Urban Seed Farewell Speech

The rough notes for my response to Samara’s speech at our ‘end of an era’ joint farewell at Urban Seed…  I don’t think I got all this out and there is so much more that could be said, many others who deserve mention etc…  obviously not everyone could be there, but it was a great party and a significant time.

Given what has already been said about my public speaking and that I can’t introduce myself in less than 10 minutes. I’m going to limit myself to some thankyous.

Thankyou to the Collins Street Baptist Church who let me and Gregg Morris move a desk into the old empty Sunday School room on level 3. Six months later I got a pigeon hole up on Level 6 and some time after that they started putting pay in it.

Thank you to the church for understanding that the renewal of the Church and Society comes from the margins and engagement with the pain of the world.  For being willing to take on in their body, their building, relationships and institution….the suffering of the city. It hasn’t always been easy.

This is a powerful context.  Thank you for being willing TO HOLD the tensions…the front door and back door,  the sacred and the secular, welfare and worship, ideas and praxis, the personal and the political.

Thankyou to the 100 or so ordinary disciples who have lived here at Central House over the last 15 years.  All of which I have known.  You are the renewal of the church.

Thank you for taking discipleship seriously.  For your response to the gracious hospitality of Jesus through your bodies and the shared economy of our lives and dreams.  We have always said the discipleship movement is the best party in town.  Perhaps someone should tell John Brumby tonight! Thanks for this party tonight!

I want to acknowledge the Wurundjeri as traditional owners of this place and thank my own elders. My Mum and Dad and Rachael’s Mum who are here tonight.

The previous leaders of Urban Seed.  It’s uncommon and it’s a testimony to the power of this place that each is in the room.  It would seem the substance/witness of this place draws you back no matter how hard it was leaving.

Each of our leaders has held different tensions.

Gordon we are honoured by your presence here tonight.  Thankyou for your ability to hold the big ideas and yet express them with beauty in the midst of the gritty reality of human struggle.

Mark Pierson… We are honoured that you flew all the way from NZ. Thankyou for what you held for us between welfare and worship.

Perhaps even more extraordinary… Tim Costello is here! Thankyou for holding the sacred and the secular… and for rescheduling tonight! You can hang out with Bono and Julia anytime…You cant always be at your wife’s farewell.

I am honoured that Ron Ham, Jim Barr  and Peter Chapman are in the room.  In my understanding it is somewhere between that trinity of minds, gifts and experience that this thing we now call Urban Seed was born.  Thanks for what you created!

I can’t think of people who are so different in style and skill. That such different people can lead this thing is a tribute to a higher power and purpose behind this movement. Thankyou for the way you have led us.

Chris is different again.  And I know he will shine in this new role.

Thanks to the many others who have mentored me who include  Br. Darryl Moresco (OCarm), Ched & Elaine, Peter Chapman, Paul Steele, Simon Holt, Anne Wilkinson Hayes, Bruce Everrit….etc…

Thanks to the Urban Seed staff/mob.

To the Street and Hospitality team and the depth of your presence, solidarity, hospitality and care of people among some of the most difficult issues and pain of our city.

To Andy Lee for inventing Laneway Cricket with me.  For Phil and more recently Evan, for taking it to a place with the blokes that I couldn’t.

For Youth and Schools.  When we started they told us there wasn’t a market for city based education. That schools would never come to the city and pay for social issues.  It was nice this month to have interactive education options for year 9’s on the agenda as an election issue!  I delivered some cricket flyers last week to a gathering of indigenous sportspeople as part of my new role at Cricket Victoria at a city backpackers who knew all about Urban Seed and have basically been set up to cater for the demand. That’s not all our doing but I’m very proud we’re a part of it.   If you can communicate this stuff to a year 9 you can communicate it to anyone.

Thankyou to the Praxis mob who are also over from NZ and for your part in developing our youth work and our journey with indigenous people, issues etc.

For those who have worked in Advocacy and Engagement. Sue Hogan is here tonight, for Simon Moyle etc. I came to Urban Seed to protest what was happening in my community with gambling.  We need to have places where Christian young people can learn how to protest and how not to.  Thanks for being that place for me.  I want to recognise Swan Island 9 who we’re in court yesterday for protesting the war in Afghanistan, even if it wont be ‘mentioned’ on Urban Seed’s website!

