L.A. – final day in the United States – January 15, 2011

As those in Brisbane, Ipswich and other areas in Queensland begin the clean-up, we continue to remember those who have died, and those who mourn their loss. We also continue to remember those in Victoria, Australia and in Brazil who face flooding and mudslides.

The Beatrice Robinson Scholarship trip is coming to an end.  We are on our final day in L.A. and in the United States; our bags are packed and shortly we are to checkout of our hotel.

The last couple of days we have been blessed to visit two Episcopal churches here in LA: St Mike’s http://www.stmikessc.org/ and Holy Nativity http://www.holynativityparish.org/.

Thanks to Betsy who met us at St Mike’s and took us to the roof to see the solar panel installation.  About one third of their energy is now produced by these panels.  Perhaps the most exciting thing is that this project has facilitated links to other organisations, particularly MEND http://www.mendpoverty.org.  St Mike’s are now making other solar installations possible.

Holy Nativity are equally amazing and quite diverse.  They have set-up a substantial church garden which produces fruit and vegetables for disadvantaged people in the area.  They also participate in a “home harvesting” program which allows otherwise wasted fruit from backyard fruit trees to be donated to the local food bank.

Both parishes have taken their environmental projects and branched out, having separate websites for their unique outreach projects, demonstrating that environmental and sustainability projects IN THEMSELVES create mission and social outreach.  See http://www.stmikessolar.org/ and http://www.envirochangemakers.org/

This will be my last post about my trip so it is fitting that I extend my thanks to all those who have made it possible.  First to the family of Beatrice Robinson who make the scholarship possible, and to Tom Frame the Director of St Mark’s.

My dearest thanks to my wife, Julia.  She has been patient with me for the six weeks of our trip as we have travelled around and visited so much.  Thank you for your love and enthusiasm for God’s work and mission.  It inspires me to continue to be open and hopeful.

Thank you also to all those who have welcomed me on this trip, church leaders and community groups.  Members of Cathedrals and parish churches, gardens and farms.  You have made our learning possible and facilitated an amazing amount of fresh growth within us.

Thank you also for all who have read this blog, my family and friends back home, but also those who have joined me on the way.  Thank you for your prayer and support and for looking after us before and after our trip overseas.

We arrive back in Australia, landing in Sydney at 6:05am on Monday and then back to Canberra shortly after this.  We move to Young, NSW later in the week to prepare for our new work and ministry.

All Glory to God, the Creator and Origin of all things, and the very life of our souls.


D.C. – day 9 – Jan 11

As most of you will know, as I write my home town of Brisbane is facing the worst flood that they have ever experienced:

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1464192/Ten-die-in-Qld-floods,-78-missing

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/gallery-e6frg6n6-1225985715964?page=12

Please pray for all those in Brisbane preparing for the floods, for calm and for safety; pray for those throughout Queensland who have loved ones missing or for those have lost those they love.

Australia faces flooding and the United States is receiving the worst snow storms and coldest weather on record – simply a fluke of nature, or evidence of climate change?  Now more than ever the responsibility of humankind to act is evident.  We must act as one in order to make a difference to this beautiful and God-given world.

Despite catching a minor cold and needing more rest over the last five days or so, Julia and I have managed to get and out see a number of different people and organisations.  Evensong at the National Cathedral http://www.nationalcathedral.org/ with the choir of men and boys last Thursday was absolutely beautiful.  Also visited, the National Aquarium http://www.nationalaquarium.org/ and the White House Visitors Centre.

During our visit here, we have had the opportunity to take part in two Jewish events.  The first, Tikkun Leil Shabbat http://tikkunleilshabbat.blogspot.com/ , is a beautiful progressive liberal service with music and singing in a circle.  This lay-led movement includes a social justice talk within it and a vegetarian pot-luck dinner at the conclusion of the service.

