Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Australian Sojourn – March 2015

Part 12: Gunnedah

NOTE: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

After my brief but enjoyable visit with members of the McGowan family in the beautiful Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, I boarded a train in Grafton on the morning of Sunday, March 22 and headed south to the town of Wauchope, the closest train-stop to Port Macquarie and the home of my parents.

My time in Australia was quickly coming to an end. My good friend Joan, who had traveled with me to Australia from the U.S. at the beginning of the month and shared some wonderful times with me and my family in the Hunter Valley, in Port Macquarie, in Melbourne (right) and its surrounding area, and in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, had returned to the U.S.on March 20, the day I journeyed north from Sydney to visit the McGowans. And now I had just a week left before I headed back to my life in Minnesota.

With this in mind, my parents and I decided that we'd use part of my remaining time to drive to our hometown of Gunnedah and visit our relatives and friends there.

The drive from Port Macquarie inland to Gunnedah is about four-and-a-half hours. In a previous post I noted that the town Gunnedah is located in the Namoi River valley of north-western New South Wales and serves as the major service centre for the farming area known as the Liverpool Plains.

The town and its surrounding area were originally inhabited by indigenous Australians who spoke the Kamilaroi (Gamilaraay) language. The area now occupied by the town was settled by Europeans in 1833. Through my maternal grandmother’s family, the Millerds, my family can trace its connection to Gunnedah back to the town’s earliest days. For more about the town’s history and my family’s connection to it, see the previous Wild Reed post, My “Bone Country”.

Right: My parents, Gordon and Margaret Bayly – Gunnedah, March 24, 2015.

Left: Mum and Dad, early in their courtship, in Gunnedah in the mid-1950s. Dad is in his band uniform.

Above: Standing at right with my brothers (from left) Chris and Tim. This photo was taken in the backyard of our family's home in Gunnedah on the occasion of Tim's First Communion, sometime in the mid-1970s.

As with my March 2015 visits to both Goulburn and Maclean, my time in Gunnedah was brief . . . but very enjoyable and meaningful. Just days before our arrival, Mum and I made phone calls and I got on Facebook to arrange a gathering of extended family members and friends at the Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club on the evening of Tuesday, March 24. Many of following photos are from that very special evening. Other photos, as you'll see, are from the archives!

Above: With my high school friends (from left) Michelle, Danielle and Jo – Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

Above: Danielle and Jo in 1983. It was during our last year of high school that Danielle, Joanne and I, along with our friends Joy and David, climbed Nobby Rock. Situated north-east of Gunnedah, Nobby Rock was known as Ydire by the Gunn-e-dar people of the Kamilaroi tribe. For more images of our September 1983 hike, click here.

Above: Michelle (at right) with our mutual friend Lisa at my 16th birthday party in 1981.

Above: With my childhood friend David Syphers and his wife Angie.

Above: That's me next to our family's dog, Deano. Behind me (from right) is Dianne and David Syphers, and my younger brother Tim. We'd all been out with Dad collecting sandstone rocks for Mum's garden. I'm thinking this photo was probably taken in the late 1970s.

Above: With my Uncle Michael and his wife Val. Michael is my mother's younger brother.

Left: Michael and Val at the 1991 wedding of my brother Tim and sister-in-law Ros.

Above (from left): Angie, John and Heather Sills, David, me, and Danielle.

Above: Dad with John Sills in the 1950s.

Left: John and Heather at the 1988 wedding of my brother Chris and sister-in-law Cathie.

Above: With my Aunt Ruth, mum's younger sister.

Above: Ruth graduating from the Royal Women's Hospital in Paddington, Sydney, in 1968. Pictured with her are her parents (my maternal grandparents) Valentine and Olive Sparkes.

Above: Ruth in 1975 with her husband Rex and their children Emily and Greg. Sadly, Rex passed away in 2006.

Above: Angie & David Syphers and David & Jillian Tudgey. Jillian is the youngest daughter of Heather and John Sills. My brothers and I grew up with the Sills family as our neighbors. And good neighbors they were too! David Syphers lived with his family just down the street. He and his sister Dianne were good friends with my brothers and I.

Above: Dad with longtime family friends Gwen, Wendy and Gary.

Gwen and her late husband Ray owned a property, “Fairview,” in the Kelvin district, north-east of Gunnedah, where they raised their three daughters, Denise, Wendy and Diane. I have many happy memories of spending time as a child with the Riordan family on their farm - playing tennis, riding mini-bikes with my brothers (right), and hiking through the nearby Kelvin Hills.

Above: Friends Michelle, Jo and her daughter , and Louise and her husband  Russ.

