Peace Pilgrimage to Syria – on the streets of Damascus

G’day Fighter,

It’s Father Dave here and I’m actually now in London, having finished my week in Syria where we’ve been spending time with both politicians and refugees, sharing in the joys and sorrows of the Syrian people, and boxing with kids on the streets of Damascus, Lattakia and Homs!

I have so much to share – pictures, videos and stories – that it’s going to take me a little while to put them all in order, but I want to share something with you today so I’ve chosen one picture that has behind it one amazing story:

Mother Agnes with Sheikh Tahhan and a former FSA fighter

Mother Agnes with Sheikh Tahhan and a former FSA fighter

See the pic above (you can see a larger version of it if you click on it). On the left you will recognise our beloved leader, Mother Agnes. The man in the middle you are less likely to recognise. His name is Sheikh Tahhan.

Sheikh Tahhan is apparently the only man in Homs that the FSA fighters trust if they want to take advantage of the armistice offered by the government. He roams the streets of Homs and seeks out rebel fighters who want to hand in their guns and stop fighting. On the right of the Sheikh is one of these fighters who is no longer fighting. Two of his mates are at his side (out of picture).

Naturally Sheikh Tahhan is a prime target for those who want to keep the fire going, and he is very aware of the fate of Jesuit Priest, Father Frans Van Der Lugt, who was shot in Homs only last week. Father Frans was apparently also involved in this same work – mediating between the government and rebels who want to lay down their arms.

So why, you might wonder, are both the Sheikh and Mother Agnes smiling when they both have prices on their heads? The reason is because the Sheikh has been telling Mother about a high-level meeting between the rebel leaders of Homs and the government’s Ministry of Reconciliation in Damascus. Apparently there is talk that the entire FSA contingent in Homs will hand in their arms and seek reconciliation with their fellow Syrians. If this happens it will mark the beginning of the end of the violence!

So many commentators are saying that there’s no end in sight to the Syrian catastrophe. If what the Sheikh has told Mother is correct though it could all be over within a couple of months! As I see it, if the Syrian rebels of Homs successfully take advantage of the armistice, other FSA fighters will follow quickly. Of course this won’t affect the more powerful rebel groups such as ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra, who are made up mainly of foreign fighters on jihad. But if the Syrian members of the rebellion stop fighting the government there is every chance that many of them will join with Assad’s forces to expel the foreigners! Once this happens the violence will wind up very quickly as the foreign backers who are funding the conflict will quickly cut their losses and pull out.

Of course nothing is certain and there are still many things that could become road-blocks on this path to peace. The Americans are still training rebel fighters in Jordan and graduating them at the rate of around 150 per month (see this excellent first-hand account by Sara Williams if you haven’t read it yet) and the Canadians have apparently been making preparations to enter Syria themselves, all guns blazing (see here)! Beyond this insanity though the victory of government forces seems inevitable. Moreover, if there ever really was any common ground between those Syrian rebels who were fighting for democracy and freedom and the foreign takfiri (who now make up the greater part of the rebel ‘alliance’) it has by now completely evaporated.

That’s enough from me today. You can see where my heart and my prayers are. I am hoping that the next time I am in Syria it will be to celebrate peace and to participate in the rebuilding of this shattered country. So many people have suffered and it will require a massive amount of sustained energy to reestablish the infrastructure of the country. Even so, my respect for the strength and determination of the Syrian people gives me every confidence in a bright future for this wonderful land and I look forward to joining hands with the Syrian people to do what I can to share in that rebuilding.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

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

P.S. If you’d like to see some of the media coverage we had in Syria, check out these Arabic and Farsi language articles (using your brower’s translator):

P.P.S. Support the work of the Fighting Fathers by joining our online community at  www.fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month and the first month is free.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Weekly Missive – June 21st, 2013

Hi Fighter,

I’m beginning this missive from a small room in a monastery on the outskirts of Canberra.

Yes, I’m in the nation’s capital today and tomorrow, accompanying Mother Agnes as she appeals to Australian political leaders not to fuel the fire in Syria.

with-agnes-and-carmel

I don’t know how closely you’ve been following developments in Syria over the last few days and weeks but things are certainly hotting up!

The key developments are:

  • The Syrian Army won a major victory at al-Qusayr.
  • The Assad government thus seems to be winning the war.
  • The US has therefore decided to channel more weapons to the rebels!

This is the long and short of it, though the US is not admitting that they are acting out of a desire to see their side win. Rather, US officials are saying that the evidence for Syrian Weapons of Mass Destruction all of a sudden looks a lot more credible!

To my mind, FSA+USA=WWIII

In other words, Obama’s decision to give military support to the ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA) is a choice for World War III!

My reasoning is straight forward:

  • By arming the FSA Obama is ensuring that the war will continue
  • As the war continues, so does both the death toll and the refugee crisis
  • The refugee crisis, if it expands any further, will destroy Lebanon
  • Further death and displacement will likewise destroy Syria
  • Iran will not allow its only two allies to go down without a fight
  • Iran, Syria and Lebanon will therefore have to declare war on the US and Israel and whoever joins them.
  • The rest of the world will inevitably get drawn in to what will become a battle between East and WestMuslim vs. Christian.

Anyway, for all of the above reasons I am down in Canberra with Mother Agnes and we’re chatting cordially with political heavies from all sides of politics.

with-tony-abbot

From here we head back to Sydney and have a big fundraiser dinner. If you haven’t heard the details about that, you can download the flyer here.

On Sunday (June 23) we’ll be having Mother Agnes join us for prayer and worship at Holy Trinity and we’d love to have you join us.

with-kevin-rudd

One serendipitous moment yesterday happened when I was slumped on a bench in the foyer of Parliament House. I was only half-awake when someone approached me and thrust out his hand, saying “Kevin“. It was former Aussie PM, Kevin Rudd!:-)

PrayersforSyria.com

I want to thank everybody for their suggestions regarding which of the three domain names I should use to set up my new Syria site (www.syria.net.co, www.newsinsyria.com or www.syriaupdate.com).

For better or worse, I decided to drop all three domain names and go for one that targeted the religious community – www.prayersforsyria.com.

Please take some time to look over some of the articles, press releases and videos on my new site.  I’d particularly like to draw your attention to:

Of course, the fact that I have chosen a different domain name from the three I originally purchased means that the others are available for anyone who wants to build their own Syria website. Just go to ZeroCostWebsite.net, sort out a hosting package and get back to me. I’ll be happy to contribute one of the above-mentioned domain names if you can put it to good use.

Big changes at Binacrombi

The other big news for us at Fighting Fathers Ministries at the moment is that we are losing our beloved caretaker family from Binacrombi Bush Camp.

Geoff and Laura and the boys will be relocating to New Zealand at the end of July, and while we wish them well in their new life, Binacrombi will be mourning their loss.

My plan, for the short term at least, is to try and run Binacrombi without a full-time caretaker family on site. Instead I am hoping that we can have teams of people go down on weekends and open up the place for our clients.

Let me know if you’re interested in being a part of a team. The pay will not be huge but if you’re looking for challenge and adventure, this is the place to find it!

A first aid certificate and a basic level of mechanical expertise is requisite for anybody who would like to lead one of the teams.

Farewell to Jim

It is a month for sad farewells. Last week we also had to say goodbye to our beloved webmaster, Fighting Father Jim.

Fighting Father Jim

A sad farewell to Fighting Father Jim

Jim is relocating to Melbourne with his partner, Kiko, from where he will be continuing his creative work. He wish him every blessing and strength for the future.

The other sad farewell we have made this week is to the shell of our beloved Youth Centre – now bulldozed to the ground with so many memories buried beneath it!

Rather than show you scenes of the demolition, let me instead offer you this picture of students from Petersham Public School, gathered on the street in front of our old hall.

Petersham Public raised over $500 towards our reconstruction through a cake stall.

students from Petersham Public School

students from Petersham Public School

Similar thanks go to so many friends in the community who have contributed towards our rebuilding. Let me mention by name:

  • Dulwich Hill Public School ($700)
  • Petersham Preschool (who sold mulch from their garden to raise $274)
  • St Paul of the Cross Catholic Church ($500)
  • Jack Wardana and his group of ‘poppers’ ($845)

For those who don’t know what ‘popping‘ is, it’s a type of rap dancing, and ‘Popping Jack’ was using our church hall to teach a lot of our local young people to ‘pop’ before the fire. I’m thinking we should have a dedicated popping room when we eventually rebuild.

Mussalaha for Syria!

