Unity in Diversity – picking up threads in the tapestry of life

Welcome to our website!

Imagine if you will, a huge and beautiful tapestry

which, when viewed from a distance tells a story, evokes wonder, displays truth; each figure or symbol in the tapestry, each detail and even the background is an essential part of the whole.

Close up, it is impossible to see the whole, yet within each tiny section of the whole the craftsman's art is evident; each detail is itself a complex of thread, stitches and knots.

 

You are invited to join an exploration of the very nature of the fabric, the themes and motifs, the stitches in all their intricacies, and the thread which gives of itself to create such beauty.

 

The background:

 Two people met via the internet, through a discussion about Canon 1024, (the bit of Roman Catholic law which states that only males may be ordained). They started a correspondence "off-list" - later, a third joined the conversation.

Since then, these three have held many conversations about many things. They have begun to see how each topic, each question or issue fits into something much bigger; something too big to ever be fully seen or comprehended.

And so, the metaphor of tapestry emerged.

 

the explorers:

Three people –

one man and two women,

one biologist and two priests,

one Anglican and two Roman Catholics –

each the "odd one out" yet each part of the whole.

Dr Roberta Meehan: Ph.D. Educator and author – biological sciences USA

Prof Hoan Ribera: Professor of Philosophical Anthropology, Sophia University, Japan

Archdeacon Ruth Mills: Chaplain, archdeacon, & tour coordinator.

 

These three have embarked on their own exploration of the tapestry of life. As they examine each individual thread, they find a better understanding of the whole. Of course, they don't always agree – they each come from a different place, a different culture, a different perspective.

They invite you to join them in this adventure.

 

The exploration – the beginnings:

Even before their conversations began, Roberta, Hoan & Ruth had been exploring the tapestry of life – each in their own way, each bringing with them past discoveries and questions still unanswered.

As they conversed and planned the next step, a book evolved:

 

in "Threads and Steps of Life" some of their earlier explorations and individual discoveries are recorded.

The book was published in July 2001 and is available from Ruth email for details: HREF="mailto:rmills@interact.net.au">< 

 

The exploration begun:

In August 2001, Hoan & Roberta visited Australia. With Ruth as tour guide and "interpreter" they visited Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne, as well as the NSW rural cities of Goulburn & Wagga Wagga, seeking to engage others in their on-going conversation.

This was not a lecture tour, but more like an on-going conversation. Seminar and workshop formats were used in order to facilitate participation by those who attended.

Recognising that everybody has questions about the meaning of life, our "adventurers" did not offer final answers – just temporary "resting places" in the exploration. Their hope is that many discoveries will follow.

Tour Journal

 

The first scheduled event was that evening in Canberra when a group of chaplains and like-minded folk met in St Luke’s Anglican Church, Deakin for Eucharist, conversation and a meal.

The Eucharist was celebrated by Ruth,

Roberta lectored and Hoan offered a reflection on Matthew 13:54-58.

 

Back at "base" in Goulburn where Ruth lives, there were other duties to perform as Hoan made himself at home at St Joseph’s House of Prayer. (sjhop@tpgi.com.au)

 

Then on to Brisbane where the travellers relaxed a little

but then it was time to start the "real" conversation

Sunday 5th August Personhood, Interbeing and Solidarity:
An exploration of who we are in God's image, and who we are with each other's differences, disabilities and likenesses.

 Monday 6th August - In WHOSE image? Spirituality, Gender & Perfection. 

Tuesday 7th August - Ethics and Life: An inquiry into what makes our human life "human" and a discussion about the rights and responsibilities surrounding the essence of this humanness.

 Hosted by the Douglas Foundation which is headed by Tim Keating ("Tim in Oz" on the Canon 1024 list) the three events provided a great start to the tour proper.

A conglomerate report (mainly from Tim) reads:

The events began on Sunday afternoon with a three hour "conversation" conducted in conjunction with the Disability Connections group. The event opened with one of the mildly intellectually disabled lads, Harry, singing his signature song "I am what I am". He was in great voice and form.

The conversation was very good, covering the topic of "Personhood, Interbeing and Solidarity." Roberta led off with an enquiry into the nature of personhood. It was a challenging and engaging presentation and set the tone for the session. There was a brief opportunity for Hoan and Ruth to question Roberta, and then time for the audience of about 50 or so to talk among themselves.

Hoan then addressed the question of Interbeing – drawing on a book of the same name by a French based Vietnamese Buddhist monk. It was a profound talk, but Hoan gave free rein to his wit and wisdom. Again there was time for response from the others and then general talk.

Then it was Ruth’s turn, and she eschewed the academic to speak from life – her solidarity with the profoundly disabled, some snippets from her incredible life journey, views honed from a lifetime of care.

We then had a general question and answer session and the audience were fully involved in the frank and free exchange of views.

A mini-Canon 1024 meeting

The Monday evening session covered the topics of "Spirituality, Gender and Perfection". It was a very difficult session. We, and I in particular, had been devastated by the news that our singer on Sunday, Harry, had been found dead on the floor of his room on Monday morning. The Coroner suggests he suffered a seizure in his sleep and suffocated in his blankets as he rolled out of bed. He was a leader in a large group of people with intellectual disability and there was the task of finding and telling his friends of the news in safe conditions etc.

Hoan began on the question of Spirituality and opened the audience to the Zen notion of always living in the present. Spirituality was "being there", living with the present. I deeply appreciated his words.

Roberta then began unpacking the topic of sex, gender and orientation, and asking the difficult questions which she has many times broached on this list and others.

Ruth pointed out that "perfection" is relative and subject to value judgements and context. She sees "perfection in our imperfection" as "that of God within us" yearning to meet God – the ultimate and absolute Perfection.

Again there was opportunity for response and interaction, but the atmosphere lacked the sparkle of Sunday afternoon and we were a subdued bunch going home.

On Tuesday evening there were some very good minds present in the smaller audience. The topic was Life and Ethics and after some interesting opening comments from Ruth, Roberta broached the questions of what is life, and what makes life human. Hoan and Ruth asked good questions and the group small group discussion was animated.

Hoan then sought to situate ethics as the life lived in the awareness of the present, in the reality of people and events. Again it was mind stretching stuff.

The open discussion that evening was illuminated by a depth of thought and an eloquence from members of the audience that was very good. I closed the session at the appointed time, but none left and the conversation continued in knots and wider groups. The hunger for facing issues on a profound level among those present was obvious.

 

Then back to Canberra for a full day seminar/workshop

at St Mark’s National Theological Centre, Barton on Friday 10th August

 

In whose image? – spirituality, gender & perfection

Numbers were small, but with more time than in Brisbane, the three "explorers" were able to offer more detail and depth – certainly the level of interaction indicated that those present were keen to be part of the on-going conversation.

All agreed the day was well worth while – many commented that they had discovered new "threads in the tapestry of life".

 Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th RetreatSpirituality and Culture.

Again, numbers were small, but this had a very positive result as far as Roberta, Ruth & Hoan were concerned – they were able to benefit from the silence and solitude.

Using the "Heiwa"* concept, Roberta spoke about faith and science,

Hoan looked at Jesus the Christ and Gotama the Buddha

and Ruth explored God’s image and imperfection.

* "heiwa" is the Japanese word for Peace – not in the sense of absence of conflict, but rather of a harmonious tension between opposites.

 

Back in Goulburn once again for an evening seminar on Wednesday 15th

Who am I? Who are you? Who are WE? Exploring personhood through independence and solidarity

 

Using the "heiwa" principle and her expertise in biology Roberta addressed "individuality", but went beyond biology to explore the concept of "personhood".

Ruth took the topic of "dependence and independence", coming to the conclusion that the key to either (or both) was "interdependence".

Hoan built on both these presentations as he explored "solidarity and response-ability".

After a "cuppa" a lively conversation moved between all three topics – touching on self-awareness, no-thing-ness, co-dependence and too much else to list! The evening was declared by all to be worth while.

Next to Sydney with a little time for sightseeing and fun!

"Good doggie!"

 

 The evening of Friday 17th & the morning of Saturday 18th were spent in St Alban’s, Anglican parish in Epping (www.eppinganglicans.org.au)

Spirituality and Gender

On Friday Roberta presented a biologists view of gender. Explaining the (supposedly) simple distinction of "sex" as a "polydimensional continuum" (ed. note: not simple at all!) she showed how "gender" is a social construct, and asked some uncomfortable questions about how we relate to God as sexual beings and whether God has gender. Short responses & comments from Hoan & Ruth rounded out the presentation. After a cuppa accompanied by an amazing array of "goodies", all present enjoyed a lively and mind-stretching conversation.

On Saturday it was Hoan’s turn. He talked of Spirituality as "being there" – living the now to the full. Drawing on Zen Buddhist tradition as well as his own understanding of the Christian tradition and faith, he spoke at depth of the things Jesus taught – somehow showing new perspectives and throwing fresh light on familiar things. Here too, he challenged gender-based understandings of self and God. Roberta added the biological perspective and Ruth also responded briefly. Again there was a "cuppa" and great food. Numbers were down from Friday evening, so at this point the company adjourned to a smaller room where the conversation "in the round". It was difficult to convince folk that midday was finishing time – the conversing could have continued for hours!

