it’s the 100-year anniversary of our church building
It’s my 25th anniversary as priest of the parish
it’s the opening of our new Youth and Community Centre
If you’re in the Dulwich Hill area I’m hoping you’ll join us from 9.15am onwards.
We’ll have plenty of interesting personalities joining us tomorrow, including our own Archbishop, Glen Davies, our former Archbishop, Harry Goodhew, and a host of other dignitaries, politicians and community leaders. We’ll also have with us representatives of many of the groups we’ve worked closely with over the years who will be carrying appropriate banners in the church procession:
I’m also expecting quite a number from the local Muslim community to join us. Indeed, our friends from the Imam Husain Islamic Centre are organising the BBQ luncheon for us that follows and are paying for all the sausages.
So if you’re in the area, you are invited. And if you’re not in the area, you’re still invited (but not expected). Either way, we kick off with church at 9.15am and should be finished by around 2pm (after which you can stick around for Fight Club if you’re really keen)!
As you may know, there had been a four-round professional boxing match planned for tomorrow too between myself and Aswin Cabuy (pictured below). Unfortunately that fight is not now going ahead, much to my disappointment.
Even so, I thought I’d give you a fight rather than a sermon.today It’s my fight from early October against Tommy West. It was my last fight as an amatuer as I’ve subsequently been granted a professional license again and there’s no going back this time!
I was disappointed not to get the decision in this fight. Not only the crowd but even my opponent thought I won this one! I won’t say more but leave it to you to judge.
I’ll try to be in contact again before Christmas.
working the corner for Aswin Cabuy
I will mention one thing to you now though before I let you go – namely, that I’ve finally upgraded two of my main websites!
Father Dave v. Tommy West - Adelaide, October 5, 2015
Father Dave v. Tommy West - Adelaide, October 5, 2015
Father Dave v. Tommy West - Adelaide, October 5, 2015
Sydney Marches for Palestine, Saturday October 17
Sydney Marches for Palestine, Saturday October 17
Soren pitches into the work at Binacrombi with his chainsaw
Bob and John launch their book on Holy Trinity - "A Church for our Times"
'Hands Off Syria' rally - Sydney Town Hall
Imogen finishes school
Imogen finishes school
Imogen does an amazing birthday sketch for Ange
showing off my Father's Day hat
It’s been a month since we last communicated and the world seems to have been turned upside-down since then!
When I last wrote there were still fears that Russia was going to sell out Syria for the sake of gaining time before the inevitable showdown with NATO over the Ukraine. Instead Russia went on the offensive – launching a blistering attack against jihadists in Syria! As a result, as I wrote in my Syria blog, Syria has won the war (almost)!
Putin’s bold move took the US and her allies (including Australia) by complete surprise and created a diplomatic scramble with everyone desperately trying to come up with a rationale as to why Russia shouldn’t be allowed to help the West achieve their stated objectives! While the great powers mumble and fumble Syrians around the world rejoice!
Meanwhile in Israel/Palestine things go from bad to worse! The violence is sickening. The one-sided coverage by Australian media is also sickening. I won’t say more here but point you instead to an article I published on my Israel/Palestine blog, entitled “Palestinians Die. Who cares?” Be warned that it includes a gut-wrenching video of a young girl being killed in cold blood.
For me personally the world has also been turning rather rapidly of late. Two Sundays ago I fought for another Australian boxing title (old bastards division, of course). I lost on a controversial split decision. This was disappointing as I was hoping to use this title as leverage to relaunch myself as a professional. Now I’m assessing my options.
It’s not that I feel I have anything left to prove in the sporting field. It’s a simple issue of money. I’ve found that there’s only so much I can raise through grant applications and online appeals and it never seems to be quite enough to keep our work going.
Put in a prayer for me please. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been and I’m sure I still have a few fights left in me. If I could get one or two high-profile fights I could put our work on a more solid financial footing. I’m continuing to train hard and will take whatever opportunities open up to me. The rest is in God’s hands.
The Gospel according to Adolf Hitler
“You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:42-43)
I’ve got a different sort of sermon for you this week. Sunday’s Gospel reading from Mark chapter 10 focused once again on the issue of power. This was such a common point of contention between Jesus and His disciples that I covered the issue in detail in a sermon on Mark 9 only a few weeks ago. So I thought I’d take a different tack this time – comparing the teachings of Jesus to the teachings of Adolf Hitler as spelt out in his autobiography, Mein Kampf.
I’m not suggesting that you read Mein Kampf (though you may be interested to hear my summary). I do recommend to you the teachings of Jesus on issues of power. Hopefully by giving you my take on both you’ll be less likely to confuse the two!
(for the written version of this sermon, click here, and for the audio-only, here)
The world continues to turn and my timetable for the coming months is looking increasingly dense. Hopefully some good will come of it.
Next weekend (October 23-25) is our Warriors’ Weekend – two days of intense fitness training and prayer at Australia’s most beautiful bush camp, Binacrombi.
If you haven’t signed up to come there is still time (providing that you’re reading this before October 23rd). Just let me know ASAP. If you have no idea as to what it’s about, you can check out the Warrior Weekends website or download the flyer here.
Once this weekend is over things will really start to hot up for me. Highlights include:
The completion of our new Youth and Community Centre in mid-November
Our community choir’s Bach and Vivaldi concert on November 22nd
A dinner to mark my 25th anniversary as Parish Priest on December 5th
Holy Trinity’s 100-year Centenary celebration on December 6th
The official opening of our new Centre by the Archbishop on the same day
In addition to all this I’m still hoping to slot that professional fight in there somewhere – perhaps on the same day as the official opening while I’ve got the Archbishop there to help work my corner.
