MAGAZINE NO. 153 [ December 2021 ]
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Cover image: ‘Inner Garden #10’ 2020, by Guy Brown,
oil on canvas, 94cm x 109cm, courtesy Flinders Street Gallery
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
SEVENTY YEARS; SIX EPIPHANIES by Digby Hannah 5
THE UNTIDY CIRCLE: AN INTERVIEW WITH GREG SHERIDAN
interviewed by John Foulcher 12
GREG SHERIDAN’S ‘CHRISTIANS, THE URGENT CASE FOR JESUS IN OUR WORLD’:
reviewed by Victor Branson and The Rev’d Elaine Farmer 19
SPIRITUALITY: SOME THOUGHTS by John Hanan 25
ZOOMING WITH THE ULURU STATEMENT FROM THE HEART by Rosalind Bradley 28
ON BEING OFFENDED BY THE BIBLE: REFLECTIONS ON EPHESIANS 5:11-31 by Rev’d Elaine Farmer 32
RAISING THE NEIGHBOURHOOD by Rita Glennon 37
TIVOLI GARDENS: COPENHAGEN 1958
by Jean Sietzema-Dickson 38
In 2022, Eremos will have entered its fifth decade.
For forty years, our organisation has been investigating what it means to be Christian in this ancient and new place. We’ve excavated the ways the contemplative tradition has enriched our spiritual life within, at and beyond the edges of the church. The search for a clearer sense of who we are has defined Eremos’s place in Australia’s religious and spiritual journey, and Eremos’s longevity has been a testament to a deep thirst for an authentic and substantial spirituality in a world which too often values glittering surfaces over depth.
To mark this important milestone, we’re handing our magazine to our readers next year. We want you, the people who’ve faithfully supported us over the years to tell us why.
What drew you to Eremos? What has kept you here?
We’d like you, our members, to send us a reflection on one experience in your involvement in Eremos which has been special to you, and to tell us why this experience is of such importance in your spiritual development. It could be something that happened on a retreat, in a workshop, an article you read, a meeting with another Eremos member – anything, really.
We want to fill at least one issue in 2022 with these experiences, so don’t hold back.
Keep your reflections to somewhere between 500 and 700 words so we can fit it as many as we receive. It would be wonderful if we could fill all three issues next year with your reflections.
Don’t wait – send us your reflections as soon as they come you! Let’s make next year’s issues of EREMOS truly special.
Greg Sheridan has been one of Australia’s foremost commentators on national and international affairs for many years; he’s respected and admired by people of all political persuasions. He’s also a committed Christian who’s passionate about the need for a robust, unapologetic face to belief in this country. On the heels of his best seller from 2018, God is Good for You, he’s published this year Christians: The Urgent Case for Jesus in Our World. As the title suggests, this most recent book is more concerned with the exploration of those who profess the faith, both ancient and modern, and the way they translate their faith into action in the public sphere.
I interviewed Sheridan in September and we talked for over an hour. It was an enlivening, enriching experience. Sheridan has born and raised a Catholic, and faith seems like a second skin to him; he’s passionate about the person of the living Christ and laments a world where Christianity is often caricatured and demonised. This issue of EREMOS contains a truncated transcript of the interview, while the Zoom recording of the full interview is available on the Eremos website.
We also review Sheridan’s Christians here. Vic Branson examines the first section of the book, which deals with the historicity of the Biblical documents and narratives, while the Rev’d Elaine Farmer reflects on Sheridan’s stories of Christians who are active in modern Australian society. Branson has some reservations about Sheridan’s methodology, while Farmer is impressed with the way he vigorously presents the women and men who share his faith, from Catholics to Anglicans to Pentecostals.
Continuing this exploration of the ways in which Christians live their faith in the modern world, several or our contributors this month are concerned with pressing social matters. Elaine Farmer examines Ephesians 5: 11-31, St Paul’s analysis of the relationship between men and women. Context is all, she concludes, investigating the world in which Paul made his controversial pronouncements. Rosalind Bradley reminds us that the Uluru Statement from the Heart is among the most important public documents of the past decade in this country, a document which has been too quickly dismissed by federal governments and which demands the attention of Christians who wish to truly understand the first inhabitants of the place we’ve come to know as Australia.
In reflecting on their extensive life experience, both Digby Hannah and John Hannan outline the nature of an authentic, compassionate spirituality in the world in which we live. Both suggest that faith without active love is barren, Hannah in particular suggesting that the church in all its variations needs to be more aware of its own shortcomings in promoting the faith of its founder, more open to change and growth.
Rounding off this issue are poems by Rita Glennon and Jean Sietzema-Dickson which demonstrate the way which poetry can reflect on ordinary experience the way no other medium can.
I vividly recall my first Eremos retreat at McMaster’s Beach in the early 1980’s. I’d heard Bruce Wilson and was intrigued by the vision he outlined of the place of Christian faith in an ever-changing world. I’d been actively involved with the Evangelical Union at university, but it felt narrow, constricting. Eremos, by contrast, was pushing boundaries; it wasn’t afraid of re-framing Christian faith. It wasn’t defensive. On my first retreat, I remember the silences, where we settled into long time, where contemplation replaced dogma. I remember standing by the windswept sea, sensing the vast ineffability of God and my own smallness. The time at the retreat showed me another way.
What moment stays with you from your association with Eremos?