Author Archives: Geoff Boyce

About Geoff Boyce

Creating and supporting opportunities for human flourishing.



Since finishing up at Flinders University as chaplain at the end of January 2017, I have decided to restrict my blogging to the blog site.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to lose this journey of innovation in university chaplaincy.

So you are welcome to keep plundering it if you wish.

But you will find my more recent travellingchaplain thoughts and experiences on – not without my neighbour, as I continue to create and support opportunities for human flourishing wherever I am invited or find myself.

Thanks for following me – and your support!

Re-inventing Chaplaincy in the Public Domain


I have been preparing a presentation for a conference, Chaplaincy – Development, Dialogue and Diversity: Telling Our Story, at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand from 2-3 December 2016:

It seems a good opportunity to get external feedback in an academic setting, of the moves we’ve made creating Oasis at Flinders.

The full paper:

Re-inventing Chaplaincy in the Public Domain

I’d welcome your comments!

Executive Summary

Oasis is an innovative project in a public educational institution, undertaking a paradigmatic shift in the provision of religious and spiritual support.

Following an incubation of ten years, marked by sectarian religious conflict, Oasis was launched at the Flinders University of South Australia to embrace religious and cultural diversity, directing itself beyond pastoral care to the individual per se, to human flourishing in the context of inclusive human communities.

Its values, direction and practice draw primary inspiration from religious sources.

The ongoing evolution of Oasis is fed from the diversity of university life: expert knowledge of the academe, diverse insights and passions contributed by the continuous flow of students, and the skills and experiences of the volunteer Oasis Team and their external networks.

In 2013, the achievements of Oasis were recognised by the University, embracing it within its administrative structures and appointing staff. In 2016 a purpose-built Oasis centre was created at a cost of $1.4m, providing new opportunities to achieve its vision

The praxis of drawing inspiration from the best in religious traditions, while promoting inclusion and engagement for well being has created an innovative model of spiritual support at a systems level, adaptable to many communities or organizations.

This paper presents a summary of some of the major discoveries that have contributed to the re-invention of chaplaincy through the evolution of Oasis at Flinders, as it is today.


1. Situation – the University

Typically, Universities are organized around three themes – research, teaching and community service. University ‘support services’ provide support for these three inter-related endeavors.

2. Motivation – the World

The motivation behind the evolution of Oasis could well have been articulated in the question that motivated me from the beginning of my chaplaincy at Flinders: how are we all going to live together, in spite of all our differences? – a much broader question than, how are we to go about providing religious and spiritual support for students? – but one that embraces the other.

From 1997 to 2007, by invitation and hospitality, religious chaplains, responsible for religious and spiritual support to the university, transitioned from separate sectarian entities, to multifaith (diversity), to interfaith (pluralism). This also represented a move from solo ministry to a community of cooperative, supportive practice.

3. The Institutional Difficulty of Wholeness and the Amorphous

While the university placed Oasis within Student Services, it has evolved beyond these and other boundaries. It is ahead of its time, inherently crossing borders in its quest to model and promote wholeness – a prime aspect of spiritual health.

a. Research?

The progressive, pioneering commitment to experimentation and innovation, attending to existing scholarship and open dialogue, implies that Oasis is a community of cross-disciplinary research through praxis. How Oasis may more formally connect with the research community at Flinders is yet to be explored.

b. Teaching?

As for teaching, Oasis drew a line in the sand between the ‘formal’ teaching of the Academy and individual ‘informal’ learning in the warp and woof of social contact – though Oasis has responded from time to time to invitations to provide seminars on various topics within the Academy. A significant number of the Oasis Team have been teachers, who understand the importance of motivational transformation in a person’s life, unleashing energy for formal learning.

c. Community Engagement?

Community engagement has always been implicit because of the way chaplaincy has been organised in universities from the beginning – chaplains appointed by religious communities are also contributors to those communities. Oasis relies on its networks in the wider community to maintain its volunteer team.

The cutting edge nature of the Oasis project, while challenging to many religious communities, has always been accepted by them as a valid pursuit, even if controversial, because of the role of universities in innovation and cultural transformation. The situation of Oasis in a university has enabled it to have a global purview and to speak confidently into the world, particularly engaging with public agencies grappling with new contexts requiring religious and cultural inclusion.

4. Toward a vital future

The journey of Oasis might be described as moving away from the in-house concerns of religious maintenance, the ‘church away from the church’, to the formation of culturally competent global citizens (‘culture’ also embracing spirituality and belief). By offering relational hospitable space, Oasis interferes with fundamentalisms by fostering radical ‘shalom’ – right relationships and wholeness, for the individual, society and the world.

The key to the paradigm shift Oasis represents has been the adoption of Nouwen’s concept of hospitality as its central concern, and secondly, the creation of an organizational structure that provides freedom for responsible self-management, evolutionary purpose and wholeness.

Recommendations microsoft-wordscreensnapz001













Oasis as a Self-Managing Community

(For discussion)

In this paper I am coopting two sources:
Compassionate Community Work by Dave Andrews (Piquant. 2006)
Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux (Nelson Parker 2016)


Oasis is an innovative project undertaking a paradigmatic shift in the provision of religious and spiritual support in a public institution.

