Finding goodness among the godless

joe sehee

Joe Sehee with his labrador friend.

Hospital chaplain Joe Sehee recently gave a talk to a warm-hearted group who meet on a Sunday morning, reflect on serious life issues, sing and share food.

They also have definite beliefs about God, specifically that there isn’t one.

Joe, who is a member of the Humanist Society of Victoria (HSV), addressed the Sunday Assembly, a self-proclaimed “godless” group who meet monthly in Richmond about providing hospital chaplaincy for those identifying as non-religious.

This month he will again be the special guest of a warm-hearted group who meet on Sunday mornings, but this time it is at Heathmont Uniting Church as part of their “Dialogue with other voices” series.

Heathmont supply minister Rev Dr Paul Tonson said the church greatly benefits by talking to adherents of different faiths but also those with no faith.

“Joe’s voluntary efforts as chaplain at Caufield Hospital illustrate the altruism of the HSV,” Paul said.

“The HSV also holds a Sunday morning session that focuses upon a range of social justice issues and letter writing, similar to the work of Uniting Church people advocating for justice.”

Paul said his engagement with ‘godless’ societies in Melbourne had been a rich and educational experience.

“Most stunning for me personally was the invitation from a friend Andrew in the Progressive Atheist group,” he said.

“He invited me to join a support visit to the Broadmeadows immigration facility on behalf of a Bangladeshi blogger, whose life is in danger if he is returned home.”

“I explained to Andrew that his invitation was really getting under my skin, because of the Matthew gospel story of the sheep, those who act righteously and inherit God’s kingdom, and the goats who are cast away.”

“It has been ages since I ever visited someone in prison. Will the atheists enter heaven ahead of a Uniting Church minister?”

A colleague of Paul’s coined the term “interbelief” to represent the wider cooperation in which humanist/godless societies contribute their wisdom and energies alongside faith groups.

Heathmont UC is engaged in such interbelief dialogue.

Last month, the church hosted Fr Greg Reynolds, of Inclusive Catholics, and Sherene Hassan, of the Islamic Museum of Australia in Thornbury.

“Our conversations with other voices demonstrate the hospitality we offer to all other people and to their beliefs,” Paul said.

“On both sides, we move away from argument and point-scoring towards mutual listening, discussing ethics and spirituality, and sharing common action.

“Christians can learn much from those of other beliefs about what is at the heart of following the Way of Jesus.

“We cannot be fruitful in our faith if we only ever talk among ourselves.”

Joe Sehee, a volunteer chaplain with the Humanist Society of Victoria, will be the guest at Heathmont Uniting Church from 10am on Sunday 7 October.

See the Community Notices section of Crosslight for details of more “Dialogues with other voices” conversations.

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