This circular letter is my way of keeping in touch with friends whom I see all too rarely. It will help us keep in contact – even if just electronically.
I hope that you will see many good things come your way in 2006, moments of happiness and realization.
In the parish context the most notable item was the renovation of Stella Maris church, which has been well received by parishioners. Swami Sannyasanand, who lives with me, was in charge of overseeing the various phases. His brother, Michael, visiting from Perth stayed a few months and was invaluable, using his many talents.
On the ecumenical scene, the four churches of Beaumaris and Black Rock – Anglican, Baptist, Catholic and Uniting Church – have entered into a ‘covenant’, a formal relationship of mutual acknowledgment and cooperation.
Perhaps the highlight of the year was the launching of the School of Prayer by Bishop Mark Coleridge, in April. The aim is to have meditation taught in all the schools and parishes of the Archdiocese – a bold plan. I have gathered a competent board to guide the project. In this context Australian Catholic University has developed a Certification in Teaching Meditation which should come into operation in 2007.
The Australian Catholic University, following on a suggestion I had made some time ago, has decided to set up a Centre for Interfaith Studies. This important innovation has received further assistance by the very general grant from foundations associated with Fethullah Gulen to establish a chair in Islamic studies.
The Australian Intercultural Society arranged its first interfaith pilgrimage in April. It was a remarkable tour through places in Turkey associated with the Christian and Muslim faiths. I saw places that I had never hoped to visit: Antioch, Haran, Konya, as well as Istanbul, Ankara and Anzac Cove. The contacts made during the trip were invaluable.
Venerable Lobsang Tendar, who is the third member of our little interfaith household, became an Australian citizen in June. He has just finished leading his first pilgrimage to Buddhist sites in India.
I published two books this year. Jesus, the Mantra of God develops aspects of mantra meditation using Indian insights into the nature of the word. It will be launched in March by Bishop Coleridge. The other book was Void and Fullness, which I co-edited with Bettina Bäumer. It consists of a series of speeches, of which I gave two, at the Buddhist, Hindu, Christian Retreat / Seminar in India in 1999.
Three years work by the Faith and Order Commission of the Victorian Council of Churches, of which I am chair, came to a conclusion with the electronic publication of One Faith – Multifaith; A theological basis for interfaith gatherings.
Finally, I had a couple of houses constructed in India. Saumya Tripathy provided about 2 acres of land and I provided the two houses. We are in fact setting up a small ashram, at Uttara, a small village near Bhubaneshwar the capital of Odisha State near the Bay of Bengal, about one hour’s flight from Calcutta.
With every best wish for 2006, I remain yours sincerely