Showing posts from December, 2010

ncyc11 day three

Well, I have just awoken from a two hour nap, and am feeling quite refreshed.
It's not as if today has been all that exhausting, but I suppose I am enjoying a bit of space to chill out while the participants are engaging in their workshops, electives, and community building activities.

For our second bible study this morning, we were a slightly smaller group, with 15 - 20 young people choosing to join other groups. That's OK, you don't really know what a study group is going to be like until you get there, and there's always a bit of readjusting of bible study groups after the first session. It's a shame, though, because the material we were dealing with yesterday was a little more abstract or complex, and today we got a bit more practical and experiential.

We focused on prayer today, the passage from Matthew being where Jesus teaches us how to pray. We began with some conversation around what our experiences of prayer had been like - good, bad, helpful, unhelpful.…

ncyc11 day two part three

I did enjoy my hour or so under the electric fan this afternoon. Cooled right off. Also had a bit of a lie down in my room.
Then I went out again in search of pepsi max and chocolate - found them and had a chat with the guys selling them.
After that I sought some shade and found more interesting people to talk to - Craig Mitchell from Uniting College doing a great job providing information on the opportunities available through our fine theological college in Adelaide. And Yvonne from a congregation in Brisbane that has recently established a community garden, which sounds like a great thing to do, providing many opportunities for connecting and building relationships with the local community.
ran into all sorts of people and had more conversations - Nic and Rob from NSW, Michelle from Qld, then met a young man from Melbourne who chatted with me to pass the time in the line for food. Met more interesting young people who happen to live around the corner from my Aunt and cousins, who I…

ncyc11 day two part two

I've just spent an hour or so chatting with a fellow biblical storyteller, Jeff Lawrence.
Jeff's just started as a minister in a Church of Christ congregation in Brisbane, and as he missed the Network of Biblical Storytellers' gathering in Adelaide this year, we thought we'd take the opportunity to catch up. He's been interested to hear the story of The Esther Project.
So we chatted about story and storytelling, and the power they hold for transformation.
Jeff shared with me a quote - I'll have to update with source etc. anon - that talked about the way that humans don't generally want to talk about the hard stuff, the dark stuff, in our lives. But artists, singers, poets, storytellers - they go to those places, and they bring the rest of us along.
This is why I dreamed The Esther Project - so that the artists - singers, storytellers, poets - would have a community of faith in which to explore and express the Christian story through their art, because commun…

ncyc11 day two part one

Thank you to the many people around Australia who sent good wishes for peaceful sleep - I finally did sleep well. Perhaps being here has allayed the fears that come with the unknown. I think I have probably left the worry about the next steps for The Esther Project in Adelaide - I can't really do anything about it while I am here. And it was certainly a help and a comfort not to mention an encouragement to feel the love and support of many friends.
So while the heat is draining energy faster than boost juice can replace it, though it did replenish it for a while earlier in the afternoon, I do feel somewhat refreshed. Or did when I woke up.
Breakfast was my traditional away from home treat of nutrigrain, plus a couple of fried eggs and toast.
Then while the delegates went to their community time and small groups, I got myself ready for the first bible study. The photocopying had all been done marvellously, thanks to the admin support team. A last minute dash by one of the organisin…

ncyc day 1

Well, it sure is sticky in Queensland. People from further north in Australia had jumpers on today, I had fan in hand ...
I found myself on a plane with quite a few other ncyc11 participants this morning, leaving Adelaide just as summer was remembering itself after quite a cool Christmas.
Rather than struggling with luggage on a couple of public transport buses to Southport, I was welcomed by some of these fellow ncyc11 participants to join their maxi cab on a much simpler journey from the airport.
On the way, we were informed by our driver that The Southport School is a rather posh boys' school, and we were suitably impressed on driving in the driveway. Some have said it looks like something out of an American high school movie, or reminds them a bit of Hogwarts. It is over 100 years old - the building we're holding the main worship gatherings in is the Centenary Hall in celebration of this milestone (1901-2001). The dining hall does look a bit like a small room from Hogwarts …

of Advent contemplation with The Esther Project

The Esther Project has held a contemplative worship space each week of Advent. I have done something visual each week, which is not like me at all, I usually respond with words. Of course, I've done that in a couple of the spaces, too, but it's been more about an image or a feeling represented with colour as we have reflected on hope, peace, joy and love.
Here are the images that emerged for me. Some with words, others not so much. The poems need some work still, so they'll appear later.