Oasis embraces religious and cultural diversity and directs itself beyond the individual to the human flourishing of communities.

Its values, direction and practice draw primary inspiration from religious sources.

Oasis also dynamically feeds from the diversity of university life, whether it be expert knowledge in the academe, the diverse insights and passions contributed by the continuous flow of students themselves, and the experiences of the Oasis Team and its external networks.

The praxis of drawing inspiration from the best of religious traditions and engaging for well being with the existential realities of the present, creates an innovative model for providing spiritual support at a systems level within any community or organization.

Oasis: Background

The generative seeds of Oasis were planted in the late 90’s in response to an incapacity of traditional chaplaincy to embrace an emerging religious pluralism; and a corresponding desire for inclusion by minority religions. Oasis grew by recovering appropriate universal religious practices, particularly the practice of traditional hospitality – welcoming the stranger.

Post 9/11, it became clearer that these seeds of inclusion held promise for well being and social cohesion generally, in a world growing in awareness and seemingly threatened by  the emerging reality of religious and cultural pluralism. The emergence of Oasis in 2008, spurred on by the dawning of the significance of religion in world affairs, and as a counter-narrative to protectionism and sectional interest, is documented in my book ‘An Improbable Feast’ (2010).[1]

A note on the term ‘secular’

The understanding of ‘secular’ employed by Oasis is that the secular is not opposed to religion, but refers to an even-handedness in governance: that no preference be given in the public sphere on the basis of religion. In an inclusive society, ‘secular’ cannot be equated with ‘godless’, for that would exclude a major portion of society.[2]

In this paper, the terms ‘secular’ and ‘public domain’ are used interchangeably.

Oasis delegates sectarian religious practice to appropriate local religious communities, and university religious groups to the university’s provision for clubs and societies. Ideally, all activity within Oasis is inclusive and non-ideological.

Synthesising principles of social work with emerging organisational theory

  1. Social Work Principles

Social Work might be considered a secular construction employing the kind of universal values and practices drawn from traditional religions that work for well being and social cohesion in the public domain. If so, one might expect a strong correlation between the goals and principles of Social Work and those of Oasis, having its origins in pastoral care (chaplaincy), then contextualised in the public domain after being embraced by the university into its administrative structures in 2013.[3] Oasis then needed to re-invent itself, particularly in the way it presented itself, because of its formal inclusion into the public domain. Hence a search for new language, culturally inclusive expression and an organizational model conducive to contribution by volunteers and their well being.

Community Development (Andrews p.12-14)

The famous German martyr-theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said: “Those who love community, destroy community. Those who love people, build community.” (quoted in Building a Better World (Sutherland:Albatross, 1996), p.63)

If we try to build the perfect organisation at the expense of the people in it, we will destroy the very organisation we are trying to build. It is only as we lay aside our obsession with building bigger, brighter and better organisations and simply love the people in them as sincerely as we can, that we will be able to build healthy communities.

Community development describes a way of working with people that is based on a set of values. These values emphasize the right (and the responsibility) of people to participate in decisions that will affect their lives.

Community development is concerned first and foremost with poverty and power. It is concerned with giving people – particularly the poorest – the knowledge, skills, opportunity and resources so that they can control their own lives. It emphasizes the process that enables maximum decision making for people where they are – at the grassroots where they live.

A community development worker is anyone with these values who works with people where they live. A community development worker therefore can work with the people on any task that the community sees as important. In this sense, the choice of the task is of secondary importance, the way the task is approached is of primary importance.

(Tony Kelly, Senior Lecturer in community work at the University of Queensland.)

Community Development Principles

  1. People are more important than things, people are more important than programs.
  2.  Growth comes from within people; all people have talents waiting to be developed.
  3. People grow in responsibility as they are helped to accept greater responsibilities.
  4. The most effective venue for training the community is in the community itself.
  5. People learn most effectively when what they are learning is relevant and built on the basis of their experiences.
  6. As communities are integrated, they are best served by integrated development rather than by departmentalized units working in isolation from one another.
  7. The most effective helper is a person who strongly identifies with the community and who develops a relationship with that community based on trust.
  8. Communities know their own problems and the solutions that will work better, than others from outside the community do.
  9. The energy a community will put into any activity will be in proportion to their involvement in the planning of that activity.
  10. The pace of development will be determined by the community; a particular change will only become permanent if a community is ready for it.
  11. People should be helped only in so far as this assistance enables them to become more self-reliant.
  12. There are resources in each community that are under-utilized and waiting to be released.

These principles are not inconsistent with the ‘Oasis Elements of Hospitality’ principles developed by the Oasis Team in 2013, and may act as complementary commentary to it.
Alongside developing a model of pastoral care based on a radical understanding of traditional hospitality, Oasis began to develop its own volunteering structure, with the aim of providing the kind of support chaplains had, in the past, offered students – a listening and accompanying function. How the Team was to be best organised became an ongoing exploration.

  1. Organisational Theory

Oasis evolved out of a context of conflict, dominated by the determination of one religious group to control others by bullying and hidden manipulation. It became clear that this win-lose, black or white, dualistic behavior found its roots in a well conceived, well-managed, well-funded external organization using universities to recruit supporters.

