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Woven: A Faith for the Dissatisfied


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Table of Contents

The Invitation; Part 1 - The Sculpted Self: The Fishbowl of Home; The Fishbowl of Society; The Fishbowl of Faith; The Fishbowl of Truth. Part 2 - The Unravelled Self: Leaving Home; Leaving Society; Leaving Faith; Leaving Truth. Part 3 - The Woven Self: A Woven Home; A Woven Society; A Woven Faith; A Woven Truth. Epilogue. Acknowledgments. Notes.

About the Author

Joel Mckerrow is an award-winning writer, speaker, educator, creativity specialist and one of Australia's most successful performance poets. He is the Artist Ambassador for the aid and development organisation TEAR Australia and was the co-founder of community arts organisation The Centre for Poetics and Justice. Joel was also the third ever Australian representative at the Individual World Poetry Slam Championships and is the co-host of the podcast 'The Deep Place: On Creativity and Spirituality'. Alongside his literary and performance work, he has spent the last 17 years within schools, youth centres, churches, and theological colleges walking alongside thousands of young people from many different religious traditions, in their quest for spiritual and identity formation. Through this work Joel has become known worldwide for being an experienced practitioner and thinker in the space where creativity meets personal formation meets social justice. From The Justice Conference to The Global Health Conference; from the ITEC education conference to the Greenbelt Festival; from the Sydney Opera House to the Metropolis (Montreal), Joel is invited to share on these issues throughout the world. Joel loves to carve wood in his spare time and, with his wife and two kids, he is a member of Eastern Hills Community Church in Melbourne, Australia.