Week One - Hope

inspired by lines from a poem by Cheryl Lawrie: 'arms that are open  / ready to take hold of hope' ('Take hold of hope' in Hold This Space, published by
Week Two - Peace

Peace begins as a whispered possibility
then, in a flash of delight – 
bursts open 
and captures every heart 

I had in mind the pivotal scene from the film Joyeux Noel, which had been shared in another setting the day before, when one person sings…

White Wine In The Sun by Tim Minchin

A friend posted a link to this on facebook.
I love how clever Tim Minchin is; he is another of our social commentator / poet / prophet / artist gems. probably wouldn't describe himself as such, but that's what I appreciate about his words and music.

I agree with him about what he doesn't like about some churches / religious groups, and it's nice to hear someone outside the Christian tradition agree that the commercialisation of this ancient religious festival is distasteful.
Love the picture he paints of family at Christmas - that's what the ancient story is about for me, love being born in our hearts and our lives.
Thanks Tim for the song, and thanks Cheryl for sharing the link.
whenever the going gets tough with the 'fresh expression' of, or alternative, church I lead - The Esther Project - and at the moment things are a bit hard going - I draw so much encouragement from the creativity of pictures and poetry and other creative activity and the profound reflections and discoveries that emerge from our gatherings as a community.
it's hard going because we are trying to find a way to incorporate The Esther Project more closely into the life of our host communities - Christ Church and The Effective Living Centre. This is all new, and is providing much in the way of challenges. Christ Church and the ELC have a unique structure and way of operating to begin with, so how might another faith community with storytelling activities and events fit into that structure? Then there's all the complications associated with funding - The Esther Project has access to some funds for 2011, which is a great start, but already means it will have a different report…

of gravy, songs, Advent and writing

this morning at Christ Church Uniting, Sean's reflection centred on Paul Kelly's 'How To Make Gravy'. this song helped The Esther Project community to imagine those in prison as the shepherds of our day - the unseen, forgotten ones.
what Sean was saying also made me think some more about the Christmas day worship outline I am working on for Seasons of the Spirit - I have a line in the script from the shepherd about being homeless, and I began thinking about how perhaps being in the presence of the Christ child might be like coming home for them ... for us.
which got me thinking about tomorrow night's Esther Project contemplative space for Advent week 4, Love, and a song that has resonated through many stories I've encountered this year - Padraig O'Tuama's 'Yearn' (available on albums 'Dubh' and 'Hymns to Swear By' from Proost).
all these creative projects, which yesterday I was finding more a burden than a gift, today begin to tu…

of the joys and struggles of writing

it is an interesting job, that of a writer. yes, in know i've written recently that i have just been ordained as a minister in the uniting church. i am also a writer.
i posted on facebook this morning that sometimes i don't like being a writer - it's such hard work. these are the comments i received from two friends.
Michelle wrote:
“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler
Thomas Mann: A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
Jewlz wrote:
I agree. How true. As a writer of content that goes into the public sphere there is no way of knowing the impact you are having. However, be certain there are many who read your blog and be inspired/ encouraged that you will never hear from.

and these comments, the affirmation of the difficulties of being a writer from a fellow writer quoting other writers, and the affirmation of my work as a writer, were enoug…

of a moment of confidence and certainty

We had our last session of Clinical Pastoral Education today, at which we presented our final evaluation papers. Along with other reflections, such as on progress towards goals for the course, we reflect on relationships in pastoral settings, in the group with peers and supervisors, and with ourselves.
Les, one of our supervisors, suggested I should cut the words out that reflect where I am personally at the moment, and stick them in my Bible or somewhere, because they describe a rather wonderful moment for me in my life and ministry. Consider the words cut out and stuck 'somewhere':