Oasis found that by constructing an alternative culture, inviting inclusion of all in the religious quest for meaning and purpose, the reductionist ‘certainties’ of this group could be exposed for what they were and well being among all allowed to flourish.

Recent developments in organization theory by Frederic Laloux are therefore timely and well-received by Oasis, insofar as they validate and give further insight to this direction.

Laloux on Self-managing Organisations – Overview.

From the Preface of ‘Reinventing Organisations’:

The way we manage organizations seems increasingly out of date. Survey after survey shows that a majority of employees feel disengaged from their companies. The epidemic of organizational disillusionment goes way beyond Corporate America – teachers, doctors, and nurses are leaving their professions in record numbers because the way we run schools and hospitals kills their vocation. Government agencies and nonprofits have a noble purpose, but working for these entities often feels soulless and lifeless just the same. All these organizations suffer from power games played at the top and powerlessness at lower levels, from infighting and bureaucracy, from endless meetings and a seemingly never-ending succession of change and cost-cutting programs.

Deep inside, we long for soulful workplaces, for authenticity, community, passion, and purpose. The solution, according to many progressive scholars, lies with more enlightened management. But reality shows that this is not enough. In most cases, the system beats the individual-when managers or leaders go through an inner transformation, they end up leaving their organizations because they no longer feel like putting up with a place that is inhospitable to the deeper longings of their soul.

We need more enlightened leaders, but we need something more: enlightened organizational structures and practices. But is there even such a thing? Can we conceive of enlightened organizations?

In this groundbreaking book, the author shows that every time humanity has shifted to a new stage of consciousness in the past, it has invented a whole new way to structure and run organizations, each time bringing extraordinary breakthroughs in collaboration. A new shift in consciousness is currently underway. Could it help us invent a radically more soulful and purposeful way to run our businesses and nonprofits, schools and hospitals?

The pioneering organizations researched for this book have already “cracked the code.” Their founders have fundamentally questioned every aspect of management and have come up with entirely new organizational methods. Even though they operate in very different industries and geographies and did not know of each other’s experiments, the structures and practices they have developed are remarkably similar. It’s hard not to get excited about this finding: a new organizational model seems to be emerging, and it promises a soulful revolution in the workplace…


Diagrammatic representation of the Laloux’s Paradigmatic Organisational Theory

A brief explanation of Laloux’s paradigmatic organizational theory can be found at:

Further explanation is documented at:

My initial take on its connection with spirituality is at:

Two observations:

  1. In a discussion about Laloux’s model with sociologist Dr Robert Muller, he observed that the hegemonic power of each paradigm has the inherent tendency to draw the ‘higher’ or emerging paradigm back into its well-established framework. So, for example, the creative freedom required for the imagination to reign freely among software developers in the Internet world, its commitment to an ethic of transparency and global free flow of knowledge, may easily become accommodated in the orange ‘profit’ sector. So the object of most ‘start-ups’ today is not so much to ‘delight customers’ but for profit.
  1. Robert also observed that the Laloux model bears a striking correspondence with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs.


An organization in which religion and spirituality is normalized (self-actualization) is most likely to value the ‘teal’ categories of wholeness and higher evolutionary purpose.

Ours is a ‘both/and’ world.

Oasis has had the freedom to intuitively move toward the ‘Green’ – ‘agile/lean’ structure that has emerged within the world of the Internet, while situated in an institution enculturated within the orange and yellow paradigms. The university structure has given Oasis the stability and innovative environment to explore how religious and spiritual support may be re-imagined – perhaps toward something like a spiritual/religious equivalent to systemic structures fostering preventative/public health.

The emerging ‘teal’ framework provides Oasis with a means of organization that is more likely to avoid the negative consequences to the human person and community, namely violence, war, coercion and bullying, which run rife in the red, yellow and orange paradigms. The insight that emerges from Laloux is that regulation and education are insufficient correctives, and that radical change needs to happen at the organizational level if change is to be effected.

The contribution Laloux makes to the quest for peace at all levels is that he exposes the inherent flaws of various systems of organization and introduces us to successful organisations that have had the imagination and courage to go beyond them. This provides an important corrective to the current milieu in which individuals are asked to do more with less, and society is structured around blaming the individual for faltering under the load. Best practice principles in Social Work provide helpful commentary on healthy practice within any paradigm.


[1] Geoff Boyce An Improbable Feast – the surprising dynamic of hospitality at the heart of multifaith chaplaincy (2010)

[2] How else to understand ‘secular’ when the founders of South Australia drew a firm line between church and state, at the time when Adelaide boasted twenty five churches in the square mile, and the colonial ‘dissenters’ were seeking a new life away from religious repression in their countries of origin?
Douglas Pike Paradise of Dissent: South Australia 1829 -1857. Melbourne University Press. Second Edition 1967
See Geoff Boyce Freedom to Believe – Celebrating a Human Right, World Religion Day, 2007

Click to access worldreligionday21january2007.pdf

[3] A discussion of what may be lost or gained between Chaplaincy and Social Work is beyond the scope of this paper.

Boston on the Move


Boston University has a centre that seems to be very similar in concept to Oasis.
It is called the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground .

This year they have been developing a revisied vision that ‘recognizes the uniqueness of the Center in providing hospitality for the Boston University community, while supporting the significance of each racial-cultural community, honest and in-depth sharing across communities, collaborations among student groups, challenging conversations, leadership training, and vital programs that educate and delight.

This week the Provost made a significant announcement to create an enlarged facility. In doing so he has beautifully described Oasis.

(It)… “will be an interdisciplinary, interracial, interreligious, intersectional, and interpersonal hub where students can relate what they learn in the classroom to a broader quest for understanding, social progress, and peace.”

In keeping with this … mission, the Committee has recommended … (a) state-of-the-art facility that can become a visible symbol for Boston University and where students and members of our community can participate in casual and more structured conversations and meetings. The new center would offer space for expanded programming activity and staffing. It would also serve as an incubator for launching new initiatives, as well as for convening and co-hosting special events across the University.  

We seemed to have found another sister centre to link with!

Flinders University has done an excellent job in already delivering a centre (Oasis) that is purpose-built for our mission and open approach here, a vision nearly twenty years in the incubator!

As a result, in this first six months of occupying its refurbished premises, the evolution of Oasis has accelerated.

Beside responsive encouragement to students who frequent Oasis, contributing to their social and mental wellbeing, Oasis hospitality has provided a focus for:

  • collaborating with the School of Social Work, nurturing a new model for the placement of Masters of Social Work students
  • providing theoretical and practical infrastructure for a successful inaugural International conference for Education’s Student Well-Being and Prevention of Violence Research Centre (SWAPv) in July
  • nurturing two significant student initiatives – Cultural Connections, bringing international students together with locals, and the Gardening Collective, having a vision for a market garden on campus, while teaching sustainable horticulture
  • networking with the wider community, increasing its volunteer team to fourteen, making connections with Rotary International, in support of Cultural Connections, collaborating in research on resilience, and being on the verge of developing leadership development programs for postgraduate international students
  • opportunities for Nutrition and Diatetics’ Students Eating Well program and multi-cultural cooking in the Oasis kitchen.

I understand from a recently released independent research report, The International Student Barometer, examining the experience of international students in Australian universities, that 38%of international students at Flinders have used Oasis, with a 98% satisfaction rating.

The question, ‘how are we all going to live together harmoniously (despite difference)’ has always been one of the most fundamental questions for our time; and it gave rise to Oasis in the first place.

It’s encouraging for us to see others on this ‘inter – everything’ journey!

Refugee and Migrant Sunday

Musings on Church and Organisation at Christchurch, Wayville. August 28, 10am.

ME wedding


Luke 14:1, 7-14 Good News Translation (GNT)

One Sabbath Jesus went to eat a meal at the home of one of the leading Pharisees; and people were watching Jesus closely.
Jesus noticed how some of the guests were choosing the best places, so he told this parable to all of them: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place. It could happen that someone more important than you has been invited, and your host, who invited both of you, would have to come and say to you, ‘Let him have this place.’ Then you would be embarrassed and have to sit in the lowest place. Instead, when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that your host will come to you and say, ‘Come on up, my friend, to a better place.’ This will bring you honor in the presence of all the other guests. For those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.”

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors—for they will invite you back, and in this way you will be paid for what you did. When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind; and you will be blessed, because they are not able to pay you back. God will repay you on the day the good people rise from death.”


Today, I propose three areas I have been thinking about that relate to the gospel reading for the day.

First, some musings, provoked in me by the readings.

Second, what I call ‘spiritual architecture’ – the way we shape things in our quest to follow the way of Jesus revealed to us in the Scriptures and our experiences in the world.

Third, the challenge for us, connecting the reading to today’s Migrant and Refugee Sunday.

  1. Musings

The context of the reading is a meal. We get the sense that a leading Pharisee has invited Jesus home to check him out. And immediately, Jesus obliges by healing a man in front of their eyes – and it was the Sabbath!

Then the Gospel writer tells us Jesus notices the status games going on – the cliques, the ‘who won’t talk with who’, the dress codes, the white collar and the blue… food being hogged at one end of the table by the important people and not being passed down the other end… you know…

So he tells them all a parable about a wedding feast; it’s a pointed story about the priority of honouring the poor and the outcast.

I wonder…

What if 10 o’clock worship was a meal – like this feast Jesus is talking about?

What if hospitality itself was the liturgy and its component acts its ritual?

Who might the poor and outcaste be, that we invite to the feast?

Might they be buskers who can’t get a gig? And ministry to them might be to get to know the busker network, inviting musical contributions to enliven the feast, in the context of the presence of God?

Or could they be out of work artists, invited to share the meanings of their work in the context of the presence of God?

Or anyone in need, for that matter!

Might we not find ourselves hosting angels unawares?

Hebrews 13: 2,3 

Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are.

 Remember, the messengers of God, whom Abraham welcomed into his desert tent, were not wearing dog collars! He had no idea who they were, until after his act of welcome and hospitality! They could easily have been robbers who could have overpowered him to leave him destitute in the desert!

But this welcome became the template for offering Abrahamic hospitality, influencing the civilized world as the prime means of establishing relationships of trade and cultural exchange. It was how civilisations survived!

I wonder…

What might worship would look like if it were imagined in Abraham’s tent, rather than in the Jewish temple or synagogue?

