Father Dave’s Missive – January 31st, 2014

Hi Fighter,

I got caught in a domestic violence situation tonight.

I think I handled it just right. It’s so hard to get these things right.

I was putting the garbage out and heard what I thought at first was kids shouting at each other. Then I saw a woman on the ground and a man standing over her and … I realized happily that I had my clergy shirt on. I adjusted my collar appropriately as I rushed to the scene.

The clergy collar has always proven to be more powerful to me than a superman outfit in situations like this. Nobody wants to punch the priest, and nobody wants a priest watching them while they beat their woman.

There was lots of shouting going on and the woman was screaming obscenities but it didn’t seem as if any punches had been thrown so I stopped about three meters short of the two and stood at right-angles to them without saying anything. From the nature of the shouting and accusations it was clear that they were partners (of sorts).

There was another woman involved (a friend of the first woman) who was also screaming at the man and probably wasn’t helping. The man had no shirt on but didn’t seem to be drunk. The woman would scream “give me my phone back. Give me my smokes”, etc. He would then throw the smokes/phone at her and then lean over and grab them back from where she’d dropped them.

None of this was done in an overly violent way though I was aware that things could degenerate into open brutality at any moment and I was only a millisecond’s distance from the man’s right hand if it came to that. Even so, I think that by standing where I was, saying nothing and so not confronting the man directly but evidently monitoring the situation very carefully in my clergy collar, I helped keep a lid on the problem.

The man eventually complied with the woman’s repeated requests, such as “f**k the hell off” and “get the f**k out of my life” (or at least with the first request anyway). He disappeared and she then walked around the corner. I took the opportunity to call 000 and the police said they were on their way.

The woman had sat herself down in a heap alongside our local Salvation Army store. I spoke to the friend who was all very grateful to me, recognised me as the boxing priest, and told me all about how God had spoken to her while she was in a coma. Our happy conversation though suddenly ended when she screamed “Oh my God, he’s coming back“, and sure enough he was coming back, and I turned to take my stand this time between the man and his target.

I figured this time that things were highly likely to get bloody but before the man reached us a paddy-wagon screeched to a halt alongside me and four policemen had the man on the ground and hand-cuffed within about 0.5 seconds! The man didn’t resist at all. Two of the police stayed with the man, one talked to the woman and the other came over to me “Hey Father Dave, how’s it going?”

This young Constable took down all the relevant details but he was frankly more interested in hearing how his mates were doing at boxing training (as I’m currently training three officers from the Marrickville Local Area Command).

It was a horrible way to end what was otherwise a quite night of domestic tranquility. I stepped out into a war-zone. Then I stepped back inside again. I’m not used to that now like I used to be. I think that’s how I learnt to compartmentalize in the early days here.

Feeding deer at Mogo Zoo
We still enjoy the merry-go-round at Luna Park
Festival of Sydney jumping castle at the Opera House
Imogen and I do dinner and a movie! 🙂
Looking for a chapel for Binacrombi

And so the school holidays are well and truly over and it’s back to business for all of us.

I didn’t really get a proper holiday myself this January but I did spend some lovely time with the kids as you can see from the above.  I also made some significant steps forward in terms of my New Year’s resolutions!

In case you’ve forgotten, I set five goals for this year:

  1. Develop Binacrombi as a place of contemplative prayer.
  2. Make a contribution to peace in Syria.
  3. Make a contribution to Palestinian statehood.
  4. Win a world boxing title
  5. Help each of my kids complete their years at school.

At the moment I seem to be moving forward in leaps and bounds on all fronts!

In terms of Binacrombi, I believe I have found my first Abbott – a true man of prayer and a legendary sportsman who can help develop the monastic side of our retreat without compromising our commitment to extreme sports (trail bike riding, boxing, etc.)!

We’ve also been offered a chapel that we may be able to simply pick up and relocate to our site. Of course these things are never simple but I’ve already been looking over things with a builder-mate and we’ll know soon enough what is possible.

I can’t give the names and details on any of the above until things are more settled but it seems clear that the Lord wants us to proceed with this vision. 

As far as Syria goes, plans are coming together very quickly for another mission that will probably happen this side of Easter!

Again, I can’t give you details at this stage but I can give a broad outline of what we hope to achieve:

  • Express our solidarity with the church in Syria
  • Take in much-needed medical supplies
  • See if we can secure the release of some prisoners
  • See if we can initiate boxing programmes in the refugee camps

No prizes for guessing who came up with this last idea. The exciting thing for me is that my colleagues around the world are as excited about the prospects of setting up boxing programmes in refugee camps as I am! 

And so far as my hopes for a world title go, it seems that I may have two fights on the horizon – one in Dublin and another in Syria itself!

Frankly, it doesn’t really matter whether there is any title attached to either of them. I have a feeling we’ll be able to accomplish something significant with those bouts if we can make them happen!

