerful statement which a group or tribe or nation need to take on for it to gain much momentum [o a congregation, denomination, fraternal or city-wide collection of church congregations i guess]

# I liked this one – we have to care for the victim… AND the perpetrator AND the community… 

Michelle told a story of speaking in a church and saying “We’re all sinners” and everyone cheered… and then a little later she said “We’re all criminals” and there was silence… [but think about it – speeding, pirating, tax stuff etc etc – a large majority of us have committed criminal acts] so there seems to be this huge aspect of shame linked to being a criminal or even having that in the past…

What hit me was what someone commented to her: “How come we are so eager to admit we violate God’s laws, but shamed when it comes to mans.” Oof, right between the eyes!

Yeah. A lot of work to be done here. And going to take a concerted effort from a unified group of people and groups. So good to hear from some people on the panel who are working with prisoners, and former prisoners in various ways. Some inspiring people.

[For most powerful samplings of this evening click here]

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