I wonder if the Reformation got it wrong by pointing all the seats in the one direction and elevating the pulpit to make its point about the primacy of the Scriptures?

I wonder what we might learn from the failed missionary strategy in India, to focus on the Brahmins because they were the leading caste – they were ‘the important people’ – and hope for a trickle-down affect to the poor?

  1. ‘Spiritual architecture’

As a chaplain in a large institution I have become increasingly concerned about bullying in the workplace. It seems that no matter how many policies are enunciated, how many training sessions are offered, the spiritual collateral damage to people within institutions seems to be ever rising. It seems to me there are systemic problems with the way we organize ourselves.

It might be time for a close look at what I am calling ‘spiritual architecture’ – to ask questions about how organizational structures are designed and built with regard to fostering human flourishing, particularly the flourishing of an enlivened human spirit.

At Flinders we have an opportunity to experiment with this in Oasis – what was the Religious Centre, but now a university centre concerned with interfaith and intercultural relationships – or more broadly, a centre exploring ways to live harmoniously together across lines of difference.

The University has given us one of its prime sights, the former Staff Club (later, Function Centre) and has refurbished it to reflect our vision at a cost of over $1m. The architects have done a great job! We didn’t want something too flash – it needed to feel like ‘home’, which for many from developing countries might be pretty basic.

The new Oasis has been designed so that anyone entering is personally greeted and cannot avoid meeting others face-to-face. The architecture encourages interaction between students from all over the world, believing that they will, simply by casual interaction, learn about each other and grow in respect and friendship, fostered by the culture of welcome we maintain as a team of volunteers – a familiar culture to many, rooted in the age-old customs of Abrahamic hospitality and the perpetuation of an honour-shame culture that has held their societies together through the ages. Having experienced Oasis as ‘home’, such students perpetuate their native culture of hospitality within Oasis.

So how to organize the team to model this dynamic and overcome potential conflict from difference

I am excited by a recent piece of research that is giving me some more clues. I would like to share it with you.

Laloux Culture Model

ReinventingOrganizationsImage-1024 A brief explanation of this model can be found at:

And further explanation by the researcher himself is documented at:

My initial take on its connection with spirituality is at:

My parents were always uncomfortable attending church. They were poor. They always thought they were not good enough.

Now I wonder whether our actual architecture places a kind of emotional putdown on the stranger – feeling uncomfortable among ‘saints’, and even more so if led to the ‘best seats’! How might they feel at home spiritually – not just turn up as a result of some special enticement – or for a free feed, as intimated in the gospel reading for today?

I also wonder whether another spiritual dynamic that may operate when we embrace privilege, accepting the ‘have – have not’ dualism on the surface of the gospel reading. If we identify with privilege, we find ourselves naturally condescending to the ‘under-privileged’- which grants us more privilege. The old ‘cold charity’ dilemma.

And I wonder whether, in our history from the Constantinian God of control, (that brought stability from the fear and chaos – red paradigm – to unify the Roman Empire), the Church has been more recently arriving at the green, Hillsong, feel-good God. This relates to the lean and agile paradigm being spruked by the Prime Minister, adding a political twist to pervasive western individualism – ‘it’s all about you!’ We’re getting used to having to do everything ourselves – whether it’s pumping petrol, getting cash from an ATM, or proceeding through the self-checkout. The necessity for human, face-to-face service is being displaced by more efficient, and seemingly more cost-effective, service mediated by a computer.

The green and blue paradigms offer hope to reduce the bullying of coercive, hierarchical, authoritarian yellow systems and a way through the present western, competitive, profit-centred orange paradigm, in the move from the Industrial Era to the Information Era – the green paradigm.

But the emerging blue brings me hope of a potential to build communities and spiritual health.

  1. Migrant and Refugee Sunday

Oasis has chosen hospitality as its key process.

We have embraced Nouwen’s understanding of making friendly, appreciative space – interactions focused on listening to and entering into the world of the other to understand without judgement – and to respond, if invited, to honestly and culturally-sensitively share our own.

Such hospitality is transformative. It deals with coercion and authoritarianism by locating life responsibility in the control of the other, as well as ourselves.

I leave you this statement by Nouwen, for meditation, to consider what it would mean and look like for you and this community as you continue to consider Migrant and Refugee Sunday and beyond, to welcome the stranger.

Thank you for your interest; and I hope what I have presented, if only sketchily, has been helpful.

Radical Hospitality (Nouwen)

Henri Nouwen. Reaching Out: The Three Movements in the Spiritual Life. (1975 Doubleday. New York) p 68

Hospitality… means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbour into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit. It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opportunity to others to find their God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt a life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find their own.




Oasis Team ‘Open House’

We have found that our weekly team brunches to keep in touch have become overloaded with too many agendas. So we are trying a cycle of social, decision-making, professional development and ‘open house’.

With ‘open house’ we invite people who would like to meet us, or people we would like to meet – or maybe both!

My friend Dr Seforosa Carroll was in town and has always wanted to visit Oasis. Her doctorate focussed on exploring the notion of ‘home’. Very relevent to us. More and more, overseas students in particular, are referring to Oasis as ‘home’.

