Australia’s most hipster suburbs less so for the poor

Sydney inner west suburb Camperdown has been named among Australia’s most hipster suburbs, according to an article in Domain.

I know Camperdown exceedingly well and spend time with people who are invisble to hipster wealth and ideals.

Domain refers to Wikipedia for a definition of hipster:

“[Hipsters are] broadly associated with indie and alternative music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility (including vintage and thrift store-bought clothes), generally progressive political views, organic and artisanal foods, and alternative lifestyles.”

And as a result these suburbs of hip young adults are:

According to Urbis’s Hip List, a hip suburb is at the “leading edge of cosmopolitan trends”, and offers an “unusually rich source of information on future consumer directions”.

In the middle of Camperdown’s hipsterness are a couple of buildings set aside for those who must have missed the hipster memo. Or maybe they are where hipster goes when life falls off (the wrong side of) the tracks.

I dropped in on a few on Christmas Day… home alone in small apartments where they had watched television all day or happily returned from a free Christmas lunch at Newtown.

Some will join us for our monthly Camperdown Community Breakfast at which strangely enough I’m yet to see any hipster representatives.

Not surprising that a real estate website would drool over the property values of a place like Camperdown and not include a paragraph like this:

‘Alongside the artisan cafes, boutique pubs and million dollar apartments, about 400 people live at the heart of the suburb who have never owned any property, do not sip lattes (soy or otherwise) at Deus ex Machina, may wear someone’s preloved clothing (not hipster if you have no choice) and who are variously seeking to overcome the ravages of homelessness, substance abuse, sexual abuse, unsupported mental illness, repeat incarceration, sickness and/or generational poverty. If you walk quickly with your eyes averted, you’ll barely notice.’

That wealth and poverty can coexist with so little genuine interaction is commonplace in the inner city but a tragedy none the less.

If we simply remembered the wisdom of ‘loving your neighbour’ and of ‘sharing our lives’ we might really have something to be proud of. Less hipster perhaps but more just and kind.

So if you live in Camperdown and can afford the rent or mortgage, come along to breakfast on January 4 from 8.30am at the Booler Centre, Lambert St, Camperdown. Hipsters welcome along with everyone else…

It doesn’t take a war to take a life

Anzac Day 1994, 9.15pm.

I am sitting on the side of the bed in our house in Calwell contemplating getting an early night.

The phone next to me rings. I pick it up and say hello, and hear my father’s voice.

My memory now shifts to a view of myself sitting hunched over, head in my hands, phone receiver to my ear, listening as my father tells me my sister Melissa has been found dead.

His voice is breaking, tearful, shocking and yet somehow still conveys an unshakeable sense of goodness and innocence that I cannot reconcile with the words he speaks.

There is something about her body being found, something about a dam, something about maybe it is suicide or maybe it something else. I’m not sure if he used the word murder.

From there I remember in snatches, my wife’s concern, my retelling of the conversation, her embrace.

An overwhelming desire grips me to drive right then and there to Newcastle and sort this out. Logically I know I can do nothing to change what I’ve heard. But instinctively I feel driven to protect, resolve, make good.

On days like today I still feel this restless urge, that if somehow I go and see and am present, Melissa will be ok. That’s probably why I am writing now. I’ve seen this grief response in others and at least this helps me understand.

On a day when the whole nation remembers the deaths of many, my family will, each in their own way, remember one. I’m sure we are not the only ones.

There is a murderer out there somewhere who has never been held to account. Maybe he remembers today as well. Or maybe he remembers a date a few days earlier when Melissa’s life was actually taken, before being dumped into the remote Burrenjim Dam only to be “found by a Sydney couple four-wheel driving with friends” on April 25.

I wonder who this couple is and the horror of what they saw? I wonder about the terror of Melissa’s final moments. I wonder about the police investigation and DNA reports and DPPs and cold case units, all of which seem to have vanished for us.

I wonder if my parents and Melissa’s children will ever receive justice? I wonder when we can reclaim Melissa from this act of violence. It is one thing to go on, to keep living, to eventually smile and laugh and feel again. It is another to feel the strength of justice straighten your back and lengthen your gaze.

I know that Melissa is with God because I know what faith was sown in her heart and what cry was on her lips with her last breath. I know this because of the hope within me.