Above: With longtime family friend Jeanette Goodwin.

Above: Jeanette's mother Hazel (left) with my paternal grandmother, Belle Smith (right), and Nanna's sister Phyllis (center). This photo was taken during one of my Great Aunt Phyllis' visits to Gunnedah from Sydney in the 1950s. (For more photos of Aunty Pyllis and her life in Sydney, click here.)

Above (from left): Heather Sills, Dolores Worthington, Dad and Mum.

Above: Longtime family friends Peter Worthington and John Sills.

Left: Abby.

Right: Noah.

Abby and Noah are my cousin Greg's wife two children. He's a great step-dad to them.

Above: With my cousin Sharon and her husband Ross.

Above: Mum's older sister Fay; Fay's daughter Sharon; Mum; and my maternal grandmother, Olive Sparkes – Gunnedah, 1980.

Above: Sharon, Jillian and Wendy.

Above: Jo, Mum, Louise and Michelle.

Above: Lots of catching between the relatives!

Right: Mum with her good friend Rosemary.

Above: Dad, David, Mum, Angie, and Peter.

Above and below: My "bone country."

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 1 – Brooklyn and Morpeth
Part 2 – Port Macquarie, Wingham, and Ellenborough Falls
Part 3 – Roving Sydney's Eastern Beaches with Raph
Part 4 – The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Part 5 – Watsons Bay, Camp Cove and the Sydney Heads
Part 6 – Family Time in Melbourne
Part 7 – The Great Ocean Road
Part 8 – A Wedding in Melbourne
Part 9 – A Reunion in Goulburn
Part 10 – Sydney and the Blue Mountains
Part 11 – A Journey to Northern Rivers Country
A Visit to Gunnedah (2014)
Journey to Gunnedah (2011)
This Corner of the Earth (2010)
An Afternoon at the Gunnedah Convent of Mercy (2010)
My "Bone Country" (2009)
The White Rooster
Remembering Nanna Smith
One of These Boys is Not Like the Others
Gunnedah (Part 1)
Gunnedah (Part 2)
Gunnedah (Part 3)
Gunnedah (Part 4)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Progressive Thoughts on Recent Developments in Ireland, El Salvador and the U.S.

Writes Francis DeBernardo about both the overwhelming Catholic support for marriage equality in Ireland and the latest step in the journey to sainthood for Oscar Romero in El Salvador . . .

Meanwhile, Fred Clark writes of how the U. S. bishops comprise a "culture-war vanguard without an army."

For Americans accustomed to the politicized culture-warrior bishops of the American Catholic church, it is startling to watch a pervasively Catholic country like Ireland mobilize in such a massive expression of support for the rights and dignity of LGBT people. After three decades of watching our nation’s Catholic bishops scrambling to enlist in the partisan culture-war of the white evangelical religious right, we’ve started to accept the American hierarchy’s claim that their church is, or must be, intrinsically right-wing and anti-gay. The news from Ireland is a reminder that this claim has never been true. The right-wing American hierarchy is a culture-war vanguard without an army.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Singing Their Own Song in Ireland
Remembering Oscar Romero
Catholicism's Future is "Up to the Laity"
Roman Catholicism's Fundamental Problem: The Cultic Priesthood and Its "Diseased System" of Clericalism
A Clerical Leadership Unresponsive to Voices of Reason
Re-Forming "the Vatican" Doesn't Mean Destroying the Church

Related Off-site Links:
A Great Day for Irish Lay Catholics! And for Lay Catholics in El Salvador, Too! – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, May 23, 2015).
Irish Catholicism Supports Same-Sex Marriage! – Mark Silk (Religion News Service, May 23, 2015).
Ireland’s Social Revolution: Traditionally Catholic Nation Makes History with Marriage Equality VoteDemocracy Now! (May 26, 2015).
Dublin Archbishop: "The Church Needs to Do a Reality Check" – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, May 23, 2015).
For One Irish Catholic Couple, Backing Gay Marriage Is a Matter of Family Values – Hanna Ingber (The New York Times, May 22, 2015).
Vatican Newspaper Views Catholic Support for Marriage Equality in Ireland as "a Defeat" – AFP via Yahoo! News, May 25, 2015).
Catholic Hierarchy Ponders Future After Same-Sex Marriage Vote in Ireland – Danny Hakim (The New York Times, May 25, 2015).
Oscar Romero, Slain Salvadoran Archbishop, is a Step Closer to Sainthood – Tracy Wilkinson (The Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2015).
300,000 Celebrate Beatification of Salvadoran Archbishop Romero, 35 Years After U.S.-Backed MurderDemocracy Now! (May 26, 2015).
Former Salvadoran Officials Tied to U.S.-Backed Atrocities in 1980s Face Deportation, ExtraditionDemocracy Now! (April 9, 2015).
Oscar Romero, Saint for Our Times – Pat Marrin (Celebrations, May 2015).
Pope’s Focus on Poor Revives Scorned Theology – Jim Yardley and Simon Romero (The New York Times, May 23, 2015).
A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Canonizing Romero – Grant Gallicho (Commonweal, February 11, 2015).