And earlier in the year I met some consultants who were working with the local Mitcham Council to assist them with community development. They call themselves ‘The Happy Hearts Hub’, aka, Heart Choice Enterprises, and they are particularly interested in promoting personal and community well-being.

So I invited them all to share with us for 15 minutes each, with equal time for discussion.

These are some of the scanty notes I made during our conversation yesterday:

Dr Sef Carroll began by sharing the findings of her post-graduate research on home and hospitality, posing Derrida’s provocative question, which got her PhD going: ‘can you offer hospitality if you don’t have a home?’ Sef is a Fijian, living in Australia.

Home develops as space becomes place. Place is endowed with story.

Home is a journey; it is dynamic, and it is eschatological – there is direction to the journey.

Appreciative discussions emerged about the paradoxes and implications. How at home do overseas students feel in Australia? How do migrants feel about home? These questions impinge on our understanding of identity.

Being a doctorate in theology, Sef searched the Christian theological traditions for connections with her philosophical and sociological explorations and decided on the controversial Christian doctrine of the Trinity – the diversity of the Godhead, hospitable within its diversity.

She referred to the ancient Greek word that encapsulates the concept of home – the one word in Greek embracing a number of modern concepts – the root word from which we have derived the words ecumenical, ecological and economical.

Home might have all these dimensions. This insight has created a platform for Sef’s work with partner churches in the Pacific – the working together, the pressing issues of global warming, and political governance – national structuring that promote ‘home’.


Cherie, Gail and Elisabeth, the Happy Hearts Hub, took up these thoughts.

Home is where we can be ourselves – but in public we tend to bring self-imposed limitations. (I think this relates to the category of protectionism, which I introduced in my book in the context of border protection. GB)

Elisabeth focused our attention on the significance of story. Everything is a story. Different people have different stories, and we have to find a way to embrace the conflict between our different stories. Stripping people of their stories or retreating to comfort to avoid engaging with conflicting stories are damaging responses.

We acknowledged that to enter a new space requires a certain amount of confidence.We considered vulnerability as a key factor. We considered the need to deconstruct presenting stories (eg religious ones) to understand their meanings today. (Hence creating climates to foster critical thinking is a strategy for pre-empting radicalization. GB).

We considered the growth of story in isolation and the search for a common story. (eg religions have established their own stories but internationalization is asking questions about what of these separate stories may be the ‘human story’ that unites us.)

Gail picked up on Sef’s opening – that to offer hospitality, we have to be at home with – hospitable to – ourselves. (As Ghandi said: ‘be the change you want to make in the world’. GB)

Toward the end of our time we began to share some of our own stories of home and homelessness. And in the mingling afterwards, ways of continuing these connections began to be explored.

Seforosa Carroll is Manager, Church Partnerships, Pacific, in Uniting World – an agency that connects the Uniting Church in Australia with partner churches in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

Cherie, Gail and Eizabeth (with Sue, who was an apology) are the Happy Hearts Hub at Heart Choice Enterprise.
Heart Choice Enterprises

The Nature of Oasis as an Organisation Fostering Spiritual Life


In my post Valuing Spirituality in Organisations, I made some connections with how Oasis has been evolving as an organisation fostering spiritual life and some current research into organizational management: (short introduction), (longer explanation) .

In the light of this, there are a number of emphases we might keep in mind as we consider how Oasis may continue to evolve, learning from our achievements and challenges.

Oasis Emphases

  1. Establishing a culture of hospitality and inclusion. Historically Oasis was an attempt to address radicalization within the then Religious Centre – our response, cultural transformation, is now considered best practice with respect to pre-empting radicalization (Prof. Wesley J. Wildman, Boston University). Hospitable culture helps avoid polarizing confrontative argument that assumes only the rational mindset.
  2. With a focus on culture, our emphasis has not been programmatic, but on process, with the way we achieve our mission – creating a culture of inclusion and care by means of enacting a radical understanding of hospitality. Transformation occurs through appreciative inter-personal  relationships.
  3. In the process, Oasis is contributing to the development of culturally competent citizens, confident with cultural and religious pluralism.
  4. Creating an architecture conducive to providing a safe space for such inter-personal appreciative interchange – physically and symbolically, removing reinforcements to prejudicial stereotypes that block participation (such as by using inclusive, accessible everyday language, rather than that loaded with often ambiguous religious meaning, and creating inviting physical spaces that evoke ‘home’ rather than sectarian religious conformity).
  5. In this regard Oasis has a complementary role to the university’s formal (intentional) teaching, with our emphasis on the informal (ie we don’t ‘teach’, though we create spaces where learning takes place). The creating of space to allow processing of formal learning is acknowledged as essential in the learning process. In this way Oasis plays a significant role in the Academe. (eg Harvard Business School: Learning By Thinking: How Reflection Improves Performance by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano & Bradley Staats)
  6. Wellness, not sickness. Even though Oasis volunteers may be highly regarded in a counseling function, the role of Oasis is not primarily to help people solve their problems, but rather create the space for listening and encouragement for people to take ownership of their own lives and the opportunities for ongoing emotional support in doing so.
  7. Bridging boundaries with a view to individuals and organisations benefiting from making connections for their mutual benefit. Being and feeling connected is essential for spiritual wholeness. Oasis may itself make connections with people and organisations for mutual benefit and work together collaboratively. For example, connections have been growing with, Health, Counselling and Disability, Social Work, Theology and Philosophy, International Services, New Venture Institute, Students Association and with various external individuals and organisations including alumni in Australia and overseas, educators, and religious, service and community leaders.
  8. Oasis also connects with other related organisations, such as chaplaincies, at a local, national and global level and contributes to ongoing developments in those spheres.
  9. The role of the Oasis Coordinating Chaplain and Administrative Officer, employed by the University, is to enable the evolutionary functioning of Oasis in all its complexity.
  10. The real work of Oasis ‘on the ground’ is undertaken by volunteers. An ease with the above emphases, the nature of their strengths, their life experience, self-management and life balance, and volition to advance the mission of Oasis are significant criteria for inclusion in the Oasis team.