But I don’t know who killed her and I want to…


Melissa, it’s not finished yet

I remember clearly standing here in the torrential rain, as we lowered your body into the ground to be buried and baptised at the same time.
The bottomless ache and overwhelming senselessness were disregarded by a deluge somehow fitting for an ill-begotten time.
We still remember, we still seek justice and I still fight murderers in my sleep. One day they will be vanquished. Until then…
Rest in His peace

Stephen Fry can’t deny the gulf between comfort and pain

As the riots began in and around London, one of the UK’s favourite sons, Stephen Fry, tweeted from the film set of The Hobbit in New Zealand:

 “If I’m honest 12,000 miles away in NZ, I’m not further from Brixton or Tottenham than when I’m at home in London. But my homeland is unhappy”.
Despite nearly 3 million followers on Twitter and having lived in England all his life presumably, Fry is acknowledging the gulf that exists between himself and the millions of disadvantaged, disaffected countrymen and women on his doorstep.
And this from a man who is apparently worldly-wise, intelligent and savvy to the point that his views (and his tweets) are highly prized.
On this occasion what is prized is his honesty. While lamenting what was happening in his country and city, he admitted that he had been removed from the reality of his lowly neighbours. He is no different to many millions of members of the comfortable classes, whether they be in Europe, North America or Australia.
My own experience in the past 10 years has been God’s determined dismantling of my own ivory tower . It was not so much that I didn’t care – I did – it was more that I just didn’t know. I couldn’t have called a poor man my friend, because I didn’t know him.
Now I could do so, by the grace of God, and many of the barriers of arrogance, ignorance and apathy have been challenged. Perhaps these riots are a wake up call to the Stephen Frys and Peter Halletts of the world that we can be far too immersed in our own comfort zones to notice generation upon generation of brokenness reaping an ugly harvest, just around the corner, let alone across the world.
Wake up now, there’s a riot a comin’…

Justin finds his voice for justice

We’ve all had a chuckle or two at the Justin Bieber phenomenon and wondered how long it would last. I even thought of buying my son a Justin Bieber t-shirt as a tongue in cheek  joke.

But listening to the radio today I noticed someone crooning about closing their eyes to pray for a better day on behalf of those doing it tough. When the song credit was for Justin Bieber, I decided to have a closer look:

I just can’t sleep tonight,
Knowing that things ain’t right.
It’s in the papers, it’s on the TV,
It’s everywhere that I go.
Children are crying, soldiers are dying,
Some people don’t have a home.

Pre Chorus:
But I know there’s sunshine behind that rain,
I know there’s good times behind that pain (hey)
Can you tell me how I can make a change?

I close my eyes, and I can see a better day,
I close my eyes and pray.
I close my eyes and I can see a better day,
I close my eyes and pray.

When someone uses their fame to ask people to consider the needs of others, questions their own role in making a difference and encourages us to take time to pray, it deserves acknowledgement.

And to highlight the benefit that flows when popular culture turns its attention to serious issues, consider these comments on the Close My Eyes and Pray page on a popular lyric website:

‘every time i hear this song i cry and it is sooo sad and true im trying to change things too…‘ and
‘i think this song is very helpful to ppl out there because the first time i heard this song i cried…there’s so many ppl out there that don’t even care about the thank you justin for making this song.WE LOVE U!!!:)’
If you still aren’t sure, check out the YouTube clip and you may become a believer. Anyway, for what’s a worth, I’m a (kind of old) fan Biebs. I’ll be praying you don’t lose your way…

For the complete lyrics, keep reading. Oh, and, find a moment to close your eyes and pray…

Enabling churches to be more inclusive

‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ Luke 14:21

Christian Blind Mission Australia has long worked with the disadvantaged across the globe but has recently fixed its gaze on an apparent injustice closer to home.

According to a CBM, disability ministry is a growing need yet only 5 per cent of Australian churches have any intentional programs to include people with disabilities.

Inspired by Jesus’ call in Luke 14, CBM Australia has developed a program of the same name that seeks to better equip churches to meet to be more inclusive of people with a disability.

Information about the launch of the program says:Luke14 is a CBM initiative aimed at equipping churches to welcome and include people with a disability. It is a process that assists churches to both reach in to improve church access and understanding, and reach out to offer support and friendship to people and families living with a disability in the community.

‘Many Australians living with disabilities aren’t a part of a caring church family, let alone involved in ministry. Luke14 seeks to help make our churches places where every person is appreciated, welcomed and encouraged to serve.’ 

CBM’s Luke14 will be launched with special guest speaker Therese Rein, wife of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, at St Anne’s Ryde Anglican Church Conference Centre on Thursday, November 25 at 9,30am and in Wollongong at Figtree Anglican Church on November 26 at 9.30am. Both launches are free. Check out the CBM website for details.

Politicians fail to deliver on asylum seeker policy

Check out some comment on the asylum seeker issue I’ve made on my other blog, Australian Christian Voter.

Christians, along with just about every other section of the community, are divided about how best to respond to the arrival of refugees by boat.

The politicians have no hope of coming up with cohesive policy because they are playing to political audiences. But Christians are often not much better, sniping at each other from behind entrenched views.

If a forum of Christians across a variety of perspectives could provide a united voice, we might actually lead the nation in a prophetic way. We need national Christian leadership to do this – it’s there I’m sure but where do we find it? PH

Stolen people, a more human Kevin and a mysterious Julia

As Kevin Rudd looked back today on his term as Prime Minister, one of his key memories, related in his speech, was the day when he said sorry to the stolen generations. Facing the assembled media, he looked up beyond them and out across the grounds of Parliament House. He raised his arm and pointed, as if he had a vision no one else could see:

‘They came in through there,’ he said with misty eyes. ‘The thing I remember… is that they were frightened… it was our job to make them welcome.’

Kevin, where has this display of humanity been? In any case, for your sake, I’m glad it’s back.

Meanwhile, the search is on for a definitive statement of Julia Gillard’s religious views. There’s not much out there and I haven’t read her biography. But I did find this from a Compass program in 2005:

Very little has been written about Prime Minister Gillard’s own religions convictions, if any, but she did have this to say on the ABC’s Compass program back in May 2005:

‘I think Labor has to learn how to connect with many of the elements of our new and growing communities. And certainly the evangelical or Pentecostal churches is one of those elements. And I don’t think we should be shy, even for those of us that value the sort of secular tradition that’s grown up within the Labor Party. I don’t think we should be shy of forging connections with those sorts of community groups.’

She was supporting Kevin Rudd’s growing connection to the churches and at least shows a recognition that this is a good thing. PH

From Hughesy to Fielding and everything in between

There’s plenty happening at Australian Christian Voter. You can watch a good collection of political videos ranging from Dave Hughes trying to keep a straight face while convincing people to register through to Senator Stephen Fielding telling his life story.

You’ll learn how Christians are lobbying hard at the seat of power and even get a chance to vote on the question: Which party/parties represent the best value for Christian voters?

A valuable resource (if I do say so…) with a federal election not far away. Check it out.

Not enough justice for juvenile justice minister

Minister for Juvenile Justice Graham West was shocked when Father Chris Riley from Youth of the Streets rang him this week.

Together they had worked successfully towards an innovative plan to build four bail houses to keep young offenders out of detention while they await trial.

Mr West had fought hard to get agreement from his government colleagues for the houses, as part of his over-arching desire to assist the disadvantaged. But something was wrong, very wrong.

The Department of Commerce had dumped the project without informing the minister and it was only when Father Riley rang that he heard the news.

‘He had believed he had won the fight in terms of funding and he was shocked when I called him and said he knew nothing about it,’ Father Riley told the Sydney Morning Herald.

So distressed was Mr West that he rang Premier Christina Keneally and resigned, later saying he had been thinking about the decision for some time.

Father Riley said he would reconsider on the weekend his position on the Premier’s Homelessness Advisory Council because of Labor’s treatment of Mr West.

‘I’ve been fighting juvenile justice ministers and the law and order agenda for 20 years and finally in Graham we had a minister with real vision,” he said.

”I wonder where this government is going when it stamps on people such as Graham, who is a good man who got it right.”

Mr West, a devout Catholic, entered politics out of a desire to pursue social justice – let’s hope he gets another opportunity to pursue this agenda.

Eternity Christian Church Campbelltown is working tirelessly in NSW juvenile justice centres and no doubt will be sad to Mr West go. He visited and commended they’re homework centre ar Reiby juvenile justice centre. PH

No surprise that churches asked to house asylum seekers

While trendy inner city secularism ardently tries to remove any trace of Christianity from Australian social fabric, it is no surprise that the government has turned to the church to house asylum seekers due to overcrowding.

With facilities at Christmas Island overflowing, Department of Immigration officials have been quietly calling churches to ask if they have facilities to house up to 100 children and families.

It highlights the uniqueness of the Christian Church: a grassroots organisation with branches in virtually every community in the nation consisting of local people of diverse backgrounds who are motivated by common bonds of love and compassion.

Guided by Christ’s parables such as The Good Samaritan and the sacrificial example of the Cross, Christians have throughout history stood out because of their willingness to offer aid to the poor and homeless and even their enemies.

While using the issue to criticise the government, Opposition Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, could only speak charitably of the churches:

‘ I have no doubt that Christian churches will respond generously, which is their nature,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. Read the full story here.