 

Saturday afternoon & evening were spent sightseeing and visiting with Ruth’s brother

 

(does Roberta really have a halo?)

 

The afternoon of Sunday 19th In whose image? – spirituality, gender and perfection

began in St James Anglican Church, King St in the centre of Sydney www.stchurchsydney.org.au

 and concluded (after a "cuppa") with a lively discussion in the crypt under the church.

 

 Then to Wagga Wagga – (a slight detour on the way to Melbourne) for an evening seminar on Tuesday 21st at The Riverina Anglican College; again using the topic

In whose image? – spirituality, gender and perfection

 Although the topic was not new, the conversation at this small gathering was particularly lively and could have continued all night. The three travellers agreed that this was one of the best sessions to date.

"These Anglican Bishops are funny fellas!" (with Bp Godfrey Fryar, regional Bp of Wagga)

 

With three free days before the first of their events in Melbourne the travellers embarked on an exploration of the beauties of rural Australia.

They also visited the Wildlife Sanctuary at Healesville.

 

Melbourne events were co-hosted by the Augustine Centre in Hawthorn, (www.augustine.org.au) commencing with a breakfast session on Saturday 25th.

Theology < Gender > Spirituality: Conversations around Unity in Diversity" (Seeing the Tapestry and the Threads)

 The breakfast was superb and the almost 50 people present did it justice! Then on to the topic!

Hoan spoke of "theologies" (note the plural), Roberta again tackled "gender" and this time "spirituality" was Ruth’s topic. Presentations were kept short to allow plenty of time for interaction. Participants included folk from many Christian denominations, but also some who did not consider themselves "Christian" and even a couple of athiests/agnostics.

The ensuing conversation was lively and truly mind-stretching. These people were used to facing questions many push away – they were honest thinkers, not afraid to challenge their own "world view" and our three "explorers" thoroughly enjoyed themselves as threads in the tapestry of life were explored, perceptions shared, discoveries made, more questions uncovered.

 

On the morning of Sunday 26th August the topic was

Perfection, paradox and post-patriarchal paradigms- " I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:1 *Who is this ‘God’? And, more especially, who are these ‘other gods’? *What is perfection, and how do we deal creatively with the legacies of the past? *What is paradox, and is it a useful perspective for paradigm change? *Is human nature ‘being’ or ‘becoming’?

The regular members of this Uniting Church congregation changed their Sunday morning format to accommodate the range of people who might attend this session. Again they welcomed all who came – including many from Saturday’s event – agnostic, athiest and all!

Ruth spoke very briefly about perfection, being and becoming, Roberta & Hoan responded even more briefly and the conversation continued. As on Saturday, the conversing was "meaty" and at depth. Time out for reflection was enhanced by a moving song by a member of the Augustine Centre congregation.

After a shared lunch and lots of informal conversation, the afternoon session addressed:

Imperfection and ’Divine’ Difference: The role of difference and imperfection in a healthy spiritual life. How do we develop a sound spiritual practice in the midst of ordinary life?

Numbers were smaller after lunch and after brief presentations by Hoan &Roberta the conversation was more thoughtful and reflective – though no less "meaty". There is no doubt that many of those who participated will want to be part of an on-going conversation.

In Melbourne there were two more "mini-Canon" meetings:

with Danny at the Augustine Centre .......................... with Kim at her home for dinner

 

The tour over, the travellers returned to Goulburn via Victoria’s Great Ocean Road

 

 

and Grampian Mountains. (watch for photos)

 

For Roberta, Hoan & Ruth saying goodbye was the beginning of the next phase of the exploration, for

 the tour may be over, but the adventure is just beginning!

Join us!

We are in the process of creating a new email meeting so that we can continue the conversation.
if you are interested in being part of this exploration please contact Ruth (see below) or leave a message in our guest book (also below).

 

 

Some related links

 

Canon1024 mailing list: Where it all began! http://www.ecunet.org/mailman/listinfo/canon1024

GoddeWords: Roberta's list for theologians http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GoddeWords

Mirlo: Roberta's list for Bible study and discussion http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Mirlo

 Illuminare: Roberta’s list which "serves as a forum for Catholics (both Roman and Anglican), particularly new Catholics and recent RCIA participants, to ask questions and discuss concerns about the Church and Church teachings." http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Illuminare

 

Also of interest: www.womenpriests.org

 

Further Information: HREF="mailto:rmills@interact.net.au"><

 

Do sign our guest book before you leave!

http://www.oamweb.com/religious/unitydiv/guestbook.html