Categories
Chaplaincy Interfaith Leadership Spirituality University Vision

What exactly is Oasis?

I have been trying to work out why I can not find a direct answer to the question, ‘What does a chaplain do?’ or ‘What exactly is Oasis?’

I am in complete sympathy with the questioner, genuinely wanting or needing to know. I should have an answer. But I can’t seem to nail it.

I have tried to console myself that if you ask a person to describe what a banana tastes like, they would have great difficulty explaining. But as the Oasis Coordinating Chaplain, shouldn’t I know what Oasis is? Shouldn’t I be expected to reel off a cogent answer?

My problem has come to the fore again, because we have begun to meet with the Campus Planner to work out what needs to be done with architects and builders to fit out the ‘new Oasis’ – starting only with the shell of the building we have been moved into.

At the same time, the new Director of Student Services needs answers to that question to become confidant that what the university is providing for students fits in with the university’s strategic plan, is comprehensive, and its elements are not unknowingly being duplicated by different student service agencies.  Fair enough!

And the University of Tasmania are flying me over to Hobart in April to consult with them about what we have been doing at Flinders, and what is this ‘Oasis’ thing?

As a result, I have been beating myself up of late for not having some clear answers.

But I am beginning to see what should have been obvious from the start – there are no neat answers! The defining question is incompatible with the very nature of Oasis, and also with chaplaincy. Or put another way, the nature of chaplaincy and Oasis is likely to be incompatible with the culture of a utilitarian, segmented, consumerist, institutionalised bureaucracy. Universities have become competitive, multi-million dollar businesses. Chaplaincy may easily be seen as small fry of little consequence.

Chaplaincy evolved out of the church’s need to provide religious services to those geographically displaced from their local church – those in hospitals, prisons and armed services, for example. There is no such need in today’s universities because most religious needs can be met in the local community.* The days of traditional ‘looking after our own’, sectarian chaplaincy in secular institutions are numbered. Such chaplaincy is of little consequence to a modern university,

At Flinders the changed role for university chaplaincy emerged from the internationalization of the university. Harmony on a pluralist campus requires attention to social cohesion in the face of difference. This attention to the quality of relationships, a concern quite central to religions, broadened the scope of an inclusive multifaith chaplaincy to attend to the whole campus – pastoral care to all, regardless of faith or no faith.

In an ideal world, all university staff would be pastoral carers, customizing every situation and conversation to individual students – students who come from highly diverse cultural, national, religious and academic backgrounds. In a pastorally caring university there would be little need for chaplains or for a centre like Oasis. But the pressures of the modern university have created new needs – we do what the university would normally be expected to do but is unable to do.

To take up such opportunities requires a major shift in thinking for chaplains – no longer the ‘rescuing’, ‘telling’ salvation paradigm, but the hospitable, listening, empowering and long-term-committed mentoring (‘walking beside you’) paradigm.

It means being closely connected to the life of the university but not meddling in it, filling gaps collaboratively, connecting the disconnected, doing what needs to be done without taking over, enriching, enabling, and avoiding the turf wars and ego games.

Because Oasis is adaptive, continually responsive to the expressed and unexpressed needs of the university, it might be thought of as an ever-changing, process-centred community responding contextually and existentially to presenting situations. That’s a mouthful!

So there is no neat answer! Just an evolving, fluid narrative.

I think ‘God’ is comfortable with that!

Whether universities are, remains mainly to be seen!

 

* (The exception might be Muslim Friday Prayer, because the Muslim ‘holy day’ is a Friday, a working day. And the provision of Muslim prayer rooms is a priority because of the logistics of prayer five times a day.)

 

Categories
Chaplaincy Interfaith Leadership Peace Religion and Violence Spirituality University Vision

Ladies and Gentlemen – an announcement!

From 2013, Oasis, is being hosted by the University – funding a Coordinating Chaplain, an Administrative Assistant and Oasis initiatives.

What is Oasis, I hear you say?

In 2012, the chaplains described Oasis in these terms:

Vision
As a unique interfaith collaborative, Oasis promotes peace and understanding among the people of diverse cultures, faiths and backgrounds who form the tapestry of campus life in Australia today.

