All posts by melindacousins

A Christmas Eve Lament

God, we are longing

O how we are longing …

Fires rage and smoke fills the air

we weep for all that has been lost

we fear for what is still to come

and we thirst for relief

Loneliness engulfs us

the hype fails to distract us

the crowds pass us by

and we yearn for more

Grief crashes anew

we feel cheated again by death

robbed of one more day

and we groan for resurrection

Sicknesses ravage us

our bodies aching

our minds afflicted

and we cry out for healing

Conflict surrounds us

wars in our world

tensions in our families

struggles in our souls

and we ache for peace

Sadnesses consume us

for what we have lost

for what we never had

that what we have is not yet what it could be

and we crave what we cannot quite name

We are longing …

desiring

wanting

needing

hoping

expecting

yearning

We are waiting

waiting for you to come.

O come.

O come.

Emmanuel.

 

A story 125 years in the making

Today is a significant anniversary here in South Australia: it is 125 years since the passing of the Adult Suffrage Bill, which gave women both the right to vote and the right to stand for parliament. SA became the second place in the world to give women the first right (after New Zealand the previous year) and the first place in the world to give women the second right.

The first was the result of hard work, petitions, campaigning, fundraisers, advocacy and support. The second was an accident.

Member of the Legislative Council, Ebenezer Ward, was a fierce opponent of women’s suffrage. When he realised that majority support had swung the other way, he came up with what he thought was a brilliant plan (now sometimes called ‘The Great Miscalculation‘). He moved an amendment to the bill that would allow women to not only vote but to stand for election as well. He thought surely such a radical proposal, one not even the suffragettes had been asking for, would lead to the entire bill being defeated. He was wrong, and he gave himself the unwanted distinction of being responsible for giving South Australian women at the time the widest enfranchisement in the world.*

As a Christian, I’m intrigued and encouraged by the involvement of many church leaders in the movement towards women’s suffrage, and the theological convictions that underpinned their advocacy. (Despite people like Ward quoting the Bible against them). Leading advocates included Mary Colton, a mother of nine and a Methodist Sunday School teacher who also founded the Adelaide Children’s Hospital; Elizabeth Nicholls, president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and another Methodist Sunday School teacher; Rosetta Birks, a devoted Baptist who married her sister’s widower and became stepmother to their six children; and Serena Lake, who initially came to Adelaide as a preacher with the Bible Christian movement, filling the town hall for her first meeting. They were well supported by men like Joseph Coles Kirby, a Congregationalist minister; Sylvanus Magarey, a medical doctor and influential member of the Churches of Christ; and Robert Caldwell, a Methodist Member of Parliament. (When the Centre for Democracy made the 1894 Suffrage Petition searchable online earlier this year, I was pleased to see leading Baptist pastor and planter of my church, Silas Mead, had signed it … not just once but three times!)

The most well known and leading advocate for women’s suffrage was Mary Lee, a non-conformist Irish widow who came to SA as a fifty-eight year old to nurse her sick son and stayed after he died. She founded the Women’s Suffrage League, writing letters and making speeches that inspired many. When questioned about “women’s place” in society under God, she wrote, ‘…however and wherever woman can be of best and widest usefulness to her fellow men and women, there, by God’s providence, is her allotted sphere.’

These are the kinds of stories we need to tell; stories of people of faith and conviction working for the good of others and for the good of society as a whole.

Too many people dismiss history as ‘boring’, perhaps because we have failed to engage them with the stories of ordinary people upon whose shoulders we stand and by whose example we can be inspired. That’s certainly how I’m feeling today, and I’m thankful for these women and men. To read more of their story, see “Votes for Women”, by Dr Helen Jones on the Women & Politics website.

But I’m also reminded that history includes stories like that of Ebenezer Ward, who made one foolish move and probably spent the rest of his life regretting it. The Adelaide newspaper of the day described him as “gifted with histrionic power … and curiously deficient in humour,” so it’s unlikely he saw the funny side of it. I think his story is worth telling too … there’s probably a lesson in there somewhere, even if not the one he planned.

 

*It is important to note that the rights granted extended to Aboriginal women. These were taken away from them by the Commonwealth in 1902 and not reinstated until 1962, another shameful chapter in the history of this nation’s treatment of its indigenous peoples.

 

 

 

Writing, Speaking, Podcasting and Lamenting … out loud

I called this blog Thinking Out Loud because that describes something I love to do – working out, wrestling with, and sharing my thinking externally. Writing is a helpful tool for this as it forces you to wrangle your ideas into some kind of structure and shape, that you hope will help spark ideas, resonances, and responses in those who read them. There is also some trepidation in putting your thoughts into ‘print’, as they can then be perceived as fixed and final, unable to be further nuanced or developed.

Podcasting is another great way of thinking out loud. I have a range of podcasts I’m loving listening to, hearing other people ponder and wonder, dialogue and debate, inform and imagine as they speak their words into being. (I need to update my top listening list soon). There is probably a greater sense of immediacy and connection with listening rather than just reading, which makes me want to think more about the engagement of our different senses in this context.

Many of the messages I preach are available as podcasts, and a friend and I have been imagining what a podcast we hosted could look like.

Last week I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a fairly new podcast, hosted by Andy and Mike, two guys serving as worship pastors in churches that are part of the movement in which I lead and serve.

Our topic was Lament, and in particular how the Psalms of Lament teach us and lead us in this practice as part of our worship. I really enjoyed sitting down and talking through some of what I have learned through my studies and teaching, preaching and practicing, of the Psalms.

The downside of talking over writing is that you don’t necessarily say everything you want to, and I did wonder if our tone was sometimes more upbeat than the topic might suggest, simply due to the enjoyment of having the conversation itself.

But having dialogue partners means you can bounce off one another in real time, which is great for both questions and tangents. Hopefully it leads to key ideas being both clarified and applied in helpful ways. I really enjoyed our conversation and it probably could have gone for a lot longer.

In many ways, learning to lament is itself a practice of thinking out loud.

The Psalms invite us to enter into their experience and relationship with God,  to experience their emotions and imagination and embodiment. I believe it is in enacting the Psalms, voicing their words as our own, that they form us.

The lament psalms in particular invite us to share our experiences of disorientation with God and with one another in the community of faith: asking questions in our doubt, weeping tears in our sadness, expressing anger at injustice, confessing our weaknesses and failings, standing in solidarity with the grief and brokenness of others. And doing all this in an attitude of prayer and worship.

I’m currently working on a few writing projects on the Psalms, but if you’d like to hear some of my thinking out loud specifically about Lament, you can listen to the podcast episode here: Captivate Podcast, Episode 8.