Maybe this is one more reason why trying to force out the teaching of Scripture in schools is wrong. It denies the real place of Christian values in our community. PH

God help us: Bali Nine pray

Having sat on the floor in the steamy visiting room of Kerobokan Prison with Andrew Chan and others of the Bali 9, any news of their faith and well-being holds a special interest. While the media rarely comprehends their faith, or the nature of their ordeal, today’ s report in the Sydney Morning Herald gives some insight.

Christians in Bali (including workers from our own church) work hard to support the Bali 9 and Schapelle Corby. Please continue to pray for them. Check out today’s report: God help us: Bali Nine pray.

Unforgiveness allows wrongdoer to rent a room in our head

If anyone in Australia has learned something about the giving and receiving of forgiveness, it is Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton.

Lindy was convicted in 1982 of killing her baby daughter Azariah while camping at Uluru in 1980 before being finally exonerated six years later. In that time, Lindy was judged wrongly not only by many in the police and court system, but by at least half of our nation, which was divided over the subject of her guilt or innocence.

Yesterday, Lindy, along with her second husband, Rick Creighton, was a guest speaker at St Ives Baptist Church as part of that church’s innovative Spirited Australians program. Forgiveness was a key theme.

Her visit attracted media attention, partly because Lindy Chamberlain will always be, to some degree, public property in Australia and partly because of revelations made during the talk.

Rick Creighton spoke of a young woman who was so convinced that Lindy had killed her baby, and so outraged, that she got herself convicted of a minor offence to get into the same Northern Territory jail where Lindy was serving a sentence for murder.Read More »

Faith can be born in, and survive, a shipwreck

With critics claiming the Pope’s reputation has been shipwrecked by his inaction over the clerical abuse of children, His Holiness visited Malta last weekend to commemorate the 1950th anniversary of the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck near the island, an event recorded in the book of Acts.

Interestingly, the two issues came together on Malta when the Pope met with eight Maltese men, victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

Conversion of Paul as depicted Caravaggio

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Pope Benedict promised them with tears in his eyes that the Catholic Church would seek justice for paedophile priests and implement ‘effective measures’ to protect young people from abuse.

Benedict expressed his ‘shame and sorrow’ at the pain the men and their families suffered and prayed with them during the meeting at the Vatican’s embassy in Malta.
One of the men described the meeting as ‘fantastic’. ‘Everyone was crying,’ he said. It is the first time Benedict has met with abuse victims since the worldwide clerical abuse scandal engulfed the Vatican earlier this year.

While this meeting had not been foreshadowed by the Pope, he gave three other powerfully relevant reasons for his visit to Malta.

Read More »

Wellbeing snapshot shows huge divide

Imagine you were asked to rate your current life between zero and 10 and your life in five years time? As you chose a number to describe your sense of wellbeing now and prospects for the future, would you be thinking of how you are feeling today (not enough sleep last night… stressful meeting at work today…) or rather the underlying factors (good health, housing, employment, stable government, personal freedom). How might your faith affect your view?

Social researchers at Gallup have collated a global snapshot of wellbeing using data collected in 155 countries or areas since 2005. Gallup classifies respondents as ‘thriving,’ ‘struggling,’ or ‘suffering,’ according to how they rate their lives based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale:

Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? (ladder-present) On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now? (ladder-future)

According to separate research, people tend to answer these questions from the perspective of life evaluation (judgements of life) rather than daily affect (feelings). It is called a self-anchoring scale because it allows people to interpret their wellbeing from their own perspective rather than external measures such as how much money they earn, levels of education or political conditions.

In other words, if the research is to be believed, people across the globe are saying, ‘this is how I feel about my life’ not on the basis of  ‘I have a headache today’ but on the basis of ‘I feel my life looks like this’. A poor person in Africa might actually feel very happy in the midst of their poverty but when stepping back and assessing their prospects, they realise they are up against it and so report low ladder scores. A rich person in Denmark might be feeling gloomy in the midst of their wealth but when stepping back to view their life, realise they have plenty to feel confident about.

So what were the results of Gallup’s global wellbeing research? It reveals a vast divide that underscores the diversity of economic development challenges around the world.

Read More »

55 Days of Faith and Action

I’m putting together a devotional book based on a daily email I did in 2006 covering every verse of the book of James. This was a pivotal time for our community as we rediscovered God’s love for the lost and the least. Hopefully early copies of the book will be available by early March when we at Eternity run a conference called ChangeMakers.

James in the New Testament is often regarded as a tough book as it gives little in the way of ‘nice’ promises and plenty in the way of straight down the line challenge.

Beneath the surface though is a simple call to reject the cult of celebrity and greed that can ensnare our thinking and live a life of gentle respect for the poor, the rich and one another.

If you are interested in 55 Days of Faith and Action leave a comment or email me.

Here’s a snippet I came across while editing today:Read More »