Mission Statement
Serving students and staff of all religious denominations and traditions as well as those whose values are secular or atheist, Oasis aims to provide a welcoming, enjoyable and helpful environment in the promotion of friendship and wellbeing on campus.

The University has said ‘yes’ to the Oasis vision of harmony and well being and its initiatives of welcome and friendship.

As a Christian chaplain, I welcome this development. And as I reflect on it, I am reminded of two trees mentioned in the Christian Bible , nice bookends to the sixty six books. The very first book, “The Book of Beginnings”, mentions a “tree of life”. This is a tree in the Garden of Eden, one that gives knowledge of what is good and what is evil.

The last book of the Christian Bible, describing a vision of the new world, mentions a tree “whose leaves are for the healing of nations”. For “nations” we could read “cultural groups”. So the vision is one of protecting the integrity of cultural groups and harmony between them – for which, incidentally, one needs to understand and discern good from bad, with an inference of enacting the good.

I think Oasis embraces these two aspects of healing and understanding – twin trees at the waterhole.

Today a PhD student from SriLanka, who comes in to Oasis regularly as a break from her research, described how she was helping a new arrival overwhelmed by the new experience of being a new student, in a new university, in a new country – she is helping her find her way in a new culture, a new language (where the natives talk too quickly!), a new environment, new people, new customs, new food…

Right there – Oasis at work through her.

As chaplains of all beliefs, we promote and support that ethic.

Categories
Leadership Peace Power University Vision

The European Atrocity You Never Heard About

http://chronicle.com/article/The-European-Atrocity-You/132123/?sid=wb&utm_source=wb&utm_medium=en#top

I think we all like a good conspiracy theory.
But I have to say that I keep wondering whether the world I experience day by day ‘on the surface’ is not some kind of dream – a world away from harsh realities that are just under my nose, but remain hidden by the presenting gloss I encounter.

The sermon at Grace Cathedral on Sunday was based on a reading from the Book of Samuel. The people demand a king for themselves. They want to be like all the other surrounding nations.

(As an aside, on our travels I am amazed to discover that so much of what I thought was innovative back home has been copied across international boundaries. And vice-versa! So that’s why our pollies go on these overseas trips!)

In the history of the Jews, until this time, they depended on the prophet for wisdom and direction. Samuel seeks God’s direction and surprisingly, God responds, ‘Give them what they want, but warn them first’. Samuel paints a bleak picture of the consequences to the elders. But their minds are made up.

Does this sound familiar?

The exhortation of the preacher is to live examined lives. ‘Why do we want what we want? And what are the consequences?’

The article from The Chronicle Review is timely. It points to a world behind my world. It affirms the work of honest scholarship. It helps me appreciate my refugee neighbour. It prompts me to be more critical of political grand designs and what may lie behind them. And it challenges me to self-examination and a life of compassion with a view to the just world Jesus pointed to.

Please read the article and reflect on the possibility of Australia’s complicity.

Categories
Chaplaincy Spirituality Uncategorized University Vision

Instrumentalism

Rather than telling students to study for exams, we should be telling them to study for learning and understanding.

If there is one student attitude that most all faculty bemoan, it is instrumentalism. This is the view that you go to college to get a degree to get a job to make money to be happy. Similarly, you take this course to meet this requirement, and you do coursework and read the material to pass the course to graduate to get the degree. Everything is a means to an end. Nothing is an end in itself. There is no higher purpose.

When we tell students to study for the exam or, more to the point, to study so that they can do well on the exam, we powerfully reinforce that way of thinking. While faculty consistently complain about instrumentalism, our behavior and the entire system encourages and facilitates it.

http://chronicle.com/article/Stop-Telling-Students-to-Study/131622/

Yesterday I had a conversation with PhD student in Creative Writing. She asked what “Spiritual Counselling”meant – it’s written on the outside-facing window of Oasis along with other descriptors of what may happen in Oasis.

