Back in August I presented one of Andrew Collis’s homilies from South Sydney Uniting Church. Today I do the same again, even if the homily was given on 25 November. It is however in the current church newsletter. I was there the day Andrew gave it, and it was indeed very moving. It is a glimpse of part of the life of Redfern.
Colossians 1: 12-20; Luke 23: 35-43
On Friday morning I attended a funeral service for 28-year-old musician and producer Nathan Bridger. The service was held at St Saviour’s Anglican Church [Redfern].
Nathan passed away earlier in the week after suffering burns in a fire that engulfed the top floors of the former London Tavern on Regent Street.
Nathan is known also by the name MC Basik. The premises on Regent Street included the recording studio he worked very hard to construct and to make an hospitable and creative space. He called it Basik Sound. His motto: From the streets for the streets.
The service was an emotional occasion. People younger and older, representative of the hip hop community, the Redfern fire fighters, police and ambulance services, the Babana men’s group, local churches, staff and management of Railz on Regent, and a great many friends were in attendance to mourn the tragedy and to celebrate the life of a young man much admired for his generous and caring spirit. Twice during musical performances Nathan’s dog threw back its head and howled.
A guard of honour was formed by the Basik Sound crew. I’d never seen that before. Whenever someone came out to the pulpit to share a memory or to honour the memory of Nathan, the Basik Sound crew would come and stand either side of the speaker in a show of respect.
One of Nathan’s friends, Shakey, said something that speaks directly to our celebrating the reign of Christ. Shakey spoke about Nathan’s energy for building the recording studio — without much money at all, with crude tools and great effort, sacrificing a great deal — for gathering artists to record there, for taking time to encourage young people on the street who struggled most to be hopeful. “Nathan listened,” Shakey said. “It didn’t matter who you were, how small you felt. Nathan made you feel like a king. He was a king.”
Pastor Ray Minniecom of Crossroads Aboriginal Ministries, who led the service, commended a passion for social justice typical of hip hop at its best, and commented on the quality of love expressed in Nathan’s life. His love for family, for friends, and especially for those most vulnerable to despair, Pastor Minniecom said, reflected that of his God and Saviour.
On this last Sunday [before Advent] we celebrate a God who is revealed in vulnerable and terrible moments like this. Passion and grief. And yet revealed as glory, as a sovereign power that blesses, that honours and loves and makes possible a hope beyond expectation or calculation.
Even in the midst of great anguish — there’s no way he can save himself — Jesus shows a capacity, a human and divine capacity, to lift the spirits of others — to bless another. “The truth is,” says Jesus to the criminal crucified beside him, “today you will be with me in paradise.”
That’s the kind of power Shakey is recalling in respect to Nathan. It’s the kind of power I was experiencing with others at St Saviours on Friday — a power flowing through grieving people (and a dog) I had not met before. A power in which — every now and again we can know the truth of this — “all things hold together”.
Blessings and good wishes to all of you from our small community to you and yours, whatever your faith or philosophy.