Father Dave’s Fight Club throwing in the towel?

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“Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.” (Revelation 1:7)

Hi Fighter,

It’s been a difficult week for me. I think we’ve lost the battle for boxing club. The church is throwing us out and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to stop this happening or even to get a short delay of execution.

We opened our doors early in 1991. I’d been asking local people what was most needed in our area and they all said, “the kids have nothing to do after school”. That’s when Kon Pappy and I opened up the church hall in the afternoons as a drop-in centre – offering wrestling classes to local kids – and I started Father Dave’s Fight Club in the evenings. The rest is history.

Our “Get off the Gear and into the Ring” program started the same year (‘gear’ meaning ‘heroin’ for those who don’t know the lingo) and we went full time with our youth drop-in centre in 1994 with a view to creating a safe place for local kids after school. We were the heroin capital of the inner-west of Sydney in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Every year we’d see groups of kids come through. By the end of the year, some had died, some had gone to jail, and others had made it through. Those who were part of the Fight Club tended to make it through, and they also became the key to our funding.

It’s all a bit complicated, but we (the church) had next to nothing in the bank and couldn’t really afford a youth worker. Even so, we committed ourselves to paying an excellent guy named Paul $1,000/month to devote himself to building and running the drop-in centre full time. By 1996 though we had completely run out of money and we owed Paul $1,000. I actually had my Archdeacon (assistant to the bishop) in my office, telling me that it was time to shut down our Youth Centre when my trainer, Kon, came to the door and told me I’d been offered a pro fight as a boxer.

“Why would I want to do that?”, I asked him. “I’ve never had a boxing match”. His answer was, “because they’re offering you $1,000”. I took the fight, scored a draw, and we raised close to $50,000 for our efforts. That was my debut into the world of boxing and it set us on a fundraising path that lasted 20 years. We ran twenty-two “Christians vs. Lions” fundraiser boxing promotions over the years that followed, and I fought on every one of them.

The drop-in centre continued full-time until 2018 when it became clear that Dulwich Hill as a whole was a safe place and we were no longer needed. The Fight Club continued though as Father Dave’s Old School Boxing Academy. We were still working with young people at risk, and taking referrals from government agencies and welfare organisations, as well as catering to local kids of all shapes and sizes.

We started the Boxers for Peace program in 2014, making a series of trips to Syria to bring some joy to young people there, and to try to open a window on what was really going on in the country. We started the Boxing for Life program in 2015 as a program for integrating Christian and Muslim young people, and people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, through our sport. We ran weekend fitness camps in the bush and worldwide mission trips, and at the heart of it all was our small but dedicated team of trainers and fighters based in the club at Dulwich Hill. And now the church is throwing us out. I asked for a six-month extension so that we could find a new location. They’ve refused to even give us an extra day!

I was twice awarded Citizen of the Year by Marrickville Council, and nominated for Australian of the Year three times on the strength of our work with young people at risk. You would think that would count for something. The church is saying that they have other clients who want the space we are using, but I know who the other client is and one of their representatives approached me to say, “don’t think it’s us who are trying to get rid of you. We don’t want you to go.” Who knows what is really driving the church’s agenda? Whatever it is, it is hard for me to reconcile the fact that I served that community heart and soul for thirty years – for more than half my life.

I look to the Scriptures for answers and I find myself latching on to last Sunday’s reading from the first chapter of the Revelation of St John.

“Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.”

The imagery may seem archaic, reminding us of one of those old paintings where Jesus is riding the clouds like a surfboard. Even so, the message is clear. Jesus will return, and there will be a reckoning. Finally, the truth will be made clear and people everywhere will wail when they realise how wrong they were!

The Revelation of John was published at a time much like ours. The world was in upheaval. People of faith were being fed to the lions and nobody was quite sure what the future held. John’s Revelation was given as a reminder that whatever the future holds, it is God who holds the future, and we can have full confidence that, ultimately, justice will be done and love will triumph.

We get caught up in our daily struggles – of course we do. We need to stop and look up and, with the eyes of faith, see God at work. Yes, crap will happen and governments will lie and good people will perish and Fight Clubs will close but, in the end, the Kingdom comes.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

Sunday’s Eucharist

It was the feast of Christ the King on Sunday – the last Sunday of the Christian year. Interestingly, it’s not a celebration that goes back to the early church but one established by Pope Pius XI less than 100 years ago – 1925 to be exact.

1925 was a significant year in human history, and a year not unlike our own. The world was still getting over the War to end all Wars and seemed to be rapidly hurtling towards another one. We were all caught in a terrible worldwide economic downturn. People were looking for answers, and there were some prominent charismatic leaders strutting around who claimed to have those answers.  Mussolini was in his third year in office, and a young rabble-rouser named Adolf Hitler had been out of jail for a year, and his Nazi party was rapidly growing in popularity. It was at this time that Pius decided to remind us of who was really in charge, and who we should be looking to in order to find answers to our questions. The relevance of this for our own time barely needs stating.

Our first reading was from the second book of Samuel, Chapter 23, remembered as ‘the last words of David’, though they are not actually the last words of King David, who lives on for a couple of chapters and has more to say. These may though be the most memorable words that David left us – words that were born of the wisdom of his old age. The essence of what David had learnt, and what he passes on to us, is that living according to God’s law ultimately pay dividends. Whatever chaos we experience in the short term, ultimately God’s way proves true.

I’ve already touched on the second reading, taken from the last book of the Christian New Testament, and it sounds a similar note. God’s way proves to be true, not simply in individual lives but in all of human history. “Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail”.

Our Gospel reading from John 18 is the first part of Jesus’ interview with the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate. It’s where Jesus uses those memorable words, “my Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

This has regularly been understood to mean that Jesus is a king from another world – ie. the Kingdom of Heaven. This interpretation – that Jesus’ kingdom is something completely separate from this world – is both inaccurate and unhelpful. It’s been the basis upon which dictators have tried to separate church and state in a way that makes the state unaccountable to anything beyond itself.

To be ‘not of the world’ doesn’t mean you have to be in another world. It means not having your life governed by the values of this world. It means moving beyond the lust for money and power. Jesus’ kingdom, which is ‘not of this world’, is a different kind of community, not based on relationships of power and exploitation, but on the divine values of love, equality and justice.

My sincere thanks to John Cook who shared the readings and discussion with me last Sunday, and my thanks in advance to our guests for this weekend – David Baldwin and Doug Pyeatt. Most of you would know David from past Eucharists and sermons. Doug is an old friend from the backwoods of the USA who works for the Federal Police, though I probably shouldn’t say any more about his work here. We’ll see what he’s able to share when he comes online on Sunday.

I’m still experimenting with where best to stream our Sunday services. I don’t know if anyone joined us via Twitter or LinkedIn last weekend. Perhaps this week I’ll try:

Please let me know what works best for you, and if you are joining us through the Father Dave Facebook Page, please make sure that you’ve subscribed to my videos and not simply followed the page. In order to subscribe (and thereafter receive notifications) you need to click the bell icon during the live stream. I’ll try to remember to remind everyone during Sunday’s stream.

Join the Resistance

I’m in Sydney again this weekend to join in on the “Millions March against Mandatory Vaccination” protest on Saturday. It seems that there will be marches every Saturday between now and Christmas, and I’m hoping to join as many as possible. Indeed, I hope to get a chance to speak at at least one of them.
Tens of thousands of people attended last Saturday’s rallies around the country. I’m hoping that momentum will only build between now and the end of the year. Sydney-siders meet in Hyde Park at midday. Details of the locations of this and all the other marches are in the poster.

I appreciate, of course, that not everybody who reads these emails sees eye-to-eye with me on the issue of mandatory vaccinations, and I totally respect everyone’s right to their own opinion and decisions in this area. Having said that, if you want to hear the case against mandatory vaccination put strongly, I’d encourage you to listen to Dr. Vladimir Zelenko’s presentation to the Jewish Board of Deputies in Israel. It is thorough (and somewhat chilling).

Finally, if you’re not a financial supporter yet and you can afford to be, you’ll find these three options on my Patreon page:

  1. Middleweight Division ($10/month) where you get access to the member site, along with the videos and other resources.
  2. Heavyweight Division ($100/month) which includes individual coaching, along with software subscriptions to both Buzzious and Streamout, allowing you both to publish an unlimited number of quality blogs and to livestream.
  3. Super-Heavyweight division ($400/month) includes all of the above plus me working with you in person – in the gym and at Binacrombi Bush Camp

I’ll hope to see you on Saturday at the march and on Sunday for the Eucharist (providing that I’m not in a detention centre somewhere). Either way, may God bless you and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight


P.S. I’m adding an extra video today. It’s courtesy of  our friend, Rami Nguyen, who covered both last Saturday’s protest rally and the anti-rally, held in Newtown which claimed that the larger rally was mainly made up of white supremacists

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

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