Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Port Macquarie Days

Although I spent time in Sydney, Gunnedah and Melbourne during my recent visit home to Australia, most of my time was spent in Port Macquarie. It is here that my parents, Gordon and Margaret Bayly, and my younger brother, Tim, and his family live.

Back in 2008 I wrote about Port Macquarie in this post, which you're welcome to check out. What I'll briefly say here is that Port Macquarie is located on the New South Wales mid-north coast and is about a 5-hour drive north of Sydney. Situated on the Hastings River, the town has a population of around 41,000. For most of the year (with the exception of the summer holidays around Christmas) Port Macquarie is a quiet place, owing largely to the fact that the busy Pacific Highway bypasses the town about seven kilometres inland.

The area around the Hastings River (Aboriginal: Doongang) has been home to the Birpai Aboriginal peoples for tens of thousands of years. Traditional Birpai life changed forever with the mapping and naming of the area by Surveyor-General John Oxley in 1818. In 1821 Port Macquarie was founded as a penal settlement for convicts sentenced for crimes committed in New South Wales. The region was opened to free settlers nine years later.

Port Macquarie was declared a municipality in 1887, but – and now here's an interesting fact – the town never progressed as a port owing to a notorious coastal bar across the mouth of the Hastings River. South of the river, over twenty shipwrecks occurred in the Tacking Point area before a lighthouse was designed by James Barnet and erected in 1879.

Above: Dad and Mum in front of their home in Port Macquarie.

My parents relocated to Port Macquarie from my family's hometown of Gunnedah in 2002. Last year they moved from Swallows' Ledge, overlooking Port Macquarie's Town Beach, to the "independent living" section of a local retirement home. They are very happy in their new digs – which, in keeping with the bird theme, we've named Ibis Villa, owing to an Australian White Ibis we saw walking stately around the garden during the last couple of days of my stay (above right). My parents home is often visited by kangaroos (below), and it affords some beautiful sunset views! Altogether it's a lovely place to live.

Above: With my brother Tim – March 29, 2014.

Right: My lovely nieces Layne and Sami – March 23, 2014.

On Friday, April 4, I visited with Tim and his wife Ros an area just south of Port Macquarie known as Diamond Head. For images of this beautiful coastal spot, click here.

Above and below: Two views of Gordon Street, Port Macquarie's main thoroughfare.

Above: Town Beach.

Above: This is the spot at the south end of Town Beach where my parents and I would come most mornings of my stay with them. The view of the sea that we had when sitting on the golden sand beneath these trees can be seen at right. This picture also shows the spot where Mum and I would swim – just in front of and to the right of that rocky little island.

Above: Dad took this photo of Mum and I swimming in the diamond sea!

Above: Dad, sitting at the south end of Town Beach. The rock platform that I love so much is just a little ways further along the beach.

Above: Situated above Town Beach is a number of relatively new buildings, including Swallows' Ledge, pictured at far left, where my parents lived from 2007-2013.

Located on the ground floor of the building at right is a great little cafe called The Milk Bar. That's where I'm pictured at left, enjoying a vanilla milkshake – a favorite drink of mine from my childhood, and one which I only ever indulge in when visiting Australia! Why? Because you just can't beat an Australian vanilla milkshake!

Above: The Port Macquarie Observatory, home of the Port Macquarie Astronomical Association.

Above: At the north end of Town Beach is the mouth of the Hastings River. There's a walkway along the river's southern break wall that takes you all the way into the main business/shopping area of Port Macquarie.

Above: Port Macquarie's historic Royal Hotel.

Above: The popular Fig Bar and Restaurant, located on the ground floor of 17-19 Horton St., Port Macquarie.

Above: One of Port Macquarie's famous Norfolk Island Pine trees reflected in The Glasshouse. Located in the center of Port Macquarie, The Glasshouse comprises a 600-seat theatre, rehearsal/performance studio, an art gallery, conference facilities, heritage displays, and a Tourism Information Center.

