Sunday, July 30, 2006

What do you give an Archbishop for his 70th Birthday?

John Alexius Bathersby, Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, my adopted home town, was born in Stanthorpe on 26th July, 1936. Reaching 70 and in the home stretch of his run as Archbishop I thought it appropriate to add my best wishes and mark this event with a memorable gift.

It's not easy shopping for 70 year old celibate bishops at the best of times. Most of his material needs are provided in his workplace agreement and he gets to travel a fair bit so would have collected enough souvenirs and relics over the years. The job also comes with its own wardrobe of exotic and street wear, so he probably has a lifetime suply of "socks and jocks".

However it's a pretty safe bet he doesn't have a copy of 'Equality" the first CD compilaton from the Brisbane Lesbian and Gay Pride Choir. The Archbishop has taken an interest in the choir since it took up residence at St Mary's South Brisbane in 1998.

Back in 2003 the choir perfomed in the Church as part of the annual Pride festival. At the time the Archbishop expressed his opinion that such a performance was "offensive". Most of the offense was in fact carried by the staff at St Mary's who had to field abusive phone calls and threats from good catholics who seemed to have anger management problems.

The 'Equality" album shouldn't cause the Archbishop any offense. In fact I suspect he may find himself tapping away to the 13 tracks that include African, Traditional, Popular, Spiritual, Folk and Modern songs recorded under the musical direction of Marina Aboody Thacker, a talented local community artist and singer with vocal ensemble Petit Four.

The tunes and lyrics of popular and some new sounds are the stuff of life and give voice to the joys and hope, grief and anguish of all who struggle against social prejudice.

The Archbishop even gets a byline in the album notes. The clergy and community at St Mary's South Brisbane are also thanked for their support over the years.

The presence of the choir in a Catholic building should be acknowledged by all members of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane as an example of one of the desired outcomes of the 2003 Synod that we become a more welcoming and inclusive Church

One of these rights is access to the spiritual treasures of the Church expressed in the practice of hospitality and sanctuary. For many in the choir, the physical act of entering a church building has been a major step across the divide of prejudice and homophobia that that continues to haunt the reality of Lesbian and Gay people.
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