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New Zealand and the South Pacific

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Progressive Christianity Australia

Presentation Extracts

COMMON DREAMINGS

The Artist in Residence (Alexandra Sangster - see her CV in the Speakers section) with her friends will provide short interludes of commentary & observations at appropriate points during the conference including at the beginning of each evening segment. These will combine song, spoken word & audience reflection.

MAJOR PUBLIC LECTURES

The Nigel Leaves Memorial Lecture

“Always Progressing & Evolving: but from what to where & how & why?” – Dr Val Webb

Gatherings such as this conference help us evaluate from where we have come as a momentum of change; where we are now; and where we may be going. Coming from different experiences, heritages and contexts however, whatever we mean (or do not mean) by progressive spirituality is not something homogeneous, nor do we seek a new orthodoxy.

As the first keynote speaker introducing the conference and its theme, I will look at the landscapes from which we have emerged and evolved and the varieties of experiences and theologies now sheltering under the progressive label - all people who have been progressing from somewhere else, regardless of where they have now erected their tents.  I will then consider what binds us together rather than what could pull us apart, whether different labels, convictions, destinations or actions. 

In terms of future directions, I will discuss some emerging contexts in which we will find ourselves - ecological, theological, ethical, political, intercultural and religious, to name a few - so that we can be pro-active in testing our traditions and doing our theology in fresh ways that have meaning in our 21st century world and for our planet's future."

 

The Marcus Borg Memorial Lecture

“Spiritual Revolution: Vertical No More” - Dr Diana Butler Bass

For the last two decades, Dr Diana Butler Bass has been interpreting shifts and trends in post-Christian society trying to discern the contours of emerging forms of theology, spirituality, and faith community. At Common Dreams, she will be drawing from her latest book, grounded: Finding God in the World--A Spiritual Revolution (HarperOne 2015).  In this lecture, she explores the decline of conventional forms of church-going and the correspondent rise of religious disaffiliation and religious pluralism across what was once the "Christian" world.

 

The Ian Mavor Memorial Lecture

"The End of the Word as We Know It? The Future of Scripture Past" - Prof Pamela Eisenbaum

Jews and Christians who maintain a reverence for the Bible rarely contemplate the ways in its packaging influences their understanding of it.  Ever since letter-press printing enabled the mass production of Bibles, thereby placing Holy Writ in the hand of every individual that wanted one (and some who didn’t), Jews and Christians have conceived of Holy Scripture as a book, The Book.  Yet today books are taking on forms very different from the printed volumes that have filled the shelves in our homes and offices.  We are in midst of a profound technological shift taking us from printed text to digital hypertext.  If there is any merit to Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum “The medium is the message,” then we can expect that digital forms of scripture will alter not only people’s experience of reading the Bible, but also their conception of the Bible as a “canon” and the nature of biblical authority. One way to imagine the Bible of the future is to look to the material transformations of Scripture Past.  Indeed, conceptions of the Bible have been impacted by changing technologies all through history; the digital revolution is merely the latest one.   Touring highlights of how past technological changes altered our most fundamental ideas about Scripture, perhaps we will be better prepared to catch a glimpse of Scripture Future.

 

REFLECTION (OPTIONAL) IN THE CHAPEL

The days and nights of the Common Dreams conference are filled with words and talking. Start the mornings in a counter-balancing, experiential space of sounds without words, gentle movements, silences, and sensory connections. The aim of these brief sessions is to aid the integration into body and spirit what is being engaged in mind through the other conference sessions.

 

KEYNOTE PRESENTATIONS

Keynote 1: “Spirituality & the Millennials” – Rev Fred Plumer

Church attendance has been falling for decades, in spite of church denominations and church leaders across our countries sometimes spending great sums of money and often making herculean efforts to attract younger people. It has spawned hundreds of consultant groups, telling us for a fee, how to attract young adults into our churches. In spite of the efforts, the radical drop in attendance over the last ten years can be traced to the millennials’ lack of any interest in attending our churches or synagogues. Church attendance by the millennials (Born loosely between 1980-2000) is just not happening in any significant numbers. And yet most millennials considered themselves very spiritual, or “spiritual but not religious.”

Rev. Plumer will talk about the unique nature of this group of young adults and some of the transforming things that they have already inherited and will inherit in the future. He will discuss how and where they are finding their spiritual food. It may not be an easy conversation to have because it will demonstrate the way that most of us are still doing church or the ways we are attempting to revitalize our churches, will not work in the long run. Rev. Plumer’s conclusion is that in large part, even use of the term church will be counter-productive. 

What has changed, what will continue to change, and how can we respond to these changes as spiritual people and church leaders? 

 

Keynote 2:

The Revival of Sufism in the Contemporary World” – Saara Sabbagh

The spiritual dimension of Islam, often referred to as Sufism, has been the bedrock of the Islamic tradition since its inception. Sufism has been a source of personal growth and community ethics which greatly influenced various spheres of the Muslim world, such as the Arts, culture, social justice and government. Historically, colonisation, the rise of secularism and certain religious-political movements have led to the deterioration of Sufism. However, in today’s world we are seeing a revival of the spiritual essence of Islam emerging across the globe. From the US to Morocco to Australia… an awakening is taking place to reclaim the heart of the Islamic tradition that was built on mercy, compassion and love.

 

Keynote 3: “Progressive Spirituality as Reservoir for the Reinvention of the Human Being in the Ecozoic Era – Rev Jana Norman

In The Great Work: Our Way into the Future, Thomas Berry advocates for the “reinvention” of humanity from the single-most environmentally destructive species on the planet to being of mutual benefit to all species and systems of Earth. Berry identifies four institutions that have been authoritative historically in inventing human being in the context of Western culture: politics, corporations, the university, and religion.

Progressive spirituality is itself a process of reinvention, with its complementary movements of deconstruction and reconstruction. Furthermore, the content of what is left behind and what is brought forward in progressive spirituality is well suited to what is required of human beings in the emerging Ecozoic era. So perhaps this religious movement has a role to play in meeting the needs of this hour.

A close observation of one progressive Christian faith community reveals it to be a reservoir of spiritual energy for reinventing human being as a mutual, benevolent presence on the planet. This presentation tunes into some of the themes being sounded in this community: communion of subjects, symmetrical sovereignty, and transcendence. In dialogue with these findings, we can conclude that just as progressive spirituality has revitalized many of us as individuals, it might also significantly energise humankind for such a time as this.

 

Keynote 4: “A New Template for Religion” – Michael Morwood

Religious thought and practice have been locked into understandings of the size and working of the cosmos and planet Earth’s place in it that are no longer believable. The challenge is to articulate understanding of “God”, revelation, prayer, “worship”, the purpose of religion, death, and for Christians, the person of Jesus, in a new perspective. The starting point in this new “template” is an appreciation of the human story, our place in the universe, and the wonder of being human. We start with what we know today, not with “foundations of belief” that have crumbled. The presentation will cover all the topics listed above.

 

 Keynote 5:   "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" – Graeme Mundine

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, ... (Heb 12:1)

Aboriginal Peoples are constantly aware of all that is around them. They are aware of all that has gone on before them and of the many Ancestors who have walked the land. They are here now in the Earth Formations, the Stars in the sky, the Animals & Plants. They're watching over us and reminding us of the path to follow. 60,000 years of experience is laid out before us in nature if we are able to look into the Dreaming.

This presentation will explore this connection with the Cosmos and why this has come about. It will finally ask the question about a deep search for the divine or is this another attempt at Cultural Appropriation by the western world which has failed them.

 

Keynote 6: “Sacred Web: Nature and Neighbor as the Stage of the Divine" – Dr Diana Butler Bass

In this Keynote Address Dr Butler Bass will aga9n be drawing from her latest book, Grounded: Finding God in the World--A Spiritual Revolution (HarperOne 2015).  In this address, she turns toward describing a deep spiritual architecture of creation and community that is calling humanity to a better way of inhabiting what Martin Luther King once called our "world house."  

Following the presentation by Dr Butler Bass & after the tea/coffee break, the audience will divide into small groups to discuss the concepts posited in her presentation. The meeting will then reconvene in plenary session in interactive mode with Dr Butler Bass & discuss with her matters & views which emerged during the group discussions.

  WORLD PREMIERE

"Let Me Be Frank" - a film presented by Living the Questions in association with Creatista (47 minutes)

A film which is sometimes funny, often poignant & not so politically correct. This is the story of Frank's journey out of religious certainty &, in the face of the he historic rise of political & Christian conservatism, the discovery of surprising instances of tenderness, hope & grace along the way.

Frank, the son of influential Evangelicals Francis & Edith Schaeffer, was a filmmaker, writer, speaker & an architect of the US religious right in the 1970s. Underneath the exterior of aggressive religiosity, & expected to follow in his famous family's footsteps, his life was in turmoil. To the surprise of the religious establishment, Frank didn't step up. He stepped away.

Described as the "Traitorous Prince" by former confidants on the religious & political right, Frank is now a best-selling authr, blogger, painter, speaker & regular commentator for news outlets like MSNBC. His books include Portofino, Crazy for God, Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story Abut Love, & the US Marine Corps (with son John Schaeffer) & Why I'm an Atheist who Believes in God.

