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Michael Leunig on Identity


The famous Australian cartoonist gave this speech last year at The Disrupted Festival of  Ideas at the State Library of WA. I think some of his observations about the state of public discourse in Australia are on the money. Here’s a sample:

In a land that worships winners, doles out awards, trophies and medals for even the most dubious achievements, and has discomfort with the acknowledgement of loss and grief, negativity is often repressed from conversation – perhaps for fear that the barbeque will run out of gas, or the beer will go flat. If we express sadness, we are often told to cheer up. If we express joyfulness about beauty, we are told to calm down, particularly if we are male.

Does Australia have a problem with introspection, joy, sadness, or beauty? Is there the sufficient cultural humility, openness or courage required to enter into these personal matters? Publicly?

It’s as if we are becoming constricted by our rampant materialism and secularity, and more adverse to soulfulness or the negative capability required to access the profound mysteries of existence. We have become timid and embarrassed about this eternal frontier.

We seem addicted to factual certainty and a vehement secular hope in the promise of science. Being right, even about trivial things. has become very important We rush too quickly for answers or a diagnosis of our social ills; we are wary of the unknowable, we turn away from lyricism, metaphor and poetic truth in our existential insecurity, we embrace the clinical language of law and statistics to explain our human condition – and in so doing, define our identity too narrowly, too technically, too starkly in a new form of modernist fundamentalism. We limit ourselves. We are a nation that appears to be afraid of the darkness – the fertile darkness, and in that sense we have an infantile or immature streak.

Alas I have found it is the more soulful or spiritual expression and the sincerity of the idiosyncratic or visionary intelligence that gets too much persecuted and mocked. That’s what is declared irrelevant by those who presume to ordain the nature of reality. The fact that intelligent personal truth can be so intolerable and forbidden in the public domain, would suggest that the nation is either becoming a huge committee of cautious, if not insipid and frightened individuals – or else a lynch mob of egotistical, brain ridden fanatics projecting certitudes and opinions most forcefully and fiercely through mainstream and social media in a delusional quest for power. How bitter, fast and unloving is the cult of cleverness. How arrogant and vain.

It seems to me a great pity, that people should withhold their convictions and wisdom through intimidation and fear of the mob – be it an educated intellectual mob or a mob of brutes. We are impoverished as a nation by this cultural inhibition and shaming of our true nature, with all its benefits and genius that should be feeding into the life-blood of society as a regenerative stimulant and nourishment. It happens as much in art as it does in politics or public discourse.



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A momentous night in the life of St Paul’s Castle Hill


Last night was a significant night in the history of St Paul’s!

Over the last 3 years, the Parish Council (elected leaders) have been considering the future of St Paul’s, especially in the light of growth that God has brought to the congregations and the pressure that has put on space on our site. This led them to consider all the alternatives, summarised nicely by this little video.

Over the last few months, a vision has been shared with the congregations for a redevelopment of our site, culminating in a new purpose built auditorium along with attendant car parking and spaces for ministries to function (see the 6 stages proposed here).

Last Sunday, Pastor Oscar Muriu from Nairobi Chapel (in Kenya, a partner church of ours) challenged all of our congregations to think about the legacy we would leave and to “be brave, not safe” as we though about heading into the future.


Last night, more than 300 people gathered into the church building to consider the a motion to commence with Stages 1 and 2 ‘as soon as possible’.


This would mean expanding the current building to 750 seats, building new mothers and toddlers rooms, constructing new meeting spaces and offices, along with other bits and pieces to prepare for future stages; it would also mean committing ourselves prayerfully and financially to the project, to the tune of $5.8 million dollars.


The motion was put, and a secret ballet taken, with the options of ‘yes’ (I support and will commit) or ‘no’.

The votes were counted in public view, and the tally was:

330 votes collected

4 informal

17 no

309 yes!

That means 94% of those gathered said yes to going forward with the plan, and committing themselves to seeing it happen under God’s good hand. Amazing!


This means we have committed ourselves to continue pushing to reach the least, the last, and the lost, with even more fervour as we think of the train line opening in 2019 and the predicted 100 000 extra people moving into the Hills after that time.

Exciting and challenging days are ahead! Praise be to God!

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10 Leadership Theories in 5 minutes (with cartoons!)

h/t @TDBowden

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An Easter Poem

Easter SLIDE

A wonderful expression of Easter, by Carl Leggo, a University of British Columbia Professor

Empty Tomb

Jesus lived the earth’s experience
of womb to tomb, but the womb
was not the beginning, and
the tomb was not the ending

the Gospel of John begins:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.