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Pentecost Reflection by Elizabeth Johnson

We should no longer think of God as having a set plan for the evolving universe, rather a vision. This vision aims at bringing about a community of love. The Creator Spirit is at the heart of the process, guiding and luring the world in that direction.

. . . Yet the on-going destruction of the earth through human acts is a deeply sinful desecration. We counter this destruction by the care, protection, and restoration of nature, even if this goes counter to powerful economic and political interests . . . and it does.

If nature is the new poor then our passion to establish justice for the poor and oppressed now must extend to include suffering humans and all life systems and other species under threat. "Save the rainforest" becomes a concrete moral application of the commandment "Thou shalt not kill."

Instead of living as thoughtless or greedy exploiters, we are called to live as sisters and brothers, co-creators, and children of this Earth which God so loves. . . . "The love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit." And this love is universal, planetary, cosmic, and unceasing.

– Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ
Excerpted from Quest for the Living God
Bloomsbury Academic (Reprint edition, July 2011)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Tongues and Souls on Fire
The Spirit and the Faithful
The Holy Spirit as Inclusive Community
Gospel Leadership
A Prayer for Pentecost
Strange Tongues

Recommended Off-site Link:
Pentecost: Divine Polyculture vs. Imperial Monoculture – Ched Myers (Radical Discipleship, May 21, 2015).

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Singing Their Own Song in Ireland

The great flood of tears that we've cried
for our brothers and sisters who've died
over [fifteen hundred] years has washed away
our fears and strengthened our pride.
Now we turn back the tide.

We will no longer hear your commands,
we will slide your control from our lands;
redirect the flame of our anger and pain
and pity the shame for what you do in God's name.

– From "Sing Our Own Song"
by UB40 (with modified lyrics by Michael Bayly)

One of the most inspiring quotes I've heard in the wake of the overwhelming "Yes" vote for marriage equality in Ireland came from Leo Varadkar (pictured at left). Varadkar is a cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start of the government-led effort to amend Ireland’s conservative Catholic Constitution so as to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. He's quoted in an Associated Press news story as declaring the following.

We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality. So it’s a very proud day to be Irish. . . . People from the LGBT community in Ireland are a minority. But with our parents, our families, our friends, co-workers and colleagues, we’re a majority. For me it wasn’t just a referendum. It was more like a social revolution.

Amen, brother!

In celebration of yesterday's historic vote in Ireland I share Buffy Sainte-Marie's cover of UB40's "Sing Our Own Song."

Why this particular song? Well, let me explain . . .

The original version of "Sing Our Own Song" by UB40 was released in 1986 and reached #5 on the UK charts. Written as an anti-apartheid anthem, it was censored in South Africa by the ruling apartheid regime as it contained the ANC rallying cry of Amandla Awethu ("Power to us").

Buffy Sainte-Marie's version of the song features on her recently-released album, Power in the Blood, and celebrates indigenous resistance to colonial control. Her modified lyrics reference contemporary issues facing First Nation peoples, along with two of the movements that are responding in positive ways to these issues: Idle No More and Occupy.

Sings Buffy:

When the ancient drum rhythms ring,
the voice of our forefathers sings.
The will to live will beat on,
we will no longer be pawns
to greed and to war;
we will be Idle No More.
. . . When the ancient drum rhythms ring,
the voice of our grandmother sings.
Native America run,
we will no longer succumb
to oil and to ore.
We will be Idle No More.

Dance, dance for the right to be free,
we will rebuild our own society.
And occupy for the right to be free,
we will rebuild a just society.
And we will sing, we will sing,
we will sing our own song.

Now, here's why I consider "Sing Our Own Song" appropriate for celebrating yesterday's marriage equality victory in Ireland: The song's opening lyrics, which remain the same in both UB40's version and Buffy's version, are applicable to any group of people who resist and overcome the denial of their human and civil rights by a corrupt system of power and control. My modifying of these opening lyrics at the beginning of this post reflect my belief that in many ways, especially in relation to its understanding and "teachings" on gender and sexuality, the Roman Catholic hierarchy is one such corrupt and dysfunctional system, and has been for over fifteen hundred years.

