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Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 29

19 October, 2014

This week's Musings are the third and final in a series entitled: "spiritual graffiti."

It is sometimes hard to stay buoyant. We are buffeted by the storms of illness, accident, disappointment, failure, criticism, gossip or just the relentless everyday pressure of everyday life. Even church life can dampen our spirits or disappoint, as we bump up against people we find it hard to get on with, or confront issues that divide us. All of us feel depressed at times, and for some it is a "black dog" that hounds us relentlessly. Based on a substantial body of research the World Health Organisation predicts that unipolar depressive disorders will top the global burden of disease table by 2030. Life is a struggle.

Our faith as Christians is profoundly hopeful, however, and contains the seeds wellbeing and human flourishing. But many people of faith still struggle with depression, and church life can at times be as stormy as that of any other organisation. As well as drinking deeply of the healing waters of liturgy, prayer, the Bible and theology, it is good for church people to draw from the healing professions. In his charge to the Diocesan Synod this week, Archbishop Philip said: "Professor Martin Seligman is one of the leaders in the wellbeing movement, the field of positive psychology, which is impacting on the western world ... I believe it is time for the diocese to explore how we might learn from positive psychology and other disciplines ... the most important part of my role is to enable and empower you in the parishes and agencies to carry out the mission entrusted to us all."

One of the tools of positive psychology is "savouring"; awareness exercises that enable us to harness positive emotions and life-giving moments. Photography is one very simple method of savouring. Holiday photos lift our spirits months after the time has passed. I do enjoy Susan Southall's photo journal that she shares on Facebook, savouring a beautiful streetscape, special occasions, friendships or a humourous moment. For the past three weeks through my musings, I have been sharing "spiritual graffiti" encountered on my Monday bike rides with my wife. One of my favourites is on a pathway alongside Merri Creek. It almost smiles its message to the passers-by: "Love Life." Savouring is essentially a practical outworking of Philippians 4:8: "Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

Illustration for Ordinary Sunday 29 Musings

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