Above: On May 7, 2014, the legendary Petula Clark will be performing at The Glasshouse. As I noted previously, I'll unfortunately miss this show – but my parents will be attending! I hope she sings "Every Word You Say," which has become my favorite track from her latest album, Lost in You.

5/25/14 Update: To read my mum's review of Petula's concert, click here!

Above: My parents with a number of their Port Macquarie friends.

When in Port Macquarie I was happy and honored to be contacted by two former students from my teaching days in Goulburn.

Above: With Briody and her family. I last saw Briody and her husband in Sydney in 2008.

Right: With John, whom I hadn't seen in over twenty years.

Both Briody and John were students of mine in 1992, when I was their fifth grade teacher at Sts. Peter and Paul Primary School in Goulburn. It was wonderful to catch up with them in Port Macquarie and hear all about what they're doing now.

Above: A picture from 1992. I'm with Briody and John and other students after the performance of an Easter play I'd written and which "5B" staged for the school community. From left: James, Briody (as Mary Magdalene), me, Tom (as Jesus), Bernard, John (as a Roman soldier), and Bernice.

Above: John as Bastian Balthazar Bux in the play I wrote based on Chapter XXII ("The Battle for the Ivory Tower") of The Neverending Story, and which 5B performed for the school community in 1992. Behind him is Katrina, playing the sorceress Xayide.

For more images from my teaching days in Goulburn, click here.

Back now to the present . . . and Port Macquarie! On my last night in Port – Monday, April 14 – I went out to dinner with my family to the Hot Wok Chinese Restaurant, which is where Mum and Dad are pictured above.

Above: Layne, Sami, and Sami's boyfriend Connor at the Hot Wok – April 14, 2014.

Above: With my brother Tim – April 14, 2014.

Left: Mum with her two beautiful granddaughters Layne and Sami – April 14, 2014.

Above: After dinner we enjoyed coffee and dessert at Ibis Villa. From left: Mum, Tim, Dad, me, Sami, and Connor – April 14, 2014.

Above: Sunset over the Hastings River, Port Macquarie – April 14, 2014.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On Sacred Ground
Diamond Head
Like Persephone of Myth (2011)
Christmas in Australia (2010)
Town Beach (2010)
Swallows Ledge (2009)
Port Macquarie (2008)
North Brother Mountain (2008)
Ellenborough Falls (2007)
Everglades Exhibition (2007)
Boorganna (Part 1)
Boorganna (Part 2)
Billabong Koala Park (2007)
Last Days in Australia (2007)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Paul Lakeland on the Church as a Model of Divine Mutuality

I mentioned last week that theologian Paul Lakeland will be speaking tomorrow evening (Wednesday, April 30) at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Minneapolis (details here). I'm very much looking forward to this event, as are many other local Catholics.

In light of Paul's talk tomorrow night, I thought I'd share another excerpt from his award-winning 2009 book Catholicism at the Crossroads: How the Laity Can Save the Church. This excerpt focuses on the disconnect between the church's hierarchical structure and the reality that, as Christians, we are devoted to a Trinitarian God, that is, a God that is a communion of equal persons.

You may be wondering why I've chosen an image of dancers to accompany this post. Well, Lakeland, drawing on the language of the ancient Cappadocian fathers, suggests the image of dancers (and also of trapeze artists) as a helpful image for the dynamic, mutual relationship of the trinity and a model of church that's more in keeping with this relationship than is the hierarchical stratification we currently have.

One of the great ironies of the Catholic Church is that while it is devoted to a Trinitarian God it has resolutely adopted a hierarchical structure. One would think, on the face of it, that the ecclesial structure that God would want for the church would be one that took the hint from God's nature about the superiority of trinitarianism [i.e., a relationship of mutuality] over hierarchical stratification. Just as the call to Christian discipleship should suggest to us a life lived according to the values and choices of Jesus of Nazareth, so you would think the church of God would reflect what seems to be the divine preference for relationship. What would happen if we modeled the church on the life of God instead of on the structures of the Roman Empire or the Ford Motor Company? One would think that it would be a good thing. It would certainly seem that the efforts of Vatican II and beyond to build a communion ecclesiology represented steps in this direction, yet so much in Catholicism remains undeniably hierarchical. In fact it may not be too outrageous a statement to say that wherever hierarchy has been represented in the church's history as the fundamental structure of the church, the church has been envisaged in a manner antithetical to that community of persons which God's inner nature so clearly tells us is the preferred form of social life. When Vatican II made the hierarchical structure of the church secondary to understanding the church as the People of God, it took a giant step toward growing closer to God. Hierarchy does not reflect the divine life; mutuality does.

