God, Death, Grace and Writing (Not your average Sydney Writers’ Festival panel.)
First, let’s talk about a really dorky word: ‘Fellowship’. Most of the time in the literary world this word is applied to one thing and one thing alone; that thing being some very thick books involving a ring and some walking trees. (Yes, I know there are other things, but I fell asleep during the movie version. Aragorn* kept me awake for a bit but then there was a LOT of walking and I was gone.) However amongst another notoriously nerdy bunch (Christians) fellowship involves hanging out with other God enthusiasts. Lest to say, for me there’s rarely, if ever, a time when fellowship and my experience of the literary world overlap.
Two weeks ago, at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, I had the most spiritually enriching experience of my life. For the first time I sat with four other Christians (Susannah McFarlane, Scott Monk, Anna McGahan and chair Meredith Lake) who are also writers, on a stage as we discussed how our knowledge of God’s grace and love impacts our writing. We spoke about Jesus’ death and resurrection. At a writers’ festival. It’s worth noting that before the session began, staff carried chairs out of the room, but then, as the queue at the door grew, they carried them all back in again. People were turned away, which is kind of ironic – I hope they found a warm stable nearby to listen to the podcast in.
Writing is a lonely occupation. And I dare say that being a Christian writing for a secular audience is even lonelier. I have never prayed communally before a panel or talk. (Usually it’s a panicky last-minute begging of God to stop anything stupid coming out of my mouth.) But this time it was prayer – with a bunch of other Christians – that we would be able to articulately express God’s love and grace to an audience, some of whom may never have heard of it before. I dare say we achieved it and that comes down not to any special speaky skills, but to God’s work in us. For that I am, in a very literal sense, eternally grateful.
(Also, I was able to publically detail my childhood habit of pretending to be a nun – no pun intended – by lighting candles whilst wearing a bath-towel on my head; behaviour induced mainly by my love of the ABC 90s mini-series Brides of Christ, the writer of which was IN THE FREAKING AUDIENCE.)
If you’d like to give it a listen, you can do so on the ABC Radio National Soul Search podcast, wherever you find your podcasts and via the link below: