Themes / News from Long Gully
Welcome to a new look Manna Matters.

News from Long Gully

Jonathan Cornford

Manna Matters May 2024

Welcome to a new look for Manna Matters, accompanied by a new logo for Manna Gum, and, best of all, a new website. I would like to pay tribute to the enormous contribution that the old logo (developed by Shelley Knoll-Miller) and the old website (by Josh Curtis) have made to Manna Gum’s work, both done for free! Shelley’s distinctive artwork continues to be generously shared in Manna Matters from time to time, and Josh has returned to design the new website. But, after fifteen years of solid service, it is time for a refresh.

To celebrate, on May 1 we held a "Relaunch event" at Ridley College in Melbourne, and we held a similar event the next week in Bendigo. Thanks to all those who came along an helped us celebrate, but especially to Justine Toh from the Centre for Public Chrisitianity, who recorded a very eloquent video message speaking about why Manna Gum's work matters. You can watch it here.


Chat.jpgChat 3.jpgGreg.jpgJon & Jacob.jpg
Manna Gum Relaunch, Ridley College. Bottom left: Greg Hewson as MC. Bottom right: Jon and Jacob happy to have a new website.

Why Manna Gum?

The launching of a new website and new logo provides an opportune moment to restate what the ministry of Manna Gum is all about, and where we see ourselves going over the next fifteen year period. The renovation of our visual identity comes at a time when it has seemed evident to me, and the Manna Gum Reference Group, that we are perhaps entering a new phase of ministry.

From its inception, Manna Gum was conceived as fundamentally a ministry to church. It was, and remains, impelled by the understanding that Christianity in the West has been hollowed out by a loss of much of what the gospel has to say about material life. Not only has this undermined the witness of Christians to broader society, it has also rendered Christian faith less coherent, convincing and relevant to many Christians themselves. In many ways, Christian faith and Christian communities in Australia are in crisis.

It is for this reason—to be of service to the church—that Manna Gum has chosen to be independent of any particular church structures and agencies and remain something of a voice in the wilderness. After 500 years of domestication to capitalist culture, the radical teachings of the Bible about money, wealth, economic justice and our vocation to the Earth are bound to sound more than a little unsettling, not to mention, inconvenient to established structures. Manna Gum’s independence does not reflect a rejection of those structures, but rather a judgement of how best to pursue our vocation in the present moment.

Another reason we have chosen to be independent is because we didn’t want to be forced into any of the conventional models of ministry. Manna Gum is not a charity, a social justice organisation, an environmental organisation, an evangelistic organisation, a Christian holiness organisation, a healthy lifestyle organisation, or a church renewal organisation. Rather, perhaps foolishly, we are trying to hold all of these things together. At the heart of Manna Gum’s work is the attempt to restate something of the breadth and the depth of the good news that is in Jesus and its fundamental integration and coherence across all of life.

Manna Gum Phase 2

For the first fifteen years, Manna Gum’s work focussed on rebuilding comprehension of what the Bible has to say about material life, comparing this to an analysis of our current global economic structure, and trying to wrestle with what all this might practically mean for those seeking to follow Jesus in twenty-first century Australia.

Two critical components of this work have been, firstly, to renew our perception of the ways in which spiritual life and material life are fused together, both in scripture and in day-to-day life; and, secondly to to renew our understanding of the ways in which the human economy, and human life more fully, is embedded within the greater economy of God’s creation, both in scripture and in the practical realities of life. This work is foundational and will continue to remain central.

However, Manna Gum is not just a ministry about household economics. Renewing the idea of a Christian practice of economic life at the personal and household level is the necessary foundation, but it is not the whole house. Now that a foundation has been laid, it is time to begin to say more about the upper layers of that house. In the coming years, we hope to begin to give more attention to two themes in particular.


Layers of household

Firstly, it is time to begin thinking hard about the economic structure/s of the church. This includes thinking again about the economic arrangements of local congregations and ministry, denominational structures and other Christian ministries. I believe that the financial realities of the coming century are going to force such rethinking on many parts of the church in Australia. But more importantly, for the sake of health of faith and witness, I believe that we need to give much more attention to the relational and material ties that underpin the koinonia (the community) that we have in Christ. Whether it is recognised or not, the church is an economic commumunity, and the economic form it takes has a large bearing on the depth and strength of faith that it nurtures amongst its members, and the witness it provides to the watching world.

Secondly, it is time to begin rebuilding a sense that Christianity has something vital to contribute to the economic and political life of our nation and world. This is no straightforward task. The church is well and truly in retreat in Australian public life, and much of the blame for this can be attributed to its own failings.

But the social, economic and ecological crises of our times are far too dire that Christians remain silent or uninvolved in the life of ‘the earthly city’. Somehow, we need to begin to rebuild a Christian vision of economic life that can speak hopefully and intelligently into the search for a way to transition away from the death spiral of global capitalism. There are great riches within the Christian tradition (largely forgotten) that we can draw upon in this work. But the times are new and complex, and it is our collective work to seek the ways in which the Word can become flesh in this time, and this place.

We are not so foolish as to pretend that Manna Gum has the answers to any of these great challenges. But we intend to do our part in thinking and speaking about them. We hope you will join us for the journey.

And finally...

Hot off the press, Jacob and Jonathan have just recorded another podcast, this time discussing Manna Gum itself, for those who are still a bit bemused.

Also ABC Radio National have recently broadcast a long interview with Jonathan by Meredith Lake on the Soul Search program, discussing Christianity, colonisation and the quest for prosperity in Australia. You can listen here.