Meredith Lake knows how to tell a story with soul. She’s the award-winning author of The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History and one of the keynote speakers at the upcoming Uniting Church National History Conference. In her latest venture she’s hosting Radio National’s new show, Soul Search. It’s about what we believe and the difference it makes in our lives. She says:
I get to speak with a whole range of people… – so far including soul singers, poets and Indigenous activists; mindfulness experts, theologians, even a life model and a liturgical designer! Actually, for the very first episode of Soul Search, I interviewed Dr Joanna Cruickshank (who is also a keynote speaker at the Uniting Church National History Society conference). She spoke about a Burramuttagal girl, Boorong, who was probably the first Indigenous Australian to have a substantial encounter with the Bible.
Encountering others, shared humanity and the common life are big themes in Meredith’s work too. She’s written a history of the sharing of resources in Faith in Action: HammondCare (2013) and a history of the shared influence of scripture in The Bible in Australia (2018). Meredith explains:
I’ve tried to write history that makes space for the vulnerable, listens generously across difference, and searches for the ‘common’ part of our common life.
So what drives her?
As I understand it, Jesus summed up the Christian life when he said ‘Love the Lord your God’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ And while this might seem straightforward, there’s enough there for a lifetime! It’s something I think about a lot, for my own life, and I’m curious about how people in Australian history have expressed Christian neighbourliness too.
Meredith is speaking at the Uniting Church National History Conference in Melbourne, 7-10 June. What is she preparing for the event?
The big question I’m thinking about is why religious history matters in secular society. We’re always hearing about how ‘secular’ Australia is these days. And it’s true – at least in the sense that levels of Christian affiliation and participation are lower now than at any other point since European colonisation. Popular Bible literacy has taken a dive in recent decades, too. And you don’t need to spend long on social media, to see that there’s a palpable uncertainty about the benefits – even the legitimacy – of religious perspectives in the public domain. In a context like this – what’s the point of religious history? What could it have to offer at a time like this, or to a society like ours? . . . I want to weigh up how religious history might enlarge our civic imagination now.
Listen to Meredith Lake and Joanna Cruickshank on Soul Search or tune in every Sunday at 6pm (repeated Thursdays 12pm).
Meet Meredith Lake and Joanna Cruickshank (Senior Lecturer at Deakin University, specialising in the history of religion, women and Aboriginal mission) at the Uniting Church National History Conference, 7-10 June 2019 at the Centre for Theology and Ministry, Melbourne. There is currently a call for papers.
Dr Kerrie Handasyde is an adjunct lecturer at Pilgrim Theological College