As to my fifth goal – helping my kids through school – we’re off to a good start! Two out of three are back to their studies and I took Francesca for her evaluation session for Kindergarten today. She will start regular classes on Monday!

Enough prattling from me for now about goals and achievements, but I think the above proves the point I made in my last missive – that if you tell people what your goals you are far more likely to move on them!

I’m still hoping that you might share some of your hopes and dreams for the year in the comment-box below. Go on! Be daring! Dream big!

Sermon Time

I’ve been preaching rather a lot lately so I’ve got plenty of sermons I could pass on to you today but I really want to share with you the one I did for the Feast of the Holy Family.

I’m conscious of the fact that ‘Christian values‘ and ‘family values‘ are often taken as being synonymous and that the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) are generally depicted as being the archetypal white, middle-class nuclear family unit.

A little investigation of the texts though suggests that Jesus’ human family was far from the ideal model that preachers of family values would like it to be. Indeed, I suspect that most family therapists would have found plenty of material to work on there!

I don’t know whether you’ll find this sermonic exploration into the family life of Jesus encouraging or unnerving. Either way, if the church is going to make pronouncements about what a Christian family is supposed to look like, this material needs to be taken into account!

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If you can’t view this video, click here.

OK Fighter, I’ll be in contact again as soon as I’ve got the details of the Syria mission all worked out. We’ll be doing some fundraising and simultaneously launching Fighting Father Denning’s documentary movie of our last Syria trip.

Until then, I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.zerocostwebsite.net
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.warriorweekends.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. And as I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Father Dave’s Missive – January 6th, 2014

Hi Fighter,

It’s New Year’s Day as I start this missive and, as is inevitably the case this time of year, I’m reflecting on both the year that’s past and the year ahead.

2013 was a big year for me personally, for my family, for our church and for the Order of the Fighting Fathers.

Personally, I was able to travel to Bali, Malaysia, Lebanon, Iran and Syria, and I had the privilege of meeting two heroes of mine for the first time – Mairead Maguire and George Galloway. I also caught up with some wonderful old friends such as Mother Agnes Mariam and Dr Chandra Muzaffar, and was able to share in their creative work!

On the church front the year was somewhat dominated by the fire that burnt down our hall complex. We lost our Youth Centre and boxing gym and a whole lot of history that night, and the boy responsible still hasn’t been arrested! Even so, it was wonderful to see the whole community come together to support us, and both the Youth Centre and the gym are now up and running again on premises owned by our dear sisters and brothers of the local Salvation Army Corps.

On the family front, each of the children had their own particular struggles but each ended the year in good health and spirits (thanks be to God) and Ange started teaching full-time for the first time.

We shared a wonderful Christmas together. I know that Christmas is such a difficult time for so many people and I do not take for granted the privilege of being in a stable domestic and financial situation. I share with you the following Christmas pics in the hope that your Christmas was also an enjoyable (or at least a bearable) one.


Christmas Angels!
Our Christmas Concert
Our Christmas Angels steal the show 🙂
Our Christmas Pageant
Even the most professional performers need a support team
Carols on the Rectory Lawn is a great success!
Imogen and I lead the Christmas Day service


(note that you can hover your cursor to pause a slide and click to move to the next one)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the year ahead and I’ve set myself five goals for 2014.

I am a great believer in settings goals and sharing them with friends. I find that people achieve their goals a lot more often when they are shared. Perhaps it’s because the embarrassment factor kicks in? We hate the idea of failing to achieve a target that’s been made public? Even so, I’m told that more people achieve their goals even when they write them on a piece of paper and put the paper in a drawer – telling no one!

I’m making my goals public and am going to do my best to achieve each of them. This list is not exhaustive and contains nothing about rebuilding the Youth Center (which may not be completed until 2015). The list is nonetheless ambitious:

  1. Found a monastic Order
  2. Win a world boxing title
  3. Help end the war in Syria
  4. Help establish a state of Palestine
  5. Help each of my kids get through their years at school.

The last goal may well prove the hardest. At least it doesn’t require much explanation. I’ll give you a bit more detail on the other goals.

The Monastic Order

I have a real vision for developing Binacrombi as a place of prayer and reflection.

As you probably realise, Binacrombi is set up as a remote centre for extreme sports – primarily trail-bike riding and fight training – both of which may seem completely incompatible with a contemplative lifestyle. In my view though extreme action and focused contemplation are two sides of the same coin! We already have the boxing ring, wrestling cage, 530 acres of untamed bush, and a whole lot more there to cover the sporting side. What we need now is a chapel!

To cut a long story short, I’ve been talking to a certain Bishop over the last couple of months and it seems that he may have an old chapel that can be lifted from its current location and replanted at Binacrombi.

Of course there’s much to be done between now and our first monastic chant, and I’ll probably need to raise some cash in order to fund the replanting. Even so, I’m hopeful that we’ll have pews on the ground before the year is out and I’ve already got someone designing special monastic habits for me (habits that are light enough to train in).