For centuries, this feudal patriarchal system has exercised a destructive influence and an often abusive control over people, including the citizens of Ireland. Yet as yesterday's vote clearly shows, this is no longer the case. As one "Yes" campaigner notes, "Love has conquered all" . . . including the power of the Catholic hierarchy over people's sexual lives and decisions.

Catholic theologian Hans Küng has said the same thing in another, though no less helpful and liberating way:

The gospel of Jesus is stronger than the hierarchy.

And, yes, for many Catholics, the recent manifestation of this reality in Ireland is a cause for celebration.

. . . And we will stand for the right to be free,
and we will rebuild a just society.
And we will sing, we will sing,
we will sing our own song.

I conclude this post by sharing excerpts from two powerful pieces published in response to yesterday's historic marriage equality vote in Ireland. The first excerpt is from an Associated Press article by Shawn Pogatchnik.

Gay couples flocked to central Dublin to celebrate a "historic watershed" on Saturday as a large majority in the traditionally Catholic country voted to allow same-sex marriage, the culmination of a four-decade struggle for gay rights.

Waving rainbow flags, embracing and crying, two thousand people gathered to watch the official results in the courtyard of Dublin Castle after voters, young and old, accounted for one of the highest turnouts in a referendum for decades.

"The amount of people who came out to vote is just such an emotional thing for us," said Fred Schelbaum, 48, standing with his civil partner Feargal Scott, 43, who he said he intended to marry.

"Up to now a lot of gay people felt they were tolerated in Ireland. Now we know that it's much more than that."

The second excerpt is from "After This, No Exile," an op-ed by Bernárd Lynch, a gay Irish priest. In his op-ed, Lynch reflects on what he calls Ireland’s "declaration of independence" from "our colonial past and our colonial governance by the Roman Catholic Church."

Although still Catholic, the majority of the Irish people have voted that the freedom to love transcends their deepest religious beliefs. This marks a seismic shift in the mind of the nation. This consciousness serves not only the LGBT community but the entire people of Ireland in their long and arduous struggle for justice and co-equality among all their citizens.

As LGBT people, we had been robbed of our birthright: our absolute right to live and love as co-equals in our families, churches, towns, villages, and the country of our birth. Many of us left our homeland not for work and employment or for education – as the Irish have done for centuries by the millions – but simply because those of us who are LGBT were not welcome. Ireland up until now failed to honour its own Constitution in not “cherishing all her children equally.”

But, Friday, May 22, 2105, this changed forever. We have broken the shackles of our colonial past and our colonial governance by the Roman Catholic Church. We are free at last to live and love as we were born to be. For freedom – not happiness – is the precious stone. One cannot cling to happiness; it submits to no clinging. To be free, to live and love in your homeland, this is the most precious stone into which all others fade by comparison.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – May 21, 2015
The Same Premise
The Blood-Soaked Thread
Louis Crompton on the "Theological Assault" of the Ulpianic-Thomistic Conception of Natural Law
Catholic Hierarchy Can Overcome Fear of LGBT People
Threshold Musings
No Matter What
No Patriarchal Hierarchy, No Rigid Conformity
Tongues and Souls on Fire
Quote of the Day – July 24, 2012

Related Off-site Links:
Ireland "Changed Utterly" by Gay Marriage Vote – AFP via Yahoo! News (May 24, 2015).
Ireland Backs Gay Marriage in "Landslide" Victory – Amy R. Connolly (UPI, May 23, 2015).
Ireland Says "Yes" to Same-Sex Marriage in Historic Vote – Colm Coyne and Louise Roug (Mashable, May 23, 2015).
Irish Catholicism Supports Same-Sex Marriage! – Mark Silk (Religion News Service, May 23, 2015).
A Great Day for Irish Lay Catholics! And for Lay Catholics in El Salvador, Too! – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, May 23, 2015).
Amnesty International Welcomes Ireland's Historic Decision to Say "Yes" to Marriage Equality – Amnesty International (May 23, 2015).
Irish Anti-Gay Groups Gracious in Defeat – Bil Browning (The Bilerico Project, May 23, 2015).
Ireland Has Left "Tolerance" Far Behind – Fintan O'Toole (The Irish Times, May 23, 2015).
Dublin Archbishop: "The Church Needs to Do a Reality Check" – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, May 23, 2015).
For One Irish Catholic Couple, Backing Gay Marriage Is a Matter of Family Values – Hanna Ingber (The New York Times, May 22, 2015).
Why One of the World's Most Catholic Countries Might Approve Gay Marriage – Mo Moulton (The Atlantic, May 21, 2015).