The second service I attended last night.   A Taste of Tu b’Shevat was run by the “Kayamut/Sustainability Circle” held in Silver Spring Jewish Centre http://ssjc.info/.  This was a “preview” of the “festival of the trees” which has become an environmental event within the Jewish tradition.  This event featured a meal-type service held at a table which uses a number of fruits accompanied by blessings.  It is a way of meditating on the sources of our food and of giving thanks to God for the blessings which come from our food.  It was an eye-opening reminder of how we need to appreciate the food on our tables and how it has come to be there.

Tomorrow we head back to Los Angeles, stopping briefly in Denver, Colorado.  We’ll be in L.A. for three days before heading back home on Saturday U.S. time.  Love and peace to all back home.  Chris and Julia.

 


D.C. – day 6 – January 8

It’s a strange feeling, travelling in a country in which yet another of its elected members is wounded by gunfire… not to mention nine who have been killed and another 19 who have been wounded…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/08/arizona-shooting-gabrielle-giffords-politics?CMP=twt_fd

It’s something that you expect in a county marked by political upheaval or military occupation.  Here in the United States you don’t expect that do you?

Or maybe you do, maybe you may come to expect it from a country which is seemingly unable reconcile a historical constitutional amendment (the “right” to bear arms) to the cold and present realities of death.

Maybe you do, in a country in which people seem to prefer to take video or pictures of people being bashed or even stabbed rather than stop and help and call the police.

But this is not just this country as we know, Australia does not need to go back far in its history to examine the brutality inflicted by firearms – Port Arthur being one example.   Australia, despite the restrictive firearms laws, still seems to be in the danger of fanatics and extremists.  They may not have the access to legal firearms which is available here in the U.S., however the underlying philosophy of extremism (and apathy for that matter) seems to be growing.

As we know, God in Jesus Christ provides the ultimate answer to all violence and evil in the redemptive and victorious work of the cross and resurrection.  However, how does this work out in a practical way in the midst of death like we have seen today?  How does God provide the answer to people who are already caught up in a web of anger and hatred (or other conditions such as mental illness)?

This is an age old question, of course.  I know personally of the transformational love of Christ, which has re-made me, and who continues to do so, affirming and loving me into a new and better person.  I know that this transformational power must be shared with the world in the midst of this violence; but how?

In a time of unanswered questions, the only answer I can find currently is to return again and again to this God in Christ for new answers, new revelation, new hope, healing and resurrection amidst violence and pain.  May God reveal to us through the Holy Spirit, how to respond to the ongoing violence which continues to infect this world.  CG

D.C. – day 3 – Jan 5

It was a green day today with meetings with interfaith and Episcopal environmental activities.

This morning I met with Joelle from the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light http://www.gwipl.org/. Joelle, a passionate Jewish vegetarian holds the fort by herself at this organisation in Washington.  Taking in D.C., parts of Virginia and Maryland, there is a lot of ground to be covered.  Providing links to other community groups and faith organisations and providing information and inspiration to parish and faith communities, The GWIPL is a great resource in this region.  I’ve been invited to Tikkun Leil Shabbat this Friday, and I am looking forward to participating in the Jewish worship and hospitality.

Joelle put me onto St Alban’s Episcopal parish here in D.C. http://www.st-albans-parish.org/.  St Alban’s stand, literally in the shadow of the Washington National Cathedral, but due to their environmental and mission outreach programs they make sure they are not overshadowed.  In a partnership with a private environmental start-up, St Alban’s have put a substantial solar panel system on the roof of one of their buildings.  Today I met with their Assistant Rector, Jered who graciously gave his time to give me a tour of the panels and to chat all things youth-mission-environment.

All the very best to all those back home.  Love from us both.

Washington, D.C. – day 2 – Jan 4

We’ve caught the Amtrak to Washington D.C. from New York and have begun to explore the other Nation’s Capital.