PANEL PRESENTATION

“Three Reflections on Spirituality” – Three Presentations by Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson, Prof Pamela Eisenbaum, & Rev Dr Margaret Mayman

Each speaker will make a presentation. Then after the tea/coffee break the auditorium will be divided by sliding panels into three spaces for approximately equal sized groups. Each of the speakers will rotate successively to each group and lead an interactive discussion/Q&A for about 20 minutes with each group based on the content of their presentation. Following this segment, the audience will meet in plenary session & the speakers will each give their take on what they felt emerged from the interactive sessions with the groups with opportunity for Q&A.

 

Paper 1: “God’s Treasure Hunt: encouraging us to find the meanings of existence” – Rev Dr Parkinson

Lorraine’s paper will explore new horizons for spirituality, inherent in the gradual revealing of God’s interweaving of spirit, mind and matter. It will comment on humanity’s ongoing encounter with creation’s secrets; discovering their eternal dance with the sacred laws of physics.  It will celebrate discovery of the keys to human life at its best, through Jesus the Enlightened One.

 

Paper 2: "Religious versus Spiritual: Personal Reflections on Jewish Spirituality" – Prof Eisenbaum

Many students at the United Methodist Seminary in Denver where I teach tell me they are “spiritual but not religious.” Reflections on my “spiritual but not religious” students has made me aware of my own disinclination toward this sentiment and led me to conclude that that feeling may be due to the difference between my identity as a Jew and my students’ identity (vague as it may be) as Protestant Christians. While Christians (at least in the American context) typically use the term “spirituality” in opposition to religion, spirituality for Jews is inconceivable apart from grounding in a religious tradition.  Comparison between Jewish and Christian forms of spiritual expression may therefore trouble some of our assumptions about the much-discussed modern tension between spirituality and religion.

 

Paper 3: "Jesus Is Not My Boyfriend: A Spirituality of Christa/Community" – Rev Dr Mayman

In her presentation, Margaret will draw on the resources of theology, ethics and liturgy to reflect on the meaning of a spiritually aware way of being in the world. To live justly and compassionately in the 21st century, an understanding of Christ that goes beyond gender may empower women and men to live well in relation with the sacred, with each other, and with planet Earth.

 

PARALLEL PROGRAM FOR EMERGING GENERATIONS (Gen Y/Millennials)

Exploring Future Forms of Sacred Community - Curators: Rev Matthew Cutler & Rev Lucas Taylor

Due to the specific generational challenges facing Millennials, Common Dreams is offering dedicated spaces to unpack and explore emergent forms of faith.

Deshna Ubeda, a passionate voice from the USA, will offer her thoughts, stories and creativity in exploring: “What are we moving towards?” Together we will enquire as to the shape of community for millennials and pathways of social and personal transformation. Curators Matt and Lucas together with Dave Andrews will offer formal and informal forums for lively discussion and interactive experiences.

"Sacred Community - Ancient Meets The Future; A look at transformative festivals & the experience of Sacred Community as a path towards Universal Transformation"– Deshna Ubeda

Join Deshna on a journey of exploration through the blossoming world of transformational festivals and alternative community gatherings, such as ecstatic dance. In her talk, Deshna will share stories of healing and transformation in the new generation experiences, as well as examine the way these community-building events offer a model for the future that encompasses the values of ecological and economic sustainability, ethical behaviour, the sharing and trade economy, ecospirituality, ritual and social evolution. We will look at how these gatherings focus on personal growth, social responsibility, sacred community, and creative expression and might be the future of societal change. Ancient meets the Future as this movement grows across the world and demonstrates a new paradigm of creating sacred community.

 

ELECTIVES

Workshop – “To Whom It May Concern; Prayer Without Theism” – Ian Lawton

It was the awkward moment when I was praying and realised I was talking to myself.

When I first stopped praying TO God, it was like losing a friend. And a perfect friend at that, one who never interrupted me. It was disorienting for a time. But then life without an interventionist God became the most liberating adventure I could ever imagine.

The purpose of this workshop is to explore spiritual practices that don’t require any theistic beliefs. If you’re looking to live a life of purpose, self-awareness and integrity then this workshop is for you.

In particular I will share a practice I learnt from a Zen master called Big Mind. It is a simple and fun exercise that you can do on your own once you’ve learnt it

Like prayer, Big Mind will have you talking to yourself but in guided ways that open up profound levels of self-awareness and love for others.

We will take plenty of time in the workshop to debrief and share wisdom and resources on spiritual practices beyond theism.