I expect the next iteration in the evolution of Oasis will come from the points in the present where we may be seeing needs for adaption and where we are experiencing exciting new opportunities.

I think we may be able to clarify this by identifying and putting together the pieces of the Oasis jigsaw, various parts being achieved by members of the team, to create the bigger picture of what we are doing together, getting a more refined sense of the direction we are heading.

To grow Oasis I think we need to put decision-making closer to the roots to avoid a ‘top-down’ approach within Oasis organisation. To do this, I’m hoping ‘interest teams’ will develop – at least two people, preferably three, and up to five, to work together on the various parts of Oasis activity we identify. In this way, we might implant diversity, mutual support and opportunity for de-briefing and localized decision-making deeper into the fabric of Oasis. And we open the way to invite more volunteers into specific activities that comprise Oasis.

This process might be the subject of the Oasis Planning Day on September 21, 2016.

The Easy Bits

I am sitting at lunch with a friend who was a former executive in the SA Department of Education and Training. We are discussing the latest report into Child Protection in SA. There is a certain taste of irony in the air. The issues of Child Protection were in his Education portfolio until the new CEO met with David in his office and told him there was no place for him or his portfolio in his new regime – and by the way, what is it you do?

So now as a result of the new report a couple of years later, the structures and programs look like being re-instated!

How many reports does it take to change a light bulb?
Enough to keep the research and reporting industry turning over?

Academe tackles extremism

Universities need to work harder at minimising the risk of indoctrination of students by radical groups.
University of Southern Queensland vice-chancellor Jan Thomas told the Association of Commonwealth Universities conference in Ghana last week that it was imperative all universities “consider strategies to curb radicalisation”.
She pointed to British research showing “higher education at its best counters radicalisation through improving students’ self-esteem and sense of achievement and in enhancing their feeling of belonging to society”.
The role for universities in this area included educating students to be critical thinkers, conducting research to better understand radicalisation, and building resilience and cross-cultural tolerance, Professor Thomas, who is chairwoman of the ACU, told the HES.
However, Greg Austin, an international security expert and visiting professor at University of NSW, said universities had no role in monitoring students for radical thought and most staff had no qualifications to help de-radicalise students. Rather the focus should be on research.
“Australian universities have a relatively weak research base on most aspects of domestic terrorism and violent extremism in this country, he said. There are pockets of excellence on niche subjects, especially around the theme of countering violent extremism. However, the research scene has remained largely static in the past decade.”
Since 2010 the Australian Research Council appeared to have funded one grant focused on political science aspects of countering violent extremism, terrorism and radicalisation, Professor Austin said.
Greg Barton, a counter-terrorism expert at Deakin University, said universities should do more but the question was how.
“People dont like talking about countering violent extremism or radicalisation, it’s a very sensitive topic”, said Professor Barton, who is also co-director of the Australian Intervention Support Hub, a research centre launched last year to counter radicalisation.
“It would be good to work with Muslim student associations across Australian campuses, but if you go through formal channels the chances of meeting sharp opposition are quite high, partly because of the dynamics of campus politics.”
Professor Thomas argued it was important that Australian universities supported their peers in developing countries.
“There’s a massive opportunity in developing nations to influence how they educate their young people and to promote a peaceful and tolerant society across such a large swath of the world,” Professor Thomas said.
“Critical thinking skills are important in parts of the world where these extreme political and religious groups have a stronger presence.”

The Australian, Higher Education, August 3, 2016

I must say I was a bit aghast at  Bob Hawke’s rationale, at the launch of the new UniSA Hawke International Centre for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding in 2010. He believed that the best way to avoid a ‘clash of civilisations’ was through ‘understanding’. I have no problems with the necessity of education but need the source for cultural change be placed in a research institute? Is ‘understanding’ enough? How will this investment of $25m-plus affect the everyday person at their kitchen table? Will its affectiveness be gauged by yet more glossy reports sitting on book shelves? If so, it’s too superficial, too easy!

Recently I had a visit from Prof. Wesley Wildman, Professor of Theology at Boston University. He was making connections with people in our Theology and Philosophy Departments in his field of trans-religious theology (doing theology from multiple religious and non-religious perspectives). He described Oasis as one of the few trans-religious communities of practice in the world, enacting the research concensus about best practice in pre-empting religious radicalisation and in fostering cultural competencies among students.

