Making Connections the Ricean Way
‘Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au.’ I am the river. The river is me.
‘Belonging’, says John O’Donohue, ‘is at the heart of nature.’ It is at the heart of what it means to be human. Cut off from others we become isolated, diminished and prone to being damaged. Interconnectedness – therefore engages all creation.
With this in mind, this year’s ER Conference seeks its inspiration from the rich tradition and concept of Whanaungatanga. We are gifted with time and a process for reflecting on the creative ways we are able to nurture a culture of belonging, acceptance and inclusion central to Gospel spirituality and the vision of Edmund Rice.
Whanaungatanga is explained by Maori as a process of establishing relationships, making connections and belonging. There is something exquisite and unique about the nature of Whanaungatanga to Maori. Genealogy and physical location explain much about stories of origin and identity. For example, the iwi of Whanganui take their name, spirit and strength from the Whanganui River. ‘Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au.’ I am the river. The river is me.
Through a variety of interactive addresses and workshops we will be invited to discuss and discern practical and relevant ways of addressing responsibly some of the challenges and complexities we face in order to render our world more hospitable, compassionate and whole.
Three keynote addresses include Rangi Davis Ngati Hine, who will introduce us to Whanaungatanga from her Maori world view encouraging connections within our lives and as Edmund Rice entities. Deirdre Brown and Hamish Sutherland will engage us in looking at how we can care for the well-being of volunteers and children in our community, while Paul Robertson will invite us to reflect on Anthropological Insights and engaging the Edmund Rice inspiration especially in cross-cultural engagement. Workshops will offer a range of other topics and engaging facilitators. We are grateful for the insight and wisdom of all contributing so generously.
The beautiful piece of art you will notice during the conference symbolizes Whanaungatanga. As you reflect on it you may notice many places of connection. It was designed by artist Kopa Davis, son of Rangi who is a keynote speaker. Rangi has gifted this to the ER conference. It has deep meaning and significance for the Davis whanau at this time. We are privileged and grateful.
James K Baxter in his poem At Kuri Bush wrote about his father holding him up when he was a child ‘. . . to look at the gigantic rotating wheel of stars whose time isn’t ours . . .’ This one image may take you into your own moments and places of awe, wonder and connection. Where is it you feel ‘at one’ or at home in your life?
On Saturday, there will be an opportunity especially for those from out of Oamaru to visit and connect with the beautiful seascape, maybe a penguin, hills and unique buildings down town Oamaru. The sun will be captured in the vastness of a winter blue sky, so come prepared for cold! During ‘down time’ there will be dedicated spaces in which you may gather, jam, walk, talk over a game of pool or table tennis, dine, movie or just rest.
This year marks two significant anniversaries. One is the 140th anniversary of the arrival of Brothers in Dunedin and 25 years of ER Camps in Dunedin. The Conference will celebrate these and other accomplishments. The Edmund Rice genealogy has traversed hemispheres. Like the braided rivers of Te Waipounamu stories and genealogy weaves its way through varied terrain and time.
We are grateful to Principal, Paul Olsen and the staff of St Kevin’s College for their hospitality during these days. We are delighted that you are able to come and enrich this gathering with your own presence and contributions.
In whatever way you are associated or belong to the the Edmund Rice Network we look forward to meeting you.
Damaris Kingdon and Cathy Harrison
Artwork by Kopa Davis