Beneath her question was a longing for her work to be understood beyond the technical domain. She had suffered much abuse in her childhood and is writing about her transformation toward wholeness. But who is prepared to really ‘listen’ to her, to give her space to explore the spiritual dimensions of her work? No-one, it seems.

I thought Kylie, our Pagan chaplain might be a good person to be her spiritual listener. I introduced them and invited her to join the chaplains for our lunch together next week, to affirm her yearning for spiritual insight and to join a community who value her journey and will support her in it.

The ‘instrumentalism’ embedded in the university goes much deeper than study and exams. It pervades every aspect of university life.

Categories
Leadership Spirituality University Vision

Inspirational Jobs

Damien Martyn's photo from Andrew Wright's Facebook
Respect

A great man died today.
Find the inspiration of Steve Jobs here:

http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

 

Categories
Interfaith Leadership Peace University Vision

A Prophetic Moment

In the religious wilderness of the United States of America a fresh shoot has sprung up which promises new hope for a harmoneous multifaith society.

On September 6, 2011, Claremont School of Theology, a distinguished United Methodist seminary with roots back to 1885, joined in partnership with The Academy for Jewish Religion, California, and the Islamic Center of Southern California/Bayan College. Together, they and a number of other affiliates have joined to create Claremont Lincoln University (CLU), an institution like none other, training imams, pastors, and rabbis. Seminarians will have separate curricula and degree programs for clergy formation, part of a larger set of offerings and degree options focused on the interdisciplinary, intercultural, and multireligious needs of the world in the 21st century.
Click here to read the full article. 

The keynote address at the opening was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation!
Here it is:

Claremont Keynote

Categories
Chaplaincy Interfaith Leadership Peace Religion and Violence University

Greetings to the Muslim Community on the Eve of Ramadan and in response to the Tragedy in Norway

Assalamu Alaykum!

The chaplains at Flinders University of the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Pagan faiths bring greetings to the Muslim Community at Flinders on the eve of Ramadan.

We recognise the contributions you make to the Australian community and particularly the university community and our sincere hope is that you will be successful in your studies and that those of you who will return to your home nations with carry full and content memories of your time in Australia.

We bring our best wishes to you as you enter this special time of fasting and remembrance of those in need amongst us.

In this last week we have heard news of a tragedy in Norway in which a fanatic, who has called himself a Christian, has destroyed buildings in Oslo with a bomb, and gone on to slaughter innocent young people who were camping on a nearby island. It took no time at all for newspapers to assume that the bomb was the work of Muslim extremists. They were wrong.

Some of you come from countries where such acts of violence are a present reality. But this is Norway’s first taste on their home soil.

On Saturday afternoon, Norwegian students will gather to mourn their loss and confront their grief. They and their families are the ones in need of your prayers today and during Ramadan.

As Chaplains we pledge that Oasis is, and will remain, a focal point on this campus for the open and honest acceptance of people of good will regardless of faith, and the promotion of the tolerant, accepting Australian society we believe in and strive for. We remain pledged to the principles of cooperation and dialogue, to extending warm hospitality and understanding to all who use our facility for prayer, for worship, for study, for scholarship, and for cultural promotion. We are enriched by your presence.

Assalamu Alaykum!

Categories
Chaplaincy Interfaith Spirituality Uncategorized University

The Chaplain and International Students 1


This video interview reveals a positive relationship between a local church in Denmark and the local University – the university recognising it had a problem and the church willing to help. As a result, a chaplain and a psychologist have begun working as a team to identify the critical issues and to work on them for the benefit of the students.

Categories
Chaplaincy Interfaith Leadership Peace Spirituality University Vision

Dom Helder Camara and the Arab Spring Uprising.

Dom Helder CamaraI had the good fortune to meet Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in north-east Brazil, in the 80’s.

He lived with no lock on his door. The incident of the hit-man from the military government, who had come to kill him in the night, being overpowered by his welcoming embrace and deep spirituality, is a legend. He was a man of considerable moral impact! As an aside, he mentioned that while in Australia, away from his diocese, he expected priests at home to be killed and bull-dozers demolish villages, as had happened when he travelled in the past.