What we need, I think, are communities of practice, informed by the academy.  Oasis is being successful by creating a culture of hospitality, informed not just in the head, but in the heart. We can point to students returning to their countries with the experience, understanding and commitment to promote peace in their cultures. It happens on a shoe-string through the experience, understanding and commitment of our volunteers who have embraced the vision of Oasis.


Valuing Spirituality in Organisations

When we talk about the spirituality of a person, we are talking about intangibles – that there is a world beyond the see-able, touchable and material. Spirituality is about the recognition, inclusion and valuing of intangibles into the frameworks we construct, the connections we make, to make sense of our lives. It is closely related to a seeking for wholeness, but a paradoxical wholeness that is open and ever expanding. The spirituality of a person is not dependent on a belief about God or not. What matters is an openness to the possibility that there is more, beyond our present knowledge and experience.

According to the film, ‘The Theory of Everything’, when pressed by his Anglican wife to state his belief about God, Stephen Hawking grins his characteristic grin and replies, ‘the universe is expanding!’

Hawking is reflecting a shift toward the primacy of spirituality over religion, of faith over belief, of life experience and imagination over dogma.

This shift is unpacked in the latest book by social researcher Hugh Mackay, Beyond Belief.

I think most of us still live in the age of the Enlightenment, within a Newtonian view of the world and the mechanical, rationalistic organizational frames of the Industrial Age that seem to have brought us so many benefits. But we are in transition to a Quantum Age – an Einsteinian view of space time, general relativity and uncertainty, expansively surplanting the mechanistic organisational culture of time and motion studies and risk aversion.

Perhaps spirituality is to religion as Einstein is to Newton?

Perhaps the exit from religious institutions, and institutions in general, by younger people, reflects a move toward intrinsic spirituality rather than the externally driven discipline of religious orthodoxy.

We know that a majority of younger people in work feel devalued, unable to contribute their skills and passions to a level they would like. The move toward ‘start-ups’ and entrepreneurship may well be a move away from the institutional, hierarchical, commodified nature of many businesses and public and government institutions, a move motivated by a strong desire to protect one’s spirituality, particularly the joy of imagination and creativity – move away from reductionism, instrumentalisation and mind-numbing coertion.

If so, then we do well to pay attention to emerging understandings of business management that enhance spiritual life.

This short video gives a good introduction to where I’m up to in my reflections on coordinating an Oasis community of practice intent on supporting spiritual life:
Agile and Lean Adoption
I hope you find it as stimulating as I do.

Oasis, Win-Win and Well Being



I tell Bob that I’ve been working to change my profession, to get psychologists to work on the science and practice of building the best things in life. I assure Bob that I’m not against negative psychology; I’ve done it for thirty-five years. But it is urgent to redress the balance, to supplement what we know about madness with knowledge about sanity The urgency stems from the possibility that he is correct, and that people are now more concerned with hiding meaning in their lives than ever before.

So, Bob, I’ve been thinking a lot about virtue and about the positive emotions: ebullience, contentment, joy, happiness, and good cheer. Why do we have positive emotions, anyway? Why isn’t all living built around our negative emotions? If all we had were negative emotions-fear, anger, and sadness-basic human behavior could go on as it does. Attraction would be explained by relieving negative emotion, so we approach people and things that relieve our fear and sadness; and avoidance would be explained by increasing negative emotion. We stay away from people and things that make us more fearful or sadder.

Why has evolution given us a system of pleasant feelings right on top of a system of unpleasant feelings? One system would have done the trick.

I plunge ahead breathlessly and tell Bob that NonZero[1] might just explain this. Could it be, I speculate, that negative emotion has evolved to help us in win-loss games? When we are in deadly competition, when it is eat or be eaten, fear and anxiety are our motivators and our guides.

When we are struggling to avoid loss or to repel trespass, sadness and anger are our motivators and our guides. When we feel a negative emotion, it is a signal that we are in a win-loss game. Such emotions set up an action repertoire that fights, flees, or gives up. These emotions also activate a mindset that is analytical and narrows our focus so nothing but the problem at hand is present.

Could it be that positive emotion, then, has evolved to motivate and guide us through win-win games? When we are in a situation in which everyone might benefit-courting, hunting together, raising children, cooperating, planting seeds, teaching and learning-joy, good cheer, contentment, and happiness motivate us and guide our actions. Positive emotions are part of a sensory system that alerts to us the presence of a potential win-win. They also set up an action repertoire and a mindset that broadens and builds abiding intellectual and social resources. Positive emotions, in short, build the cathedrals of our lives.

If this is right, the human future is even better than you predict, Bob. If we are on the threshold of an era of win-win games, we are on the threshold of an era of good feeling-literally, good feeling.

Extract from Martin E.P. Seligman, Authentic Happiness (Random House Australia) p.256,7

I think Seligman is right.

So for Oasis to thrive it needs:

  • win-win management of the kind emerging from entrepreneurial start-ups and successful not-for-profits (of the ‘lean’, ‘agile’ kind)
  • win-win collaborations within the university, with community groups and with individual volunteers
  • a win-win dialogue culture for appreciative understanding among different faiths and cultures

[1] This is part of a discussion between Martin Seligman and Bob Wright, who wrote the book NonZero about the ‘win-win’ paradigm as an alternative perspective on Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection.