Tag Archives: formation

New church in Brisbane

Since I began my seminary studies, various people I’ve met in Brisbane have told me that they wish I were in Brisbane because they’d like to be part of a church like the AJC. Eventually, I met a chap called Prenna who had started to suspect his own vocation for the priesthood and I realised that these folks had what I call a “Stone Soup Problem”, so called in honour of the famous fairy tale about the soup stone.

A soup stone problem is one is which a community has everything it really needs to take an agreed action, but it needs a little injection of faith to galvanise collective action. I love soup stone problems.

I invited the people who had spoken to me to a meeting and proposed to them that they work together to form a “narthex” or lay community of the AJC. They agreed to undertake the necessary work and to support Prenna in applying to to the church lead the narthex. The AJC requires that anyone taking on a public role on behalf of the church undergo background checks as well as writing essays intended to clarify their intentions in the work they are proposing to undertake. This all took some time to manage and a certain amount of money and effort on behalf of all the people involved.

This week all this effort has borne fruit. The Apostolic Council of the church approved the group’s application and announced the formation of the Saint Teresa of Àvila Narthex, the church’s second community in Australia and tenth globally.

On Sunday, I had the enormous privilege of not only announcing that to the group in Brisbane, but also of baptising and confirming some of them and formally receiving a few more into the community of the AJC. We held a Eucharist in a park next to the Brisbane river and baptised Prenna through full immersion as people fished nearby and played soccer in the park. A very public coming-out for a new church!

It has been an enormous privilege to shepherd this community into formation and to initiate several of them into our beautiful tradition. I am deeply grateful to the people of St Teresa’s for their commitment, faith, hard work, perseverance, intelligence and love. They are a remarkable group of people and I foresee great things in their work together.

I offer my continuing blessings for their work and my ongoing practical support.

There will be photos soon I hope. I’ll post again when I’ve collected some of them. There may even be a video of the baptismal moment!

It’s official: I’m getting ordained.

To my considerable surprise, my church recently decided to nominate me to the priesthood. After a couple of days of turning this around in my head and examining it from a few angles, questioning whether I’m worthy, whether I’m ready, whether I’m the right person for the job, I accepted their decision.

Today, our Patriarch, The Most Reverend Mar +Iohannes IV announced officially that I’m to be ordained along with a bunch of my fellow seminarians. So in May, Min and I will go to San Francisco to attend the AJC Conclave (well, I’ll be attending Conclave, I’m hoping Min will be sightseeing) where my life takes an irrevocable turn.

When I return, our small Sydney group Saint Uriel the Archangel Gnostic Community will become the Parish of Saint Uriel the Archangel and start offering more public services as we begin the process of community-building in earnest.

To answer some commonly asked questions:

I’m not finished in the seminary course; there’s a lot more to learn. The AJC regards the formation of a priest to be parallel to seminary studies — the two processes proceed at their own rate.

This is not a change in career; the AJC is a small church and none of our clergy are employed by their parish. Perhaps that might change in the future, but I think there’s a lot to be said for priests who live in the world.

When I’m ordained, my Orders will be valid, apostolic orders — which means in plain language that I will be a priest in the same spiritual sense (though in a very different organisational sense) as a Roman Catholic priest (for instance). That means that I am able to provide the sacraments (baptism, confirmation, unction, eucharist, reconciliation and matrimony) and those sacraments have the same validity as those provided by a priest in a larger church.

Australian Federal law does not automatically grant me the right to perform legally valid marriages, even though my church gives me the right to provide the sacrament of matrimony. That distinction is, I think, an interesting and productive thing to explore for couple seeking to formalise their relationship — it means you could choose to seek either matrimony or marriage at separate times.

I could become legally licensed as a marriage celebrant and therefore be able to provide both, but until I am able to marry my beloved in my own country, I do not intend to do that. My church provides its sacraments to “all humanity without discrimination on the basis of gender, race, social status or sexual orientation” (one of the many reasons I’m here) and I would be thrilled to offer matrimony to gay or lesbian couple who wish to celebrate their eternal bond before the Divine.

Each of those points could probably bear expanding and there’s more I’d like to say, which leads me to my next point:

To celebrate my happy news, I’ve started another blog. This one is focussed on spirituality, specifically the modern, gnostic, post-dualistic spirituality I’m pursuing in association with the AJC. It will have reports from my own journey, comments on stuff I’m reading both in my studies and on the web, perhaps occasional references to the news… stuff like that.