 

Lecture – “Political Lobbying from a Progressive Christian Perspective - A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia)” – Dr Ray Barraclough

A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) was established in 2013 to offer alternative & progressive Christian views on matters of public interest & to lobby politicians & opinion formers on issues of interest to progressive Christians. Prior to the formation of a PCV(A) commentary of this nature was dominated by well organised & influential conservative/fundamentalist groups. Ray will speak of the impact a PCV(A) has had, what the journey has been like & what the future might hold.

 

Guided Conversation & Live Podcast Recording – “Beyondering” – Rev Matt Cutler & Rev Lucas Taylor with Deshna Ubeda

Beyondering is a progressive podcast for millennials, committed to exploring an emerging pathway for Christian faith for younger generations. It seeks to unpack what faith might look like – the open-hearted and liberated ways of being required to negotiate the unique challenges of life in today’s world. It’s first season included interviews with John Dominic Crossan, Val Webb, Bishop Spong, Walter Brueggemann, Bruce Sanguin, Alex Sangster, Dave Andrews, Jarrod McKenna and Parker Palmer among others. These wonderful guests helped to explore ‘Faith out of Bounds'. Join Matt and Lucas with selected presenters from Common Dreams 2016 and become the studio audience of the podcast’s first live recording, as they offer a guided conversation including Q&A.

 

Lecture & Discussion – “Spirituality from a Utinitarian-Universalist Perspective” – Rev Rob MacPherson

A UU spirituality?  Is this a contradiction in terms?

How can a church have a shared spirituality or spiritual practice without subscribing to a creed (at least as an icon)? How can a denomination that welcomes and embraces both sides of the theist/humanist debate speak to all its members and adherents about ‘the spirit’ at all? Is UU spirituality simply an institutionalisation of narcissism, a place where ‘you can believe whatever you want’?

Worldwide, the signs are not encouraging for the post-Christian project that is UUism. In the UK, church leaders recognize a terminal decline and virtual extinction in 3 generations. In the USA, membership holds steady, but is not keeping pace with population growth. However, in the Adelaide church, seeds of hope are evident in growing numbers, lowering age demographic, vibrancy, and relevance. Is this the spirit at work, or just a temporary bump from better marketing?

Acknowledging the trinity of past UU errors—individualism, anti-authoritarianism, and exceptionalism—UU spirituality is being rediscovered in the UU trinity of promises—pluralism, generosity, and the creative imagination. The fruits of these promises are evident in a new and highly-motivated generation of UUs who will be leading the 160-year-old church toward its third century in Australia.

Rob will conduct this presentation as a short talk with AV, followed by generous time for questions and answers.

 

Interactive Discussion – Bunjil is the spirit of relationship – Rev Janet Turpie-Johnstone

Bunjil is the Wedgetail Eagle and is the metanarrative (a big story explaining everything) of the Kulin nation in southern Victoria. Janet will share something of the wisdom of these myths looking at Aboriginal way of life as Philosophy of Wisdom and Rationality. This will include images and stories.

 

Workshop – “The Journey of Life: Basic to New Directions for Spirituality” – Dr Noel Preston

This workshop uses the DVD "The Journey of the Universe" produced by Brian Swimme (colleague of the late Thomas Berry). The underlying scientific/philosophical/theological questions posed by this presentation are “What role do humans play in this 14 billion year process? And what is at stake if human activity threatens this process? And, further, what kind of belief system/spirituality/ethic will sustain an appropriate role for humanity in the continuation of this story?"

 

Interactive Discussion – “The Conscious Muslim– Saara Sabbagh

What does it mean to be an observant Muslim into today's complex and challenging world? How does the Islamic tradition assist in navigating one's world view and ethical choices to create a holistic and compassionate way of living? In this interactive discussion, Saara Sabbagh will lead a conversation in faith, virtues and authenticity upon the spiritual path.

 

Lecture & Discussion – “Is a Radical Church Possible?” – Rev Adrian Alker

Mainstream Christian denominations are facing critical decline in the UK and in many parts of the world. Church leaders call for new strategies for growth but will these be effective? In his book, Is ‘A radical church Possible? Adrian Alker calls for an honest look at the life of Jesus and the faith of the Church and suggests a radical and more honest reshaping of the churches to enable them to face the challenges of the present day.

Adrian passionately believes that the Church must become more Jesus shaped and less concerned with its own structures and beliefs in order to attract new members. He acknowledges the many contributions which the local church can and does make to enhance community life. The churches in the UK have done much to challenge government policy which results in inequality. Churches provide food banks, welcome asylum seekers and do much to fulfil the kingdom teachings of Jesus. But they remain stubbornly fixed on a theology and ecclesiology which demands an allegiance and acceptance of creedal statements and belief requirements which are not fit for this third millennium.

