Jubilee: A Time to Blow Palms’ Horn, a Time to Reflect

According to regulations in the Torah once 49 years had been counted the Jubilee was to be sounded by a blast on an instrument made from a ram’s horn.

Although the exact date is still to be established, Palms’ mission was given life at its first meeting at Cusa House, Elizabeth Street Sydney in July 1961.  Palms comes out of a Christian tradition rather than the Jewish tradition, but given our growth through cross-cultural relationship, and the fact that the Jewish tradition on Jubilee aligns strongly with our justice values, let me begin an appeal here for all Palms’ supporters to procure such a horn and be ready to sound it in July 2011.

Over the 49 years I believe Palms has been true to another of our values: to live humbly.  It therefore seems not unreasonable after such humility for a simultaneous global blow to be organised to bring public attention to Palms’ unique mission in its 50th year.  Other Jubilee celebrations and appeals, which are in various stages of planning, will get a great boost from media attention if they are heralded by what we might call the BIG BLOW so, when you obtain your horn (any substitute for a ram’s horn will do) go to www.palms.org.au and name the horn you will blow.  We may then be able to gather others (to reduce individual embarrassment) and the media in your area for a joint blow.

Scholars, as they do, dispute whether Jubilee action is meant to be taken in the 49th year (the last year of seven sabbatical cycles, referred to as the Sabbath’s Sabbath), or whether it was the following 50th year.  I take this as licence to begin before July 2011 and directors have accepted my proposal to take opportunities to build up to Palms’ Jubilee celebrations through each of our regular activities. We will start at this year’s AGM on October 14th, and continue the build-up with an extra, special day at the Orientation Course on January 16th 2011.

At the AGM we will consider the results of Nichole Georgeou’s doctorate study based on the placement experiences for a group of Palms’ volunteers who completed a 2006 Orientation Course.  I believe the research suggests that more will be achieved in future by building on Palms’ framework to encourage dynamic, co-operative, cross-cultural relationships.  The clear indication is that technical exchange, embodied in the corporatist, neo-liberal, vocational model of volunteer sending, fails to acknowledge “not only … the diversity of the individuals who choose to volunteer, but also … the setting of the placement which is different culturally and historically.”

At the AGM, in response to the research, I will expand my comments in Palms’ Annual Report: “at this critical time in global history cross-cultural volunteers need, more than ever, to avoid exporting resource-depleting lifestyles and technologies.  There is a moral obligation to travel lightly, as a simple pilgrim, open to authentic exchange.  As in 1961, Palms formation may need again to reinforce values that assist volunteers, in their cooperation with host communities, to be more effective prophets and advocates of justice, love and humility, to enable us all to share a sustainable world in solidarity.”

Perhaps between July 2011 and July 2012 we also need to fall into line with a biblical requirement of the Jubilee year to treat it like a Sabbatical year, with the land lying fallow.  Perhaps for Palms this might mean as well as celebrating what has been, the fields of our mission should lie fallow (i.e. put a hold on the recruitment, preparation and sending of volunteers) while we reflect on how to live more effectively by our values and realise our vision of the future.

Of course to achieve anything will also require a secure fund, so the board has also approved the holding of an appeal.  If you don’t think literally blowing a horn is for you please go to the same place on www.palms.org.au and register your contribution to BIG BLOW as assisting in one of the named ways with Palms’ Jubilee Year Appeal.  Below is a projected Calendar of Events in which your assistance can make a great contribution to securing Palms’ future.

  1. Orientation Course – Dignitaries invited to the Commissioning Ceremony at the end of the course on Sunday January 16th 2011 where the Jubilee Year and Appeal will be heralded.
  2. State Based Appeals/Events – Easter to September fund-raising appeals and celebratory events in cooperating communities to coincide with annual Focus Workshops.
  3. Launch of Volunteer Research – July or at the dinner in Sydney
  4. AGM – September/October to coincide with the Sydney Jubilee dinner/appeal
  5. Organisational Review – November. In light of the research and other findings, newly elected directors and members will participate in an Open Space forum to discern Palms’ future directions.