Please come visit and put my new site’s feed in your feed reader.

He’s Just Had Coffee” continues, but it’s mostly going to be focussed on personal stuff and silly pop culture.

(This post is cross-posted to both “He’s Just Had Coffee” and “… as upon a straight road”)

Saint Uriel’s

For anyone wondering what’s got my attention right now, I’ve been collaborating with some local folk to set up a Gnostic community in Sydney as a local branch of the [AJC](http://www.johannite.org). I’m doing this partly as a component of my Formation work with the church, because if/when I finally become a priest, I’m going to need a parish!

The community is small but growing and we held our first public event this week to celebrate Saint Uriel the Archangel’s day because we take St U as our patron saint.

If you’re interested, there’s a bit more about [Saint Uriel the Archangel’s Gnostic Community here](http://www.saint-uriels.org).

Saint Bartholomew

> Bartholomew saith unto him: Declare unto us, Lord what sin is heavier than all sins? Jesus saith unto him: Verily I say unto thee that hypocrisy and backbiting is heavier than all sins: for because of them, the prophet said in the psalm, that ‘the ungodly shall not rise in the judgement, neither sinners in the council of the righteous’, neither the ungodly in the judgement of my Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that every sin shall be forgiven unto every man, but the sin against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven. And Bartholomew saith unto him: What is the sin against the Holy Ghost? Jesus saith unto him: Whosoever shall decree against any man that hath served my holy Father hath blasphemed against the Holy Ghost: For every man that serveth God worshipfully is worthy of the Holy Ghost, and he that speaketh anything evil against him shall not be forgiven. — [Gospel of St Bartholomew](http://www.gnosis.org/library/gosbart.htm) VI:1-4

[](http://danielmitsui.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/bartholomew.jpg) When we started [this project](http://www.timbomb.net/blog/2007/04/11/the-twelve-apostles/), [Donald](http://maudlinacre.blogspot.com) warned me that “the facts that we have on some of them amount to about a paragraph. Some of them have even less than that!” Saint Bart is a glowing example of the Who the hell were these guys!? problem.

Bartholomew is the Greek version of the Aramaic bar-Tôlmay (תולמי‎‎‎‎‎-בר‎‎) — an ancient Hebrew name. He’s only named in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), in John the name Nathanael appears in the same position in the list. Convention is to assume (in the face of basically no information about either guy) that the two names refer to one apostle whose name may have been “Nathanel bar Tolomai”. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us that he’s an old friend of the apostle [Phillip](http://maudlinacre.blogspot.com/2007/04/st-philip.html).

Various traditions have him preaching around typical places — Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, and on the shores of the Black Sea. There’s a tradition that has him teaching in India. Eusebius in [Ecclesiastical Histories](http://www.ucalgary.ca/~vandersp/Courses/texts/eusebius/eusehe.html) mentions that Pantaenus, Origen’s teacher encountered converts of St Bart in India who had been given a copy of St Matthew’s Gospel.

The most popular version of his death has him flayed alive by the brother of the King of Armenia as punishment for converting the King. As a gruesome consequence, he is usually represented skinless, holding a large knife and often holding his own skin. He is the patron of tanners, butchers, cobblers and bookbinders.


His day in the Roman calendar, August 24, was the day Romanian nationalist [Vlad Ţepeş](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_III_Dracula) [allegedly put 30,000 people to death](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_III_Dracula#Alleged_atrocities) by impalement and the day in 1572 the [massacre of thousands of Huguenots](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Bartholomew%27s_Day_massacre) in mob violence in Paris.

Nathanael in John’s Gospel is portrayed as a bit of a bigot, when told about this teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, he notoriously replied “[Can anything good come out of Nazareth?](http://bible.cc/john/1-46.htm)”. Jesus had the good grace to praise him for being straightforward.

A bunch of his relics including a large piece of his skin (shudder…) wound up in [Lipari, Italy](http://maps.google.com.au/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=via+del+concordato,+lipari,+italy&layer=&sll=38.461788,14.941535&sspn=0.009123,0.014098&ie=UTF8&z=18&ll=38.467085,14.956266&spn=0.002281,0.003524&t=h&om=1) in a [cathedral dedicated to his memory](http://www.eolienelmondo.it/_Descrizioni%20varie/la_cattedrale.htm). The people of Lipari have [a list of miracles](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartholomew#Holy_Miracles) attributed to the saint, most of them to do with *weight*.