Let me conclude today with Fighting Father Denning‘s teaser clip of his upcoming documentary on our trip to Syria. ‘Mussalaha‘ (for those who might have forgotten) means ‘reconciliation’ in Arabic, and our trip to Syria was as a part of a Mussalaha delegation.

[imaioVideo v=1]

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

Please pray for mussalaha for Syria and pray for the work of Mother Agnes. And please join us at Holy Trinity this Sunday if you’re in the area. I’m hoping that we’ll have many members of the Syrian community come along to meet Mother Agnes and that it will be a truly multicultural worship experience.

We start at 9.15am (or shortly thereafter ).

Until then 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. 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!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – January 21st, 2013

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave back with you again, and I confess that I’m kicking back a bit tonight.

I’m taking it easy, as I feel rather tired.

I’m not sure why I feel tired but I’ve abandoned my weekly half-marathon run tonight and am enjoying a glass of wine instead.

I feel a bit bad about the fact that my running partner, Solomon ‘Mr Jones’ Egberime, won’t have me to push him along, but the truth is that when he runs with me he has to slow himself down so much that he runs backwards for about a third of the journey and at other times literally runs rings around me!

I think he’ll manage just fine without me!

Now … I’ve had some exciting news since last we spoke.

I’m off to Syria! (God willing)

I mentioned last week that I’ve been invited to be a part of a peace delegation in Syria, but I wasn’t sure last week whether I was going to be able to commit to the trip.

My main concern was being back in time for our Confirmation service that’s being held in the second half of February. It appears though that Mother Agnes and the team have shuffled things around a little to make it possible for me to get back in time. Indeed I am humbled by their efforts.

Since making the decision to go I’ve received all sorts of news – both positive and negative – that has increased my level of excitement and anticipation!

On the one hand I’ve heard that my old friend Bishop Riah Abu el-Assal is going to be joining the international delegation! Riah was Bishop of Jerusalem when I made my one and only visit there in 2004 to be reunited with dear Morde Vanunu when he completed his 18-year sentence in Ashkelon Prison.

Bishop Riah was the man who gave Morde sanctuary in the guest house of the Cathedral, and he was gracious enough then to let me spend a week in his own flat in that guest-house so that I had time to catch up with Morde!

The pic below of me and Riah and my dear friend Sheikh Mansour is from when the Bishop visited Sydney two years later. We hosted a dinner for him here in Dulwich Hill. What a great night that was!

Bishop Riah with me and Mansour in 2006

Anyway, not only will dear Bishop Riah be there, along with the great Mairead Maguire and dear Mother Agnes, but I’m told that Rev. Stephen Sizer from Surrey in England will be joining the delegation too!

The Reverend Sizer is another man I have long admired for his fearless social justice advocacy and he’s been the feature of a number of articles lately on israelandpalestine.org – mainly concerning complaints that have been made about him to his Bishop!

Anyway … all this is very exciting. On the other hand though, all the news coming out of Syria is scary at the moment.  It seems that the heaviest fighting is in the very areas we are planning on visiting. Apparently we’ll be traveling into areas controlled by both government and rebel troops.

I uploaded this video concerning a recent massacre in Homs to the Fighting Fathers Member site. The report well reflects the conflicting narratives about what is taking place in Syria. The rebels claim that the government troops are responsible for the atrocities, but the survivors of this massacre disagree, blaming instead masked rebels who had the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘God is great’) printed on their headbands!

I personally can’t imagine anything more demonic than a group of men proclaiming ‘God is great’ while they slaughter women and children. It seems the height of blasphemy to me!

Mind you, it’s not as if Islamic fundamentalism has a monopoly on such atrocities. I hate to think of the terror once wrought by the Crusaders, each proudly bearing the symbol of the cross on their shields as they butchered people mercilessly in the name of Christ! And those knights of old have plenty of modern counterparts – fiery preachers who mix Christian jargon with mindless nationalism.

I’m personally suspicious of any church that hangs its national flag at the centre of its place of worship. I’m not opposed to patriotism. I just don’t understand it. It seems to be a way of saying that my country is better than yours, or at the very least that my pride in human achievement should stop at my nation’s borders.

It seems to me that if we are serious about calling Jesus Christ our Lord then all other Kings and Kaisers and Presidents and Prime Ministers need to take their proper place, and our human family should be of far greater concern to us than any sub-group within that family with whom we share a common language or skin-colour or country of birth!