Image 1: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.
Image of Leo Varadkar: Photographer unknown.
Image of Buffy Sainte-Marie: Matt Barnes.
Image 4: A woman walks past a pro marriage equality mural in Dublin, Ireland. (Aidan Crawley/EPA)
Image of Bernárd Lynch: Photographer unknown.
Image 6: A double rainbow over Dublin on the day the referendum result was announced. (Karl via Facebook)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quote of the Day

Other communities who have been oppressed – Jewish people, say, or Catholics in Northern Ireland – have every opportunity to work out the implications of their oppression in their early lives. They hear the stories; they have the books around them. As gay people, on the other hand, we grow up alone; there is no history. There are no ballads about the wrongs of the gay past, the gay martyrs are mostly forgotten. It is as though, in Adrienne Rich’s phrase, if you were gay, “you looked into the mirror and saw nothing.” Thus the discovery of a history and a tradition and a sense of heritage must be done by each individual, as though alone, as part of the road to freedom, or at least knowledge.

This is maybe why this same-sex marriage referendum campaign, the one we are going through now [in Ireland], has been so liberating for gay people and for our friends and families. It has allowed us to set out publicly and communally who we are and how we wish to be treated in our country in the future. It has allowed us to have a public debate with our entire nation about our need for recognition and equality. It has allowed us to speak openly about the terms of our love. The level of support has been heartening, encouraging, inspiring. After 2015, it is unlikely that there will be many people in Ireland who will not know about us, have a sense of how ordinary our desires are. Or see how normal and middle-of-the-road most of us are.

– Colm Tóibín
Excerpted from "Ireland's Same-Sex Marriage Referendum
and the Embrace of Love
The Irish Times
May 14, 2015

Related Off-site Links:
As Ireland Heads to Vote Tomorrow, Valuable Last-Minute Wrap-Ups About the Irish Marriage Referendum – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, May 21, 2015).
A Powerful, Collective Coming Out in Ireland – Colin Crummy (i-D, May 21, 2015).
Will Ireland Say "Yes" to Same-Sex Marriage? – Amy Davidson (The New Yorker, May 21, 2015).
Chastened Church Leaders Take Back Seat in Irish Gay Marriage Vote – Padraic Halpin (Reuters via Yahoo! News, May 18, 2015).
Reading the Same-Sex Marriage Polls in Ireland – Dominic Preziosi (Commonweal, May 21, 2015).
Ireland's Gay Marriage Referendum – Kate Lyons (The Guardian, May 21, 2015).
Why One of the World's Most Catholic Countries Might Approve Gay Marriage – Mo Moulton (The Atlantic, May 21, 2015).
Archbishop of Dublin Declines to Tell Catholics How to Vote in Referendum – Patsy McGarry (The Irish Times, May 20, 2015).
Irish Catholicism Can Adapt to a New Role – Oliver P. Rafferty, (The New York Times, May 20, 2015).
Ireland’s Catholic Church Lost Its Moral Authority A While Ago – Una Mullally (The New York Times, May 20, 2015).
Why the Bad Science of the "No" Campaign Shouldn't Sway Ireland's Voters – David Robert Grimes (The Guardian, May 22, 2015).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Catholic Hierarchy's "Stupid Carry-On"
Mary Bednarowski on the Power of Our Stories
Daniel Helminiak on the Lesson of Jesus: "We Will Be True to God by Being True to Our Deepest and Best Selves"
The Challenge to Become Ourselves
David Whyte: "To Be Courageous is to Stay Close to the Way We Are Made"
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
The Gifts of Homosexuality
The Many Forms of Courage
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Same-Sex Desires: "Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture"
The Same People
"Your Witness to Love is Key to Transforming Our Church"

Image: William Murphy.

Something to Think About . . .

Related Off-site Links:
Louise ErdrichWikipedia.
Minnesota Author Louise Erdrich Wins Literary Peace Prize – Lisa Cornwell (Associated Press via The Pioneer Press, August 17, 2014).
Louise Erdrich's Birchbark Blog

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Questioning God's Benevolence in the Face of Tragedy
Something We Dare Call Hope
Soul Deep

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Afternoon at Taylors Falls and the Franconia Sculpture Park

I spent the afternoon today with my good friends Curtis and Liana and their beautiful little daughter Amelia at Interstate State Park and the nearby Franconia Sculpture Park. Following are a few photos of our adventure!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Visit to the Weisman
Adventures in Mississippi River Bluff Country
Wisconsin Adventure
Long-Weekend in Georgia

Images: Michael J. Bayly.