Camara would rise at two in the morning to read and write poetry. There was not a square centimetre of his face that was not lined with grief for the sufferings of his people or instantaneously creased by his puckish beneficent smile. His eyes were dark and playful, sunk deeply into dark sockets. He looked physically dead, only an indomitable spirit keeping him from the grave by a whisker.

I can’t remember what he spoke of that day, but the impact of his image and his compassion for human justice remains.

Today I picked up a book of his from a second hand book table. “Spiral of Violence” was written over forty years ago, yet its message is as clear today. It brought to mind the recent “Arab Spring Uprising”.

 If true development implies the development of the whole person and of all people, then there is not in fact a single truly developed country in the world…You will find that everywhere the injustices are a form of violence. One can and must say that they are everywhere the basic violence, Violence No.1.

No-one is born to be a slave. No-one seeks to suffer injustices, humiliations and restrictions. A human being condemned to a sub-human situation is like an animal – an ox or a donkey – wallowing in the mud.

Now the egoism of some privileged groups drives human beings into this sub-human condition, where they suffer restrictions, humiliations, injustices; without prospects, without hope, their condition is that of slaves.

This established violence, this violence No.1, attracts violence No.2, revolt, either of the oppressed themselves or of youth, firmly resolved to battle for a more just and human world.

When conflict comes out into the streets, when violence No.2 tries to resist violence No.1, the authorities consider themselves obliged to preserve or re-establish public order, even if this means using force; this is violence No.3. Sometimes they may go even further…in order to obtain information, which may indeed be important to public security, the logic of violence leads them to use moral and physical torture – as though any information extracted through torure deserves the slightest attention!…It is the old Inquisition, with the technology of the nuclear and space travel age at its service.

Let us have the honesty to admit, in the light of the past and, perhaps, here and there, in the light of some typical reactions, that violence No.3 – governmental repression, under the pretext of safeguarding public order, national security, the free world – is not a monopoly of the under-developed countries.

There is not a country in the world which is in no danger of falling into the throes of violence.

With this in mind, I commend to you our work at Oasis with students from all over the world, seeking to live as a community of difference, at peace within itself, and at work for peace in the world.

 

Categories
Chaplaincy Spirituality University

Oasis Vision

I read the entry “Oasis” from my blog at the Pilgrim 9.30 Service this morning and got a lot of positive comments. It seems to capture the open, inclusive and celebratory feel that many of us are looking for.

Tired travellers in the desert are searching for palm trees in the distance. They are looking for promised rest and refreshment. They have a more distant destination, but their gaze is intent on the hope that lies immediately ahead. As they come near the oasis, they are anxious for the welcome and acceptance they need for rest, and for cool, clear waters of refreshment for themselves and their caravan. They hope that desert protocol has been maintained. For without it, travel in the desert would be disastrous.

But they are also looking beyond mere survival on their journey. When the camels have been watered and the tent has been pitched there will be celebration with food and music and the swapping of stories under the bright night sky. Strangers become friends. Important questions are discussed. Knowledge of the desert is as vital to survival as the waters of the oasis itself. They will stay a while and then move on. But while their tent is pitched beside the still waters they themselves will receive other weary newcomers and provide the necessary hospitality that ensures the ongoing viability of the oasis.

There is a small band who stay in this place. They are holders of desert wisdom. But they do not hold it to themselves. They have gathered knowledge from the many travellers who have told their stories of desert life over time, whose stories have proven life giving to journeyers of all time. This oasis community acts as host for the ongoing sharing of wisdom that ensures survival in the desert. The respect won by these sages is a moderating influence against the ever-present threat of waters being muddied by ignorance or greed, and wisdom distorted by the self-important purveyors of mischievous mis-information.

The travellers pack their camels to continue their journey. They have been safe here. They are grateful for rest and refreshment. But now they must risk new adventures. They mount their camels holding deeply memories of storytelling under a cold starry night. Life long friendships among once strangers have been cemented. The wisdom of the sages has supplemented their desert wisdom, informing their ongoing journey.
They point their camels toward the next destination with confidence and gratitude. The sages offer their blessing and the caravan departs into the glare of the future.