What I’m looking for from you right now is a commitment to pray with me – not just in your bedroom but on location at Binacrombi. Would you be interested in taking off a few days or a week or even a month to come and pray with us in the bush? If enough of us start spending extended time in prayer out there the rest will follow naturally.

Boxing

Like most old pugs I’m feeling I’ve got one more good fight left in me. I’m sure there must be some obscure world title for 50-something year-olds that I can compete for! If not in this country then surely in the USA?

My first step will be to trim down about 10kgs and get back into fighting shape. I’ve given myself to the end of February to achieve this.

Syria

There’s talk of a major peace mission to Syria happening over the Easter period this year involving church leaders from around the world. I’m hoping to be a part of it.

Moreover, I have a more specific project in mind that I’ve shared with you before – teaching boxing to kids in refugee camps in Syria and along the Syrian border. This might seem far-fetched but I have a feeling that a number of high-profile boxers would jump at the chance to get involved if I can set something in motion. I’ve put it to prayer.

Palestine

As you may know, this year has been declared “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” by the General Assembly of the United Nations. I am hoping and praying that this will be a decisive year for all Palestinians.

My hope is that we can again make a small contribution through our boxing. You will remember that we had members of the Palestinian Olympic team visit our Fight Club last November and we started planning then to sponsor a Palestinian team to tour Australia and possibly the UK as well. Who knows where this might take us? I am trusting that it will all contribute to the greater quest for justice and peace.

Those are my public goals for 2014. What are yours? I’d encourage you to make yours public too, even if only be sharing them in the comment section below.

Sermon Time

I’ve been preaching rather incessantly over this Christmas period so I’ve got no shortage of sermon material to share. I’m offering you today the one I did on the Sunday before Christmas where the Gospel text focused on the person of Joseph, Mary’s husband, who is without doubt the least dynamic person in the entire Christmas narrative.

We know very little about Joseph and he seems to contribute very little to the Gospel story. He is a minor character in a great drama, which makes him a lot like us.

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(If you can’t view this video, click here)

Before I let you go today, fighter, I’d ask you to share a prayer with me for our dear brother Mordechai Vanunu – Israel’s nuclear whistle-blower.

If you don’t know the story you can Google him. If you don’t know my connection to Morde, it’s simple. He stumbled into our church one Friday night back in 1986. We became good friends. Then he was kidnapped by the Mossad!

This year marks 27 years since Morde’s abduction. 27 years was notably the same length of time Nelson Mandela spent in custody.

  • The first 11 of those years Morde spent in solitary confinement!
  • The next 6 years were spent in a regular prison
  • Over the remaining 10 years Morde has been constantly harassed by Israeli authorities, has been refused the right to leave the country, and was re-imprisoned for a month for the crime of speaking to foreigners!

On Christmas Day just past Morde once again appeared in court, pleading for the right to leave Israel and live a free life. As usual his appeal was refused.

My friend Eileen Flemming has put together a petition to put an end to Morde’s endless punishment. Will you sign it please?  It’s a small gesture, I know, but apart from prayer and petitions I’m not sure what else we can do for this dear brother at the moment.

Morde Vaunu and me in 2004

With Morde after his release in April 2004

One last thing please …

By way of an annual appeal can I encourage any of you who want to support the work of the Fighting Fathers to do so by taking out a membership at www.fighting-fathers.com?

It will only cost you $10/month and you get plenty for your money. As well as a great library of eBooks and software in the members’ area you get the privilege of being part of the greatest online community on the planet! You’ll also get to help me cover the monthly cost of maintaining our online infrastructure (which seems to get heavier by the year).

Please do consider joining the team but be assured that, either way, I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight.

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.zerocostwebsite.net
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. Forgive this act of pure self-indulgence below but I added a slideshow retrospective of personal highlights of 2013. It was an amazing year!

I turn 51
February 17 - Imogen is confirmed
Meeting John Shipton (Julian Assange's dad) and joining the Wikileaks Party
March - We hold our first Binacrombi Boot Camp!
April - Francesca turns 4
Soren Lee turns 11
April 21 - the Youth Centre is on fire!
May - Welcome to Damascus!
Meeting Mairead Maguire!
Overwhelmed by the Grand Mufti of Syria, Dr Hassoun
Meeting up with dear Mansour again in Tehran
June - Guest speaker at the Muslim Youth Conference!
July - Mother Agnes at Holy Trinity!
Meeting up with Kevin 07 in Canberra!
Meeting up again with Dr Chandra Muzaffar in Kuala Lumper
George Galloway comes over for coffee!
September - Imogen turns 16
August - we reopen the Gym and Youth Centre in the Salvation Army hall!
October - Imogen and I go to 'Fight Night' at Movie World
Francesca makes her own scary Halloween mask
November - the Palestinian Olympic team joins us at Fight Club
December - the great Youth Centre bush camp!
The great Bali wedding!
Christmas Angels

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four