Thank you Christop for continuing to read the Bible on the street and for your work with Nick and Anita on the Surrender Coalition. I have grown up a Gen X’r in this town trying to work what happened to the  burnt out, counter culture, Gentle Bunyiping Boomers on one hand and why Gen Y’ers all seem are so well groomed and optimistic.  That a network of grassroots Christian organisations can hold these differences around an agenda to engage poverty is significant and has never been a given in this town. Thankyou to the Surrender partners.

Thank you for those who have relocated and live in the regions.  To those in Footscray,  Long Gully, Bendigo and Norlane in Geelong who have created community gardens, schools work, social enterprise cafes.  The are often described as pockets of poverty. When I go there I see pockets of abundance, of hope, healing and justice.  Its amongst our hardest work and I respect it immensely.  Thank you for taking Urban Seed beyond the Centre of Central House to new margins.

For those doing Seeds.  Who keep creating mobs beyond the jobs.  Who know we need to recover what is old and true in new words and worship and expression and have the guts to keep trying to find new ways of living on the edge of the inherited church.

Blessed are the fundraisers, administrators and board members.  Lets give a big round of applause for the Talitha’s, Suzie’s, Kate Allen’s, KJ,  Anne, Elise etc.  and all that they enable!

For the Executive team.  Words cant describe the ride that this has been.  It has been an extraordinary life defining partnership that has created much for many in and beyond this place over the last decade. Talk about holding tensions. The powerful inclusive, entrepreneurial optimism of Brent versus the wise, stubborn scepticism of Merridie.  The strong clarity and structures of Chris versus my own passionate narrative ‘opacity’.  What a team!

Not all things hold.  Not every project. Not every idea. Not all relationships.  The narrative of discipleship is as much about failure as success. Even at the resurrection, after the cross, the disciples are filled with ‘Ecstasis kai Traumos’.  (Mark 16:8) Ecstasy and trauma, we seek to hold these extremes.  In this role one’s weakness are exposed and I have had to say sorry more than I am proud of. There is some trauma and dying and here tonight for some dreams and some projects, but the seed remains. The seed is the Word of God, it is small but powerful and by dying it grows to be a great tree where, like tonight, many different birds of the air can nest and find shade.

I want to leave a gift…

I was so honoured by the tribute given to us down at Credo Cafe on Friday.  I found myself talking about key relationships with people on the street who had died.  Trevor, Hunter, Danny Acosta, Peter Howell etc. Its important to understand death so that one can know what it teaches about life so that we can resist its power to destroy life.

I talked about Ian Leonard from our cricket team, who’s body was recently found on the tracks down near Flinders Street Station.  The last I saw Iain his mental health was so bad he could barely function, crippled by fear and paranoia.

I never saw Iain as free as he was when he was part of Credo Cricket team in this picture. I used to wicket-keep to him as he bowled and he had the smoothest, free flowing, run and gather.  A high effortless action that would deliver these almost unplayable in-swinging deliveries.  In the midst of brokenness. It was something beautiful!  It was life resisting the powers of death! He wasn’t there at our Grand Final last week so I wanted to leave you with a portrait of a time that he was.  Thanks Nick Wight for the way your portraiture brings honour to those who don’t always receive it.

Finally. Thankyou to my wife Rachael and family. I love holding all these stories, these ideas, these connections and tensions.  I love the cut and thrust of how to live this stuff.

Rachael doesn’t!  She simply loves and is loved by many people in ways that has created so much for me and bears much cost of this work.  Whatever you think of me… Everyone loves Rach!

It’s Love that holds things.  Love is the key performance indicator that matters.  In the timeless words of Dorothy Day, “Love is the measure.”

Thankyou for the way that you have loved… and the way that you have loved me.

Amen

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2 Replies to “Urban Seed Farewell Speech”

  1. Not all things hold. Not all projects. Not all relatinships. Trauma and ecstasty but one thing remains. The seed. The Word of God. I know the trauma but some of the ecstasy still remains. Wish I could have been there. Thanks for blogging. I cried.

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