Launch of the Centre for Spirituality of Care and Community (CSCC)
Speech by Eugen Koh, Chair of Committee of Management
Friends, there’s so much to say.
In order to keep it brief I thought it would be useful to organise my speech around the question: how did we all come to be here at this launch today? How did you and I come to be here today, at this launch of a new organisation that has, as its mission, to promote a greater understanding and awareness of the spirituality of care and community.
The answer for many of us I think is a short and simple one: Roy Bradley. That could be the beginning and end of what I say, and some might say, “Yes!’, and their inner child might say, “Can we go now?”
I would like to say a little about how our contact with or knowledge of Roy brought a group of us together and led to this launch of a new organisation that is inspired by his life and work, and by our relationship with him.
I first met Roy as a young medical student some 35 years ago, when I was involved in organising a conference on social justice. Roy ran a workshop on self-awareness. 10 years later I found myself joining him as a fellow parishioner at St Andrew’s Clifton Hill, and then here at St Philip’s. It is an honour to have known him.
Roy demonstrated to me a particular spirituality; a spirituality where self-awareness did not mean navel gazing but an engagement with the world. It is a spirituality that has at its heart a mindfulness of our relationship with others and the environment. It is a spirituality that is both assertive and soft at the same time, both critical and compassionate. Roy was a gentle man but he was no walkover.
I am not sure what Roy would have thought of this comparison, but he reminds me of Mohamed Ali, or at least of what Mohamed Ali said – ‘ [he] float[s like a butterfly, and sting[s] like a bee’. Roy, I think, was capable of that. Roy’s spirituality embraced anger and protest against injustice; right to his last days, Roy supported the fight for equality for same-sex marriage, and compassion for refugees.
When we lost Roy about 18 months ago (and many of you would have been here in this very same place for his funeral) - there was no doubt in my mind that we needed to mark something of his life, and do something with the inspiration he gave to us about life, about our care for one another, our responsibility for each other, about our communal life, and much more.
It led me on a journey with his family, friends, and colleagues, to find a way to honour him. We didn’t think he would be too pleased if anything we did was mainly about him, so what we have proposed and developed is about what he inspired, what mattered to him, but most importantly, what is needed in our world today: a world where there is great anxiety, upheavals and war; our modern society where individualism is promoted, and inclusiveness is more about us not being left out, rather than bringing in those who are marginalised; and a contemporary life where our lack of compassion is excused by so-called professionalism and the ‘need for productivity’. Out of all these concerns, we have arrived at the idea of an annual lecture and an organisation to host it.
Before I tell you more about this new organisation, I would like to take some of you back another 18 months before Roy died. Some of us gathered here to celebrated Roy’s 90th birthday. It was a memorable occasion. You might recall that Stephen Ames spoke about Roy’s contribution to the development of Clinical Pastoral Education, and brought to our attention Roy’s distillation of what pastoral care is about: The art of revealing the mystery of God through the power of redemptive relationships.
Stephen proposed a collection of essays that reflected on this theme. For the next 18 months or so Stephen, Roy and I met about once a month, to assemble the group of contributors, and once the essays were in, we edited them into a book. Some of the authors of this book are here today, and I am so pleased to see them.
Sadly, Roy passed away before the completion of the book but not before writing his contribution, which is its first chapter. I am glad to be able to report that the book is now in the hands of the publisher, and will be ready to be launched in May. The title of the book is called, The Mystery of God and The Power of Redemptive Relationships. An Australian Contribution. Essays in Honour Of Roy Bradley.
Back to this launch of the Centre For Spirituality of Care and Community.
We could have arranged for a theological faculty or another organisation to host the proposed annual lecture, but we were concerned that what Roy had inspired us to do was something quite unique and does not fit easily in any pre-existing organisation. Come to think of it, Roy didn’t really fit neatly into any organisation. Furthermore, I think he saw himself at the margin and never the centre of things. We, therefore, felt that we needed to set something up that is different from what is already in existence, and broad in its outreach.
We were keen to embrace Roy’s broad notion of spirituality, and came up with a definition of our own, which is the process and experience of meaning-making in the life of individuals and communities as they seek to find their place in the world and beyond. We also imagined promoting a greater understanding
and awareness of such a spirituality widely, beyond pastoral care. We imagined, for example, promoting discussions on the spirituality of the school community, the spirituality of those working on the frontlines of disasters, and perhaps, even the spirituality of politicians.
The Centre for Spirituality of Care and Community is concerned about care that is beyond the professional, it is concerned about how we care for each other and how we are responsible for each other’s well-being. We are not drawn to idealistic notions of communal life, but are concerned about how we really live together as a community; this includes how we have arguments with each other as we seek the truth, how we have conflict while fully respecting the other, and how we have compassion for those who are different from us.
The spirituality we want to explore is about finding the sacred in our everyday life, where we least expect it. It looks beyond religion while not forgetting that there are many (not all) aspects of religious life that are spiritual. It is mindful of the sacred in the Other as we contemplate its existence in the midst of our life together.
We will work collaboratively with a range of preexisting organisations to achieve our mission. While our primary focus will be on the Annual Roy Bradley Oration on the Spirituality of Care and Community, we wish to host a number of focus groups, each preparing a discussion paper on an aspect of the spirituality of care and community in our everyday, professional or collective life. These papers will then form the basis for promoting a greater awareness of spirituality. In a way, we might be considered to be functioning like ‘a think tank’.
We believe that what we are trying to do is more than just honouring Roy. I think Roy would be more at ease with the idea that we are honouring what he inspired in us. We anticipate that the work ahead will be challenging but rewarding. We are therefore seeking a hundred people who will be Foundation
Members of this new organisation, who will guide and support us in our effort to achieve our mission.
I wish to thank you, on behalf of the committee of management, for coming to this launch, and we look forward to your continuing participation and support.
Sunday 23rd February, 2019