… sorry … I’ve slipped into pulpit-mode, haven’t I, and I do try to restrict myself to just one sermon per week?

Anyway … hopefully I’m off to Syria in a few weeks and if there are genuine dangers to be faced, I’ll be facing them in excellent company!

The Hot and the Holy

I did want to share a sermon with you this week, though it’s not the one from last Sunday.

It’s a sermon that I gave last December, and I think it was probably the best sermon I gave last year. It was a sermon on the book (and the character) of Ruth.

I find Ruth to be one of the most inspiring characters in the entire Biblical drama, though I appreciate that she is rarely extolled as one of the heroes of the faith, as her exploits can seem trivial in comparison with some of the more colourful Biblical women and men.

But it’s Ruth’s ordinariness that really captures my imagination! I am inspired by her for the same reason that Joe Frazier always inspired me as a boxer!

Frazier, to my mind, may have been the World Heavyweight champion with the least natural ability of all time! He was a very one-dimensional fighter. He wasn’t super-fast or super-strong or super-anything. He was just a damn hard worker, and he made up for his lack of natural ability with a deep and passionate commitment to his art!

Ruth is a heavyweight champion of the same ilk! She wasn’t a powerful person (in worldy terms). She had no great role or significant job. She had no education nor any obvious special ability. She had one thing going or her – she was drop-dead gorgeous – and she made that work for her! Indeed, she used her body to secure a future for herself and for the elderly woman who was more dear to her than life itself!

I suspect that the good religious folk of Ruth’s day always looked down on her as someone who was willing to prostitute herself for the sake of her mother-in-law. I see her as a genuine Christ-figure in that regard – as one who sacrificed her body for the sake of those she loved!

However we decide on Ruth, she is indeed a powerful combination of principle and passion, of the erotic and the domestic, of the hot and the holy.

[imaioVideo v=1]

(and if you can’t see the video because you’re on your iPhone, click here)

That’s enough from me for one day, fighter.

I’ll keep you in touch with my progress as I prepare for the trip to Syria, though you’ll appreciate that we are trying not to publish the details of the trip too broadly.

Keep me in your prayers as I do you.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. 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!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – January 14th, 2013

Hi Fighter!

It’s Father Dave and it’s good to be back with you for another week.

Before I say anything else today let me thank you for your prayers for Bernie!

There was a torrent of prayerful response to last week’s missive where I mentioned my time with a dear man named Bernie. Without wanting to intrude into his privacy, let it suffice to say that after he left me some very positive things happened for him that resulted in him returning home safely. Thanks be to God!

And special thanks to Fighting Father Tony, who helped me track Bernie down. It was a chase that took me on a circuitous route through boarding-houses and places in suburban Sydney where I had never been before. Even so, the quest had a happy outcome! Thank you!

Your Prayers Requested

I have an opportunity to embark on another exciting quest next month, but I’m currently quite unsure about whether I should go and would value your prayers and your feedback.

I’ve been invited to go to Damascus (in Syria) to be a part of an international peace delegation. The venture is being organised by dear Mother Agnes of Homs, who you will remember came and shared with us here at Holy Trinity late last year.

Father Dave and Mother Agnes

Mother Agnes is one of this world’s great saints – a woman who has put her body on the line for the sake of the people of Syria and for the sake of peace. And the international delegation she has pulled together is going to be headed up by another hero of mine – Mairead Maguire – the woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 for her magnificent work as a peacemaker in Northern Ireland!

I must admit that I would happily travel half way around the world to meet Ms Maguire, and I expect I probably could make a useful contribution in terms of drawing attention to what’s happening at the grass-roots in Syria. At the same time though the timing is very bad for the parish here. We have a Confirmation service scheduled and all sorts of other significant events looming at around that time.

If I do go to Damascus I will be there for my 51st birthday! It is weird to think that I might spend my birthday in a warzone. Even so, as students of the New Testament know, the Road to Damascus has a history as a place of great spiritual encounter! What better place to celebrate?!

The Baptism of Jesus

I’ve got another sermon for you this week. Yesterday was the day the church traditionally remembers the ‘Baptism of Jesus’ – an event that I must admit has never inspired me!

