A theme of the recent National Gathering was ‘revitalising the grassroots movement of IofC change-makers’.
On the long drive back from Melbourne to SA, we mused over what might that mean outside Melbourne – in our state of SA, for instance? Who is part of IofC?
Or perhaps more important, who is demonstrating ‘part of IofC’ in their lives as change-makers?
First and foremost, we see Initiatives of Change as a quality of life that is lived: seeking to bring transformation and healing for people and communities starting with our own lives, seeking daily the promptings of the Spirit or Inner Voice (however you describe it), reflecting on moral challenges to our own behaviour and relationships, and working with people in all sorts of ‘movements’ to bring change in our society and world.
IofC (and previously MRA) has a rich legacy within those broad descriptors, including in SA. Four of us have been ‘fully-available’ since our student days, though serving as much overseas with IofC as in SA. Helen Mills and Jean Brown, for instance, are mainstays of the Creators of Peace network in SA, raising funds and developing CoP Peace Circles in SA and elsewhere. They also connect with a small band of ‘Sisters in Silence’ who come together regularly to share ‘where have we encountered the Divine since we last met’ (the husbands, meanwhile, hive off somewhere for coffee and seeing how to ‘solve all the world’s problems’ while bringing them back to their own lived experience.)
Similarly, we meet from time to time with a group calling themselves QTs (or jokingly ‘Cuties’). These are busy middle-aged professionals who look for ‘quiet time’ in their lives to reflect and share what’s going on. It was started nearly 20 years ago by two graduates of the IofC ‘Action for Life’ program in India, one of whom is now CEO of a major environmental organisation. Their making time reflects a priority of going deeper than the surface preoccupations into things that matter, to bring some inner ‘guidance’ to their day-to-day realities, and to share as friends.
Is this the ‘IofC network’? Few would describe it as such. But we all recognise an amorphous connection to IofC, and draw inspiration from it.
The same could be said about the ‘Pilgrim’ men’s group. Started more than half a century ago (yes, that long!), a fellowship of business people and professionals met for lunch in the office of a city lawyer, and later in Pilgrim church, to share, wrestle with issues, take some initiatives and pray together. You could write a book on their outreach: care for victims of crime, breakthroughs in psychiatry, actively countering the White Australia Policy…
The tradition continues, though much smaller in numbers – and now it’s about social action to help marginalised people coping with power bills, or running Torch programs in the juvenile justice system, or advocating and working for the First Nations Voice and reconciliation…
IofC Australia’s treasurer, Paul Wilkins, is a veteran of these Thursday lunches, along with being State President of Rostrum supporting aspiring public speakers. For a decade, he has quietly immersed himself in spreadsheets and financials, overseeing IofC Australia’s financial joys and headaches.
And that brings us to another dimension of our ‘IofC work’ in SA, or more correctly ‘from SA’: administration/organisation. John Mills, for instance, gives many hours to the Dorcas Trust and Program Support, providing financial backing to retired IofC workers, current volunteers and program scholarships. Mike Brown virtually lives ’online’ helping to facilitate IofC’s financial and asset management, guiding the recent land sale at Armagh, preparing the National Gathering and much else. Jean not only supports Creators of Peace locally but, as its international president, is daily (and nightly) on Zoom encouraging and developing CoP teams in Barbados, Burundi, Britain and about 40 other countries.
John and Helen, with their faith community, have during the last two years raised over $50,000 to support young Ukrainians in the IofC Foundations of Freedom network who, when the war began, formed Solidarity in Action to contribute to the humanitarian and medical needs of suffering and damaged individuals and communities
Many of us in SA have been committed to the reconciliation process over years, deeply involved in the creation of Blackwood Reconciliation Park with former Aboriginal residents of Colebrook Home. Mike was a founding co-chair of the Sorry Day movement in SA, and puts a lot of time and energy into IofCA’s national trust-building ‘Turruk’ program.
Is this SA IofC-affiliate ‘network’ unique? Across Australia, many such groups (or ‘teams’ if you can call them that) draw spiritual sustenance from each other and seek to contribute in their fields of calling. Could it be expanded, deepened, ‘revitalised’ or made more effective in some way? Undoubtedly. And the ‘movements’ for change in Australia – whether climate change or justice for First Nations people, tackling domestic violence or community social cohesion – could all benefit from people with moral integrity and spiritual energy that IofC can help to inspire.
Maybe a new generation will find creative ways to regenerate it? Or maybe, whatever age we are, we just need to ‘walk the talk, and talk the walk’. If not now, when? If not us, who?
-- Mike Brown, SA