The Eremos Story
At its inception in August 1982, Eremos chose to express its aims in two simple slogans: deepening Christian spirituality and helping Christians to understand and contribute to Australian society.
Forty years have since passed and Australian society has seen massive changes, probably the equal of any in its short history. There has been the advent of an entirely new and infinitely faster system of communication with computers and the internet, an increasingly pluralistic society with faiths other than Christian ready to play a part in beliefs and values, civil and global warfare in new and yet more terrifying forms, a surfeit of information combined with less opportunity for understanding and, finally, research indicating that human activity is contributing to serious imbalances in climate and in nature.
Eremos now holds a taut line between members who feel it is not Christian enough and those who feel it is too Christian. Rather than coming down on one side or the other, Eremos continues to encourage people to experience the tension between certainty and belief, knowing and unknowing.
Contributions to the magazine are accepted on merit and authenticity of expression. You will find honest stories in its pages. You will find articles on ecological concerns, writers struggling with unbelief, contributions from those concerned with inequity and marginalised groups, writers from other faiths sharing how their traditions address universal human challenges, Christians coming to terms with the failures of Christendom at the same time as holding that the Jesus of history, the Jesus of legend and the Jesus of our deeper imagining remains a paradigm of inclusive leadership for these times. An Eremos member once wrote:
"Eremos won my admiration and recollected my hope in a single sentence. It showed the pathway to living with paradox instead of craving for certainties."
A seed is planted
Eremos Institute is an ecumenical association with its roots in Christianity. Greek for wilderness or desert place, Eremos was founded in 1982 – as a result of the vision and work of Rev Bruce Wilson (then rector of St George’s Anglican Church, Paddington in inner city Sydney). As expressed in his book, Reasons of the Heart (1998), Eremos was the result of Bruce’s deep personal reflection and a vision for a new spiritual movement.
The beginnings of Eremos
Bruce was supported in imagining, planning and founding Eremos by a small team from St George's Anglican Church, Paddington. A key member of that team and thinking partner with Bruce was Colin Alcock, who was later appointed the first executive director. Others in the team included Janet Stacey, Margaret Ackland, and some anonymous donors who provided start-up funding for Bruce to visit flourishing retreat houses and new spiritual movements in the UK.
In these early years, hopes for what became Eremos were given a boost by start-up funding provided by the same anonymous donors, to pay a part-time salary for Colin Alcock.
Also central to this venture was Don Meadows (rector of St Stephen’s Anglican Church, Newtown, on the west side of inner Sydney). Bruce, Colin and Don became the founding Directors of Eremos. The original aims were agreed upon by the founding group:
- deepening Christian spirituality
- helping Christians to understand and contribute to Australian society.
A few years later, further support to the fledgling organisation was provided by Jacquie Pryor, who responded to a request from Bruce to establish an Eremos bookshop, providing books for Eremos members, discussion groups and for religious conferences. Jacquie continued over many years to provide a rich and energetic contribution to Eremos as Executive Director, and copy and content editor for the EREMOS newsletter, which quickly evolved into the EREMOS magazine.
Early Eremos activities
Seminars, weekend retreats and book discussion groups were among the earliest Eremos activities . A stunning line- up of speakers gave talks in Sydney, as this small organisation grew to over 800 members in the '90’s.
Notable speakers have included Dom Bede Griffiths, Charles Birch, Veronica Brady, Bishop John Shelby Spong, Morris West, Les Murray, John Dominic Crossan, Margaret Hebblethwaite, David Tacey,Kristina Kenneally, John Bell and Richard Rohr.
The Eremos name and logo
Bruce suggested the name ‘Eremos’ after reading Veronica Brady’s book A Crucible of Prophets: Australians and the Question of God (1981), where Veronica drew attention to the desert (Greek ‘eremos’) as a major source of spiritual inspiration in the Bible. An added factor in the choice of name was Don’s recollection of a line from the poem ‘Australia’ by A.D. Hope: ‘Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come’.
The Eremos logo – which continues in use, was designed by Margaret Ackland, who was part of the founding team from St George’s Anglican Church, Paddington.