Tag Archives: Cathedrals

Restoration and Refugees

The steps to the Cathedral in the city are made of slate from the village where I live. At the moment the Cathedral is under renovation. Francis is blowing a gale through the Vatican and all the restoration on the Cathedral will repair the damage done. The chair of this Bishop of Rome is made of something less brittle than slate. It’s a kind of leadership that many have been yearning for, a hark back to the founder of the firm, not an echo from the silence of stone in the empty chambers where pilgrims once filled the pews. Like so many of our institutions, the church is renovating and restoring, and that is not the answer to whatever question they think they are asking. Now is the time to stop conserving heritage listed spaces in our hearts and break open in true Eucharistic fashion the body and blood and spill it onto all the spaces empty of body and soul.   And heaven knows there are so many of those.

The tragedy of people displaced by war, persecution, natural disasters is alarming. In my country the borders of the land are almost as impenetrable as our hearts. Fear and compassion traded blows in the streets of Melbourne yesterday. (I did wonder if anyone from Francis’ team was there – I am sure there would have been a few.) As a young mum I campaigned in the 80s and then into the 90s on issues of refugees and racism. For my efforts, our house was attacked with bricks through the windows of our sleeping children’s home, graffiti on the outside walls of the house, tyres on our car damaged and public vilification and intimidation by a right wing terrorist group. Our phone was tapped and from time to time I am pretty sure I was followed. Acting in solidarity has a price. My efforts were very modest, writing, producing materials and building a community of activists to spread the word in their workplaces, churches, schools and families. I didn’t organise any big rallies and it was long before social media so no flash mob protests were visible. I was under the protection of the Council of Churches and I felt protected by their care for me and for my family. This is the work of communion.

The UN says we have reached 60M people displaced for the first time in history. When I was campaigning it was 15M – the last time it was even close to the number we have now was during the Second World War.

Disrupting traffic is not enough, thoughts and behaviours need to be disrupted. The slate on the Cathedral steps are baying for a new dawn of whole heartedness. My own efforts are almost invisible these days.  I am shaken not stirred by the deaths in Austria in the back of a van, the scenes of children on their parents shoulders at the borders of Greece, the broken bones floating in the seas of the Mediterranean and off our Australian coast …. And the list goes on …

Blessed are you who have a home

               For you shall be invited to open your doors

Blessed are you who have food

               For you shall add another seat to your table

Blessed are you who are safe

                For you shall share your haven

Blessed are you who are leaders

                For you shall serve

Blessed are you who know how to speak to power

               For you shall speak for the powerless

Blessed are you who are fearless

              For you shall give courage to others.

Are Stadiums the new Cathedrals?

This week I made a pilgrimage to Melbourne to see one of my all time favourite American musicians- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I wasn’t alone in my pilgrimage … thousands of fans around the world have made similar pilgrimages. I wonder if stadiums (or is it stadia?) are the new Cathedrals in our fiercely secular country? There was certainly the call and response, the altar call, the faithful and the high priest. There was ritual and liturgy. We all knew what to expect and what part we had to play – supporting the star to crowd surf, reverently remembering the fallen, acclaiming the alchemy, respecting the hallowed ground and finding our own spirit nourished by the sound, the energy and the message. The standing up, sitting down, dancing, waving, hand clapping, air punching, sign holding, gentle swaying; all liturgical movements of their own like fingers in a glove, in place and in time.

Songlines that bind generations and cultures together sharing the same vision for a world where the worker is at the heart of society. No job too small or too big and certainly this was a band that has earnt its reputation as the ‘hardest working band in rock and roll”. They are like the union choirs and bands of old, blending their voices, instruments and message into one harmonious and triumphant wall of sound (yes there were a few moments that Phil Spector would have been very happy). Watching them work together was a master class in team work and collaboration. There was room for everyone. I kept noticing the guitar technicians, the lighting crew, the backstage staff, all worker bees buzzing around to be in the exact right place and the exact right time and never failing or faulting. When the final applause came the conductor, team captain, high priest and guru all rolled into one, patted everyone on the back before he left the stage, a job well done that they all did together. Yes a masterclass in leadership as well was thrown in.

Hildegard, my hunch is that your Abbey and the cathedrals you frequented were like this stadium too – full of pilgrims, talent and glorious sounds. Your music still brings me to my feet, fills my soul with joy and a message that sustains me. I can imagine you and Bruce sitting down together with your communities maybe on an E Street somewhere and discovering what your communities both have in common.

Arm the Homeless

Seeing Tom’s guitar shouting out messages that Woody Guthrie would have been proud, has plenty in common with your sisters leaving their homes and supporting your land reforms. The legacy of Clarence and his saxophone lives on and the homage paid by the faithful would be understood and shared as gift given and still being received by the next generation. You might have a conversation about recent elections – Obama and Francis – and discuss your own parts in those historical events. I know as an Aussie a long way from the US, how grateful I am to Bruce for helping out on Obama’s campaign and have given thanks more than once!

I love the continuous tradition that music enables of speaking truth to power, providing a vehicle for the masses to sing their songs of hope and fear, celebration and commemoration, grief and joy. I love the threads that come together when I can hear a celtic reel in an working class anthem or a drone echoing in a chorus or an organ chord progression that is ancient and commanding as ever.

Maybe the stadium is the new cathedral or maybe it isn’t – but I know that across the aeons we are all connected and kairos happens. That special and unique moment that connects me, in real time, to both Bruce and Hildegard; E Street and Bingen.

Check out the Notes from the Road #2 Melbourne

Rod Laver Arena, March 26, 2013