If you’d like to come to my 25-year anniversary dinner, please get in touch with the church office.
If you’d like to join us for the Centenary celebrations and the hall opening, just show up (though if you warn me that you’re coming I’ll have a better idea of numbers for the BBQ luncheon).
And I’m still looking for more help. Applications for the new Youth Worker position have now closed but I’m still hoping I can find people to help me with a variety of tasks, and if I can secure that fight I might even be able to pay people something for their efforts. 🙂
Keep your hands up, fighter. We’ll talk again soon.
Lots of the kids who trained with us were living in UNICEF tents that ringed the stadium
Training with the young people of Tartous!
Singing and dancing is very much a part of the culture!
At the gym in Tartous - boys will be boys!
with one of the young disabled veterans of Tartous
The art school in Damascus is full of kids!
The kids insisted on giving us some of their artworks
Damascus swimming centre where 1000+ kids get lessons each week
Back with the kids of Yarmouk
Working the pads with the kids of Yarmouk
we did lots of media interviews
with Syrian Prime Minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi
back with my beloved Mufti - Dr Hassoun
the Mufti is one of the most beautiful men I have ever met
I apologise for the increasing gaps in communication. In truth, I simply have more to do than I can handle. There will be an appeal for help in the latter half of this missive. If you want to avoid hearing me grovel just quit after the sermon. 😉
This is the first chance I’ve had to share with you some of the photographic highlights of our last trip to Syria in late July. What a beautiful time it was, and what beautiful people! Once again the experience was one of hospitality and grace (mixed in with plenty of boxing). I came back full of hope for for the country and its people, though the subsequent moves being made by the US, NATO and my own country (Australia) to escalate the violence do bring me to tears.
Sometimes I don’t know which is worse – the way the West imposes its agenda on Syria at the cost of the lives of millions of people, or that it does so under the banner of humanitarian aid! In truth, these are days of shame for all of us who are a part of the ungodly coalition intent on destroying Syria, and it could backfire horribly. Australia has always been the ‘lucky country’ but by God we are pushing our luck at the moment!
I am regularly being asked what is going to happen next with Syria. I am no prophet, of course, but for the sake of those who would like my take on the subject, the future of Syria seems to be being determined by foreign governments, each of whom have their own agenda. It is a complex situation but I offer the following pointers:
Qatar wants a change of government so that it can pipe gas through Syria into Europe. Their agenda is straightforward.
Saudi Arabia and Israel are more interested in weakening Iran which threatens to overtake both countries economically (nb. the threat is economic, not existential). Syria is Iran’s main ally in the region (the only other being Hezbollah in Lebanon) and so destroying Syria will significantly weaken Iran.
Turkey’s militancy is being driven less by Iran than by the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood (though Turkish President Erdogan seems to also have a personal issue with Syrian President Assad).
The US is trying to back its allies in the region (Israel, the Saudis, Turkey, etc.) and are also interested in weakening Iran. Mr Obama is also still dealing with the embarrassment resulting from the fact that he told President Assad to stand down four years ago and he still hasn’t done as he was told!
These are the chief factors that have led to the war of foreign aggression against Syria. Let’s be clear about this: It is not a civil war and I doubt if it ever was. Certainly there aren’t many Syrians left on the rebel side now. We spoke to a young man in Tartous last month who was in a wheelchair. He’d been shot through the spine while fighting at Dier Yasir. We asked him ‘who were you facing there?’ He said ‘Libyans, British and French’. We said ‘no Syrians?’ He laughed.
So, given the foreign interests of this coalition of violence, why hasn’t Syria as we know it been wiped off the map? Here are some of the balancing factors:
Iran doesn’t want to lose its main ally in the region and hence has been giving financial and military support to the Syrian government.
Russia gives support too as it wants to maintain its military presence in the region (though its naval base at Tartous).
The uprising against Saudi hegemony in Yemen is forcing the Saudis to fight a battle on two fronts.
And so the future of Syria seems to depend on the wheelings and dealings of these foreign players, and a number of factors could tip the balance either way.
On the one hand:
Iran could strike a deal with the US such that it would withdraw support from Syria in exchange for the lifting of all sanctions. This now seems unlikely.
Russia might abandon Syria in order to buy time for the looming conflict with NATO in the Ukraine. This looks less likely now than it did a month ago.
Israel might attack Lebanon (as it has been threatening to do) which will lead to the recall of all Hezbollah forces from Syria, thus weakening the Syrian Army.
On the other hand:
Yemen may continue to resist the murderous Saudi onslaught (which is almost not being reported on anywhere) and may prove to be the end of the house of Saud. If this happens ISIS will shrivel up and die very quickly without funding.
If the US does lift economic sanctions on Iran, the Saudis (and even the Israelis) may decide to cut their losses and work for economic cooperation rather than for the subjugation of their Persian neighbours. If this happens, once again, ISIS will shrivel up and die overnight.
As I said, it’s a complex picture, and the above analysis also leaves two vital factors out of the equation:
The extraordinary resilience of the Syrian people
The mysterious workings of Almighty God
Personally I am full of hope, as my faith is in God and in the Syrian people. Having said that, I won’t be surprised if God’s will is accomplished through the human agency of Iran, Russia, Hassan Nasrallah, and the people of Yemen.
Forgive me if I’ve bored you with the above analysis but I find that a lot of people are confused as to what is really going on and I thought it would be good to put it on paper.