It was an overwhelming day – Julia and I took a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  http://www.ushmm.org/ It is very well presented and displayed.  I was overcome with a sense of grief that I have never felt before; a sadness at the futility of the events that led to and comprised the Holocaust.  Particularly confronting was walking into one of the train carriages that was used to transport many to their death.  As I walked in I felt a cold shiver down my spine like I have never experienced;  a mourning like no other.  And then it continued – clothes, luggage and personal items from the victims such as hair brushes… and the shoes, the shoes, the shoes… the stench of old leather in the air…  Julia and I confess that we began to feel ill and we didn’t make it through the whole display.  Just too much pain to see in one day…

For all victims of violence, past and present, may God unite them in the final victory over death and evil.  May God have mercy on us all.

New York City day 10 – Jan 2, 2011

Our last day in New York City — wow — it has gone so quickly!  Thanks in particular to Susan our wonderful host at our apartment, and to Father Berto of the Church of the Intercession for his hospitality.

I again attended the Church of the Intercession for 10am Mass and was given an opportunity to introduce myself and speak about some of my scholarship goals and interests.  This led to a number of interesting chats afterwards; people seeking more information as to how they were able to contribute to a more sustainable way of living as church.

The New “green” Monastery built by the Community of the Holy Spirit was fantastic today and gave a really good insight into how re-thinking of theology can lead to a practical re-thinking of buildings and way of living in a monastic setting.  The building included many energy saving ideas such as solar and natural lighting and was built using recycled, sustainably produced and/or local products.

Packing to be done, so must be brief tonight.  We head to D.C. on the Amtrak tomorrow morning.  May God’s peace be with you all.  Love from Chris and Julia.

New York day 7 – Dec 30

New York City continues to treat Julia and I well and has proved an awarding, joyous and eclectic experience so far.  I am beginning to learn a little of why people describe this as such a unique city and finding myself liking it more than I expected, despite the busyness and frantic pace.

The “Christmas Blizzard of 2010” has dominated the headlines here (and has made news around the world we believe). Up to 4 feet of snow fell in some parts of the five boroughs.  On the whole we have been very lucky, with our transportation not hindered, but we did have a time of about 24 hours where we had to stay home and bunker down.  Thank goodness for central heating.  Unfortunately many others have not been so lucky with so many airlines, subways and buses delayed fro many delays.

Today I met with the Revd Fletcher Harper, the head of the organisation GreenFaith http://greenfaith.org/. GreenFaith works with seminaries, church leaders and parishes in “mobilising” people, encouraging and teaching them about environmental matters and preparing them for “environmental leadership”. The discussion and connections coming from this meeting will be an excellent contribution to my ongoing “environmental discoveries”… although my head is feeling full!

We’ve had some time off here which has been lovely, and we’ve had fun exploring tourist items such as the Rockefeller Centre, Times Square and the New York Public Library as well as some Seinfeld, Sex and the City and Ghostbusters tourist sites.

The Library visit included a visit to the “Three Faiths” exhibit: http://exhibitions.nypl.org/threefaiths/ an amazing collection of rare copies of the Koran together with Christian and Hebrew Bibles, as well as prayer books, commentaries etc. spanning back to the 7th century (all part of the permanent collection of the library!)

We’ve attempted to take in a Broadway show, but prices and availability at this busy holiday period haven’t made it possible.  We continue to explore the lovely food and markets that the city has to offer.

It’s Julia’s 27th birthday tomorrow (as well as New Years Eve of course!) so we’re taking in an event at the Empire State Building tomorrow in which we’re hoping to meet some of the more younger members of NYC.  On New Years Day we have been invited to a buffet in a lovely historic house on New York’s Staten Island, taking us past the statue of liberty.  We also plan to visit the World Trade Centre site http://www.national911memorial.org/site/PageServer?pagename=New_Home and the Museum of Jewish Heritage http://www.mjhnyc.org/

Thanks to all our family and friends for your ongoing and prayerful support.

Praise and blessing to to the Trinity that empowers and transforms all things, making all things possible.