I went through my pile of old sermons and discovered (to my horror) that I had never preached on this topic before either! I’ve been a professional preacher now for 25 years! How did I manage to avoid Jesus’ baptism for all this time!

No matter! I determined that I must do it and I spent many, many hours reading through scholarly material on the subject and turning it all over in my head. Eventually something clicked for me!

I’ll warn you in advance though that all I really do with the sermon is retrace the steps I took to come to terms with the passage. I had feared that this might make the whole sermon a bit too academic. Even so, a surprising number of people told me that they found it very helpful.

I’d be grateful for any comments you might leave on the blog. I’ve had some excellent constructive criticism from people who have watched me preach lately and would welcome more!

[imaioVideo v=1]

If you’re having trouble seeing the video, click here.

A couple more quick things before I wind up this week:

Firstly, I mentioned the great Mother Agnes above. You might not know that Fighting Father Denning created a DVD of the talks she gave here on what’s really going on in Syria.

You can watch each of these sessions separately on our YouTube channel, but if you’d rather have them in higher quality on a DVD I have a few copies left! Paypal us $10 to cover postage we’ll send you the DVD at no extra charge. The Fighting Fathers Paypal address dave [AT] fatherdave.org (nb. replace [AT] with @).

Secondly, I would like to encourage all members of our online community to share their wisdom in our online forum.

There are two threads at the moment that I’d recommend in particular:

  • The first is the thread about gun control in the US. This has certainly been the most heated thread we have ever had on the forum. Even so, there is a lot of good information and a lot of wisdom contained there too.
  • The second is a thread started by Fighting Father Rob from Michigan and addresses issues of God and science and the reality of pain and injustice. In other words, it tackles the big issues!

I’d love to hear more on this latter thread from some of the professional theologians who are part of our online community. In truth, I’d love to hear more from everybody! C’mon! Get that light of yours out from underneath that bushel!

I’ll be back with you next week.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. Thank you to new members who joined our member site (www.fighting-fathers.com) between this week and last. Your $10/month contribution makes an enormous difference.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – October 8th, 2012

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave, and I’m afraid it’s going to be a short missive tonight as I’m rather tired.

It’s been a rather busy couple of weeks for me:

  • Our fighters have been fighting
  • My family has been travelling
  • We’ve had another fire at Binacrombi
  • We’ve had the privilege of hosting Mother Agnes of Homs at our church!

Accordingly, lots of congratulations are in order:

  • To Pete, Rob, Simone and Kayleen on their wonderful amateur boxing debuts!
  • To my travelling family members for making it back safely
  • To Geoff (Binacrombi’s onsite manager) for quickly putting out the fire.
  • To all who participated in the visit of Mother Agnes.
Mother Agnes and Sister Carmel Mother Agnes speaking at Holy Trinity

In truth, I only left Mother Agnes about an hour ago. She has spent the evening addressing a large group that came to hear her speak over dinner – a group that included Bishops and politicians and the press and more Syrians that I thought we had in Sydney!

Yesterday’s gathering at Holy Trinity was more of a community affair. There were about a hundred of us, and probably an equal mix of Anglicans, Catholics, Muslims and others from the local area who wanted to meet this amazing nun from the other side of the world!

She is an amazing woman, and she is a sweet soul, but her message has certainly been a bitter pill for many to swallow as she is calling into question the prevailing narrative about what is really going on in Syria.

As someone who has been on the front-line of the so-called ‘civil war’ in Syria, Mother Agnes has been eye-witness to many terrible atrocities, and she has avoided taking sides. Even so, she challenges the depiction of the ‘rebellion’ as being something akin to Robin Hood and his merry men trying to throw off the shackles of the evil Prince.

Indeed, while Mother Agnes avoided speaking directly about political scenarios, she clearly believes that a rebel victory in Syria will only result in seeing an oppressive regime replaced by an even more oppressive one. Her preference is for dialogue, and a peaceful resolution that will benefit all Syrians, and she is diametrically opposed to all foreign intervention, which she believes is inflaming the conflict and prolonging the suffering of her people.

I won’t say more about Mother Agnes’ message right now as we video’d her presentation and I did a video-interview with her as well, all of which I hope to have ready for you in the next week or so. Mind you, we did attempt to do a live video-cast of Mother Agnes yesterday, and it may be that you tuned in to that?

