MAGAZINE NO. 152 [ August 2021 ]
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August 2021 cover artwork: ‘Global Climate Anxiety’ 2021, painting by Toni Hassan.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
EULOGY AT BRUCE WILSON’S FUNERAL by Don Meadows 5
FUNERAL OF BISHOP BRUCE WILSON by The Reverend Canon Professor Scott Cowdell 10
SURRENDER WHOLLY IN LOVE’S EMBRACE: A TRIBUTE TO NOEL DAVIS compiled by Kate Scholl 14
NO SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT: ON THE MAKINGS OF A FEMINIST THEOLOGIAN by Heather Thomson 16
GOD MIGHT EXIST by Fergus McGinley 23
THE SPACE BETWEEN PRESUMPTION AND DESPAIR a conversation between Toni Hassan and Sarah Bachelard 27
THE STARTLED MANDOLIN by Rita Glennon 34
ENCOUNTERS WITH SILENCE: A REVIEW OF ‘CONVERSATIONS WITH SILENCE’ BY SALLY LONGLEY by Kate Scholl 35
WHAT DO I CARE? by Heather Thomson 38
Recently, I went to the movies (what was once a weekly pleasure is now a dance with chance for those of us outside Covid-initiated lockdowns and the stuff of fantasy for those living within lockdown zones) to see Edson Oda’s debut film, Nine Days, which is a fantasy more real than most films emerging from Hollywood these days.
The film is based on a strange premise. Will (played superbly by Winston Duke) inhabits a nondescript house in a barren landscape, and he spends his days watching people’s lives through their own eyes on a series of outdated, analogue televisions. It’s a mark of Oda’s extraordinary talent that we so quickly cease to question the absurdity of this construct. We just accept it.
We soon become aware that the people he watches are his ‘babies’ – they’re souls to whom Will, as an ‘interviewer’, has granted life, and each has been ‘auditioned’ for the part of a living human being. One of the people on the TV screens has unexpectedly died, and Will has to audition eight souls over the next nine days to see who’s suitable to take her place.
Gradually, they’re whittled down. Each unsuccessful candidate wanders into the landscape to either disassemble or continue in the shadow of their half-lives. As a mark of his compassion, though, Will offers each rejected candidate the chance to recreate a moment they saw while watching the televisions, a moment of life in someone else’s life. Maria, for instance, wants to ride a bike, and her thrill in this exhilarating ride is deeply poignant – sheer joy mixed with the inevitable sadness of letting it go. Oda seems to suggest that we should revel in these moments, given the shortness of our lives and the sadness of mortality.
I thought about this as I read the tributes in this issue of EREMOS to Bruce Wilson and Noel Davis. For both men, those moments of life were abundant – exemplified by Noel in the beautiful poems that graced the pages of EREMOS over many years, and for Bruce in the plethora of legacies he left in his rich and productive life, not the least being the creation of Eremos itself. We will miss both men greatly, but we will be among the many who will be always grateful for the contributions they made and the paths they forged.
The passing of Bishop Bruce Wilson also marks the end of an era for Eremos. Nearly forty years ago, Eremos burst onto the stage of Christian spirituality like an oasis in the desert of its naming. Since that time, Eremos has witnessed many changes in its membership, its outreach and its mission. We’ve also witnessed profound change in the ways faith and spirituality are explored, specifically in the rise of women theologians and spiritual leaders.
This is vividly investigated in Heather Thomson’s powerful recollection of her growth as a leading theologian in Australia. In the present climate, it’s sobering to remember that when Heather set out on her course of study – which coincided with the growth of the women’s ordination movement – she had so few examples to follow. She was indeed a pioneer.
Toni Hassan and Sarah Bachelard’s conversation about the impact of 2019’s devastating bushfires had on the way women have conceptualised their faith makes for compelling reading. This conversation is part of a series of interviews Toni has done with women of faith about the cataclysm of that year, and Sarah’s reflections about the possibilities of a kind of spiritual re-awakening in a time out of joint are particularly pertinent. Complementing Sarah’s discussion of the role of contemplative silence in a troubled world, Kate Scholl reviews Sally Longley’s book, Conversations with Silence, which explores the visceral ways in which contemplation can impact our lives.
Poems by Rita Glennon and Heather Thomson complete this issue dominated by women, but Fergus McGinley keeps the flag flying for us men with an energetic rejoinder to his provocative article in the November 2020 issue of EREMOS, where he suggested we are praying to a God who doesn’t exist. He reassures us in this issue that God might actually exist, but in his lively, thought-provoking way he suggests it may be a bit more complex than that simple statement of ‘fact’.
Coming out from the cinema into the darkness of that winter evening, I thought about those life-giving moments that are scattered across our days like autumn leaves. If I were given the chance of reliving one of those moments from my life, what would it be? I thought of waiting for a bus outside the Basilica di S. Apollinaire in Classe near Ravenna at dusk, having just stood before the most beautiful artworks I’d ever seen and now standing in the vividness of a spectacular winter sunset. I thought of cleaning my teeth by a creek one morning on a seven-day hike in the Snowy Mountains, feeling the crisp mountain air and watching the ice-clue summer sky lifting above me. I thought of the first time I held my son and my daughter in my arms. So many other wonderful moments flashed before me. And I felt so grateful for them all.
What moments come to you? Give thanks for them, as you go forward in troubled times.