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Vicar's Musings for Lent 2

18 February, 2018

This year we welcome three new staff members to the St Peter's Ministry Team: Fr Andrew Lang, Fr David Peake AM and Alae Taule-alo. Over the coming weeks I have asked them to introduce themselves. First off the block is Fr David, whose main focus will be working with those experiencing homelessness and long-term unemployment.

Growing up in a home that, over the years, became a retreat for the mentally challenged, an alcoholic, an indigenous cross-dresser, some lost souls, and a dinner table for the hungry, the downcast, the young, the seekers, the holy and not so holy was, on reflection, the ideal foundation for an ordination aspirant. Being the eldest son of working class parents I soon learned that they had a 'unique' way of thinking, being and seeing their world, their community and their church. They wouldn't have used the language but they were advocates for a just society in which the dignity of all people should be recognized and those who were vulnerable, cared for. I had no idea at the time that their commitment to hospitality would become a reflection of what Fr David Conolly [the then vicar] shared with the members of Youth Action — the youth group at St James' East Thornbury, during the early 1970's.

It was a model borne from the perspective and principles of Catholic Social Teaching which included insight from the Scriptures, as well as understanding from the thinking, reflections and lived experience of people throughout the life of the Church. This tradition of Catholic Social Teaching encouraged our young people in new ways of thinking about the scriptures and about issues around Social Justice. For our group of young people, the process challenged us to look at the social justice issues as they affected our community: SEE — understand what was happening and why it was happening; JUDGE — discern/plan how to make a difference; and then ACT .... So, in 1972 there was a major intersection in Preston where a fatality had occurred; the group decided [using the See, Judge, Act model] that it would take the issue to the local council with a petition. No response. So! In response, in the early hours of one morning the group, with paint-tins, paintbrushes and a wonderful sense of 'righteous anger', painted skull and cross-bones in the middle of the intersection and a danger sign on all approaches. All newspaper editors were contacted, and photographers arrived to take pictures for the press. Enough information was provided to indicate why these concerned young people had decided to take action. Within a month sets of light where mounted, where they still remain to this day, 46 years later. This model was also used by our group as a tool to read scripture. What have we read? What is it saying to us? What do we do in response? It has always been a great tool for getting things done — especially in the social justice arena. Scriptures always demand it. What is it demanding of me/us today? Can I/we do it? I/We must! This has been a cornerstone activity for me in over 45 years of ministry.

"An authentic faith — which is never comfortable or completely personal — always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it." Pope Francis

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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