Friday, 31 January 2014

'We are not afraid': the Holy Spirit and the Life of Pete Seeger

For those of us of a certain age and advocacy, Pete Seeger and his music has loomed large in our life. Every movement needs its music and Peter Seeger was a dominating figure linking the music before our time such as that of Woody Guthrie to what came after such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.  His and theirs was music of moral standing: for justice, against war, involving community, searching for equality.  Thank you, Susan, for giving such a contributing life a theology.


The post below was written for HuffPost Religion.  

'We Are Not Afraid': 

The Holy Spirit 

and the Life of Pete Seeger

Posted: 01/28/2014 9:28 am

One of the reasons I believe a better world is possible is because I can hear the voice of Pete Seeger in my head, singing We Shall Overcome. "We are not afraid," sang Seeger, and credited the young leaders of the Civil Rights movement for teaching that. "Perfect love casts out fear," scripture teaches (1 John 4:18).
One of the greatest obstacles to people coming together, despite their differences, to make a better world, is fear.
Pete Seeger, 94, folk singer and peace and justice advocate has died, but the spirit of what his life and his music meant lives on. Americans have been less afraid of each other, and of speaking the truth to power, because he lived and sang and marched.
One of the possible translations of the Greek word for Holy Spirit is "advocate." When we advocate for God's reign of justice and peace, and join together in that effort, it is my personal experience that the presence of the Spirit can be felt.
Pete Seeger helped teach that to my generation, and generations that followed, because he taught us to sing while we resisted war and advocated for racial and gender justice. He taught us in our schools and on our campuses because he had been blacklisted for refusing to yield to the fear-mongering House Un-American Activities committee. His promising television career was curtailed by the blacklisting.
The story of how Seeger finally got to sing on television again is itself a story of struggle against censorship, as his return to television via the Smothers Brothers program involved advocacy by the two young "comedians." "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" a song clearly about the Vietnam war and President Lyndon Johnson (though it does not name either one) finally was heard by millions of Americans. But that didn't end the war by itself. Seeger observes, "Did the song do any good? No one can prove a damned thing. It took tens of millions of people speaking out, before the Vietnam War was over. A defeat for the Pentagon, but a victory for the American people."
The documentary on Seeger's career, The Power of Song, provides a fully rounded portrait of the singer, including the so-called "lost years" when, because of the blacklisting, Seeger sang to school children and to those of us on college campuses lucky enough to hear him. The songs which Seeger wrote (like "Turn, Turn, Everything there is a Season" and "Where are All the Flowers Gone") or made famous (like "We Shall Overcome") are the voice of resistance to war and advocacy for peace.
Is that not the mystery of how goodness is made, little by little, and person by person? In 2011 Seeger walked with an Occupy Wall Street protest, and later told the Associate Press, "Be wary of great leaders... Hope that there are many, many small leaders."
Instead, what we need is many, many Americans coming together and not being afraid of each other. That is the way forward, and Pete Seeger not only taught that, he modeled it in his life and commitments to the very end.
Rest in peace, good and faithful servant. I am grateful beyond words for your life and work.

Follow Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite on

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Courses, retreats and community among Friends at Silver Wattle. There might be something there just foryou.

The Religious Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers)
has a study centre called Silver Wattle
situated near Bungendore in NSW - just 45 minutes from Canberra, ACT.
It is a beautiful setting on Lake George (its Aboriginal name is Weereewa).
Below is the latest newsletter from Co-Directors David and Trish Johnson.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

A history of the Jehovah's Witnesses

As readers of Beside The Creek will have discovered,
the New Year of 2014 has opened with a series of history videos 
on the great religions of the world.

It has not been the intention of this series to get into topics 
such as different sects or denominations within a particular religion.

An exception has been made, however, for two Christian denominations 
simply because their representatives might knock on your front door at any time.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of these.
The Latter Day Saints are nothing if not well organised.
They do not close themselves off and,
as the interfaith movement has burgeoned in the late 20th century,
it is not unusual to find them participating in local interfaith networks.
There has been no difficulty in finding an appropriate video
to allow readers to get to know something of their history.

The same does not hold true of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
It seems to this blogger - and I mean no offence -
that the Witnesses might not be handling their own on-line presence, 
particularly concerning their history, as well as they might.

Most of the video material I have encountered in my web searches has been from
Christian denominations intent on 'answering' the Witnesses.
There is a lot happening in our 21st Century world
and it seems necessary to ask if this is the best way of spending one's time -
or is this a competition for obtaining and retaining members?

However, dear readers, we do want to provide some information -
so please follow the link below.
This is to a Wikipedia article -
but it is the best attempt of this blogger to obtain information 
which (she hopes) is impartial.
A sad state of affairs -
and there is nothing sadder than quarrelsome religion.

Finance, Economics and Faith - interest and usury in the traditions.

For many years now, the world-at-large has been preoccupied with finance and economics.  Now finance and economics are never far from the forefront of daily life - but with the Global Financial Crisis (the GFC) and nations and individuals plunged into poverty money and its associated category headings.

The list of headings is long.  The list of countries doing it tough is long too.  Can faith speak to money?  Has faith something to say about finance and economics and governance?

You may have heard or read this story before, but it still has some impact in the re-telling.
A few prominent clergypersons were invited to the Oval Office to meet with the President.  Rev. William Sloan Coffin, then Senior Pastor of Riverside Church in New York City, was one of those invited. President Reagan patiently explained to the visiting pastors why these cuts were necessary, in his view, to balance the budget.  Rev. Coffin replied, “Mr. President, it is up to us to proclaim that ‘Justice shall roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.  Your job is the plumbing.”

The Rev Dr Susan Brooks Thistlewaite uses the story in a blog post from her blog #Occupy The Bible.

That story reflects one Christian attitude to finance and economics.  The Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Islam, and Christianity - each have injunctions against usury.  Usury is the charging of interest although in some interpretations this becomes the charging of 'excessive' interest.  Islam is the only faith of the three which adheres to injunctions against usury.

People of the Jewish faith have become associated with finance, banking and usury - not least because of this family.  Not all Jewish people are bankers or people connected with finance and economics - but a lot of them are.  

The writer of this article saysChristian ethics has failed in one of the most overlooked, if not ignored, civil and human rights issue in the world today. 

In each of the three faiths, there are strong ethical dictums relating to the alleviation of poor, to hospitality, to consideration of the other as one would consider him or her self.  

But where does this leave ordinary folk trying to negotiate their ways through modern economic life while maintaining an ethical faith and lifestyle?  And what happens in other faith traditions?  Below are some selections for further reading.  

Readers of this blog might like to write to us at and let us know their thoughts.  

  • Should interfaith networks start talking about this and begin to shine some light on the teachings of the different faith traditions and how they work themselves out in modern life?  
  • Should faiths bear a common witness against poor governance both of civil society and corporate entities?  
  • How would this be done effectively?
Further reading

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

A history of Sikhism

Simplicitiy in our lives and in our faith traditions

So many of the earth's great religious traditions have an emphasis within them of voluntary simplicity - not the forced simplicity of war, famine, homelessness, unemployment, illness but the simplicity whicih we decide will be a hallmark of our lives.  Increasingly, consumerism has become widespread across the planet.  It is not only the province of the far-too-rich. It is also the ambition of ordinary people who haunt the shopping malls that make people like the Lowy family wealthy beyond dreams.

Below are some items of interest that might give some stimulus to thinking about simplicity and how we might bring it into our daily lives.

Firstly, there is the Simplicity Institute.  Below you will find its latest report The Deep Green Alternative: debating strategies of transition.  And there's this new book - The Hidden Door.  We don't have to change our religion to adopt a simple life style, to take simplicity into our hearts.  We can just be mindful and make simplicity a spiritual practice in our lives whatever our faith tradition.  Oh!  And minimise those shopping mall visits.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2014 Sufi International Festival, India

For some, this will be a "wish I could be there moment"

International Sufi Rang Festival

  • 06 Jan 2014 { 08:00-09:00 }
  • Description : Chishty Foundation's event International Sufi Rang Festival is based on the blessed vision ,principle and message of "Love towards all, Malice towards none" for the whole of Humanity which is the blessed message of Hz.Khawaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishty (r.a) popularly known as Khawaja Gharib Nawaz (r.a). It’s a universal message for the whole of humanity that we may love and respect the best of creations i.e. Human beings, among all the creations of the One Almighty Creator Allah (swt). The Interfaith message for Indian Sub-Continent and its people living in harmony from last 800 years and continue to do so. Our aim in creating this event is to realizes a blessed vision and to create a platform for people from around the world and walks of lives who believe in blessed message i.e. to love and serve the Humanity ( Khidmat e Khalq ) and to spread the message with all its essence among the people of our beautiful planet Earth . In today’s troubled times we believes that the message the great Sufi’s n Saints is the not just a way but it is the ONLY way for the solutions of the World problems and a perfect road map towards the Path of Love ,Peace n Brotherhood among the whole Humanity . As part of the larger picture through the blessed platform of Chishty Foundation ,we intend to promote the blessed Sufi teachings of Khawaja Gharib Nawaz , Sufi Art of Calligraphy , Sufi Poetry culture , Sufi music and concepts of Spirituality and Music and a strong connection between a Higher state of awearness of the Divine presence through Sama and Qawalli – The Chishty Sufi’s food for the Soul . This concept is yet to have a full vision and realization for the essence of complete Sufi understanding and teachings. The 5th International Sufi Rang Festival 2013 is our fifth edition towards realizing the blessed vision of blessed Chishty Sufi lineage . - ma Salama Ishq Bashad wa Baraka Bashad !- Alhamdulilah , this is our humble journey …………. May Allah (swt) accept this humble efforts and services of Chishty Khadims. Syed Salman Chishty Gaddi Nashin – Dargah Ajmer Sharif Khadim e Khawaja Gharib Nawaz (RA) Director Chishty Foundation Reg.No.2008000197 Chishty Mnazil, Jhalra Street, Dargah Sharif, Ajmer 305001 Rajasthan - India Cell # +91 9829174973
  • Location : Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishti Shrine, Diggi Bazaar, Ajmer, Rajasthan, India
  • Ajmer, Rajasthan ,
  • Events Type: Community Service,Entertainment & Arts,Lecture/Seminar,Meeting,Workshop,
  • Name: Syed Salman Chishty - Director - Chishty Foundation
  • Email:
  • Phone: +919829174973
  • Website:

Getting to know you - getting to know all about you! An interfaith project

Faith and Finance: is finance a morality free zone?

Last year, I attended a one-day conference on Islamic Finance.  I learned a lot.  The Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity, Islam - each have injunctions against usury yet only Islam, now in these modern times, refuses to have anything to do with the levying of interest.  How this is handled across the world in Islam is most interesting - and it is attracting increasing interest from the mainstream non-Islamic world.

The world has suffered much during the Global Financial Crisis. One would have to go a long way in the world to find societies and individuals who have remained unaffected by the GFC.  This means that communities of faith have had to live out their beliefs, consider their beliefs in the light of the impact of the GFC on the world.  There are periods when matters of money are put to one side and remain in the shadow of more emphasis on the core teachings of faith and spirit.  However, communities of faith have highlighted during this dismal economic period issues of justice and ethics and the living of a good life.  Communities of faith have hardly tried the financial centres of the world at a religious court but they have increasingly, around the world, spoken out on the GFC and related economic matters.

Taking a hint from the last of the links above,
is it time for a wide-ranging interfaith dialogue 
on the topic of
Faith, Morals, Finance?

Faith & Finance: Value Guided Pursuit of Interests

Religion does think about money.
based on a the search terms
faith finance
Mixed messages?

A history of Christianity - video

Want to know more of the history of Christianity?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Side entrance - blogging through photographs women's sacred spaces

Ballarat Interfaith Network
follows a wonderful photographic blog on Tumblr.
Its name is Side Entrance.
It focusses on women's sacred spaces.
The photography is wonderful.
The mosques and sacred spaces are beautiful
Please visit, follow, enjoy

Happy New Year to all the friends of the Ballarat Interfaith Network - "Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God"

This post was originally published on The Trad Pad on  2 January 2011.  
Happy New Year everyone ... 
particularly to those who did it tough this year.  
Please take on board the thoughts of Minnie Louise Haskins

Happy New Year! May the year be kind to you and bring you blessings, wisdom, peace, and prosperity!  The last day or two has exhibited some coincidence. Firstly, Hay Quaker published, in toto, the poem The Gate of the Year by Minnie Louise Haskins.
Minnie Louise Haskings - The gate of the year
 Minnie Louise Haskins
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
"Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."
And he replied, "Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!"
So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night.
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.
So heart be still!
What need our human life to know
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife of things
Both high and low,
God hideth his intention.
Perhaps readers have heard this poem, or part of it, before.  It was made famous by the Christmas Speech of King George VI delivered in 1939.  You can hear the actual speech – it is quite moving given it is made at the time of the first Christmas of World War II – here.
the-kings-speech -the movie
Secondly, I decided to get out of the house for the first time since  Christmas Midnight Carols and Eucharist at All Saints, Mitcham and go to see the much lauded movie, The King’s Speech. It is the story of the relationship between the Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, and King George VI.

The movie is being tipped as a frontline contender for an Oscar. In spite of competition from The Social Network in the bookies’ odds as set out here, it is hard to see how this movie could lose with its high proportion of former Academy Award winning actors.  The UK still produces the best actors – particularly in ensemble work as demonstrated in The King’s Speech – in the English speaking world.  However, it does an Australian heart good – particularly one coming from Queensland – to see and hear Geoffrey Rush mixing it admirably with such a talented cast. To think, this great man of Australian movies was growing up across Brisbane from me in the 1950s!

Those sitting around me in the packed movie theatre were clearly as impressed as I. 

I was however surprised at the ending. I don’t think, in such an historical movie, it is giving away much to describe the ending of this movie.  I thought the movie somehow would finish with the 1939 Christmas Speech. This is arguably the most famous, most remembered, and most quoted of all the King George VI’s speeches.  This doesn’t happen.  The movie concludes with the King’s Speech at the beginning of World War II.