We Christians believe in a Trinitarian God, that is, that God is a communion of persons. Of course, there is not a lot we can say about what the inner life of God is like, but there are a few illuminating things we can say if indeed it is true, as we believe, that the one God is a communion of three persons. First and most important, while there is differentiation among the three persons of the Godhead, there are no ranks. All are equally and fully God, despite the distinctions that are traditionally asserted in the terminology of Father, Son, and Spirit or somewhat differently claimed in the language of Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Each is God; each is the whole God; each is equally God. Any image that the human imagination can come up with to represent the Trinity must, if it is to be acceptable, respect this equality. Second, the radical equality of the three persons of the Trinity does not extinguish their difference. Third, the difference that each expresses is something we encounter, as human beings, only in their relationship to our salvation, in what theologians call the "economic" Trinity. What these differences mean within the divine life is not for us to know, though Christians throughout history, especially the great mystics, have tried to come up with images that express something of the mystery. In any case, we surely know that the persons of the Trinity are differentiated in terms of what we might call divine mission or ministry. In plain language, they have different responsibilities in the plan of salvation. This is where we encounter the persons of the Trinity, in their relation to our salvation, in their different missions. But it is part of Christian faith that the way we encounter God is consistent with the inner life of God; if only because the self-revelation of God cannot be frudulent or misleading. We can then confidently assert that the equality with which Father, Son, and Spirit pursue their different missions cannot stand in contradiction to their life, which must itself be one of mutuality and interrelationship of equality within difference.

The inner life of the Trinity is the preeminent model for us of that higher accountability [which is] the real issue for the church [today]. The three persons of the Trinity do not have to explain their actions to one another. Their lower accountability is subsumed in the higher accountability of a relationship of total openness and perfect equality. The language of the ancient Cappadocian fathers of the church, as they searched for an image to envision the Trinity, is particularly helpful here. To them, the three persons are engaged in perichoresis, that is, in a divinely and intricately interwoven dance formation. This is no heavenly hip-hop, rave, or stomp. They are intertwined with one another. Picture talented quick-step dancers or aficionados of the tango. There is no way that they can successfully accomplish their mission without complete openness to and trust in one another. They will fall over and lose their dignity. Or think of the accountability of trapeze artists for one another. One slip and they might die. Success requires the trust that comes with total accountability. If this is the model for divine mutuality and Trinitarian structure, then perhaps the church should move more in that same direction. It is surely a salutary warning against any attempt to idealize church structures that, in searching for human metaphors to help us think about God, the hierarchical structure of the church does not immediately spring to mind.

Related Off-site Links:
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission – Paul Lakeland (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 19, 2010).
Challenges to Us As Catholics – A 10-part series featuring excerpts from Paul Lakeland's book Church: Living Communion (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Paul Lakeland on How the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal Reveals a Crisis of Leadership
Believing in the Trinity
In the Garden of Spirituality – Elizabeth Johnson
A Trinity Sunday Message from the Equally Blessed Coalition
The Call to Be Dialogical Catholics
Lover of Us All

Image: Helen May Banks (2011).

Monday, April 28, 2014


Opening image: Gordon Bayly.
All other images: Michael Bayly.
Photos taken in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia (April 2 - 13, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On Sacred Ground
Diamond Head
Pacific Skies
Yaegl Country
A Day Roving the Mid North Coast
Flynns Beach
An Evening Stroll (and Theological Musings)
The Empty Beach
Coastal Views
A Solitary Ramble