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Eremos at 40 offers ‘nuanced human view’

An Australian spirituality magazine celebrating 40 years of publication believes it can still make a contribution to Australian culture despite an ageing readership and society’s increasing antipathy towards religion.

Eremos magazine celebrated 40 years of engaging spirituality in Australia at Pitt Street Uniting Church, Sydney, on Sunday April 30.

The event, “Journeying on the edges”, launched a bumper edition of the magazine and highlighted the distinctive perspective of Australian spiritual and religious thinking, engagement and growth Eremos enabled from 1982 to 2023.

Compered by John Cleary, former ABC Religious affairs broadcaster, it featured special guests, poet and Eremos magazine editor John Foulcher, multi-award winning artist Margaret Ackland, and Eremos Associate Director from 1996 to 2007, Linda Turton.

Eremos formed in 1982 when the Rev. Bruce Wilson (then rector of St George’s Anglican Church, Paddington) gathered a small group of people including members of St George’s, Paddington, and St Stephen’s, Newtown.

Its aims were to deepen Christian spirituality and help Christians to understand and contribute to Australian society. Activities included seminars, weekend retreats, and book discussion groups.

Cleary said his career had been bookended by his connections with Eremos and he had experienced a revolution in the way society worked, ferried along the way by Eremos magazine.

The bumper edition of the magazine contains an extended selection of significant articles and interviews published over the past 40 years.

Foulcher, who when selecting content for the anniversary edition, read every article in every Eremos magazine, said what struck him was the quality of the writing.

While some articles reflected the zeitgeist of the time, some were still very relevant, he said.

Turton said Eremos’ founding group had been thinking about how Christians could live in the context of modern Australia. Their vision was to deepen Christian spirituality and engage with culture, and Australian history and traditions.

There was also the difficulty of what was then seen as a split between a cerebral kind of Christianity in Sydney and Eremos’ desire to have faith worked out in terms of the whole of the body, mind and emotions; to live with that integrity while contributing to Australian society.

She said Eremos had continued to do that for 40 years in different ways, offering something for Christians who wanted to grow, for failing Christians, and for honest seekers.

“We didn’t want to join the bandwagon on different social issues,” she said. “We wanted to really think through what our theology would say, what would we say as people experiencing that theology, our faith.”

Eremos magazine has published articles, interviews, book reviews, artwork, poetry, news and other resources.

Foulcher said, “One of the things I have loved about Eremos is its commitment not just to poetry but to the poetic impulse.”

He said poetry was an essentially spiritual exercise because it was about the things that made us human.

Turton paid tribute to the well-known writers, editors, artists and poets who through Eremos had made a significant contribution to Australian society. She also acknowledged the ordinary people, whether ministers or others working in their jobs, who stood up when they needed to because it was hard for Christians to find a voice in Australian society.

“I think people who have been members of Eremos have been sustained by the richness of the retreats and magazine articles and knowing each other in order to stand up in their situations and follow their authenticity,” she said.

Foulcher asked, “Where do we go now? How do we retain an edge that still speaks to Australian society?”

He noted Eremos’ ageing readership but asked how many similar magazines had lasted 40 years.

He said, “I think the role of a magazine like Eremos is to work against the polarisation of our thought. We should be getting back to a nuanced human view of things rather than a tribal view; to pull extremes back to a generous view of life that acknowledges a multiplicity of views.”

He also recognised the challenge of engaging imaginatively with younger people, saying Eremos had a responsibility to pass on its contemplative tradition to younger generations.

Referring to people who remained with Eremos and kept writing articles despite moving beyond the Christian faith, he said a huge strength of Eremos was that it looked beyond what people believed to who they were.

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For more information about Eremos and the Anniversary Edition of Eremos magazine, visit: https://tinyurl.com/2zna27fp

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