This story is a reflection on the experience of being a member of The Weekly Service written by Convenor and Member, Kirsty Moegerlein.
How can I begin to describe the stories and people that have filled my last year with a richness I didn’t know was missing? Tales etched with heartache. Tales of being human, shared in-person with delicate vulnerability, in a small amphitheatre in Thornbury, Melbourne.
Perhaps the answer to this question lies in my curiosity with the warmly furnished greek club a few doors down. Where men sit around tables, their cards and banter hang like smoke in the air and the only sliver of technology can be felt in the flickering of fluros above. The talk is thickly accented. There’s a familiarity between them that appears impenetrable. Years of associational life live in that room. Sensing that there’s something missing is the first step, I’m reminded. But finding the way back in isn’t easy.
It can be hard to appreciate how community deprived we’ve become. Peter Block refers to the absence of community as ‘so widespread that we might say we are living in an age of isolation...we are broken into pieces.’ Cafes have replaced churches, and service has become something we complain about, rather than something associated with acts of servitude. It feels as though the map was lost long ago, discarded in the rush towards a misplaced freedom.
I’m one of the many people who are trying to find their way back, or forward, into this landscape of communal relating. I feel nervous admitting that. Nervous talking about my desire to belong (not necessarily to a religion, or an ideology, but to a community of people who care). This desire gathers weight around me more so, because in my heart I sense that our ability to be together in difference is essential to any kind of future worth living for.
The gathering I speak of has a name – The Weekly Service – but it’s call reaches beyond a brand or a label. It begins with an acknowledgement of context, of the turbulent times in which we live. And through this context, it opens up the space for questions: How might we begin to rebuild the fabric of our lives, connected to the land and those around us? How might we embody the future we long for? What is actually enough to live a good life?
In this small room I’ve heard people tell stories of their desire for forgiveness, their difficulties with their masculinity, the tightness in their stomach at the realisation that ‘mum is drunk again’. As you may guess, it’s not always pretty. Sometimes it’s dark, often beautifully so. But trusting that the collective wisdom will emerge is part of the learning.
Trevor Paton, one of the storytellers from last year captured this perfectly:
“You have within you the same kind of wisdom that enabled the supernova to do what it did and to seed the universe with life giving elements. We have inherited that deep creativity ... and if it comes from the heart it can be trusted. When one searches and looks, what comes from the heart often isn’t linguistic, it’s not someone giving you words, it’s the deep experience of our instinctive wisdom.”
The Weekly Service ritual unfolds through music, story-telling and quiet contemplation, so we might better listen to the heart of the matter, and hear each other in a new way. Attention is paid to curation and art forms that deepen the experience of being together. The format offers a structure of belonging that is rich and seemingly rare in our fast-paced lives.
For millennia cultures have met through ritual. The land that we dwell upon, has a rich ritual history more elaborate than most. Western culture often dismisses ritual, as an irrational cousin, subservient to reason. But when done well, ritual is transportive. It moves us into a liminal state, where we can experience for a short time the interdependence of people and things.
I know well the fear of being misunderstood. Of not knowing how to connect or communicate who I am. I’ve been caught roaming the hall of mirrors of self-sufficiency and individualism, aching to belong to something more than myself or my intimates.
It is for this reason that I will be ever grateful for the pact that my now close friends, Cameron Elliot and Henry Churchill, made a year ago to find a way out. They’ve created a space for people to tell real, authentic, vulnerable and sometimes wobbly stories. Stories that sing of the hearts’ desire to break free.
Glittering shards of mirrors are a delight to the eye, come join us, community must be found.