Life at the Centre

I have often been asked to explain how multifaith chaplaincy is possible, given that chaplaincy is a Christian tradition and has always been individualistic. I came up with this diagram, mindmapping with a Student Counsellor in a Sydney University as we were thinking about what a university might want (“spirituality”) and what religious bodies usually provide (“religion”). Spirituality is the centre of a Multifaith (or multi-religious) Chaplaincy.

Thanks to Greg Elsdon at St Paul’s City Ministry, for this quote which I think goes to the heart of what I think multifaith chaplaincy is about.

Spirituality is that attitude which puts life at the center, and defends and promotes life against all the mechanisms of death, desiccation, or stagnation. The opposite of spirit, in this sense, is not the body but death and everything associated with the system of death, understood in the widest sense of biological, social, and existential death (failure, humiliation, and oppression). Nourishing spirituality means cultivating the inward space, the basis on which all things can be brought together. It means overwhelming deadness and stagnation and living reality in terms of values, inspiration, and symbols of higher meaning. The spiritual person is one who is always in a position to see the other side of reality, and who is always capable of perceiving that profundity by which we are referred to the Ultimate Reality that religions call God.

Spirituality does not start from power, or from the accumulative instinct, or from instrumental reason. It relies on the movements of sacramental and symbolic reason, on the gratuitousness of the world, on relationships, on deep stirrings within, on the sense of communion that all things possess, and on a vision of the vast cosmic organism, shot through and permeated with signs and allusions to a higher and fuller reality.”

[Leonardo Boff]

I spent Monday afternoon with Aboriginal people gathered at Tandanya giving voice to their response to the 2008 theme celebrating 60 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights –DIGNITY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Understandably, the pain was palpable… the smell of Boff’s ‘death’- “failure, humiliation, and oppression”. Yet “spirit” was there too – a yearning for healing, for recognition, for “dignity and justice for all”.

The federal election result has opened up rooms that have been shut up for a decade. As one of my colleagues remarked: “I didn’t realise how much people were feeling oppressed until after the election … they are telling me things they’ve never said before!” Doors opened giving life to a million hopes. Dare we believe that life might be different under Rudd? or are our hopes misplaced?

There was qualified hope at Tandanya. “Let’s wait and see what happens…we’ve had words before”.

We come to the Christmas season again, the year having raced by. We are confronted again with the angelic message “Peace on Earth…” (at a time when there are more wars than ever!).

This might be my Christmas wish to you:

Thanks for reading my “news” during 2007 and for the many expressions of support you have given me.

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