Saturday, 18 July 2009

more from Assembly

Today has been long, as has every day at Assembly. I'm about to go to the public lecture to be given by Daniel Smith Christopher, talking about prophets, and other things. 

I was struck this morning at how much more difficult it was to engage with the Bible study presented in a more lecture type manner than it was to engage with yesterday's (given by the same people). Yesterday, the study consisted mostly of an imagined conversation between a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman, who meet by chance at a public well. This dramatisation was offered as a reflection on the story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at a well. It was very well done, and didn't get preachy, though offering as it was these characters' reflections on meanings they had gleaned from the Hebrew Scriptures and also from Jesus' teaching (for they discovered that they were both followers of the Way). I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did those with whom I have spoken about it. I think that what was different about the ease of engagement with the first study as compared to the second (which I think was on water and its ability to be not only life giving but dangerous or threatening), was that by using the medium of story, the presenters offered something different to what we get in the business sessions - namely straight talking in a more business like manner. A story, a dialogue, is profoundly different, even in its wordiness. There was more room for space between speakers, as they took on board what the other had said, there was more room for embodiment of the characters, using gesture, humour, facial expression to great effect. Embodying characters, using emotion, engaged our emotions, not just our minds, and invited us into the story, allowed us to take the story into ourselves. Much more powerful, much more effective, to the extent that people were talking about Baruch and Erebecca throughout the day. I thought they didn't even need to add the exposition at the end ... 

In the evening session, I was stirred by the Spirit to speak. I had spoken once already at Assembly, but this was a difficult task, and yet there was no way I could shrink from it. You may have experienced such moments when you know you have to speak up, because someone must, and the Spirit seems to be prompting you to be the one, even though it may be an issue you didn't realise you were passionate about. Actually I was more concerned with the act of speaking and standing up for another than I was about the content of what I was to say I confess. 
A young person had asked a question of the proposers, and was not treated well in the manner of the response given. I had to speak. I had to stand up in that assembly beside her. She had not been heard. We needed to restore her voice. 
So I spoke to her, asked if she would mind if I restated the question in different words, and she agreed. I spoke. She was grateful for the act of solidarity, and for the words I spoke. 
Many people last night, and still today, have thanked me for speaking at that time, for holding that young person safe on their behalf, and for acting with courage. Most of us didn't know this young person personally, but nevertheless, I received the thanks of many for what I did. 
I am grateful for the prompting of the Spirit - when it comes to words, I know that is a gift I have been given. To be able to rephrase her question and in that way stand alongside her was a privilege, and an honour. 

We have some difficult proposals in the second half of our meeting, and we are running out of time. Hold us in your prayers over the next few days. 

However, we celebrate the election of Andrew Dutney, principle of Uniting College, as President-elect of the UCA. 

Tomorrow I think we will be electing more members of Assembly to other roles in the ongoing work of Assembly. 

check out this website, a response of some of the younger members of Assembly to the proceedings ... 

Tonight, after the lecture, we will be going to the pub to celebrate! 

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