So how did tweetinMark come about…
Mark’s Gospel first impacted me in the late 80’s when Athol Gill’s “Life on the Road” inspired my peer group to break with the expectation of our middle class Melbourne bible belt church culture and move into community houses which formed the basis of the Blackburn Community Network.
Athol had founded the legendary House of the Gentle Bunyip, an amazing 70’s-80’s counter culture community in Clifton Hill (which even had a secret police file kept against them!) Athol died just before I could meet him but his legacy and love of Mark have shaped my town and many Christian experiments ever since. I regularly refer to his “Fair dinkum Mark” re-write from the Greek, written with Keith Dyer who continues Athol’s legacy in the same role as New Testament lecturer at Whitley College.
In 1995 John Hirt and the Anatoth Community in Oxley Road, Kew hosted Ched Myers. I will never forget his paralleling our own Western context discipleship with that of Peter, warming his hands at the fire of empire whilst the cries of the tortured Jesus behind the palace wall ring in his ears and he is confronted about whether he will follow “the way” or live in denial. Stunning stuff…..
Ched’s commentary “Binding the Strongman” was quite simply a revolution for many of us in how to read the bible. For our community it helped us to re-discover a Jesus who could not only justify, but pragmatically lead and question our activism to the core! Ched’s love for and creative use of sociology and narrative has underpinned much of my method, reflection and action ever since.
1997 was a difficult year in my life , full of painful discipleship lessons. Due to inter personal conflict in our mission organisation I had to give up a role that I was heavily invested in. Thankfully it gave me time to travel around with Ched on Paul Creasey’s Victorian Churches of Christ tour at the height of Pauline “Hanson-ism”. Ched’s extraordinary ability to sum up the politics of a room and bring Marks gospel to bear with power was inspiring and healing. As we laughed, wept, fought, sung, workshopped and preached through churches, homes and pubs, Marks “road movie” came to life for me and renewed my shattered confidence.
When the popular version of Strongman (“Say to this Mountain”) was released it inspired popular bible study. Our first attempts were in Melbourne’s Eastside seeking to connect church youth groups with young offenders from the juvenile justice system through the Blackburn network of community houses. You never forget those with whom you start the journey. Much Grace and ongoing respect to the Chuns!
Through these years the rise of the government led gambling culture saw many Christians working with poor communities gather at the then new Crown Casino to pray and act. This was led by Tim Costello and Urban Seed (Urban Mission Unit) with whom I still work. The residential community of hospitality, ‘Seeds’ bible studies and city walks still provide a context for ongoing study in the heart of the city and culture.
In 1998 we added readings and reflections from Mark to the city discernment walk. Thousands of people have since read text and context, and been interrupted by homeless people, tourists and security guards, as we have listened and discovered “The Word” on the street! Gregg, Brent, Kate and Christop thanks for your leadership over the years… the walks continue today and with @tweetinMark you can now follow along.
These Walks formed part of Mark, Mission and Discipleship course hosted at Urban Seed’s Credo Cafe. The eccentric Steve Clarke was able to captivate students from the Bible College of Victoria with contributions from Urban Neighbours of Hope.
In 1999, in the final days of the extraordinary neo-liberal policies of the Kennett era, I was inspired by Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch versions to write The Gospel of Vic. Effectively a rewrite of Marks script for the modern context, I changed only names of characters and places and adopted contemporary religious traditions such as AFL football to retell the story. It politicised the gospel in a very local way and captured a moment of discipleship for the Urban Seed mob that remains confronting and animating still today.
Since moving to Melbourne’s Westside in 2000 my Markan journey has been with the multicultural Footscray Baptist Church and Ya Chasin Community ( a group of largely Vietnamese and Filipino young people living together in the Baptist funded Phat Albert’s House & Percy’s Place.) We worked together supporting young people through Scripture Union Victoria’s Inspired for Life Schools program in the largely migrant based outer suburb of St. Albans.
The Chasin name came from the street parlance “Chasin the Dragon,” a reference to drugs and the work of this community connecting with people from the street and gangs. Marks’ story knows the dynamics of street and gang culture and the connections made provided a life changing alternative chase for some recovering from the heroin epidemic of this time.
In 2006 the chase continued with Footscray Salvos from 101 Droop St. and with assorted punters from lots of different places linking in with the then newly forming Seeds Network which along with Urban Seed remains the context for this work today. 2007 and 2008 saw bible study workshops run across the ditch in Aotearoa, New Zealand with the fantastic community work training network Praxis adding Maori and Pacific Islander perspectives.
In late 2009 the idea of @tweetinMark was inspired when at long last I had the privilege of reciprocating a visit to Ched and Elaine at their home in Oak View, California. It was a special sabbatical moment to chat, work the garden, and literally sit under the Oak Tree in their beautiful bioregion. Whilst making Cornish pasties one night we had one of those debates about the joys and evils of social media as communication. I probably lost the argument, but my revenge was to start @tweetinMark anyway and some of the early tweets on the account recall the laughs and spirit of that special meal!
Mark narrates a discipleship community of diverse and passionate people who have a short, tumultuous group life filled with struggle and misunderstanding. None of the experiments in discipleship and community or the of the people I have mentioned have avoided this struggle or its sometimes costly toll.
However, Mark’s story also mentions resurrection and for many participants the journey continues in many different places and ways… often unexpected.
I do believe that if you truly allow yourself to become a participant in this story the Spirit of the Living Word gets to you in a way that you can never simply be the same again.
As with Mark’s story the ending is ambiguous, haunting, and invitational….it never ends! I hope that through @tweetinMark you become part of a story that has transformed many lives, birthed many alternative social experiments and continues to sustain individuals in the struggle to follow on “the Way”.
May you Know the Word on your street!
With respect to elders past and present in the Communion of Saints,
Meur ras ha Cres (Much Grace and Peace)
For info on Tweetin Mark in 2010 go here