I have the confidence to cross the room and talk to people, because I know my role as a minister and I like my role as a minister and I trust myself to cause no harm when I cross the room. It is not safer for me to stay on my side of the room. The boundaries are clear, but less imposing, protecting my innermost self. There will be times when the introverted side of me will need to retreat, or remai…

sometimes you can't make it on your own

My friend Michelle has been quoting U2 quite a bit of late, and fair enough too, when you've just enjoyed the U2 concert experience as she has. The songs are undoubtedly playing over and over in her head.
As I look back over today, the refrain from a U2 song is going through my head.
I've been writing my final evaluation for the Clinical Pastoral Evaluation (CPE) course I've been engaged in since August. I didn't want to do this - I mean really didn't want to do it. I had focussed on pastoral care in my field education experience, and through that placement done a lot of inner reflection. I had had enough. I didn't want to look inwards any more, was feeling so over reflecting on my practice as a minister. i just wanted to go and do it. To a certain extent I was also afraid of the consequences of any more introspection, too much of which can actually be quite dangerous for me.
Despite all that, all my fears and frustrations, CPE has been very rewarding. It has …

the calm and the storm

I wonder at creation lightning’s strobe above the ocean thunder’s distant rumble the river’s joyful tripping over stones crickets calling raindrops falling intermittently
I move my chair back under cover as the patter tiptoes faster overhead and the rumble thunders louder and the flashing strobe of lightning slides across the sea and edges ever closer towards me
I wonder at creation I marvel I am in awe as the storm enfolds me 
(c) Sarah Agnew 8 Dec 2010 

Published in On Wisdom's Wings, Ginninderra Press, 2013. (revised)
Photos by Tim Lee from the ordination service Sunday 5 December.

The stole was made by my mum. It depicts the Biblical story - from the joy of creation, to the promise to Abraham for as many descendants as there are stars in the sky and the promise to Noah and all creation from God not to flood the earth again; Miriam represents the story of Moses, Miriam and Aaron leading the people out of slavery, and the stories of the prophets speaking the word of God faithfully throughout the generations; music represents the songs the people sing; at the neck is a celtic cross stitched by my sister Deb, Celtic spirituality with its embracing of the circle of life for all creation holds a special place in my heart; down the left side of the stole the story of the birth of Jesus, baptism of Jesus, death and resurrection of Jesus (the cross is painted by Matt Stuart, who was also ordained on Sunday, modelled on the cross I wore, which was one of 8 made by Linda Vinall and given to me on my 21st bi…

being part of a record

So ordaining 19 people in one year is something of a record. And I am one of them. Pretty cool.
Another one of the 19 and I were asked by the UCA SA communications team to represent the group for photos and interviews for media this week. Why they ask me is a mystery - I look terrible photographed. However, the photos and interviews appear on p. 4 of the Australian and p. 9 of the Advertiser today. The 'Tiser has a different pic online.

of anticipation, emotion, ordination

It's midnight. So it is the day I have been working towards - if indeed I have been working towards a day as opposed to a vocation or the rest of my life - for the past 6 years. Later today I will, along with four others, be ordained by the Uniting Church as a Minister of the Word. We have been anticipating this moment, apart from the 6 years of preparation and formation, for several months, once it became clear that we had all been approved by the college in our readiness for ordination, had received calls to congregational placements, and realised that it was this group of five being ordained. We have been through the process together, this group of candidates, which adds a depth of significance to the service of ordination for which we are all grateful. We are also a group all in our 30s, which is a bit unique. And we are a group that shares some similarities and also includes some differences in our approach to theology and to engaging in mission and ministry. The preparation …

finding emerging / alternative / fresh church in australia

Cheryl Lawrie has launched a wiki site onto which emerging / alternative / fresh church communities can upload their details so people in Australia looking for a different way of experiencing or doing or being church can search the directory and be linked to these communities ... what a good idea. Thanks Cheryl. Check it out here.