If, on the other hand, you’d like to explore these matters with me further (and you’re in Sydney) I’ll be speaking at three different Syria forums over the next week:
If you’re able to attend any of these events, the links above will take you to their respective Facebook Events Pages where you can get more info. And if you can’t make it, just keep track of what’s being published on my Syria blog: www.prayersforsyria.com
From violence to sex – this missive has everything! 😉
Yes, my featured sermon for this missive is on the Song of Songs – certainly the most raunchy piece of literature in the entire Bible and also one of the most controversial.
The book is controversial for two reasons:
It is entirely about sex and romance
It doesn’t mention God at all!
What is this book doing in the Bible? That’s a question that a lot of believers have asked over the last few thousand years. Even so, some of us believe that this little book may have a lot to teach us about love and life and even about God!
(for the written version of this sermon, click here, and for the audio-only, here)
I warned you earlier that this post would include an appeal for help. Here it is:
…. HELP! 🙁
The problem is that I have more work than I am able to handle at the moment, including five speaking engagements in the next seven days, and beyond that I can see a giant tidal wave coming towards me associated with the completion of our new Youth and Community Centre and the 100-year anniversary of our church building!
October 4-6: I fight for the Australian Masters (ie. old bastards) Boxing Title
October 16: Book-launch of A Church for our Times’ celebrating our 100-years!
October 29: ‘Friends of Sabeel, Australia’ Annual General Meeting
Mid-November: work should be completed on our new hall complex
late-November: re-starting Trinity’s Youth Drop-in Centre
November 22: Jubilate Singers (our community choir) fundraiser concert
November 29: Fight-Night fundraiser in the new hall
December 5: Anniversary dinner to mark my 25th year in Dulwich Hill
December 6: special Centenary service followed by the official hall opening
December 25: Christmas
You are invited to all of the above events, including the Friends of Sabeel, Australia AGM (which is a Christian group focused on Palestinian human rights). Moreover, you are invited to help me survive this cavalcade of events, especially the re-starting of the Youth Drop-in Centre and the Fight-night fundraiser.
The good news is that we are offering a paid part-time position for a new youth worker. Just email me if you want the details. The not-so-good news is that I’m going to need voluntary helpers too, at least for the short term. And I don’t just need volunteer youth workers, but also web assistants, events coordinators, and just about anybody who thinks they can help me balance this intimidating schedule!
Email me if you’re interested in the paid position or a voluntary position, or a voluntary position that might turn into a paid position. Either way, I’m keen to hear from you.
Till next time, may the Lord bless you and strengthen you for the work for which you have been called.
I’m currently in New Delhi, slowly making my way back home after completing our latest ‘Boxers for Peace’ mission in Syria. Unfortunately, in order to get the cheapest tickets, I had to opt for a 12 hour wait between flights in Dubai and a seven-hour wait here. Even so, nothing can dampen my spirits after the week I’ve had.
Nothing went as I expected, and yet it was fantastic!
The boxing match I’d been hoping for with Ben Ali did not materialise. Even so, Jacob Najjar (my fellow boxer for peace) and I were certainly kept busy. Indeed, we must have boxed more than a hundred different people over the last week, amongst whom were some great fighters and many champion human beings! Moreover, our support team – Issa (the national boxing coach) and his boys – were simply excellent! It was a very humbling experience to be so well looked after.
We boxed with the Syrian Olympic team in Damascus
We travelled north to Lattakia and had more than 200 kids show up to train with us, many of whom were displaced persons living in UNICEF-provided tents that ringed the stadium.
We headed south to Tartous and helped open a new boxing gym (and did some more boxing while we were there).
We made it back to the refuge on the outskirts of Yarmouk where in April I’d been told that while the children there were clothed and sheltered, they had no pillows. I promised to do something about that when I returned and, thanks to contributions made by friends in Sydney, I kept that promise! We also distributed soccer balls to the kids as well as boxing gloves and mitts, all courtesy of our friends as SMAI.
Apart from all the boxing, we also visited other sports complexes, schools and hospitals, and we met with numerous officials, including the Minister for Health, the Minister of Information and the Prime minister. Most enjoyable for me though was catching up again with my much-loved Mufti – Dr Hassoun More on that another time.
Indeed, I won’t say more here as I really need time to process it all. God was in it! I’m sure of that. And if nothing else it’s given us an excellent framework for pursuing a bigger and better ‘Boxers for Peace’ program in 2016. I do sense that we are starting to make a difference and that much good can yet come of this.
It will take me a while to process all the photos so for now I can only offer you the two promotional videos that I put together on my iPhone.
click either image to watch the video
I’ll get back to you after I’ve had a little rest. Thank you for all your prayers and for the financial support that made it all happen.
Soren, Terry and Shannon survey developments at Binacrombi
Stewart works the Binacrombi bulldozer
there's nothing like a blazing fire to keep out the cold
Kids on quads at Binacrombi
Bob turns 89, and he's still powering on! 🙂
Dimitri - the Dominator - fights for another title
with artist extraordinaire - Miriam Cabello!
Soren and Fran have a great time at Luna Park (well, Fran had a great time)
Fran at Luna Park
Dinner with the Grand Mufti of Australia
with Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad (Grand Mufti of Australia)
my beautiful girls
commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Ali in Melbourne
commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Ali in Melbourne
Forgive me for being out of touch for so long. As you may know, I took a month’s long-service leave shortly after returning from Syria and I tried to go dark for a while.
That’s a term normally used by spies so perhaps it’s not really appropriate in my case. My point is that I tried to go off the radar so that I could concentrate on developing our ministry at Binacrombi Bush Camp over that month and also focus on other work not directly associated with my responsibilities as a parish priest. I had also hoped to get a bit of rest.
