News from Manna Gum
Since the last edition of Manna Matters there has been a frenetic amount of activity, with trips to Cambodia, Queensland, South Australia and Canberra, speaking at conferences, writing, advocacy and lobbying, and a bunch of other stuff! It is now a year since we sent out our first public communication and nine months since we moved into full operation, and we have probably bitten off more than we can chew. This was entirely predictable, and it has meant needing to let some expectations of ourselves slide (such as not getting this edition of Manna Matters out a month or two sooner) as we work our way through the backlog of things that need to be done.
In July and August we were very blessed to have five weeks working from Townsville (from whence we hale) in North Queensland (thankyou to the Aitkenvale Uniting Church for giving us an office to work from). This was a very timely opportunity to allow us to work at a slower pace. It also allowed us to reconnect with the landscape that is, in many ways, our spiritual home. As well as being places of stunning physical beauty, Magnetic Island and the waterholes around Townsville are also the sites of many of the key points of early spiritual formation for both of us, which took place in what from outward appearances seemed to be rather anarchic youth camps. In a way these places have become sacred sites for us, and the spiritual nourishing that they provide reminds us that our dislocation from the land is part of our dislocation from God.
Upon returning to Melbourne (after a detour via Adelaide), we resolved that we needed to institute a better work/life/God balance. It is ironic, but true, that one of the temptations of attaching the word 'ministry' to your work is to become too busy to seek God. Lately I have been reading John's Gospel and Jesus directly addresses this tendency: 'Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me' (15:4). I once heard of a book called Too Busy Not to Pray - I never got to read it, but the title is a reminder of one of those truths that somehow or other we have to learn. As the words of John's Gospel slowly filter through me I am discovering yet again that these really are the words that bring life. The challenge as always, for all of us, is can we let God be the God of all of our life?
Save the Mekong Campaign
In July Jonathan travelled once again to Sambor District in central Cambodia, the site of one of the proposed dams on the mainstream of the Mekong River. He was accompanied by Glenn Daniels, a friend and professional photographer, who has volunteered his services to the Save the Mekong Campaign. Our main work was documenting people's way of life in interviews and pictures for the purpose of producing some materials to assist in the struggle against the dam which threatens their livelihoods. We are currently working on a few products from this trip: a publication, a photo exhibition in Feb 2010 (Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne), and a short video documentary for web use (if Jonathan's video footage cuts the mustard). Some of Glenn's fantastic pics can be seen in this Manna Matters.
If you haven't signed the petition, it is still going at:
www.savethemekong.org Now 23,000 strong!
Since last Manna Matters we have done quite a lot of speaking:
Brisbane (late June): Jonathan talked to Brisbane TEAR groups about the Household Covenant, and to the Waiter's Union Community Orientation Course about the church as an alternative economy.
Townsville (July/August): Kim ran an ethical shopping tour for combined Uniting Churches, and Jonathan gave Save the Mekong presentations to Amnesty International groups in Townsville and on Magnetic Island (which was a real hardship).
Adelaide (August): Jonathan gave a lecture on property and wealth in the Bible at Tabor South Australia; Kim and Jonathan both spent a great day heavily involved in the TEAR SA and Interserve annual gathering. The day was called 'Fairer Homes & Gardens' and was structured around the seven elements of the Household Covenant. Jonathan talked about the Biblical call to a new way of living, and gave workshops on savings & investment, and Kim ran ethical shopping tours. It was a bold venture by TEAR and Interserve, but it seemed to strike a chord.
Victoria (October): we had a big weekend at the TEAR VIC annual gathering, following the theme 'All things in common' from Acts chapter 2. Kim and Jonathan, along with Nick and Janet Ray from the Ethical Consumer Group, coordinated one of the elective streams, 'Living Well', where we covered issues such as the church as an alternative economic community, frameworks for living by God's economy, ethical consumption, promoting fair trade in the community and connecting faith and environment. The amount of questions and discussion that this stimulated over the weekend is an illustration that these are ideas whose time is becoming ripe. Jonathan finished the month giving a lecture on mission in the Book of Revelation at Whitley College. Hopefully didn't scare the pants off them. No more engagements until 2010. Phew!
Gellibrand Climate Change Petition
Manna Gum has been coordinating an initiative in our local electorate (Gellibrand, in inner-western Melbourne) to get churches of all denominations to sign a petition expressing concern about the need for the Australian Government to have a stronger position on climate change. The petition will be delivered to Nicola Roxon, our Federal MP, in early November. Cathy Cook (for Manna Gum) and Greg Gow (for Footscray Church of Christ) have done the bulk of the work around this and they have done a great job in furthering an ecumenical spirit.
In late August Jonathan attended a roundtable in Canberra, to discuss the delivery of Australian aid through international financial institutions (such as the World Bank). This is part of an ongoing Manna Gum project that is trying to assess how much aid we give through these institutions and how that affects the poor.
In October we had our first Annual General Meeting, attended by our Management Committee and a number of other friends. We appreciated the supportive discussion that took place, especially around issues such as manageable workloads and financial viability.