Welcome to Manna !

As the Israelites journeyed from Egypt to the promised land they encountered numerous difficulties: an “uncrossable” sea, a limited supply of drinkable water, a lack of food, and hostile forces. Each and every time, however, the Lord provided for his people, whether in the form of a passage through the waves, potable water, manna and quails, or victory.

The School of Ministry, Theology and Culture at Tabor Adelaide is committed to helping meet the needs of God’s people today. And although these resources hardly come from the hand of God (as editor, a point to which I can safely attest!), our hope is that, in some small way, the videos, articles and reflections we provide will contribute in a positive way to the life of the body of the Christ, and the various ministries we are all engaged in. Our prayer is that as you read these articles, watch these videos and digest this material, you will receive sustenance and nourishment for your journey.

Welcome to our blog!

Dr Aaron Chalmers

Head of School Ministry, Theology and Culture

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Life in the library

sophie louise

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I spend a significant amount of time studying in the library each week. Recently this has caused a lot of comments about my study habits. Words like “crazy”, “nerd”, “weird” and “great student” have been thrown around. On one level I find it funny because I’m simply doing what I need to in order to get everything done (and especially to understand what the heck is going on in my theology classes!). But as I was sitting at home on Saturday night reading articles about the gospel of Luke, I started to wonder why I’m the weird one and why more people don’t care or aren’t passionate about their education. Why do I feel as though I need to continually justify my decision to study over other activities? And why are study and education and those who enjoy learning regularly shamed?

The answer to those questions could probably be the topic…

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If juvenile detention is a detestable solution, can we think about the problem differently?

The footage from the Don Dale detention centre has upset many Australians and provoked a federal response. Some have expressed shock and surprise at the images, whilst others have reminded the public that abuse within our prison system is an ongoing issue, particularly for minority groups. Whilst unacceptable, the failings of the prison system should be no surprise. Prison has long been understood as the “detestable solution”, it is “dangerous when it is not useless” (Foucault, 1979). When recidivism rates across Australia are regularly upwards of fifty percent, it is tough to argue that the prison system is an effective solution to the problem of crime. The next challenge lie in thinking of a better solution.

Debate in the media on the scope of a royal commission into the revelations from the Four Corners program has some people calling for a national review of the juvenile justice system and systemic abuse. In contrast the Attorney General, George Brandis, has called for narrow focus so that practical solutions can be found. The practical solutions Mr Brandis is hoping for are unlikely to produce the revolutionary change Aboriginal activists are longing for in a system that has a blatant overrepresentation of Aboriginal young people. However, Mr Brandis’ emphasis on focus has merit. The focus of the commission will certainly determine its outcomes.

To focus a commission on the operations of the current “detestable solution” will only likely to produce findings that at best reinforce and reform the existing solution. Pausing for a moment from the need to fix the systemic issues presented by Four Corners, it is possible to ask: what is the problem for which juvenile detention facilities like Don Dale are the solution? The fear-inducing answer of “Youth Crime” is regularly broadcast by “tough-on-crime” politics. When the solution to this problem produces results that are so unsatisfactory, it gives reason to question the way problem is described.

The way in which a problem is understood creates the parameters for the possible solutions. If the problem is young people breaking the law, then the solution is to enforce the law. However, if the problem can be thought about differently then perhaps there is scope for different solutions. This is the power of a clear focus. To focus on the failings of the current system is unlikely to produce anything but reform. But to question the problem, might produce a new way of thinking and new solutions.

Critical youth academics and youth workers have been questioning the “moral panics” of “youth crime” for years. These kinds of popular responses inevitably describe youth as a time of “storm and struggle”, and emphasise the need for young people to change into (economically) responsible citizens. This narrow and deficit understanding of young people overlooks the current contribution young people make to society, not only economically, but also culturally (music, design, language), spiritually (optimism, hope, joy) and politically (progress, innovation, protest) just to name a few.

Similarly, much work is being done to reconceptualise the issue of crime by advocates of restorative justice for example. Restorative justice promotes an understanding of crime as a violation of relationship, rather than the breaking of intangible rules. Crime harms people, therefore the solution is to restore relationship and offer healing. Restorative justice is incorporated in limited ways into the juvenile justice system across Australia. There are also critics that point out that its underpinning logic is still reliant on change taking place in the young person, rather than challenging the social conditions that promote crime. However, the point here is that there are already other ways to think about this problem, which in turn produce different solutions.

When issues like those in the Don Dale detention centre are brought to light in the media the public outcry rightly demands a response. Unfortunately, responses which focus on reforming the existing solution overlook the need to question the foundational problem. Questions of public safety and the rule of law need to remain in the equation of crime and justice. However, results such as systemic abuse and high recidivism rates should suggest the need to consider not simply reform but the re-examining of the problem and the ways that young people and crime are thought about.

Ben Lohmeyer, Program Coordinator BASS (Youth Work), Tabor College

Creating Safe Environments for the Marginalized

Over the past few weeks I have been preparing to deliver a subject entitled Diversity and Ministry, which will take place 11 to 15 July.  The categories of diversity within local congregations, school classrooms and local communities are numerous and present many challenges to ministry, as we attempt to provide safe and inclusive environments for all of God’s people as encouraged in Scripture.

The idea of a safe and inclusive environment has occupied my thinking in the preparation phase, especially in regards to those with physical and intellectual disabilities.  A specific trigger that has ignited my reflections in recent weeks was the delivery of a lecture to trainee teachers at Tabor on the foundational factors for positive engagement with parents who have children with disabilities. Out of this came a question from a student who was keen to transfer the information into a youth program in their church.

Providing physically safe environments/communities is usually done satisfactorily but there is much more involved.  As communication, participation and social engagement are core components of community activities, facilitating and creating environments where these occur for those with limited social skills, speech and literacy abilities or intellectual processing skills becomes crucial to providing safe environments.

Here are some of my tips for best practice:

  • Reflect biblically and theologically on the motivation to engage with people with disabilities, especially in the light of Romans 15:7 which compels us to accept one another as Christ accepts us.
  • Discuss needs, interests, degrees of independence, abilities, goals, areas of interest, boundaries, activities they love and what they can bring to the relevant group and teach others, in conversation with relevant stakeholders, such as parents and carers.
  • Engage stakeholders associated with the people such as parents and carers and Put scaffolding in place to provide emotional, intellectual and psychological support structures, and equip leadership with knowledge, skills and attitudes to strategize, act accordingly and tackle difference.
  • Ensure the presence of inclusionary practices within community activities such as one on one support, the provision of mentors, the clear delegation of tasks ahead of time, provision of alternative ways to participate, clear communication and feedback pathways through mutual dialogue (including parents of children with disability), and provision of regular encouragement.
  • Monitor and review the practice and delivery of inclusionary practices.
  • Cater for other mediums of communication to allow people to express their unique voices and experiences, especially with the advantage of contemporary technology.
  • Invite, encourage and give permission to people to participate rather than wait for people to volunteer and communicate, especially knowing that many on the margins lack confidence and capacity to engage openly in such contexts
  • Tackle and address the barriers that impede and hinder leadership to engage people on the margins.

An example of inclusionary practice is the Flinders University “Up the Hill” Project which my son has been part of for nearly three years (click here for the website).  Participating in the program has allowed him to fulfil his dream of undertaking tertiary education through auditing 4 undergraduate subjects.  Flinders provides a mentor to accompany him in the subjects, and to help with social activities and preparation of the end of semester presentation to peers and supporters. He has gained knowledge and grown in confidence, and this past semester saw him attempt a 1,000 word essay for the first time.

For more conversation and consultation on this topic I am happy to engage with you or you are welcome to enrol in the intensive in July by emailing Sam Owens (sowens@adelaide.tabor.edu.au).

 

David Turnbull

Senior Lecturer

Coordinator – Intercultural Studies Program, Tabor.

In the steps of Paul

Deputy Principal at Tabor, Dr Stephen Spence is in Europe, walking in the steps of Apostle Paul…

The view from Mars Hill is dominated by the majestic Acropolis, the sacred centre of Athens. Mars Hill was a small site but what struck me most was he (Paul) was preaching about the inadequacies of their gods with the Acropolis dominating the view above him and the Agora (years of culture, power, and religion) spread out below him. Paul didn’t mind a challenge. Which goes to one of my often asked questions. They didn’t feel guilty for their sins, so why did pagans embrace Christianity?

Stephen Spence.

Stephen

The Parable of the Healing Water

By Stuart Devenish.

What is the status of Christianity in Western culture in what Charles Taylor calls a “secular age”? How is the gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ—heard and experienced in this season “after” the hegemony of Christianity has faded? This parable is the opening gambit of my book Ordinary Saints: lessons in the art of giving away your life (to be published by Wipf & Stock in August 2016).
Once upon a time there was a village set on the edge of a forest at the foot of a mountain. The ancient landscape contained much beauty and many dangers, but the wise elders chose to settle their families in that place for good reason. A river flowed through the village, fed by snow-capped peaks above. It watered the vegetable gardens, provided transport to the markets downriver, and cooled the air in the heat of the summer. But what made the village unique was the healing properties of the water. The people in that village lived longer, happier, and healthier than those in neighbouring villages. It was the water that set the village apart and gave life to the community that lived there. Continue reading