You will all know that we have had a deeply confronting week in Sydney – an unutterably tragic week for the families and friends whose loved ones died or were terribly traumatised. Along with that loss of life, there is also a denting of confidence in public safety. Yet, counter to that, there has been a magnificent upsurge of community support and solidarity. Truly, there have been many, many candles “lit in the darkness” – which is, of course, also the message of the Jewish festival of Hanukkha…”Light in the darkness” which so many are celebrating from 16-24 December. This, too, is the message of Christmas: joy to the world as we come into ever-fuller awareness that to create the more loving, kinder and safer world we all long for, each of us must value our own part – and play it gladly.
It feels so timely that we offering a service THIS Sunday in Sydney (Pitt St (264) Uniting, 3pm), and these themes of loss and especially light will very much guide us. They reflect the most primary themes of all: loss and survival; death and life…and each of us is no doubt confronting these profound issues in our own way, depending on our individual circumstances. I am so struck, though, by the reminder yet again how deeply we need one another for support, inspiration and kindness. And in preparing the liturgy for Sunday I have found such wonderful readings. Do join us if you can possibly get to Sydney: all details below. Coming together at such a time means everything.
There have also been many conversations about this community strength, and finding peace even in the midst of tumult, on social media, including my own public Facebook page. Whatever effort we make to be with and alongside others strengthens us all.
I also want to acknowledge and honour the suffering of the families in Pakistan who have had to bear the most horrendous, unjust losses of beloved children’s lives in this same week. This has firmed my resolve to give even more attention to causes where children’s happiness and safety are at risk. For that and many other reasons, I am including below details of the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), a small, highly professional NGO based in Melbourne. They work so effectively on behalf of women and their families in our region and could always do with essential support. We’ve had a precious new baby boy born recently in our own family. But isn’t it true that every child, every life is precious? Our lives and generosity of outlook can reflect this.
Are you in NZ – and ready for a delightful workshop in good company? I will be in Auckland in January for the 17 January WORKSHOP…”A Retreat in a Day”. This is a lively, lovely day and a wonderful way to face a new year with new confidence. Our theme this year is “Co-operating with Life” which really means identifying your strengths, facing challenges with greater creativity and less fear, regaining a vital sense of proportion about what matters most to you, checking where and how you give your time and enthusiasm. We will also explore some basics of mindfulness and inner calm: so badly needed. This is a fine day for professional development as well as gaining greater clarity about more personal life and connections. The workshop is offered by Mana Retreat Centre and you need to contact them via this LINK to book. Or call: +64 7 866 8972 to enquire or book the January day – OR the Retreat at Easter. (Either event would make a delightful Christmas present to give to someone else…or someone you’d like to accompany you.) The day workshop will be held in Ponsonby and includes a delicious lunch. We will have books and CDs for sale. (It’s very difficult to get the CDs in NZ; this is a LINK to get them in Australia – including the heavenly HEAVENLY CD, also PEACEFUL MIND for utterly reliable daily meditation. Plus a LINK to buy books postage free as gifts for yourself or others.)
I am going to leave you with a beautiful image below with words from Gandhi. That message is part of our inspiration for this Sunday’s service. I will also give details for the service so that you can forward them on – or this entire Newsletter. Plus a link to your own Universal Heart Book Club where we have some reviews of books to read at this or any other season. Links too to IWDA and the video talks channel. Please take a moment to think who might benefit from reading this, and from the invitations I am sharing.
May your last weeks of this year be filled with gentleness, kindness, laughter and peace. May you find lasting consolation if you need that. May you find inspiration and hope each day.
Peace be with you. Peace in our hearts. Peace in our world. Stephanie Dowrick
(If you want to reply: please use uhn@ stephaniedowrick. com – closing up the spaces. Even easier to send a brief comment via my public Facebook page.)
LINKS AND DETAILS
Inclusive sacred service. Sunday 21 December, 3pm. Pitt Street (264) Uniting Church, Sydney. Led by Dr Stephanie Dowrick. Beautiful music. Always timely, enriching and uplifting. Tea, coffee, fellowship follow. ALL welcome. Nearest cross street is Park. One block from Town Hall. (No service in January.)
Universal Heart Book Club for reviews of books that matter – lovely gift suggestions for any time of year!
International Women’s Development Agency. Please support “Gifts of Change”: via this LINK.
The most peaceful of Christmas wishes to you all. And every happiness in the coming year. May we all be blessed.