> When St. Bartholomew’s body was found off the shore, the Bishop of St. Christopher’s Church of Lipari ordered many men to get the body. When this failed due to its extreme weight, the Bishop then sent out the children. The children easily brought the body ashore even though the older men couldn’t. ([Wikipedia](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartholomew#Holy_Miracles))

And there’s an [Apocryphal Gospel](http://www.gnosis.org/library/gosbart.htm) attributed to Bartholomew. He chats with the Virgin Mary about the Annunciation, subdues Beliar at Jesus’ instruction and demands to be told various secrets and receives secret instructions from Jesus. Almost enough to associate him as at least an Hermetic Saint, if not a Gnostic one. Sure it’s probably got nothing to do with him literally, but [polysemy](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polysemy) is important in Gnostic exegesis …

When we come to glimpse the Divine, the bliss can be unbearable, but the horrible weight of ordinary consciousness, the heaviness of the gross body, the unendurable mundanity of everyday life can seem a prison by comparison — we feel like escaping our very skin and getting out. All of our flaws, our smallnesses, our contraction and weakness and bigotry becomes exposed and we start to see ourselves truly and that sight can be horrible.

As Awakening progresses and the Flame continues to illuminate the whole of life, not merely the saintly parts, we notice how the whole Self fits, how necessary the parts are to the whole. To bring compassion to others , it is also necessary to bring compassion to your self. As we learn that, a miracle can occur: what has been so heavy that it’s **impossible** to carry becomes light — filled with Light.

> every man that serveth God worshipfully is worthy of the Holy Ghost, and he that speaketh anything evil against him shall not be forgiven.

… even if that person is the man himself.

Be kind to yourself.

(Part of the [Twelve Apostles series](http://www.timbomb.net/blog/2007/04/11/the-twelve-apostles/))

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Saint Andrew

> And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and **Andrew** his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men [ἁλιείς ἀνθρώπων] — [Matthew 4:18-19](http://bible.cc/matthew/4-18.htm)

“Andrew” (Ανδρέας) means “strong” or “manly” from the Greek “ανδρεία”. He was born in [Bethsaida](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethsaida) and, at the time of Jesus’ teaching lived with Simon in [Capernaum](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capernaum) on the shores of the sea of Galilee where they worked as fishermen. Palestine had been under Greek rule (of [one kind](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptolemaic_dynasty) or [another](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seleucid_dynasty)) since Alexander and remained part of [Hellenistic culture](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellenistic_civilization) through the [Maccabean revolution](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maccabee) and Roman domination, so Greek names were very common.

He is known in the Eastern tradition as “Protokletos” or “first-called”. He and John the Evangelist are the first followers of John the Baptist to follow the teaching of Jesus (possibly after the Baptist is jailed). He is counted among the “first four” (Peter, Andrew, James and John) who have seniority among the twelve apostles. [GoJohn tells us](http://bible.cc/john/1-41.htm) that after hearing Jesus’ teaching Andrew immediately found his brother Peter and told him “We have found the Messias”.

> After Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother Peter. Notice what Andrew said to him: “We have found the Messiah, that is to say, the Christ.” Notice how his words reveal what he has learned in so short a time. They show the power of the master who has convinced them of this truth. Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others. To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, loving kinship and sincere affection. — from [Homily 19 on the Gospel of John](http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240119.htm) by [Saint John Chrysostom](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Chrysostom)

The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles say next to nothing about Andrew. Tradition, especially in the Eastern Orthodox churches, maintain that Andrew’s apostolic activity ranged across Asia Minor, Greece and especially Constantinople. He is remembered as an eloquent and gifted evangelist, setting up churches in “Pontos, Bithynia, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, Scythia (Russia, where he is still regarded as patron saint) and in the capital city of Byzantium. It was in Byzantium that St. Andrew ordained Stachys as first bishop of Byzantium (later Constantinople), thereby establishing an unbroken line of 270 patriarchs down to the present day Patriarch Bartholomeos 1st.” [1].

His prowess as an evangelist was to prove his undoing. He eventually (tradition tells us) wound up, at the age of 80 during the reign of Nero, in [Patras](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patras#Saint_Andrew) in Greece where he successfully founded a church and converted a woman called Maximilla (not [the noted Montanist prophet](http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10521a.htm)). Her husband Ægeates, the provincial ruler, took exception to his wife’s conversion had Andrew arrested and sentenced to death. Their argument is retold in the apocryphal [“Acts and Martyrdom of Andrew”](http://www.gnosis.org/library/actand2.htm).

Andrew was crucified on a “saltire” or “decussate” cross (now usually referred to as a St Andrew’s cross), possibly upside down, possibly by being tied, rather than nailed to it, though tradition varies on the details. He is said to have lasted three days before expiring, legend has it that he kept teaching for the first two.

That’s pretty manly.

His relics were moved about from Constantinople to Rome to Scotland, where the [home of golf](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Andrews) is named after him. He’s the [patron of various places](http://www.catholic-forum.com/SAINTS/sainta12.htm) (including Scotland and the diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan), fishermen, gout, sore throats, singers and spinsters. He is remembered on November 30. His major shrine is at St Andreas in Patras.

His various adventures and miracles are recounted in a variety of non-canonical books — [The Acts of Andrew](http://www.gnosis.org/library/actandy.htm), [The Acts and Martyrdom of Andrew](http://www.gnosis.org/library/actand2.htm), [The Acts of Andrew and Matthew](http://www.gnosis.org/library/actanm.htm), [The Acts of Peter and Andrew
](http://www.gnosis.org/library/actpna.htm) full of roaring tales of cannibals and magic tricks.

Andrew is the prototypical teacher; as John Chrysostom observes, no sooner has he come to know Jesus and his teaching than he wants to pass on his knowledge. He carries that passion to teach from the place of his birth to the far lands where he dies. He is the great adventurer-sage of the Christian tradition — a kind of Indiana Jones of the Gospel.

What does he say to Gnostics in the 21st century? Note that Andrew’s story starts on the sea of Galilee, as a fisherman. He faces those great depths daily, living from its grace and never straying far from its shores. When he become inspired by the teaching of Jesus, he is moved to share it and that mission to teach takes him far away from his home.

We all have our natural home in the Bythos — the profound depth that is the primal ground of our being. When we first come to γνώσις of the Hidden Mother-Father, it is tempting to rest there, in bliss, living purely in harmony, in silence. But, while pleasant, that is not what the Logos asks of us. Xristos Soter asks, demands, that we move onward beyond γνώσις, not merely resting, but teaching, healing, baptising — sharing our bliss with others, helping them find it for themselves.

When Andrew comes to understand Christ’s demand, he was the first of the apostles to turn completely from his simple life and dedicate himself to this demanding life lived for others.

1. [“St Andrew the Apostle, the First-Called” Greek Orthodox Archidiocese of Australia](http://home.it.net.au/~jgrapsas/pages/St_Andrew.htm))

Part of the Twelve Apostles series.

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The Twelve Apostles

[](http://www.holyapostleswichita.org/HomePageNewPics/12apostles2PartFOUR.jpg) [Donald Donato](http://maudlinacre.blogspot.com) and I have recently agreed to do a little exegetical work on the Twelve Apostles – trying to draw them into a Gnostic frame, so to speak. I’m terrified, Donald is a much better educated gentleman than me, so I’m certain to look like an amateur, but one does what one can…

There are variations in who is included depending slightly on your tradition and the names for various individuals vary a little too. For our purposes we’ve chosen a list and divided them up between us.

* [Andrew](http://www.timbomb.net/blog/2007/04/15/saint-andrew/)
* [Bartholomew](http://www.timbomb.net/blog/2007/04/18/saint-bartholomew/)
* James, son of Zebedee
* James the Less
* John
* Judas Iscariot
* [Matthew](http://maudlinacre.blogspot.com/2007/04/st-matthew.html)
* [Philip](http://maudlinacre.blogspot.com/2007/04/st-philip.html)
* [Simon Peter](http://maudlinacre.blogspot.com/2007/04/st-peter.html)
* [Simon Zealot](http://maudlinacre.blogspot.com/2007/04/st-simon-zealot.html)
* [Thaddeus](http://maudlinacre.blogspot.com/2007/04/st-jude.html)
* Thomas

I do Andrew — Judas Iscariot, Donald does Matthew — Thomas. I’ll edit this page to make an index to each of our entries.

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“Forgive and remember”

Fr John on his blog Priestcraft writes:
> Can we hand over our most painful memories, our worst violations, and our nastiest deeds to God, knowing that all this mess is held in the divine memory, not in accusation or for an accounting of guilt, but in grace and in love? Can we somehow come to hold our errors and sins, and those of others, not pushing them away from us in horror, pain, or embarrassment, but wrapping them in a Love which heals the very fabric of our memory?

… which I find a very profound and beautiful question.

(you go define the difficult word whatever way you need to to find the quote beautiful)

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Mornings are a fragile time. One of the ways I’m trying to adapt my practice to stay more balanced is to create a more tranquil morning and even a more tranquil working environment most of the time. Version 1 is a set of practices, some in my computer, some in physical space to establish and maintain some kind of tranquility.

1. __Rise early__ I’d drifted into rising around 8.30-9am which means that the world is busy when I wake up, there’s less time to do things that aren’t urgent in the morning and I *feel* slack. I’m up at 7am currently and I’m working back to 6am.

2. __Meditation__ I’ve been doing some kind of sitting practice to start the day for a while. Now that [I’m in the Formation programme](http://www.timbomb.net/blog/2007/01/27/a-new-gneuby/), I’m expected to “say the Hours”: a reading followed by a short session of sitting meditation upon arising, at dusk and before bed — at least. I’m using June Singer’s “Gnostic Book of Hours”, which is lovely and provides an excellent dip into the books from the [Nag Hammadi find](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nag_Hammadi_library).

3. __No Blogs or Email Until You Get Something Done__ I think I got this tip from [Merlin](http://www.43folders.com/), but it’s been floating around the ‘sphere — when you finish with email for the day, close the program; when you finish reading blogs, close the feed reader. Don’t open either of them again until after you’ve done something off the task list at the start of the day. This means I don’t get trapped into the cycle of responding to emails first thing. This is new for me, I started two days ago. Good so far! Oh, that task list?

1. __Maintain GTD__ David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” has been my favourite way to manage what I’ve got to do ever since I read his book. If I can stay current and on top of the core practices in GTD, I feel balanced, in control and able to do anything. It’s magic.

5. __Don’t Browse. Walk.__ I have a habit that when I get restless at a task I decide to “take a break”, which means I slump in my chair and start crawling the web for fun. I’ve gradually realised that this restlessness is fairly physical, so if I take the cue and just get up, make a cup of tea, go for a quick walk into the back yard, or go buy milk, and then sit down again I don’t have to get trapped into the brainsuck of four hours of websurfing where I don’t remember where the time went. Of course, sometimes I’m not paying attention and I drift into surfing — often at the kinds of websites with… umm… lots of pictures. So to create that little mindful break, I’ve installed a [Greasemonkey](http://greasemonkey.mozdev.org/) script in Firefox called [“Invisibility Cloak” ](http://lifehacker.com/software/feature/geek-to-live-ban-timewasting-web-sites-146448.php)that lets me ban the big time-suck sites until after a certain time (mine’s set to 7pm).

So, we’ll see. I’m hoping to work pretty hard this year on several fronts, so staying calm and organised is going to be important. Ask me in three months if it’s working.

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A new Gneuby…

Just before heading off for the Christmas/New Year break, and after a few email conversations with the Formation Director and a certain amount of pondering, I submitted an application to St. Raphael the Archangel Theological Seminary to enter their priesthood formation programme.What this means, is that I undertake a four year distance education programme which, all things being equal, ends with me becoming ordained as a priest in the Apostolic Johannite Church.

Yep, a Gnostic priest. Possibly not as great a surprise as all that to people that know me.

For the moment though, I am what is called colloquially among the brothers and sisters in the seminary a “Gneuby”, gleefully reading the early history of the church and trying to drag myself into writing the several essays that make up my first batch of assignments.

Not certain what else to say. Drop some questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

A new Gneuby…

… as they say. I alluded to various things going on in an earlier post and I’ve thought perhaps I should actually put more news up. Heck, anything’s better than no content, right. Besides, we’re all friends here…

Just before heading off for the Christmas/New Year break, and after a few email conversations with the Formation Director and a certain amount of pondering, I submitted an application to [St. Raphael the Archangel Theological Seminary](http://www.johannite.org/vocations.html) to enter their priesthood formation programme.

What this means, is that I undertake a four year distance education programme which, all things being equal, ends with me becoming ordained as a priest in the [Apostolic Johannite Church](http://www.johannite.org/index.html).

Yep, a [Gnostic](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism) priest. Possibly not as great a surprise as all that to people that know me.

For the moment though, I am what is called colloquially among the brothers and sisters in the seminary a “Gneuby”, gleefully reading the early history of the church and trying to drag myself into writing the several essays that make up my first batch of assignments.

Not certain what else to say. Drop some questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

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