the Christian story is a murder mystery:
the Word is murdered,
the world murders the Word,
the Creator is crucified
by the created, an act of heartless
ingratitude beyond imagination

the same wise Word that spoke
the world into creation is murdered
by the world’s noisy sin-bent
heart-breaking imbecilic betrayal

while the Word knew the world
the world did not know the Word

and with the death of the Word
poetry died, too, and darkness
and despair filled songs with
such steady sad silence, joy and
hope were choked, suffocated

but no tomb could hold the Word for long,
the empty tomb is really a tome without end,
a story that defies definitions, all the words
in all the languages in all the dictionaries
ever invented to tell it true, like it is

and so on this Easter morning,
we call out in our many languages,
our many voices, our many words,
the tomb is empty, Jesus is risen,
the Word is both lively and lovely

the Christian story is a rollicking romance:
the Word who loves us with sacred abandon
is the author of faith, salvation, life, our rock,
redemption, righteousness, our resurrection,
words with rock and roll rhythms that
call us to dance our loose-limbed joy

even the torturous cross blooms
with a wild earth heart bouquet,
chants a meadow of wildflowers

on this new Easter morning
let us dance in the meadow
as we remember the empty tomb
and know the meaning nobody knew
on the first Easter morning, long ago,
how the hole, the empty tomb,
is like the zero in mathematics and
spells the fullness of other relationships,
connections, and possibilities

everything makes sense finally
because of the hole, the tomb’s
emptiness, the zero’s nothingness,
which opens up all hopes and beginnings

so we can know the fullness of life,
now and forever, know the Word lives,
know the Word loves you and me, all of us

the Gospel of John ends:
Jesus did many other things as well.
If every one of them were written down,
I suppose that even the whole world
would not have room for the books
that would be written.

on this Easter morning,
let us belly laugh with the angels, sing
to the creation from the soles of our feet
as we dance with the Creator who loves us
beyond all our words with the perfect love
only the Word can write in poems for filling
us with the lyrical light of his morning star

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In honour of Origin tonight…

h/t @thepatjones

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They are building this down the road…


Artist’s impression of Castle Towers after development


The Hills are set for massive change, in lots of ways.

The train line, so long promised, is being built. The forecast is for 100 000 people to be moving in in the next 20 years or so.

And one of the stations will be down the road from the church where I serve, St Paul’s Castle Hill. Literally down the road – less than 1km away. It will incorporated into a massive redevelopment of Castle Towers, a shopping centre that is already huge.

This story, from today’s local paper, states that the completed redevelopment will mean a floor space of 173,683 sq m., and bring an estimated 2500 extra jobs into the region.

The redeveloped Castle Towers from Old Northern Rd.

The challenge before us a church is thinking into the future – what do all of these developments mean for St Paul’s? And how can we make the most of them for the future? We are working hard at these questions right now.



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How to make sure your community is strong


In a Christian community, everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain. Only when even the smallest link is securely interlocked is the chain unbreakable. A community which allows unemployed members to exist within it will perish because of them. It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that he may know in hours of doubt that he, too, is not useless and unusable. Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of the fellowship.

… Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Life Together [1954], tr. Daniel W. Bloesch & James H. Burtness, Fortress Press, 2004, p. 95-96 (see the book)

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Razza in the local newspaper!!


Here is Razza’s debut in the local news:

PUPPETS will present the real meaning of Christmas to children at Christmas in the Hills.

Keith Baker, the senior associate at St Pauls Anglican Church Castle Hill, and his puppet Razza will deliver a special message about Jesus and Christmas.

Mr Baker and his wife Rebecca have found spiritual teachings through puppet shows to be an effective way of helping children learn about Christmas and other traditions.

“We started doing puppet shows at Sunday school,” Mr Baker said.

“We did outdoor shows for the children and have been doing shows for 25 years.”

Read the rest of the article from the Hills News here.

Christmas in the Hills is on Wednesday, 18th December, at Bella Vista Farm, from 3pm. Tickets are $5 each or family for $15, and all proceeds go to supporting Woodbury School, Tallowood School and Lifestart – buy them here.

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Razza and me at ‘Christmas in the Hills’




Razza and I have just come back from a gruelling interview and publicity shoot with 2 of the local papers.

I say gruelling, because I was very cooperative, but Razza wasn’t happy with the lighting, or the setting, or the sound of the cameras, or the fact that there was no water in her trailer before the shoot (I don’t know how she gets a trailer…).

Any way, we are looking forward to seeing everyone at ‘Christmas in the Hills’ on Wednesday, 18th December at Bella Vista Farm from 3pm.

You can find out more information and buy tickets here, and all the proceeds are going towards three schools that help kids with significant disabilities.

We look forward to seeing you there! (And look for the articles in your local Hills papers next week!)

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Vision Sunday 2013 at St Paul’s


Yesterday was Vision Sunday at What a great day!

It was the culmination of a preaching series on ‘Persevering Faith’, which toured Matthew, Habbakuk, Romans and Hebrews.

It was a day when we celebrated the Persevering Faith of previous generations at SPCH, that led them to relocate from a small 100 building to our current site which seats and parks up to 650.

It was a day when we called all our people to commit their God-given time, talents and treasures to the task God has called us all to do.

It was a day when people from all 4 of our Sunday gatherings wrote their names on the board to say ‘I’m in”.


Even our little one got in on the act! (Look closely…)


Our communications people served us very very well to make things clear and to help make it as easy as possible to commit – thanks!

Praise God for his goodness in Jesus, and for the blessing of Vision Sunday. Lets see what will happen in 2014!

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