 

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Presentation Extracts

COMMON DREAMINGS

The Artist in Residence (Alexandra Sangster - see her CV in the Speakers section) with her friends will provide short interludes of commentary & observations at appropriate points during the conference including at the beginning of each evening segment. These will combine song, spoken word & audience reflection.

MAJOR PUBLIC LECTURES

The Nigel Leaves Memorial Lecture

“Always Progressing & Evolving: but from what to where & how & why?” – Dr Val Webb

Gatherings such as this conference help us evaluate from where we have come as a momentum of change; where we are now; and where we may be going. Coming from different experiences, heritages and contexts however, whatever we mean (or do not mean) by progressive spirituality is not something homogeneous, nor do we seek a new orthodoxy.

As the first keynote speaker introducing the conference and its theme, I will look at the landscapes from which we have emerged and evolved and the varieties of experiences and theologies now sheltering under the progressive label - all people who have been progressing from somewhere else, regardless of where they have now erected their tents.  I will then consider what binds us together rather than what could pull us apart, whether different labels, convictions, destinations or actions. 

In terms of future directions, I will discuss some emerging contexts in which we will find ourselves - ecological, theological, ethical, political, intercultural and religious, to name a few - so that we can be pro-active in testing our traditions and doing our theology in fresh ways that have meaning in our 21st century world and for our planet's future."

 

The Marcus Borg Memorial Lecture

“Spiritual Revolution: Vertical No More” - Dr Diana Butler Bass

For the last two decades, Dr Diana Butler Bass has been interpreting shifts and trends in post-Christian society trying to discern the contours of emerging forms of theology, spirituality, and faith community. At Common Dreams, she will be drawing from her latest book, grounded: Finding God in the World--A Spiritual Revolution (HarperOne 2015).  In this lecture, she explores the decline of conventional forms of church-going and the correspondent rise of religious disaffiliation and religious pluralism across what was once the "Christian" world.

 

The Ian Mavor Memorial Lecture

"The End of the Word as We Know It? The Future of Scripture Past" - Prof Pamela Eisenbaum

Jews and Christians who maintain a reverence for the Bible rarely contemplate the ways in its packaging influences their understanding of it.  Ever since letter-press printing enabled the mass production of Bibles, thereby placing Holy Writ in the hand of every individual that wanted one (and some who didn’t), Jews and Christians have conceived of Holy Scripture as a book, The Book.  Yet today books are taking on forms very different from the printed volumes that have filled the shelves in our homes and offices.  We are in midst of a profound technological shift taking us from printed text to digital hypertext.  If there is any merit to Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum “The medium is the message,” then we can expect that digital forms of scripture will alter not only people’s experience of reading the Bible, but also their conception of the Bible as a “canon” and the nature of biblical authority. One way to imagine the Bible of the future is to look to the material transformations of Scripture Past.  Indeed, conceptions of the Bible have been impacted by changing technologies all through history; the digital revolution is merely the latest one.   Touring highlights of how past technological changes altered our most fundamental ideas about Scripture, perhaps we will be better prepared to catch a glimpse of Scripture Future.

 

REFLECTION (OPTIONAL) IN THE CHAPEL

The days and nights of the Common Dreams conference are filled with words and talking. Start the mornings in a counter-balancing, experiential space of sounds without words, gentle movements, silences, and sensory connections. The aim of these brief sessions is to aid the integration into body and spirit what is being engaged in mind through the other conference sessions.

 

KEYNOTE PRESENTATIONS

Keynote 1: “Spirituality & the Millennials” – Rev Fred Plumer

Church attendance has been falling for decades, in spite of church denominations and church leaders across our countries sometimes spending great sums of money and often making herculean efforts to attract younger people. It has spawned hundreds of consultant groups, telling us for a fee, how to attract young adults into our churches. In spite of the efforts, the radical drop in attendance over the last ten years can be traced to the millennials’ lack of any interest in attending our churches or synagogues. Church attendance by the millennials (Born loosely between 1980-2000) is just not happening in any significant numbers. And yet most millennials considered themselves very spiritual, or “spiritual but not religious.”

Rev. Plumer will talk about the unique nature of this group of young adults and some of the transforming things that they have already inherited and will inherit in the future. He will discuss how and where they are finding their spiritual food. It may not be an easy conversation to have because it will demonstrate the way that most of us are still doing church or the ways we are attempting to revitalize our churches, will not work in the long run. Rev. Plumer’s conclusion is that in large part, even use of the term church will be counter-productive. 

What has changed, what will continue to change, and how can we respond to these changes as spiritual people and church leaders? 

