Sharing in some fantastic cross-cultural and interfaith bridge-building work
Doing plenty of praying and boxing
And now I’m heading back to Syria, hoping to pray in the New Year in one of the ancient Christian communities north of Damascus!
This latest scheme might seem like my craziest yet, but let me lay it out in more detail:
Firstly, I’m planning on celebrating Christmas with my church and my family first. That’s a priority. Secondly, I’m taking a contingent of Christian leaders with me:
Ven. Carol Wagner (Archdeacon of the Coast – Canberra-Goulburn Diocese)
Rev. Michael Palmer (rector of Vaucluse)
Troy Hester (formerly our community worker, and now with Anglicare, in charge of the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Sydney)
My son, Soren (representing Australian Christian young people)
In other words, we are going to pray rather than box this time (though I am trying to see if I can get a fight in while I am there). Our goals, at any rate, are:
To take some much-needed medical supplies into Syria
To establish sister church relationships with Syrian Christian communities
To allow Syrian Christians to share their stories (through our media team)
We currently have two expert journalists in our media team. Hopefully, by the grace of God, you will soon be seeing their work on your TV and social media, with Syrian Christians telling their story – a story that, up to this point, has not been told!
It is an auspicious time in Syria right now. Aleppo is on the verge of being liberated from the coalition of terrorist groups that have controlled the east of the city for some years. Conversely of course, Palmyra (where we were only a few months ago) has fallen back under the control of DAESH/ISIS. Even so, all indications are that this reversal will not last for long.
Indeed, my hope is that our New Year celebrations will mark the end of the carnage in Syria, for I do believe that once Aleppo has fallen, foreign investors in the war are likely to close their accounts, after which the violence will end as quickly as it began.
Please keep praying for the people of Syria. Their resilience is remarkable, but even if this marks the end of the violence, these good people have a long road to recovery ahead. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to establish long-term supportive relationships between churches and other community organisations at this point in time. Pray with me that our team will make a genuine contribution in this process.
As always, we are dependent on our support team to get us there and to make it all happen. I appreciate that this is the worst time of year to be asking for financial support. Even so, if you can forward us even a small amount it will be greatly appreciated.
If you’d like to forward us some cash via Paypal, please use my ‘Buy me a drink‘ page, and PLEASE DO NOT MENTION SYRIA anywhere when you make the donation!
On the last occasion, a number of lovely people who tried to contribute included messages of support, along the lines of ‘peace for Syria’ and the very mention of the word ‘Syria’ triggered Paypal’s alarm system. The result was that the account was frozen for a number of weeks and none of those contributions got through.
If you’d like to give support but would prefer to avoid Paypal, just contact me and we’ll work something out. All my contact details (phone number, map to my place, etc.) are in the ‘contact’ section of www.fatherdave.org (ie. the non-mobile version).
Christ is King
For our sermon today, I want to take you back a few weeks, to that day in the church year known as ‘Christ the King Sunday’. It fell on November 20th this year, and is day when we celebrate the rule of Christ in our world.
I appreciate that the very idea that Christ rules our world may seem absurd to many. To all appearances, it is money and power that rule our world. In what sense is God really in charge of anything in this world, and if God is in charge, why isn’t He making a better job of things?
(you can read this sermon here if you prefer, or watch the YouTube version here)
Of course, I can’t close off today without inviting you to be a part of our Christmas celebrations here at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Dulwich Hill.
We’ll be having carol-singing on our rectory lawn, as per usual, from 7pm on Christmas Eve. We’ll also be celebrating our Christmas Eucharist from around 9.15am on Christmas Day. And if you haven’t got anywhere special to be for lunch on Christmas Day, let me know. We currently have plenty of room at our table.
It’s New Year’s Day as I start this missive and, as is inevitably the case this time of year, I’m reflecting on both the year that’s past and the year ahead.
2013 was a big year for me personally, for my family, for our church and for the Order of the Fighting Fathers.
Personally, I was able to travel to Bali, Malaysia, Lebanon, Iran and Syria, and I had the privilege of meeting two heroes of mine for the first time – Mairead Maguire and George Galloway. I also caught up with some wonderful old friends such as Mother Agnes Mariam and Dr Chandra Muzaffar, and was able to share in their creative work!
On the church front the year was somewhat dominated by the fire that burnt down our hall complex. We lost our Youth Centre and boxing gym and a whole lot of history that night, and the boy responsible still hasn’t been arrested! Even so, it was wonderful to see the whole community come together to support us, and both the Youth Centre and the gym are now up and running again on premises owned by our dear sisters and brothers of the local Salvation Army Corps.
On the family front, each of the children had their own particular struggles but each ended the year in good health and spirits (thanks be to God) and Ange started teaching full-time for the first time.
We shared a wonderful Christmas together. I know that Christmas is such a difficult time for so many people and I do not take for granted the privilege of being in a stable domestic and financial situation. I share with you the following Christmas pics in the hope that your Christmas was also an enjoyable (or at least a bearable) one.
Our Christmas Concert
Our Christmas Angels steal the show 🙂
Our Christmas Pageant
Even the most professional performers need a support team
Carols on the Rectory Lawn is a great success!
Imogen and I lead the Christmas Day service
(note that you can hover your cursor to pause a slide and click to move to the next one)
I’ve been thinking a lot about the year ahead and I’ve set myself five goals for 2014.
I am a great believer in settings goals and sharing them with friends. I find that people achieve their goals a lot more often when they are shared. Perhaps it’s because the embarrassment factor kicks in? We hate the idea of failing to achieve a target that’s been made public? Even so, I’m told that more people achieve their goals even when they write them on a piece of paper and put the paper in a drawer – telling no one!
I’m making my goals public and am going to do my best to achieve each of them. This list is not exhaustive and contains nothing about rebuilding the Youth Center (which may not be completed until 2015). The list is nonetheless ambitious:
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.
The last goal may well prove the hardest. At least it doesn’t require much explanation. I’ll give you a bit more detail on the other goals.
The Monastic Order
I have a real vision for developing Binacrombi as a place of prayer and reflection.
As you probably realise, Binacrombi is set up as a remote centre for extreme sports – primarily trail-bike riding and fight training – both of which may seem completely incompatible with a contemplative lifestyle. In my view though extreme action and focused contemplation are two sides of the same coin! We already have the boxing ring, wrestling cage, 530 acres of untamed bush, and a whole lot more there to cover the sporting side. What we need now is a chapel!
To cut a long story short, I’ve been talking to a certain Bishop over the last couple of months and it seems that he may have an old chapel that can be lifted from its current location and replanted at Binacrombi.
Of course there’s much to be done between now and our first monastic chant, and I’ll probably need to raise some cash in order to fund the replanting. Even so, I’m hopeful that we’ll have pews on the ground before the year is out and I’ve already got someone designing special monastic habits for me (habits that are light enough to train in).
What I’m looking for from you right now is a commitment to pray with me – not just in your bedroom but on location at Binacrombi. Would you be interested in taking off a few days or a week or even a month to come and pray with us in the bush? If enough of us start spending extended time in prayer out there the rest will follow naturally.
Like most old pugs I’m feeling I’ve got one more good fight left in me. I’m sure there must be some obscure world title for 50-something year-olds that I can compete for! If not in this country then surely in the USA?
My first step will be to trim down about 10kgs and get back into fighting shape. I’ve given myself to the end of February to achieve this.
There’s talk of a major peace mission to Syria happening over the Easter period this year involving church leaders from around the world. I’m hoping to be a part of it.
Moreover, I have a more specific project in mind that I’ve shared with you before – teaching boxing to kids in refugee camps in Syria and along the Syrian border. This might seem far-fetched but I have a feeling that a number of high-profile boxers would jump at the chance to get involved if I can set something in motion. I’ve put it to prayer.
As you may know, this year has been declared “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” by the General Assembly of the United Nations. I am hoping and praying that this will be a decisive year for all Palestinians.
My hope is that we can again make a small contribution through our boxing. You will remember that we had members of the Palestinian Olympic team visit our Fight Club last November and we started planning then to sponsor a Palestinian team to tour Australia and possibly the UK as well. Who knows where this might take us? I am trusting that it will all contribute to the greater quest for justice and peace.
Those are my public goals for 2014. What are yours? I’d encourage you to make yours public too, even if only be sharing them in the comment section below.
I’ve been preaching rather incessantly over this Christmas period so I’ve got no shortage of sermon material to share. I’m offering you today the one I did on the Sunday before Christmas where the Gospel text focused on the person of Joseph, Mary’s husband, who is without doubt the least dynamic person in the entire Christmas narrative.
We know very little about Joseph and he seems to contribute very little to the Gospel story. He is a minor character in a great drama, which makes him a lot like us.
Before I let you go today, fighter, I’d ask you to share a prayer with me for our dear brother Mordechai Vanunu – Israel’s nuclear whistle-blower.
If you don’t know the story you can Google him. If you don’t know my connection to Morde, it’s simple. He stumbled into our church one Friday night back in 1986. We became good friends. Then he was kidnapped by the Mossad!
This year marks 27 years since Morde’s abduction. 27 years was notably the same length of time Nelson Mandela spent in custody.
The first 11 of those years Morde spent in solitary confinement!
The next 6 years were spent in a regular prison
Over the remaining 10 years Morde has been constantly harassed by Israeli authorities, has been refused the right to leave the country, and was re-imprisoned for a month for the crime of speaking to foreigners!
On Christmas Day just past Morde once again appeared in court, pleading for the right to leave Israel and live a free life. As usual his appeal was refused.
My friend Eileen Flemming has put together a petition to put an end to Morde’s endless punishment. Will you sign it please? It’s a small gesture, I know, but apart from prayer and petitions I’m not sure what else we can do for this dear brother at the moment.
With Morde after his release in April 2004
One last thing please …
By way of an annual appeal can I encourage any of you who want to support the work of the Fighting Fathers to do so by taking out a membership at www.fighting-fathers.com?
It will only cost you $10/month and you get plenty for your money. As well as a great library of eBooks and software in the members’ area you get the privilege of being part of the greatest online community on the planet! You’ll also get to help me cover the monthly cost of maintaining our online infrastructure (which seems to get heavier by the year).
Please do consider joining the team but be assured that, either way, I remain …