Interfaith ministry

I have just been accepted by The New Seminary into the ministerial program. I’ll tell you about it.

I have been looking for a way to pray in community for years. I guess you can take a girl out of Catholicism, but you can’t take the Catholicism out of the girl. A long time ago I started questioning the doctrine of the Catholic Church, and Karen Armstrong’s books helped me immensely to understand Catholicism and other religions as ways of translating the unknowable into terms humans can deal in.

Unfortunately religion gets caught up in culture and power, and you end up with institutional disagreements and simplified, mass messages about ‘truth’ which have nothing to do with genuine spiritual exploration.

I started reading more theologists and philosophers and began to understand the World in terms similar to philosopher and writer Marilynne Robinson:

  • Faith is an attitude towards life, rather than belief in a specific set of facts
  • I embrace the presence of mystery
  • Faith is a process, an attitude of wonder, an openness to joy as well as the experience of deep suffering

Recently I finished the second draft of my novel, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (working title – yes, it’s a Psalm). The day I returned home from writers retreat I felt this weird sensation which I soon identified as happiness. I was free of the book which had been my companion for the last five years. Suddenly I found myself following my nose, so to speak, and this meant researching how to become a celebrant for funerals. In this process I stumbled across the interfaith ministry course which Stephanie Dowrick had done in 2005. After researching some more and attending the interfaith service at Sydney’s Uniting Church, I decided it was the course of action.

Today I was accepted into the interfaith ministry program of the New Seminary. I had a chat with Dr Jay Speights, who is the convenor of the course and sounds like a really genuine friendly fellow who during our conversation kept discounting my tuition fees unprompted. I will do the course largely online, with two group sessions per month in real time on a Monday morning here, Sunday evening in the USA.  I also participate remotely in a number of intensives. Next June I am required to attend a group retreat in New York (such an imposition 😉 and then upon completion, I will be ordained as an interfaith minister.

The course focuses on world religions, pastoral care and interfaith service. Every month I am required to make site visits to various religious sites of worship, and the course is run by ministers of various faiths. For pastoral care I study and do practical exercises, and am required to find a local practice which can supervise my activities.

I have also enrolled in a celebrancy course in Australia so I can learn about and be qualified to conduct life ceremonies – deaths, births and marriages, so to speak. I am most passionate about funerals, forgiveness and naming ceremonies – I REALLY, REALLY think that everyone should have access to meaningful ceremonies which mark life’s key moments. I think these ceremonies make a difference to us.

I don’t really know where this will all take me. I don’t really care. It just feels 100% like the appropriate thing for me to be doing.

I look forward with excitement and trepidation to sharing what the courses offer with anyone who might be interested.



Second draft

Well, Varuna The Writers House delivered. I have a second draft of my novel! I even have a working title: Fearlessly and Wonderfully Made.

At first I panicked at the idea of producing something in a week. Then I called my husband who gave me permission to sleep in, shop and get massages and do no writing at all, if that is what I needed. So I did that for a day, and then I found myself writing until the not-so-bitter end.

Hurray for Varuna! Thank goodness Mick Dark made this incredible gift to writers: space and time and quiet.



In memory of Ally

Today is the anniversary of my sister Allison’s birthday.

In honour of Ally I would like to share the children’s story which my talented niece and I are working on. We want to help kids understand that disabled kids are just like them: heroes in their own minds.


(by Jackie Bailey with illustrations forthcoming by Sophie Cooke)

Hello! I am Ally.

In your world:

I use a wheelchair to move around
A tube helps me eat food (mostly brown 🙁 )
My mouth doesn’t always make the right sound

But people don’t know what adventures abound

In my world:

‘Take that!’ I shout at the Sea Monster Snail
Who is trying to eat Queen Ellie’s tail
I catch him in netting of strongest seaweed

The Queen gives me treasure for my great deed!

Then to the sky to Sophie, Queen Fairy,
Prince Andy and Cam, who are fighting Witch Scary
‘No you don’t!’ I shout and lasso her wand

They present me with a chocolate pond!

I fly to help King Elliot the Brave
Trapped by Dragon McDread in a cold and dark cave
I sneak in and tickle the Dragon’s round belly

The King thanks me with rivers and rainbows of jelly!

Now to Lord Kyle and Lady Jacinta
Who are being attacked by Shriek Owls of Winter
I brandish my sword and away the birds hoot

The gracious pair thank me with a train that goes, ‘Toot!’

I race to find Princess Bec and her brothers
Hiding from Ghosts of Shivers and Shudders
‘Whoo-whoo!’ I cry – the ghosts runs away

We celebrate with cake and we run, dance and play.

To Elves Maddi and Isaac’s assistance I swoop
They’ve been locked in a cage by a Very Mean Brute
I flick them the key and wrestle him down

They place on my head a golden crown!

But now…..

In your world and mine it is time for bed;

Mummy sings me a song and kisses my head;

Daddy tells me a story of queens and foul foes,

And brave girls like me, who are always heroes.

You and I look and sound different, it’s true
But we’re really the same;
We’re kids, through and through
If we ever meet, just look in my eyes
You’ll see a


up, up, up
I fly!