 

Keynote 2:

The Revival of Sufism in the Contemporary World” – Saara Sabbagh

The spiritual dimension of Islam, often referred to as Sufism, has been the bedrock of the Islamic tradition since its inception. Sufism has been a source of personal growth and community ethics which greatly influenced various spheres of the Muslim world, such as the Arts, culture, social justice and government. Historically, colonisation, the rise of secularism and certain religious-political movements have led to the deterioration of Sufism. However, in today’s world we are seeing a revival of the spiritual essence of Islam emerging across the globe. From the US to Morocco to Australia… an awakening is taking place to reclaim the heart of the Islamic tradition that was built on mercy, compassion and love.

 

Keynote 3: “Progressive Spirituality as Reservoir for the Reinvention of the Human Being in the Ecozoic Era – Rev Jana Norman

In The Great Work: Our Way into the Future, Thomas Berry advocates for the “reinvention” of humanity from the single-most environmentally destructive species on the planet to being of mutual benefit to all species and systems of Earth. Berry identifies four institutions that have been authoritative historically in inventing human being in the context of Western culture: politics, corporations, the university, and religion.

Progressive spirituality is itself a process of reinvention, with its complementary movements of deconstruction and reconstruction. Furthermore, the content of what is left behind and what is brought forward in progressive spirituality is well suited to what is required of human beings in the emerging Ecozoic era. So perhaps this religious movement has a role to play in meeting the needs of this hour.

A close observation of one progressive Christian faith community reveals it to be a reservoir of spiritual energy for reinventing human being as a mutual, benevolent presence on the planet. This presentation tunes into some of the themes being sounded in this community: communion of subjects, symmetrical sovereignty, and transcendence. In dialogue with these findings, we can conclude that just as progressive spirituality has revitalized many of us as individuals, it might also significantly energise humankind for such a time as this.

 

Keynote 4: “A New Template for Religion” – Michael Morwood

Religious thought and practice have been locked into understandings of the size and working of the cosmos and planet Earth’s place in it that are no longer believable. The challenge is to articulate understanding of “God”, revelation, prayer, “worship”, the purpose of religion, death, and for Christians, the person of Jesus, in a new perspective. The starting point in this new “template” is an appreciation of the human story, our place in the universe, and the wonder of being human. We start with what we know today, not with “foundations of belief” that have crumbled. The presentation will cover all the topics listed above.

 

 Keynote 5:   "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" – Graeme Mundine

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, ... (Heb 12:1)

Aboriginal Peoples are constantly aware of all that is around them. They are aware of all that has gone on before them and of the many Ancestors who have walked the land. They are here now in the Earth Formations, the Stars in the sky, the Animals & Plants. They're watching over us and reminding us of the path to follow. 60,000 years of experience is laid out before us in nature if we are able to look into the Dreaming.

This presentation will explore this connection with the Cosmos and why this has come about. It will finally ask the question about a deep search for the divine or is this another attempt at Cultural Appropriation by the western world which has failed them.

 

Keynote 6: “Sacred Web: Nature and Neighbor as the Stage of the Divine" – Dr Diana Butler Bass

In this Keynote Address Dr Butler Bass will aga9n be drawing from her latest book, Grounded: Finding God in the World--A Spiritual Revolution (HarperOne 2015).  In this address, she turns toward describing a deep spiritual architecture of creation and community that is calling humanity to a better way of inhabiting what Martin Luther King once called our "world house."  

Following the presentation by Dr Butler Bass & after the tea/coffee break, the audience will divide into small groups to discuss the concepts posited in her presentation. The meeting will then reconvene in plenary session in interactive mode with Dr Butler Bass & discuss with her matters & views which emerged during the group discussions.

  WORLD PREMIERE

"Let Me Be Frank" - a film presented by Living the Questions in association with Creatista (47 minutes)

A film which is sometimes funny, often poignant & not so politically correct. This is the story of Frank's journey out of religious certainty &, in the face of the he historic rise of political & Christian conservatism, the discovery of surprising instances of tenderness, hope & grace along the way.

Frank, the son of influential Evangelicals Francis & Edith Schaeffer, was a filmmaker, writer, speaker & an architect of the US religious right in the 1970s. Underneath the exterior of aggressive religiosity, & expected to follow in his famous family's footsteps, his life was in turmoil. To the surprise of the religious establishment, Frank didn't step up. He stepped away.

Described as the "Traitorous Prince" by former confidants on the religious & political right, Frank is now a best-selling authr, blogger, painter, speaker & regular commentator for news outlets like MSNBC. His books include Portofino, Crazy for God, Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story Abut Love, & the US Marine Corps (with son John Schaeffer) & Why I'm an Atheist who Believes in God.

