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Report for 2020

The unpredented bushfire season of 2019/20 prompted a three-part series of articles in Manna Matters, "The Moral Ecology of Judgement".

What a strange year. It began with an apocalyptic climate-driven summer bushfire season, ended with the invasion of the Capitol Building, and was otherwise wholly dominated by a global pandemic. We are living through one of those times when it feels like the streams of history are gathering pace.

Manna Gum’s ongoing work is to continue to attempt to draw together these many threads of our hurting world and to connect them to our personal lives via the call and challenge of Christian faith. Manna Gum is essentially a media organisation – our business is to communicate – which puts us in the same category as News Corp. More specifically, our core business is to communicate the good news of Christ and how it re-shapes our interaction with the economic and ecological world. This puts us in quite a different category from News Corp.

In 2020 this work went on, frustrated at times by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, but actually not greatly affected by COVID except, bizzarely, in a positive way. During the year, a combination health and family issues placed some frustrating limitations on my work. However, these limitations were providentially offset by an unlooked for financial windfall which, for the first time, allowed Manna Gum to pay someone else to take on a day-a-week of work – an exciting development! (See below.) This remarkable coincidence of need and provision is not lightly noted; it is rather a cause for some awe and gratitude.

Manna Matters Newsletter

Perhaps the big news of 2020 year was the beginning mid-year of the new position of Manna Matters Editor. At one-day-a-week this is a very part-time postion, however it frees up some of Jonathan’s time for more writing as well as brings in some fresh ideas and energy. Matt Anslow took up the position and immediately brought some new creativity to the role. Unfortunately he was obliged to take up full-time work at the end of the year. As this goes to press it looks like we may have someone else to take Matt’s place – news about that in the next Manna Matters.

MannaCast

One of Matt’s innovations was beginning a Manna Gum podcast. The format of the podcast is Matt and Jonathan having fairly casual, but in-depth conversations about the topics raised in each edition of Manna Matters. It is a medium that allows us to get to explore some of the knotty questions that the more disciplined medium of a written article rarely allows. Check it out and please give some feedback. And leave a five-star rating - apparently it helps the search results.

MannaCast can be found at mannagum.podbean.com or on your preferred podcast platform (Apple Podcasts, Audible, Google Podcasts, Spotify).

Speaking and teaching

All speaking and teaching in 2020 succumbed to the Zoom pandemic. These included:

  • Surrender Conference: Care for Creation panel discussion (March)
  • TEAR QLD Conference:Christian Witness, Ecological Responsibility and Economic Justice (March)
  • TEAR NSW Cohort Training, 4 session (March – Oct):
    1. Coming Home overview
    2. Comprehending the ecological crisis
    3. Locating ourselves in the global economy
    4. Embodied economic witness
  • NEXT 2 (Whitley) lecture: Discipleship and major life decisions in Time and Money (April)
  • “Climate, COVID and Feminist Theologies”: Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies panel talk (July)
  • Plunge (Morling) lecture: Economics and Discipleship (Oct)

Thesis

My Ph.D thesis work (broadly on the topic of Christianity and capitalism) is a long-term investment that is already yeilding dividends for Manna Gum’s work in terms of intellectual stimulus, depth and extending Manna Gum’s networks. Nevertheless, while there is great value in a season of such focussed academic work, the challenge is always to keep it grounded in the real world. The St Matthews/Seeds Community has been critical for this, as have been many of Manna Gum’s friends and supporters.

Jonathan Cornford

FINANCIAL REPORT

In a year of dramatic economic contraction it is strange to report that Manna Gum experienced an unprecedented surplus. This began early in the year with a very generous response to our annual appeal and then was dramatically supplemented by three unlooked-for cash handouts from the Federal Government. I am very pleased that we were able to put the money to the use for which it was intended: creating employment (see above). It is still unclear whether Manna Gum’s finances will be able to sustain the extra position in the long-term, but we are confident that we can cover it until the end of 2021. After that, we will have to see. We remain humbled by the generous contributions of all those who support Manna Gum’s work.

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