The Videocast

I have no idea whether the videocasts yesterday worked properly or not!

Sunday morning church was rather chaotic!

Everyone was late because of Daylight Savings, most of the lights and the sound system hadn’t been switched on when we started, there was no one to lead the singing, and Denning told me that the video just hadn’t kicked in!

I figured my frustration and tiredness had probably permeated my preaching yesterday, so after the service I was sort of glad that the video hadn’t worked. Then Denning told me that it actually had been working the whole time and he just hadn’t realised!

I remain confused!

Thank you to Stuart who notified me immediately after the service that he hadn’t been able to pick up a thing. But thank you too to those who have subsequently told me that they caught much of the sermon and that the quality of the feed was excellent (though they said nothing about the quality of the sermon as such )!

In truth, I hope quite a few of you did catch the videocast yesterday as I was preaching on that very painful statement made by Jesus:

“Whosoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)

These words tend to cut rather deep for all of us who have failed in a marriage and have divorced and married again!

If you did miss the video, both the audio version and the written versions of my sermon are online if you’re keen.

Please share your insights!

OK. I said I’d be brief tonight but I don’t want to let you go without thanking Fighting Father Rod Walker for the forum post he made about his sister’s work at an orphanage in Mozambique. Please keep contributing to the forum, and keep commenting on the blogs.

And since I’ve mentioned the blogs, let me recommend to you a few things I’ve published lately:

On each of these pages you’ll find an embedded video of the address along with a full transcript.

I’ve also transcribed on israelandpalestine.org the details of a new law just passed in California that apparently makes it illegal to criticize the government of Israel! Your feedback would again be appreciated.

OK. Enough! It’s nearly 3am and I need to get to bed!

Please note that there will be NO video of the service this weekend as I’ll be taking a short holiday to attend the wedding of Geoff and Laura – two great Fighting Fathers who manage our beloved Binacrombi Bush Camp between them.

I mentioned above that Geoff has an expertise in putting out fires. Evidently though there’s one still kindling between Laura and himself.

I know I speak on behalf of all of our online community when I offer Geoff and Laura and their family our heartfelt congratulations and our ongoing prayers.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
dave@fatherdave.org
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – October 1st, 2012

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave, and I’m excited to be back with you again.

As I hinted in my email from two days back, we have something very exciting coming up – a very special guest who will be joining us at Holy Trinity this coming Sunday. I’ll to tell you all about that in a moment, but first let me debrief quickly about a couple of things:

The Videocast

Firstly, thank you to everyone who tuned in to the video-cast of our Sunday morning worship service here at Holy Trinity. And a special thank you to everyone who sent feedback, all of which was helpful.

As many of you realise, we hit technical problems about 15 minutes into the broadcast. Fighting Father Jim, who has now taken on a new role as ‘senior video technician’, tells me that for some unknown reason the videocast suddenly switched streams and started broadcasting on the test stream. I don’t have a clue what this means, but Jim is on to it!

From the feedback I received, I believe:

The video quality was excellent (for as long as it lasted), and a lot of you guys were really impressed with the architecture of our church building. It is a beautiful building. It’s easy to forget that and take it for granted after 22 years in the place.

The sound quality was not brilliant. Fighting Father Rod from the UK said that “The sound system picked up everything – even the mouse running up the organ pipes”. Thank you. I’ve installed a mouse trap! Mind you, Rod added that “it took the Albert Hall a while to get it right!” I take that as an encouragement.

Fighting Father Tom from Nevada, USA, offered the most encouraging response to the sound. He wrote, “when Ange and the ladies started singing, our cat Roda started singing with them. She has never done that before. I guess the ladies moved her.” What can I say? This opens up a whole new range of ministry possibilities!

Anyway, we hope to have the technical problems sorted by the end of the week and we’ll try to integrate the sound feed into our main sound system. Hopefully the result will still be cat-friendly. Either way, we’ll try again this coming Sunday – same time, same place.

In terms of the ‘place’, we are streaming through church.tv, and you need to take out a free membership there if you want to tune in (and a big thank you to Mark of church.tv who invited us to be a part of their program and is charging us nothing for the privilege)!

In terms of ‘time’, be warned that Daylight Savings kicks in on Sunday in this part of the world, which means that we lose an hour. If you’re in doubt as to what 9.15am Sydney-time looks like in your part of the world, try this oneline timezone converter.

Back in the News

Forgive me if this sounds like boasting, but I was really chuffed to find an article about myself and our Fight Club in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper yesterday. The online version of the story is here and it includes a video interview.

The video was done ringside. I don’t look particularly well-groomed . Even so, I am deeply grateful to Dave Sygall, who put the story together, and to his partner, Blaise, who jumped in the ring and did a few rounds with me last Thursday night (and showed real pugilistic promise)!

OK, it’s time for the big news …

Mother Agnes Mariam of Homs comes to Holy Trinity!

You probably remember me talking about this woman in recent weeks. You may have seen her on the news or read about her in the papers. Like me, you probably didn’t expect that you’d ever get a chance to meet her in person, but now …

Let me tell you how it all happened:

Some months ago I was chatting with Fighting Father Alan Longergan (one of our Irish Fighting Fathers) about how neither of us believed what we were being told about Syria. Alan though actually did something about it. Being a Catholic himself, he called the Catholic Diocese of Homs in Syria and asked them who he could talk to in order to get a frank update from a local!

The church in Homs put Alan on to Mother Agnes Mariam – a Melkite Nun who was Mother Superior of the of the Monastery of St. James the Mutilated in Homs. Next thing you know, Alan has Mother Agnes appearing on national talk-back radio in Ireland. You may have heard the interview. I posted a copy to the member site back in June (click here).

TV interviews followed, and Mother Agnes started to get worldwide attention as she was challenging the accepted Western narrative about what was going on in Syria – a narrative that depicts the Syrian rebel armies as the modern equivalent of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, with Bashar Al Assad as the evil Sheriff.

It wasn’t long, of course, before a public defamation campaign was launched against Mother Agnes. Soon her life was in danger! Evidently she upset some powerful people. Mother Agnes was forced to leave Homs and escaped to Lebanon – the country of her birth. From there she has continued to promote the “Mussalaha” (or ‘reconciliation’) initiative, believing that Syria’s problems can be solved without further armed conflict, and without any military intervention from abroad!

Mother Agnes is now travelling the globe to tell people everywhere about The Mussalaha Initiative, and she is taking our Irish brother, Alan, with her every step of the way! Both of them will be arriving in Sydney next Sunday morning, and we will be hosting the two of them at Holy Trinity on Sunday afternoon.

Mother Agnes Mariam Alan Lonergan

When: Sunday October 7th, starting with an afternoon tea at 3.30pm in the church hall.

Where: Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill, corner of Herbert and Seaview Streets in Dulwich Hill.

I suspect that our Islamic friends from the Imam Husain Centre may well supply much of the afternoon tea, as they are always generous in their catering support for these events, and I know that there are quite a few Syrians there who will be keen to meet Mother Agnes. Anybody though is welcome to bring a plate. We’ll move into the church building to listen to Mother Agnes at some time between 4 and 4.30pm.

If you don’t know how to find us, there’s a map on holytrinity.org.au.

If you can’t make it to the Sunday afternoon meeting, there is a dinner on the Monday night, which will also be in Dulwich Hill (at Tony’s Family Restaurant, which is just around the corner). That meal will cost you $70/head, which is all inclusive. Let me know if you’d like me to book you in for that one.

And if you can’t make it to either event on account of the fact that you are currently in Saskatchewan and I just haven’t given you enough notice, don’t panic! I’ll try to do a video-cast of the event, or at least do a video recording. You’ll get to meet Mother Agnes virtually if you can’t meet her in person. Even so, if you can make it in person, please do!

I am anticipating that this will be a wonderful gathering of people from different nationalities and faiths and various characters from across our community who share a common concern for the people of Syria. I am trusting too that we won’t have any trouble from those who would like to silence Mother Agnes but I plan to invite some of my friends from the local constabulary along just in case.

OK, I need to wind up this missive and get to bed as it’s gone 3am here.

I’ll be putting out press releases and getting a promotional poster together for the Sunday event and I’ll email that out to you later in the week.

Until then, may the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
dave@fatherdave.org
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. For those who like to encourage me in my running, yes, I did complete my half-marathon run earlier this evening in 1.56.55.

P.P.S. Please continue to post to the forum. Cibby and Jim and I are having a gutsy debate over what constitutes ‘free speech’, and I’d love to get your input.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four