PANEL PRESENTATION

“Three Reflections on Spirituality” – Three Presentations by Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson, Prof Pamela Eisenbaum, & Rev Dr Margaret Mayman

Each speaker will make a presentation. Then after the tea/coffee break the auditorium will be divided by sliding panels into three spaces for approximately equal sized groups. Each of the speakers will rotate successively to each group and lead an interactive discussion/Q&A for about 20 minutes with each group based on the content of their presentation. Following this segment, the audience will meet in plenary session & the speakers will each give their take on what they felt emerged from the interactive sessions with the groups with opportunity for Q&A.

 

Paper 1: “God’s Treasure Hunt: encouraging us to find the meanings of existence” – Rev Dr Parkinson

Lorraine’s paper will explore new horizons for spirituality, inherent in the gradual revealing of God’s interweaving of spirit, mind and matter. It will comment on humanity’s ongoing encounter with creation’s secrets; discovering their eternal dance with the sacred laws of physics.  It will celebrate discovery of the keys to human life at its best, through Jesus the Enlightened One.

 

Paper 2: "Religious versus Spiritual: Personal Reflections on Jewish Spirituality" – Prof Eisenbaum

Many students at the United Methodist Seminary in Denver where I teach tell me they are “spiritual but not religious.” Reflections on my “spiritual but not religious” students has made me aware of my own disinclination toward this sentiment and led me to conclude that that feeling may be due to the difference between my identity as a Jew and my students’ identity (vague as it may be) as Protestant Christians. While Christians (at least in the American context) typically use the term “spirituality” in opposition to religion, spirituality for Jews is inconceivable apart from grounding in a religious tradition.  Comparison between Jewish and Christian forms of spiritual expression may therefore trouble some of our assumptions about the much-discussed modern tension between spirituality and religion.

 

Paper 3: "Jesus Is Not My Boyfriend: A Spirituality of Christa/Community" – Rev Dr Mayman

In her presentation, Margaret will draw on the resources of theology, ethics and liturgy to reflect on the meaning of a spiritually aware way of being in the world. To live justly and compassionately in the 21st century, an understanding of Christ that goes beyond gender may empower women and men to live well in relation with the sacred, with each other, and with planet Earth.

 

PARALLEL PROGRAM FOR EMERGING GENERATIONS (Gen Y/Millennials)

Exploring Future Forms of Sacred Community - Curators: Rev Matthew Cutler & Rev Lucas Taylor

Due to the specific generational challenges facing Millennials, Common Dreams is offering dedicated spaces to unpack and explore emergent forms of faith.

Deshna Ubeda, a passionate voice from the USA, will offer her thoughts, stories and creativity in exploring: “What are we moving towards?” Together we will enquire as to the shape of community for millennials and pathways of social and personal transformation. Curators Matt and Lucas together with Dave Andrews will offer formal and informal forums for lively discussion and interactive experiences.

"Sacred Community - Ancient Meets The Future; A look at transformative festivals & the experience of Sacred Community as a path towards Universal Transformation"– Deshna Ubeda

Join Deshna on a journey of exploration through the blossoming world of transformational festivals and alternative community gatherings, such as ecstatic dance. In her talk, Deshna will share stories of healing and transformation in the new generation experiences, as well as examine the way these community-building events offer a model for the future that encompasses the values of ecological and economic sustainability, ethical behaviour, the sharing and trade economy, ecospirituality, ritual and social evolution. We will look at how these gatherings focus on personal growth, social responsibility, sacred community, and creative expression and might be the future of societal change. Ancient meets the Future as this movement grows across the world and demonstrates a new paradigm of creating sacred community.

 

ELECTIVES

Workshop – “To Whom It May Concern; Prayer Without Theism” – Ian Lawton

It was the awkward moment when I was praying and realised I was talking to myself.

When I first stopped praying TO God, it was like losing a friend. And a perfect friend at that, one who never interrupted me. It was disorienting for a time. But then life without an interventionist God became the most liberating adventure I could ever imagine.

The purpose of this workshop is to explore spiritual practices that don’t require any theistic beliefs. If you’re looking to live a life of purpose, self-awareness and integrity then this workshop is for you.

In particular I will share a practice I learnt from a Zen master called Big Mind. It is a simple and fun exercise that you can do on your own once you’ve learnt it

Like prayer, Big Mind will have you talking to yourself but in guided ways that open up profound levels of self-awareness and love for others.

We will take plenty of time in the workshop to debrief and share wisdom and resources on spiritual practices beyond theism.