I wasn’t very successful, particularly in terms of getting rest. I did though enjoy the extra time at Binacrombi very much, and I have great hopes that we will continue to build that place up as a centre for both intense fitness training and prayer. We’ve seen some remarkable things happen down there recently with men who have completed prison terms, using Binacrombi to help them transition back into the community. Please keep this work in your prayers.
The latest news is that Boxers for Peace are about to head back to Syria! It looks like I’m going to have the opportunity to box the former Syrian middleweight champion, Mahmoud Ben Ali. I’ll also be taking with me Jacob Najjar – two times professional World Kickboxing champion. Apparently the Syrians have an opponent for him too!
My hope is that I’ll be boxing Ben Ali for a Middle Eastern Middleweight Title (old bastards division). At this stage the Syrian Sports Ministry hasn’t confirmed the bout, nor do I know exactly what weight I’m supposed to come in at! Even so, I appreciate that the Syrian government has other priorities at the moment so I’m trusting that it will all come together on the night.
Mahmoud Ben Ali
I know little about Ben Ali as an opponent except for what the Syrians tell me – namely, that I won’t last one round with him! We’ll see. The man is five years younger than me and is way more experienced. Even so, I have one great advantage over him. I live in Sydney. He lives in Aleppo.
I received an email from a friend in Aleppo last week. I won’t mention his name but let me share something of what he said:
“We didn’t sleep all the night. The attacks of yesterday 2nd July started around afternoon and continued up till today 8:30 am 3rd July. They said that 3-4 civilians died, but 87 civilians injured. The ambulance voices didn’t stop all night long.
You had to hear the people over here in Aleppo. Aren’t they Syrians? After all these years and after all these attacks on them and after they lost their income sources and family members, they are asking the Syrian army to terminate the terrorist attackers and their nests, which have become like cancer in Syria’s body. They don’t care if that termination happens by chemical weapons, bombs, or whatever. Yet, around the world and in the mainstream media, they dare to demonize the so called “barrel bombs” and talk about the lost in lives of the terrorists …”
Aleppo is a city of both suffering and frustration. I imagine it is also a difficult place to train for a boxing match. I pray that Ben Ali and all the residents of Aleppo will be protected by Almighty God. Even so, I cannot but think that I will come into this boxing match fitter and better prepared as an athlete, and that may even the odds between us and make for a great match! I pray so.
Whatever happens I’ll be giving you all the details just as soon as they come to hand. You’ll get those details most quickly if you’re following me on either Twitter or Facebook but I’ll try to send out another newsletter to you before my bout takes place too.
One place that I ha43ve really enjoyed visiting in Damascus is the home of Ananias in Straight Street. Readers of the New Testament know this place well. It was where St Paul, who had initially come to Damascus to arrest and persecute Christians, was prayed over by a godly man named Ananias. He was never the same again!
The 2000 year-old home of Ananias is still standing and was long ago transformed into a chapel. I have spent time in prayer there twice now and this has enhanced my appreciation of how radically Paul was transformed through his encounter with Jesus.
Until Paul met Jesus he had been convinced that they key to pleasing God was to abide by all the laws of the Torah. He had believed that he had to climb the ladder of moral and religious purity in the hope of meeting God at the top of the ladder. What Jesus taught him was that it works the opposite way round – that you meet God at the bottom of the ladder, after you’ve fallen off!
One dimension of that realisation was that it gave Paul a very radical understanding of what it mean to have authority as a religious teacher.
If you’re having trouble with my accent you can read this sermon here.
I’m avoiding doing any big funding drive for this trip as it’s all been planned very quickly. Even so, my dear friend Ophelia Heragli is organising a Boxers for Peace fundraiser Iftar dinner for this Sunday night – July 12th. It’s all been put together in the last few days but apparently she’s already had 60 people confirm that they are coming! I believe that they are all friends from the Islamic community which is very humbling. Hopefully a few Christians and other supporters will be able to make it too. You’ll find all the details on the Facebook event page that Ophelia set up.
Of course you are welcome to also donate funds via my ‘buy me a drink‘ page or you can contact me for bank account details if you want to make a direct transfer. In truth though I feel that I’ve asked too much of my online community already. Even so, be assured that anything we receive beyond what we need for air tickets will be given to the refuge in Yarmouk that I visited in April – the one that needed pillows for the kids to sleep on. Even if they have the pillows by now I’m sure they can make good use of anything extra I can offer them.
You’ll have to forgive me if I wind up this newsletter at this point. I do have a lot more that I want to share but the pressures of preparing for this trip are mounting and time is of the essence.
Pray for me please. Pray for the success of this Boxers for Peace mission. Pray for the success of our work at Binacrombi, for our church, our work with young people, for my family and for the people of Syria. These are critical times. Enshallah – God willing – we will see brighter days ahead.
with Kaouthar Bachraoui and Maria Saadeh at the Dama Rose in Damascus
there's no shortage of pretty girls at Damascus University!
at the home of Ananias - Straight Street, Damascus
with Maria Saadeh at the Umayyad Mosque
at the ancient Christian villiage of Maaloula
with the Bishop of Saydnaya in Maaloula
honoring the martyrs of Maaloula
I was glad when they said to me let us go up to the House of the Lord (Psalm 122)
honoring the martyrs of Saydnaya
a performance by Saydnaya's Youth Fellowship
remembering the genocide of 1915 with the Armenian bishop
Armenian Christians fighting with the Syrian Arab Army
Dinner at the Mufti's place 🙂
interviewing the Grand Mufti of Syria
with the Mufti and friends 🙂
I’ve been to Syria, I’ve come back, and at the moment I’m sick in bed. I guess I’ve been pushing myself a bit too hard, but I’m now on long-service leave and will hopefully get a bit of a break.
People have been asking me how I would sum up our Syria experience in a word, and the truth is that there is no one word that can do our time there justice.
What I must say is that my heart is still there, and that I felt awful leaving – as if I was walking out on a friend who might die at any moment!
When I returned to Australia everyone was stressing about Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran – about whether they were about to be executed. I appreciate that it was a horrible situation. Even so, I was walking away from a whole country full of people who were living with the same stress – ‘Are we about to be executed, and if so, when?’
Syria is at a very volatile point and, I hate to say it, but I think the future of all those people is being decided upon now in negotiations between the US and Iran. In truth, Syria is only surviving because of support from Iran. If the USA though makes Syria a bargaining chip to be sacrificed in exchange for the lifting of sanctions then a great many of those good people may be dead by the time I return.
Having said that, the indications at the moment are that Iran is not going to give up on Syria, and neither are her other two allies – Russia and Hezbollah. Nonetheless, things are at boiling point right now, with ISIS embedded in Yarmouk in the south and Palmyra in the north! Anything could happen over the next few weeks and months.
The title of this last article is a quote from my interview with the Grand Mufti of Syria – Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun – which I’ve embedded below. Indeed, it was such a great privilege for me to get half an hour, one-on-one, with the great man!
I won’t say more about that experience here except that he said three words to me in English before we parted. He said “pray for me.” I said, “I do every day”, and indeed I do, for I know the takfiri will have no mercy on him if they get hold of him.
Dr Hassoun considers himself the Mufti not only of the Sunni but of the Shia and the Christians too! That’s the sort of talk that enrages religious fundamentalists!
I am hoping to be back in Syria in the next couple of months – this time with a larger team of boxers. I’m also working on lining up a title fight for myself against one of Syria’s great veteran boxers. My goal is to hold the fight either on the outskirts of Yarmouk or at another key Syrian city – perhaps Palmyra – and use the fight to draw attention to what’s really going on there. It’s an ambitious ploy and I’d appreciate your prayers.
In the meantime there are plenty of other things happening, and a few that I’m keen to pass on to you here:
In case you didn’t hear, the United Nations Human Rights Committee finally replied to our official complaint regarding the Australian government’s treatment of my dear friend Sheikh Mansour Leghaei. Indeed, they upheld our complaint and instructed the Australian government to re-examine his case and to compensate him for damages! If you don’t know the full story, it’s on savethesheikh.com.
Another dear brother who has received even harsher treatment from his government – Mordechai Vanunu – just got married! The picture below was taken at the Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem! I look forward to meeting Morde’s Norwegian wife, Kristine, in person as soon as they are allowed to leave Israel and travel to Australia. I trust they’ll find Mansour here when they get here!
And some more good news concerning a very talented sister – Ruth McCall – who will be having her own musical works performed by ‘Echology’ – The University of Newcastle Chamber Choir! There’s a performances at our church, Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill, on Sunday May 31st. Full details can be found on the poster here.
Morde & Kristine!
That’s enough from me, especially as I’m still coughing and spluttering.
As I say, I’m on long-service leave at the moment and will be for the next three weeks. I’ll be spending the weekends down at Binacrombi, developing our youth camping program. You’d be welcome to join me on any of these weekends, especially this weekend when I think I’ll need all the help I can get. 🙁
I’ll be in contact again soon. Until then I remain …
It was quite surreal – enjoying the sunshine as we stood on the doorstep of Yarmouk – an area that the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, recently described as Syria’s “deepest circle of hell”! Admittedly, we were on the right side of the dividing line between the ISIS-controlled section of Yarmouk and the greater area controlled by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). Even so, we were “within sniper range”, or so we were warned.
I didn’t take the sniper warning too seriously until one of our guides pointed to a mosque that was only about 300 metres away. “They certainly have snipers in that minaret” he said. He spoke calmly, as tour-guides do when pointing out landmarks. And he wasn’t running for cover either, and neither were the children who were milling about with us at the end of the street. Presumably the takfiri had more important targets to occupy themselves with.
We went into a school, the entrance of which was only a few metres from where we were standing. It was a ‘safe place’ – a compound where the army had relocated families who had fled the ISIS advance. The complex was dotted with mothers with young children and elderly men. Nonetheless, it was evidently still functioning as a school too.
We didn’t speak to the leadership team initially but instead went out into the courtyard and got our boxing gear out. Within moments we had a team of children around us. At first they were reluctant to try on the gloves, but after the first brave recruit had given it a go, there was a predicable clamor of ‘me next’ that lasted until we had worked our way through the entire group.
I assume ‘me next’ was what they were saying anyway. I must learn some Arabic! I’m certain it wasn’t anything nasty. The kids were lovely. They were kids, though some of them must have already seen more than a lifetime’s quota of violence.
It was a fantastic experience – making it to Yarmouk, playing with the kids, laughing and taking photos with the SAA boys. It was exactly what we’d traveled half way around the world to do!
Of course we hadn’t just come to teach boxing. We’d come to see for ourselves the truth behind the media narrative. Various media sources were depicting the people of Yarmouk as the meat in the sandwich – hammered by ISIS on the one hand and pounded by the Syrian Arab Army on the other! From my friends in Syria though I’d been receiving a difference story – that the Syrian Arab Army was doing all it could to relocate people stuck in Yarmouk to safe places outside the firing zone. Of course we couldn’t see the whole of what was going on, but from our end of Yarmouk it was obvious at the Syrian Army was doing all it could to help these kids.
“We lack pillows” the School Principal said to me afterwards, as we debriefed in his office. “We have food and blankets now but no pillows”.
I don’t think he really expected me to bring a quantity of pillows with me on my next visit. Even so, he was focused on his job and ready to accept help from any source.
In truth, the greatest help we can give these people is not to send our troops into their country. Contrary to popular opinion, that’s not the sort of help they want from us.
(click the thumbnails above to watch the videos)
That’s the update for now, fellow fighters. Thank you for your support in helping us get to Yarmouk.
I hope you can see the significance of this visit. Bringing some joy to these kids and leaving them with gloves and pads (courtesy of our friends at SMAI) was of great value but there is something of much greater significance I hope we can achieve for these children though this visit – namely, help discredit the media narrative that threatens to unleash further violence upon them!
Whatever you think of the Syrian government, it was crystal clear to me from our day in Yarmouk that these people do NOT want our foreign military intervention. That will only lead to more death and suffering.
The inimitable Hanadi Assoud of Hands Off Syria who helped pull it all together.
And thank you to all 80 people who showed up on the night – members of Holy Trinity Church, the Salvation Army Dulwich Hill corps, our Fight Club, and all you subscribers who made the effort to join us. It was a wonderful night, and thanks to you we almost have the funds we need to make the Boxers for Peace 2015 Mission to Syria a reality!
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
If you had a solid Christian upbringing like I did, this verse is very familiar to you. I don’t think modern translations still use the word ‘whosoever’ but what I typed above is the translation that has been in my head since I was a child. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know these words. They were taught to me at an early age as a one-verse distillation of the Gospel message!
What has really struck me more recently is that this familiar verse is not at all familiar to many people I live and work with. Moreover, I’ve found that the concepts contained in this verse are rather difficult to explain to those who haven’t had a Christian upbringing. Indeed, I’ve realised on further reflection that the concepts contained in John 3:16 are not self-explanatory by any means but rather mysterious!
So I’m not sure if my goal in this sermon is to explain John 3:16 to the uninitiated or to confuse those who feel comfortably familiar with it. Hopefully there’s something in it for both groups.
As I said above, I’m a little exhausted by the antics of the last three weeks, and now we’re in the middle of Holy Week, shortly after which we are taking off for Syria, so there’s no time to rest, especially as we still need a bit more help before we can go.
We almost have all the funds we need for the Boxers for Peacemission. We need roughly another thousand to cover everything. It would be great if you could help me reach the goal and I’d like to offer you something of value in exchange for your support.
Tom Toby – auctioneer extraordinaire!
The picture above is of our good friend Tom Toby auctioning off a signed poster of the Boxers for PeaceSyria 2015 team. It’s in A3 size and is signed by each of the team members. I have two more of these signed posters and am ready to pass them on in exchange for a decent contribution towards our peace mission.
If you haven’t seen the actual image, which was the work of master-photographer John Clutterbuck, you can see it here.
My thought is to simply ask for contributions via my ‘buy me a drink‘ page (click here). You’ll find that you can make donations of any amount there, with a suggested starting point of $5. Whoever makes the two largest contributions will get the posters.
So make sure you include your address with your donation. I’ll post to anywhere in the world. If you live locally and can pick your poster up I’ll frame it for you. Otherwise it will come rolled up in a water-resistant tube from the post office.
Join us this Easter!
And if you’re free to join us for worship this Easter, Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill would love to have you. Services on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are at our usual time of 9.15am. If you don’t know how to find us, there’s a map on the Holy Trinity website.
And if I don’t see you this weekend, do have a happy and holy Easter. 🙂
I’ll do my best to be in contact again before we depart on the big trip.
we begin our fundraising campaign for our new Youth and Community Centre
Fighting Father Danny maintains control in the ring!
Jessie and Aaron stoush it out in the Binacrombi ring
We dedicate the Binacrombi Chapel - Shiloh (a place of peace)
Our Abbot - Fighting Father Terry - delivers the inaugural Binacrombi chapel homily
Fighting Father Mungo keeps the troops entertained
The stumbling, bumbling monks of Binacrombi
Fran and I visit the Sydney Tower
I love having daughters!
Don has his hands full (at the Australia Day celebrations)
It’s Father Dave. It’s been too long since I’ve communicated with you. 🙁
It’s not that I’ve been having a holiday (I wish). On the contrary, I’ve been struggling with a workload that threatens to overwhelm me at times, and I’ve got two major projects on the boil at the moment, and I’m looking for help with both of them.
The first is the Warrior Weekends bush camp project. We had a fantastic camp in January (as you can see by the pics displayed above) and I’m mad keen to run a few more of these weekends this side of winter.
In truth, I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to hang on to our wonderful bush-property, but while we’ve got it I want to make the most of it, and I do believe that our distinctive format where we spend a day training like Trojans and praying like monks is a formula that invigorates body, mind and spirit in a way that is quite unique!
On our January weekend we had Muslims as well as Christians, young as well as the not-so-young, people of various backgrounds and ethnicities, and the intense training-praying format pulled us all together in a powerful way!
Two weekend warriors pause to tie Fran’s shoes
We did four intense training sessions on the Saturday, framed by five prayer-sessions. Not everybody joined in the prayers, and not everybody joined in all the training sessions, but by the time we got to the end of the day I think we all had a tremendous sense that we had accomplished something significant together, and this led us into a wonderful evening of sharing and reflection, followed by a beautiful Sunday morning of prayer and relaxation where we dedicated our bush-chapel.
In short, I can’t wait to do it all again, and I can’t wait to see more lives changed and refreshed by the experience. I’m thinking that we hit it again on the weekend of March 21-22. Are you with me? 🙂
Peace Mission to Syria
The other major work that is consuming me right now is a planned ‘Boxers for Peace’ mission to Syria that’s scheduled for this coming April.
As you know, I’ve been a part of two peace missions to Syria now (in 2013 and 2014) and on our last trip I took boxing champion, Solomon Egberime, with me to feel out the possibility of a ‘friendship games’ in boxing between Australia and Syria (see the video). This current mission is the outcome of the negotiations that began then.
Our Boxers for Peace project is a strictly religious and sporting mission. Our intention is to work closely with the religious leadership of Syria and with the Syrian Olympic Committee. The goal of this mission is threefold:
To bring some joy to people who are struggling (especially young Syrian people) through sport.
To build ongoing ties of friendship between our two countries through the medium of boxing.
To help give the Australian public a broader appreciation of the real situation of the Syrian people.
This last goal will be accomplished through media coverage that we’ll receive. We hope to have at least one film crew with us and one documentary film-maker.
The biggest hurdle for the mission at the moment is that we’ll need to raise the funds to send the whole team to Syria. The costs will amount to around AUD $2,500 per player. I’m hoping to take a team of six.
The names of the players haven’t been made public yet, and neither have the exact dates or details of the trip. This is partly for security reasons and partly because we haven’t worked it all out yet! One thing I have worked out though is that I’m going to hold a fundraiser dinner in a few weeks’ time – on Sunday March 8. Can you make it?
Date: Sunday March 8th, 7pm start Venue: Salvation Army Hall, Dulwich Street, Dulwich Hill Tickets: $55/person
The evening will include:
Exhibition boxing bouts featuring members of the Australian team (and at least one very well-known boxing identity)
Some (brief) speeches from local religious leaders – Priests and Sheikhs (including myself)
Screening of some documentary video material that we’ve put together from our previous peace missions to Syria
That’s as much as I can give you right now but I would really appreciate your help in making this work. I’ll need:
People to help run the night (set-up, clean-up, wash-up, etc.)
If you want to order a ticket from me online you can Paypal me the $50 and I will mail the tickets to you.
I do believe that we can really make a difference with this Boxers for Peace Mission. I think of the role that boxing played in Apartheid South Africa in bringing together people of different colour, and I think of the role boxing played in Northern Ireland in helping quell the violence there. Perhaps we can help bring Syria to the point where the only fighting going on will be in a boxing ring? When that day comes: Mission Accomplished! (but we might have to put in quite a few rounds before we reach that stage)
boxing for peace in the streets of Homs (2014)
I’ve got an unusually uncontroversial sermon for you today!
Rather than try to interpret global issues or give commentary on the latest terrorist attack, I’ve devoted all my preaching energy this week to untangling the first chapter of the Gospel According to St Mark and, more specifically, to unpacking the implications of a particular incident the highlights the power of the words of Jesus.
I think we often see the words and the works of Jesus as being very distinct. Jesus’ miracles can heal our bodies but His teachings are there only to improve our minds. The Gospel depiction of Jesus though is not so clear cut! The words of Jesus have healing as well as didactic power, while the miraculous actions of Jesus also have something to teach us!
To say this isn’t controversial isn’t to say that it isn’t important, for the relation between word and work – theory and praxis – is something that many of us struggle to get right. Some sections of the church are so focused on maintaining doctrinal purity that they seem to have no energy left to support the poor and needy, whereas others abandon the traditional teachings of the church in order to pursue social justice. I believe Jesus models another alternative!
Before leaving you today I must tell you that I did have a third major project that I had been working on until very recently, and that was the scheduled visit of my friend Rev. Stephen Sizer to Australia.
It was all supposed to take place next month but it all fell apart at the last minute when Stephen was targeted (entirely unfairly, in my view) for his work in advocating for Palestinian human-rights!
I know Stephen well enough to know that he hasn’t got an anti-Semitic bone in his body, and if you look at the details of the accusations levelled against him it is hard to believe that they could lead anybody to that sort of conclusion! Even so, he has now been formally silenced by his bishop and cannot speak or write about anything remotely political – not at home in London nor anywhere else in the world, including Australia! (though how he intends to manage this while continuing to preach the Gospel remains to be seen).
Stephen Sizer and I meet up in Tehran!
I find it hard to understand how something like this can happen while world leaders in Paris are marching to defend the right to free speech! It seems that the level of freedom judged appropriate for speech depends entirely on who is being spoken about! Western politicians and Church leaders don’t seem to mind if you are mocking the prophet of Islam or caricaturing countries like Iran and Syria, but if you call into question the policies of the state of Israel you are on far more shaky ground!
Put in a prayer for Stephen please, and put in a prayer for me too as I don’t think this bodes well for any of us who speak our minds on issues of justice and peace!
And I can’t close off today without telling you that next Tuesday is my birthday. I turn 53! That sounds to me like an appropriate age to capture a world boxing title. Let’s see if I can’t do it before hitting 54. 🙂
Actually, that also suggests to me a fourth way you can contribute to our Syria mission. Buy me a drink for my birthday (click here)!
I will drink to your health if you do, but I’m sure you won’t mind if I toast you using my existing stock and put all donated drink-money into the Fighting Fathers kitty! 🙂
I’ll be in contact with you again very soon to give you further details of our fundraiser and of the next prospective Warriors’ Weekend.
Holy Trinity's wonderful community Christmas Concert!
Our Sunday School Christmas pageant
Angels from the realms of glory!
another wonderful angel! 🙂
with my friend Jaime and his family, gathering Christmas gifts for distribution. 🙂
Doing the 'dad thing' on Christmas Day and erecting a swing for the kids with my mates Don and John
Breakfast with friends - Danny and Nader
New Years Eve - at the airport with Vivienne from Jews Against the Occupation, waiting for the arrival of the Palestinian soccer team
New Years Eve - at the airport, welcoming the Palestinian soccer team!
New Year's Day - Sol travels to the USA in search of a title shot!
It’s Father Dave back with you. Christmas is past (exhausting yet wonderful as ever) and it’s time for us to go bush! 🙂
Our bush weekend away at Binacrombi is just around the corner – January 16th to 18th – and you are invited!
It will be a physical and spiritual fitness weekend where you’ll be challenged to train like a Trojan and pray like a monk! Having said that, there will also be a low-impact alternative for those who can’t manage the intensity. The low-impact options include bush-walking, caving, and swimming in the Binacrombi billabong.
On the Sunday we will formally dedicate our new Binacrombi chapel as a place of prayer for all people. We will also be dedicating the twelve founding fathers or our Order of the Fighting Fathers to their ongoing work of ‘Fighting for things worth fighting for’.
I currently have about 20 adults and 10 kids confirmed for the weekend. I have cabin accommodation for double that number so there’s plenty of room for YOU if you’d like to join us.
The cost is just $100/person for the weekend with subsidies (of up to 100%) available for kids. The donation covers your accommodation and training. It’s BYO food and drink, but cooking facilities and fridges are provided. Let me know ASAP if you’d like to come and if you need extra motivation, take a look at one of last year’s camps on www.warriorweekends.com 🙂
Who’s Afraid of Islamic State?
That was the title of my sermon on December 21st. It might seem like a very odd topic for the Sunday before Christmas but it was the first Sunday after the so-called ‘Sydney Siege’, where a gunman took hostages in a coffee shop in the centre of Sydney and three people (two hostages and the gunman) were killed.
The impact of this event on Sydney-siders was extraordinary. Indeed, as tragic as the death of these poor persons was, the massive outpouring of grief and the intense response from all levels of government put it on the level of a national catastrophe! This event scratched the surface of the Sydney psyche and uncovered the deep level of fear that lies across our city!
The link between this tragic event and the angel’s announcement to the virgin Mary that she’s about to fall pregnant might not be immediately obvious. To my reckoning though the two events are deeply linked by two F-words. See if you can guess what those words are and then click the play button to see if you’re right. 😉
New Year’s Resolutions
This time of year always gives us a unique chance to reflect on the year that’s been and to set goals for the year ahead. I’ve got in the habit of being very public about my yearly goals as I find it motivates me to achieve them.
You may remember that this time last year I set five goals for the year:
Found a monastic Order
Win a world boxing title
Help end the war in Syria
Help establish a state of Palestine
Help each of my kids get through their years at school.
I think I did an OK job with the most important of those goals – ie. the last one – but I’ll need to rededicate myself to that this year
As to the first, well … no, we haven’t actually set up a monastery yet but we are dedicating our Binacrombi chapel next week and we’ll have 12 characters dressed in monastic smocks there at the ceremony. We also have an excellent senior Abbot (Fighting Father Terry) who has been saturating the Binacrombi hills with prayer over the last 12 months, so I think we have come a long way towards fulfilling that goal. :
As to the boxing title, well … I didn’t win a world title but I did pick up another Australian one, knocking down Barry Hancock in Adelaide last October – a man with more than 70 amateur and pro fights to his name – and that has left me with a lot of confidence. Moreover, Hancock was 10 years my junior. My problem at the moment is that I can’t find anyone my own age who will take me on
As to Palestine, I poured myself into that work as prayerfully and as passionately as possible. Even so, things continue to degenerate. Perhaps, by the Grace of God, 2015 will be the year of breakthrough.
As to Syria, I was part of a very successful peace mission in April 2014, and I used that time to check out whether my idea of taking a boxing team to Damascus would be plausible and useful (see www.boxersforpeace.com). It seems it is both, and so we’re gearing up for a bigger and better ‘Boxers for Peace’ mission this year!
And so I give thanks to God for what I was able to do in the year that has past and I’m ready to set some new goals for 2015, though this year my goals will invariably be shaped by some big things that are happening in the parish:
Our new Youth and Community Centre should be completed this year
This year marks the 100th anniversary since the foundation of our church building
This year also marks 25 years since I arrived at Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill!
And so I find myself with a longer list of goals for 2015:
Re-ignite our youth and community work as we launch our new facility!
Grow and develop the church community to meet the new challenges
Stage the first ‘Australia v Syria Friendship Olympics’ in Damascus
Do what I can to bring freedom to the people of Palestine.
Continue to pursue that world boxing title.
Help my kids get through their years at school (which will be a tough one for Imogen especially this year as she’s in her final year of high school)
Am I over-reaching myself? Most likely, especially as it seems I will have less assistance this year than in years previous and finances are looking very tight. Even so, last year’s goals were a crazy leap of faith but I’m not dissatisfied with what we accomplished in 2014. May God give me grace and strength for the year ahead!
Would you like to share your goals/resolutions for 2015? I’d love to hear them. Jot them down in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
I’ll hope to see you at our bush weekend. Just call Marco on the Binacrombi bookings number (1800 620 706) to let us know you’re coming.