This week we had a journalist from JJJ (Tom Tilley) visit our community in order to do a story* on Cornerstone in preparation for a larger spotlight on the Dubbo region leading up to the One Night Stand concert that will be held in Dubbo on 13thApril. He explained that his approach is to line up all the rumours first, then confirm or eliminate them one at a time and then do whatever comes after that: the rumours around Dubbo of a cult ‘out there’ were impossible to miss. He also added that of course there would need to be a ‘take’, which would make it true to the spirit of the Hack show itself where the story will be presented. This second aspect is the bit that will probably make many of us uncomfortable as we feel ourselves ‘on show’ and hear various sound-bites that might be entertaining for the listeners but hard for us.
Having said that, Tom came across to us as a man who was respectful and genuine. During one of our many conversations I said that Australians simply won’t take any organisation seriously unless it’s OK with being laughed at. He agreed and added that the rule is the same for individuals in the workplace. So there we were, preparing ourselves to get laughed at and/or maybe also taken a little seriously at some point.
During our preparatory talks he was surprised to hear that we believe God lives and works in everyone, including others without faith—who work in the realm of human services for example, and love and serve the world. He was also curious about the fact that we are not a church, we are a mission order in the tradition of the monastic sodalities described by Ralph Winter. Along with these questions was one about whether or not we engage in polyamory, which surprised me and which I answered in the negative.
He also had dinner with our family, attended community worship (unfortunately all of our six musicians were at work and unavailable), and interviewed some of the children of our staff members. He was particularly wanting to know whether our children felt free to choose against what we believe, which is a fair question. He even asked me at one point whether or not I had ever emotionally blackmailed any of our children: another good question. I told him I didn’t think that I had but that parents inevitably have blind-spots and he would need to ask our kids that one. I explained to him that all of our children-who-have-left-home have gone on to live in Cornerstone communities and complete various levels of the training. We also talked a bit about the challenges this presented to our children and our family—but what I may have forgotten to mention to him is that each of our children continues to express gratitude for their time in Cornerstone.
At the back of all this I was aware that we needed to resist the temptation to try to impress our visitor from JJJ because this was not about us looking good but rather about us looking as we truly are: a community attempting to faithfully, transparently and creatively love God and our neighbour, despite our weaknesses. So, on that basis it was of course healthy for us to be held accountable, to have the reality and integrity of our faith questioned and to have our frailties and pride exposed.
If that is all that happens, and we come away from this feeling a bit weaker and smaller, then we have nothing to complain about. The awkward bit is if/when a powerful voice might, out of a desire to just make a bit of entertainment for its audience, unwittingly (or even sometimes intentionally) mislead them about Jesus of Nazareth.
* The story will be presented on JJJ’s Hackshow in the week preceding Saturday 13th April.