Sunday, November 1, 2009

Triple crown

A big part of being a brother is just being around. Sometimes it feels like nothing happens, then I find myself in a stretch when it seems every day has a major event. Last week turned out to be a big one, with three big events.

The first event was the consecration of the Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane.It was a fairly traditional affair with miters and copes everywhere, but featured some fabulous aspects that were reward enough for "showing the flag" as some of us call it--turning up at large church events partly as a reminder to the larger church that we Franciscans exist! These highlights were occasioned by the participation of the aboriginal people. First was the welcome by Uncle Des Sandy of the Yuggera nation. He was marvelously colloquial and low key in the midst of all that Anglican splendor. The different aboriginal sense of things was again celebrated by the lovely, haunting didgeridoo music played by Adrian Burragubba of the Wangan nation, with his cheeks distended, eyes roaming over the congregation, taking it all in. The music seemed to go on and on, and I found myself thinking of the little bit I know and understand about Aboriginal "songlines" and "dreaming." (Actually I only know that these are categories in Aboriginal thought and spirituality! I read a novel once called Songlines...) The music was compelling and a blessed part of the rich musical offerings. At the Gospel procession a beautiful woman from the Torres Straits entered, surrounded by a seeming honor guard of young men brandishing bow and arrows, all wearing grass skirts and flowers and feathers. They were joined by a throng of others who came out of their pews with guitars, singing a hymn. We were indeed in Australia! God bless the Cathedral and all who pray in it.

The next night, Friday, we joined the Kerala community in welcoming the Church of Mar Thoma Archbishop from south India. "kerala" we learned means "God's country!" Many Keralians worship at the brothers' parish in Annerley, Brisbane, so it was a natural thing to have the initial event of his first arch-episcopal visit at St. Philips. After his talk with the congregation, everybody was invited to come forward for a blessing, which he gave us on the nose: bopping every one gently with a silver cross. Blessed and braced to bear witness to the Gospel in Australia without forgetting where we come from, we adjourned to the brothers back garden where a huge pot of curry was waiting. The food was ladled over wonder bread...I wonder if that is traditional Keral cuisine or a diaspora innovation? I was pulled from the curry line to sit at a table with the other brothers and the Archbishop. We ate the curry on rice, with many other delectable dishes, goodness knows what they were!

Saturday we celebrated Br. Nathan James Life Profession. I was active behind the scenes: I mowed the grass around the church and swept the parish hall. Liturgically it was an ANZ event. And the friars pulled out all the stops: a bagpiper piped the procession in, Solomon Islanders walked Nathan forward to the Bishop Protector, Roger Herft, Archbishop of Perth; there was a stringed quartet, organ music, acolytes imported from two Anglican schools where Nathan has been active. His family was there and many, many friends of his and longtime friends of SSF. I got to put names and faces together. I found myself remembering my Life Profession and all the water that has gone under the bridge since then...some of it a bit muddy. But I am so glad I took the plunge! Nathan looked a bit dazed after he said (loud and clear) "I, brother Nathan-James do hereby dedicate myself for my whole life..." But he left the fainting to one poor soul in the back of the church who dropped during the sermon. All in all one couldn't ask for more: a terrific day! Pictured: Br. Daniel (MC for the Profession service) putting the Archbishop and sub deacon through a quick rehearsal.

All Saints Day I observed my second anniversary in this job. So I made time to tot up all my air miles (in preparation for the Nov. 17 Central Fund trustees meeting when I will submit the miles to the trustees). They have agreed to pay one British pound per thousand miles to off set my carbon foot print. 155 pounds (!!!) will be divided between two projects: one, in Cameroon where the small Brotherhood of St. Michael community there is trying to plant trees to help rehabilitate the water table in order to provide water for their new monastery and three neighboring villages as well which currenty have no water. The other project is in the Solomon Islands where the SSF brothers have been involved in reforesting the friary property and using their ecological efforts as an educational tool to teach the neighboring villagers about how to care for the environment.

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