FaithOpinion

In the beginning was relationship

There’s a longing in each of our hearts for connection and belonging. Hugh Mackay speaks about the need to be heard as primary for us as human beings. The “Uluru Statement from the Heart” is likewise a profound cry to be heard. It is claimed so simply and beautifully by a community. And yet the Uluru Statement remains ignored on many levels of our society.

Faith is always a personal thing. It is more than a head concept while it involves thinking and belief, and it is more than a heart response though it involves heart. Because it is relational, faith is not something that is achieved and finished. Essentially it is mystery, known and “depthed” through life experiences and reflection.

August 6-12 was Homelessness Prevention Week and many of the inner-city chaplains gathered to provide services with and in support of people who have known homelessness, and particularly to remember those homeless people we know who have died.

t was particularly moving for me to be involved in three such services which brought together people from all walks of life to share our connection as human beings who care and love. Differences of social position, educational standards achieved, health, employment or personal history did not matter. We were equal in our ability to name and remember those who had touched our lives, and this enabled us to know ourselves as loving people. Such occasions make it possible for real sharing among people who would not often connect in their daily lives.

Cana Communities opened Anstead House in Perth last month. It is a home space for women in transition and a place of hospitality. This event also illustrated the way in which community gets formed and enables life – a place where connection is possible and there is opportunity for relating.

Tor, the leader of Cana WA, moved to Perth and was looking for a place that gave her the heart responses she had experienced while at Cana in Sydney. After connecting on the streets and researching the various services she decided that relationships developed through the sense of belonging she experienced around the tables at Cana. She describes her experience of being led to gather people in this way: “The women I met at Nagle House in Sydney took me beyond what I understood and recognised as poverty, homelessness and disadvantage. I was very conscious of meeting them as people who are equal though coming from very different life experiences from mine. I felt the equality as people profoundly. Anstead House is about gathering; food and shelter are means to enable sitting down, being together and feeling accepted in togetherness. Lives and opportunities change through that.”

Anyone who has been in a serious relationship appreciates that connecting with another is not always easy and requires a willingness to accept our vulnerability. That is not a popular concept in our society where strength, autonomy and achievement are such important values. Brené Brown’s research into vulnerability has done much to help us see the need for vulnerability and its essential role in our ability to connect with one another.

Science and religion are becoming friendlier with each other these days and the relationship experience of faith is the richer because of the insights of both sources. We are becoming wiser about the relationship between the unfolding cosmic story, the sacred stories of the first peoples of our land and the richness of the stories of the Christian traditions as well as those of other belief systems.

We “depth” the way we relate as we experience the mystery of our story and the story of those we meet in the context of the whole cosmic story and the understanding of transformative processes that generate life. Let us continue to bring hope to our world as we reach out to others.

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