Joel McKerrow's beautifully written narrative traces a journey so familiar to my own as I have wrestled with reconciling my faith to the world around me. The language and perspective he brings is a gift for so many of us as we find ourselves in either a measure of certainty, an unravelling, or a weaving back together. Joel's story reminds us that questioning, doubt and despair, as well as beauty, trust and joy, are necessary for a transformed life, one that seeks to be true to understanding our faith, loving our neighbour and knowing ourselves. (Vickie Reddy, Executive Producer, The Justice Conference; Founder, SPARC); You will find yourself enmeshed in a curated journey through the sculpted self; the unravelled self; the woven self. It is not for the faint-hearted. But then nothing worth doing is ever easy. You will be called, alongside Joel, to explore your own half-lies and restlessness. You will also be called to journey from the known to the unknown. You will not find in this a voyeuristic, self-indulgent narrative. Rather you, like Joel, may find yourself arriving at a destination that involves a tradition and a tribe. (Justin Duckworth, Anglican Bishop of Wellington, NZ); `Woven' is about the deepest aches of the earth, and the grief of the human soul. This is why we need poets. To remind us that we are human beings and that we do indeed long for more. But also to show us the hopeful way of Jesus who can reconnect us to God. This is a book for those who have grown up religious and who fear that they cannot hear the still small whisper any longer. It is also a book for people who dislike Christian hypocrites, and need to hear that the Christian God is a lion who roars for justice in the face of poverty and global turmoil. This book is a beautiful tapestry of human story. It's also full of truth. If you've ever felt un-raveled and needed to pull all the threads together or just asked `where are you God?' (or known someone who has) then this is the right book. (Tanya Riches, Senior Lecturer and Masters Program Coordinator, Hillsong College); `Woven' is a magnificent work-of-the-heart tapestry: its weave includes profound reflection on the stages of faith, along with personal and social insights, stories of deep reverential humanity, a strong sense of place in the natural world and the still small irresistible voice of God. It is all there. It is gifted poetry in prose and prose in poetry. This is a book to savour. Indeed, it is a testament of mellowing into a contemplative faith and the influence of other Christian thinkers and mystics in carrying the torch to light the way. It is undoubtedly a fresh Christian classic from a voice much needed in our times. (Tim Costello, Executive Director, Micah Australia); Over a hundred years ago, William James described what he termed the twice-born soul - the person who had found a richer, more sustaining faith by going through the painful loss of childhood belief. He said the faith of the twice-born is more robust, like a bone that breaks and heals stronger at the broken place. This beautifully written book is for those who have chafed at the loss of faith and hunger to be twice-born. Joel McKerrow leads us gently but insistently through the grief of losing our religion to the less cheerful, less confident, deeper, more realistic outlook of what he calls the woven self. This is a brave, honest, and heart-warming book. (Michael Frost, Morling College, Sydney); Through `Woven', master poet Joel McKerrow, leads readers on pilgrimage through his own epic journey from encounter with soul-rattling truth, through consequent unraveling to confrontation with a depth of grace, love, beauty and kinship previously unimaginable to him. This is one man's story and simultaneously it is the story of the movement of the Spirit across the Western Church - a movement of reckoning, repentance and re-formation. This is more than a book. As McKerrow says, it is `an ocean tide.' (Lisa Sharon Harper, Writer and Speaker; Founder and President, Freedom Road, LLC); Deep, true, painful, honest, hopeful, vulnerable, strong. These are just a few words that come to mind as I try to describe the invitation Joel offers us in this beautiful book. If you've ever wondered what it might look like to have a reconciled life, rest for your soul, a balm to soothe the ache, a light to shine in the darkness, you'll find this book a journey guide to wholeness. If you are wondering if there is more, if truth would lead you somewhere, if you'd do something wonderful when you aren't so afraid then this book is an invitation to a deeper life. Maybe you are undone by injustice, tired of the endless pursuit of freedom, overcome by the darkness, you'll find this book a balm for your wound and hope for your sails. Anywhere you are on life's journey this book is a great place to stop and inhale the truth that will lead you home. (Danielle Strickland, Speaker, Author, Advocate); Amidst the sacred memories, poems and stories in Woven, Joel holds a mirror for us to fall into. A mirror pulsating with rhythm and passion, allowing us to see our own story amidst his own. A mirror that reflects the path we might tread, or indeed the footsteps we have left behind. We have always known Joel's poems offered a whisper of a deeper cacophony of truth and love and hurt and hope - Woven is that epoch we have longed to hear. (Bradon French, Youth Ministry Director, Uniting Church in Australia - Victoria and Tasmania); This is the story of a fish and the vastness of a sea beyond the bowl she has known, a boy and a boat beyond what he could have imagined, and an invitation to the weaving that integrates, liberates and redeems by grace. This is the story of my friend Joel. This is an invitation to a story beyond fundamentalism, cynicism and bitterness to the beauty of an expansive faith. (Jarrod McKenna, Peace award-winning Activist, Educator, Pastor; Founding Director,; Co-host, In-Verse podcast); Compelled by the experience of a grieving mother, Joel McKerrow surveys the inequalities and injustices in our world. This is a unique poetic appraisal of our worlds of the rich and the poor, the privileged and the impoverished. But Joel offers us much more than an analysis of informed indifference. His review is offered through his own hunger for justice and the challenges which confronts him as a follower of Jesus. This is not a work of condemnation. Woven offers creative and insightful observations about how we can change the world by thinking and acting differently. (Joel Edwards, CBE); The current global context often presents as a battle of competing fundamentalisms - religious, spiritual, civil, legal, and social. Conservative fundamentalism, often the main focus, can find itself facing an equally pernicious liberal fundamentalism, casting as many stones, in as many directions, yet positioned on the other end of a continuum. Joel's book, Woven, seeks to ask, `Is there a way to grab the pendulum that seems to swing wildly between these two extremes, and rock it more gently through the middle? Is there a way to shape the conversation of human dignity and spirituality that does not resort to these and other destructive labels?' Whether you place yourself in a conservative, midstream, or liberal context, Joel McKerrow's challenging, at times irritating discussion, needs to be engaged with the integrity that only suspending preconceptions will allow. Terry LeBlanc, Founding Chair and Director, North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies; Executive Director, Indigenous Pathways); In the opening of Woven, it says - `This book is an invitation. An invitation to meet yourself.' Indeed, after reading this book I have begun to see myself in a different way entirely. Joel McKerrow's passion is poetry and his words try to process the beauty and ugliness in the world as both very necessary components, neither one without the other. When he writes about the necessary unravelling that needs to take place in each one of us, that is something to hold onto. For it takes years to fully capture just how much we are capable of overcoming. Joel's own personal spiritual battle is one that everyone faces but the rawness and honesty of his story-telling will be a great helper to others walking the same path I am sure. Hope rings loud in these stories, in journeys that aren't your own but become part of you as you turn the pages. I would encourage you to surrender to Joel's words and let them weave a new story. (Susan J. Sohn, Speaker, Digital Media Specialist, Author of True You: Finding Beauty in Authenticity); With a poet's pen and a storyteller's compassion, Joel McKerrow challenges our assumptions and offer a vision of hope for the dissatisfied. I highly recommend this book to anyone who suspects there is more than life than what we have been living. (Stephen Roach, Founder, The Breath and the Clay creative arts movement; Founder and Host, Makers and Mystics podcast); A demanding and compelling account of what it means to rethink our Christian belief and find a restoration of faith, on the other side of what, in most cases, is a traumatic and life changing journey. Joel candidly shares his own experience and guides readers to a place where we can be woven back together thread by thread and be connected to an authentic faith in Christ. Along with his beautiful written prose, Joel's craft of spoken word and poetry come to the fore magnificently. This is a deep, rich and much needed account and guide to all of us who will as some stage question our faith journey and come to a restoration of faith. (Michael Laverty, Movement Director, SPARC; Director of Art, Literacy Program, Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation).

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