As the choking grip of government restrictions slowly loosens its stranglehold and we emerge from our bunkers, we look at the devastated scene around us and wonder whether things will ever be as they once were.
The dead and injured lie strewn all around us like corpses on a battlefield. Those bodies that will rise no more are not those killed by the virus, of course – not in this country. Rather, they are the thousands who just couldn’t handle the isolation any longer and took their own lives. They are the women and children who were bludgeoned to death – victims of the domestic powder-keg created by the lockdown. Dare we look at those bruised and bleeding bodies, and hear the groans of the wounded – those countless souls who have lost jobs, homes, businesses, livelihoods …?
And we emerge from our isolation into … what? The landscape looks familiar, but something is missing. Where did my community go?
All of us good church people fell into lockstep behind the government and did our best to make sure everybody stayed a healthy distance away from each other. Somehow we accepted that the only group that could safely touch each other were members of a nuclear household. Within the confines of that sacred hearth, everybody was apparently safe with each other and safe from the outside world. All other forms of human engagement though were verboten – regardless of the extent to which we depended on that broader community for sanity, identity and survival!
We could continue to do church by Zoom, except that it wasn’t real church at all as it wasn’t public. You had to have a password, and you couldn’t choose your level of involvement (sitting quietly up the back if you didn’t want too much scrutiny). It was a platform tailor-made for cults – the church of the inner-circle – for the tech-savvy, articulate and self-confident.
Will we ever get back to where we were before? Do we want to go back to where we were before? I think some of us prefer a more sanitized form of life – a life free from all the complications that are an integral part of real human interaction. I think a number of us prefer to communicate to each other by text message and Facetime, rather than have to really have to come to grips with the tangible reality of another hairy, smelly, bacteria-laden human body.
Personally, I’d sooner die in the arms of someone I loved than live forever in a sanitized cell. I’d sooner take my chances in the real world – living, breathing, punching, fighting, wrestling and bleeding – than hide at home with my children, wrapped in cotton-wool, pretending that this is real life.
Some of my friends tell me that it’s not an either/or – that it’s quite possible to reestablish the old connections while maintaining a new level of cleanliness that will safeguard public health. I have my doubts. A seed of suspicion has been planted in our consciousness through this lockdown – a suspicion of ‘the other’. Strangers on the street are no longer just brothers and sisters I haven’t yet met. They are also potential virus-carriers. I have learnt to keep them 1.5 metres away from me because I don’t know where they’ve been and what diseases they might be carrying. Will I ever be able to look at them the same way again?
The silver lining for me in this forced isolation has been my weekly escape to the remote bushlands of Binacrombi. Take a look Binacrombi’s (almost-complete) new website if you haven’t joined us there yet.
We managed to form something of a spiritual community at Binacrombi during the lockdown, housing as many as six resident monks at one stage! They might not have all called themselves monks, but the team included Fighting Fathers Henri, Mike and Tracey. We even established a ‘rule’ for the community, consisting of three ‘ones’. You spend one hour per day in prayer, one hour in fight training, and one hour giving something back to Binacrombi.
In terms of the prayers, I had hoped to emulate the Benedictine pattern of praying daily at 6am, 9 am, noon, 3pm and 6 pm. Thus far I’ve only insisted on noon-day prayers together. The video below is an extract from our Sunday noon Eucharist. It’s the section of the service where we discuss the Gospel reading, which that week was from John, chapter 10, beginning at verse 1:
Jesus said “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Would you like to join us at Binacrombi? The commercial/dirt-bike-riding side of the park is booked out until September but I’ve kept aside some rooms though for people who want to come up to box and/or pray.
For the last couple of months I’ve had people come up every weekend to share these joint disciplines with me, and we’ve put on a boxing show for the other guests at Binacrombi each Saturday night!
We’ve had some great boxing talent at Binacrombi lately. I did five rounds with Billy Dib there two weekends ago, though last weekend the star of the show was young Nathan Nicholas – not just a great boxer but the only man I know who spends a full ten minutes in the billabong each morning and evening he is with us! At this time of year, the water gets below freezing level!
Let me know if you’d like to join us at Binacrombi one weekend soon, and if you can’t join us in person, tune in to our live Sunday Eucharist video-stream at midday each Sunday. We broadcast through the Father Dave Facebook page, and you don’t need to have a Facebook account to join us.
Please pray for me and for our work out in the bush. While I am still grieving being forced out of parish ministry, I do see wonderful opportunities opening up here. I’ve had a commitment from some indigenous leaders to run camps at Binacrombi for indigenous young people, and this weekend I’ve got a group of old fighters coming who are interested in running camps for men at risk of suicide. Equally exciting, last Monday I met up again with Dr Anne Aly MP in Canberra, and she’s got an idea for running camps for kids coming out of white-supremacist groups!
Please pray that we can develop these works, and if you are able to financially support me and the work, please consider taking out a monthly membership at www.fighting-fathers.com. In these times of uncertainty, even a $10/month subscription is deeply appreciated.
Your brother in the Good Fight,
About Father Dave Smith
Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four