Welcome – There is Room at the Table

by Christine Sine

by Talitha Fraser

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

Of communion, Jesus says I will not take this drink again until
I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

In brief, Australia’s approach to border control and refugee/asylum seeker resettlement has both onshore and offshore solutions. In particular, the offshore response sees to it that “boat people” never reach the safety they set out in hope of. The UN has found Australia in breach of protecting the human rights of asylum seekers and leaked files from Nauru paint a harrowing picture of the sexual, physical and emotional abuse received by those seeking our protection.

The intention of the picnic was to physically create the space we would like to live in, that kingdom where Jesus might join us for a drink, even if only for an hour. How can we make that grass verge feel like space of celebration and welcome?

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

With yarn bombing, banners, different flags, welcome in different languages, families and friends… At each picnic blanket, a spare place set at the table – a visual demonstration that there is room at the table for the ‘other’ and enough food to share.  In the face of the continued and indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers including children – we sought to respond with an act of hospitality, an act of welcome, and act of love – witnessing there is room at THIS communion table.

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

We acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation have gathered since time immemorial to tell stories, sing songs and share food together. We gather to do these things ourselves around this idea of showing welcome to refugees and asylum seekers and we have chosen a specific place, time and context in which to do that.

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

Place:  We host our picnic on what was the site of an Explosives Factory during WW2, then converted to accommodation for migrants and is now the current site of the Immigration Detention Centre. We are gathered where refugees and migrants have been arriving for the last 50 years.

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

Time: We host our picnic on the first Sunday of Lent, Sunday 14 February (also Valentines Day). This date would often have a focus theme of a continued call to conversion and seemed fitting for a demonstration of love.  The intention of this picnic is to physically create the loving kingdom space we would like to live in – demonstrating the kind of welcome and abundant hospitality we as Christians believe Jesus might extend and asking of our own discipleship how we feel called to respond.

Context: We host our picnic as state leaders dispute federally legislated law, medical practitioners refuse to sign off of returning patients to off-shore detention and the UN has condemned Australia’s treatment of refugees as breaching human rights… the government, media, society are all sending strong messages – in an environment that seems more focused on reacting out of fear than love, how might we respond with clarity and compassion?

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

There is an invitation to stand – in this place, at this time, in this context and sing. This is not a new idea… we sing in the tradition of so many justice movements: civil rights, suffragettes, apartheid, slavery…in the words of Ched Myers to “Sing about it, until it can be realised”.

This first one is from the Ngatiawa River Monastry, up the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand, a contemporary contemplative community retreat centre.

Given for you  

This is my body given for you
Remember me.
This is my blood of forgiveness,
Remember me.

Tricia Watts is an Australian singer, composer. From her resource ‘Sanctuary’, we want to offer Sanctuary, we want to link hand in hand, we want to hear the voice of justice cry.

Justice Cry

Hear the voice of justice cry,
Moving through our land,
Ringing out o’er hills and plains,
Linking hand in hand.

 

Written for the Love Makes A Way movement. I wrote this trying to find words for a situation I don’t have words to explain.

There is Room

There is room at the table (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

There is room at the border…
There is room in our hearts… (playgrounds, classrooms, etc…)
There is hope for a new tomorrow…
We say love makes a way…

 

As well as poet and cartoonist, Michael Leunig is a bit of a prophet, speaking out of hope and darkness, on behalf of many voices reminding us love is born
Love is Born The recorded version by Nathan Brailey: https://soundcloud.com/nathan-brailey/love-is-born ]

Love is born with a dark and troubled face
When hope is dead and in a most unlikely place
Love is born,
Love is always born.
Love is born,
Love is always born.

And from the civil rights “Sing for Freedom” workshops, African-Americans in the 60s in the South were singing “We’re gonna sit at the welcome table”, today we have to acknowledge that we’re already sitting at the welcome table (or the welcome picnic blanket).  We sing “they’re” as we aspirationally hold space and hope that those inside our detention centres will one day come outside and join us at this table.

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table
They’re gonna sit at the welcome table
They’re gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days (hallelujah)
They’re gonna sit at the welcome table
Sit at the welcome table one of these days (one of these days)

They’re gonna feast on milk and honey…
A-ll God’s chil-dren gonna sit to-gether…
They’re gonna sit at the welcome table…
We’re gonna share our songs and stories

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

by Talitha Fraser. All Rights Reserved

This post is part of our October Living Into the Shalom of God series.

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