 

Lecture – “Political Lobbying from a Progressive Christian Perspective - A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia)” – Dr Ray Barraclough

A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) was established in 2013 to offer alternative & progressive Christian views on matters of public interest & to lobby politicians & opinion formers on issues of interest to progressive Christians. Prior to the formation of a PCV(A) commentary of this nature was dominated by well organised & influential conservative/fundamentalist groups. Ray will speak of the impact a PCV(A) has had, what the journey has been like & what the future might hold.

 

Guided Conversation & Live Podcast Recording – “Beyondering” – Rev Matt Cutler & Rev Lucas Taylor with Deshna Ubeda

Beyondering is a progressive podcast for millennials, committed to exploring an emerging pathway for Christian faith for younger generations. It seeks to unpack what faith might look like – the open-hearted and liberated ways of being required to negotiate the unique challenges of life in today’s world. It’s first season included interviews with John Dominic Crossan, Val Webb, Bishop Spong, Walter Brueggemann, Bruce Sanguin, Alex Sangster, Dave Andrews, Jarrod McKenna and Parker Palmer among others. These wonderful guests helped to explore ‘Faith out of Bounds'. Join Matt and Lucas with selected presenters from Common Dreams 2016 and become the studio audience of the podcast’s first live recording, as they offer a guided conversation including Q&A.

 

Lecture & Discussion – “Spirituality from a Utinitarian-Universalist Perspective” – Rev Rob MacPherson

A UU spirituality?  Is this a contradiction in terms?

How can a church have a shared spirituality or spiritual practice without subscribing to a creed (at least as an icon)? How can a denomination that welcomes and embraces both sides of the theist/humanist debate speak to all its members and adherents about ‘the spirit’ at all? Is UU spirituality simply an institutionalisation of narcissism, a place where ‘you can believe whatever you want’?

Worldwide, the signs are not encouraging for the post-Christian project that is UUism. In the UK, church leaders recognize a terminal decline and virtual extinction in 3 generations. In the USA, membership holds steady, but is not keeping pace with population growth. However, in the Adelaide church, seeds of hope are evident in growing numbers, lowering age demographic, vibrancy, and relevance. Is this the spirit at work, or just a temporary bump from better marketing?

Acknowledging the trinity of past UU errors—individualism, anti-authoritarianism, and exceptionalism—UU spirituality is being rediscovered in the UU trinity of promises—pluralism, generosity, and the creative imagination. The fruits of these promises are evident in a new and highly-motivated generation of UUs who will be leading the 160-year-old church toward its third century in Australia.

Rob will conduct this presentation as a short talk with AV, followed by generous time for questions and answers.

 

Interactive Discussion – Bunjil is the spirit of relationship – Rev Janet Turpie-Johnstone

Bunjil is the Wedgetail Eagle and is the metanarrative (a big story explaining everything) of the Kulin nation in southern Victoria. Janet will share something of the wisdom of these myths looking at Aboriginal way of life as Philosophy of Wisdom and Rationality. This will include images and stories.

 

Workshop – “The Journey of Life: Basic to New Directions for Spirituality” – Dr Noel Preston

This workshop uses the DVD "The Journey of the Universe" produced by Brian Swimme (colleague of the late Thomas Berry). The underlying scientific/philosophical/theological questions posed by this presentation are “What role do humans play in this 14 billion year process? And what is at stake if human activity threatens this process? And, further, what kind of belief system/spirituality/ethic will sustain an appropriate role for humanity in the continuation of this story?"

 

Interactive Discussion – “The Conscious Muslim– Saara Sabbagh

What does it mean to be an observant Muslim into today's complex and challenging world? How does the Islamic tradition assist in navigating one's world view and ethical choices to create a holistic and compassionate way of living? In this interactive discussion, Saara Sabbagh will lead a conversation in faith, virtues and authenticity upon the spiritual path.

 

Lecture & Discussion – “Is a Radical Church Possible?” – Rev Adrian Alker

Mainstream Christian denominations are facing critical decline in the UK and in many parts of the world. Church leaders call for new strategies for growth but will these be effective? In his book, Is ‘A radical church Possible? Adrian Alker calls for an honest look at the life of Jesus and the faith of the Church and suggests a radical and more honest reshaping of the churches to enable them to face the challenges of the present day.

Adrian passionately believes that the Church must become more Jesus shaped and less concerned with its own structures and beliefs in order to attract new members. He acknowledges the many contributions which the local church can and does make to enhance community life. The churches in the UK have done much to challenge government policy which results in inequality. Churches provide food banks, welcome asylum seekers and do much to fulfil the kingdom teachings of Jesus. But they remain stubbornly fixed on a theology and ecclesiology which demands an allegiance and acceptance of creedal statements and belief requirements which are not fit for this third millennium.

 





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