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Published March 15th 2013
Because Easter doesn't have to be about chocolate and buns?
If the popular media is to be believed, Easter is all about chocolate.
Tibetan Temple at the 'Peaceful Land of Joy' retreat
But recent years have seen a resurgence of people looking for ways to mark the festival in more profound ways than the consumption of warmed hot cross buns and rollicking Easter egg hunts.
In Melbourne, whether you be religious or otherwise, you can still embrace the Easter festival, making a positive impact on your own life, and in the lives of others.
Here are eight ways into a more meaningful Easter season. Perhaps this year it will be one with more inspiration and fewer calories:
1.Tibetan Buddhist Society's Calm Abiding Retreat will be held at the 'Peaceful Land of Joy', 30km north of Melbourne, between Friday 29th March and Monday 1st April. This weekend is suitable for novice and more experienced meditators. All sessions will be held in the spacious and richly decorated traditional Tibetan temple, with time between sessions to wander and unwind in the beautiful 10-acre gardens. This live-in retreat offers homemade vegetarian food. Further information is available here
2. Catch Swaziland's Possible Dreams Choir in concert as they conclude their tour in Melbourne. From the Lubombo Mountains comes this choir of young people. Some are orphans, some are HIV positive, and others are domestic violence survivors in a country with 'the highest prevalence of AIDS in the world, where 10% of the population are orphan children and over two thirds of all people live in conditions of extreme poverty'. But despite their troubles, this is a choir that sings songs of hope. When a patient is bed-bound due to terminal AIDS or tuberculosis, the choir gathers round the walls of the home and sings of hope and quiet joy in the face of adversity. Hear the choir in action on Saturday 23rd March at BMW Edge, Federation Square from 7.30pm or Sunday 24th March at St Michael's Uniting Church at 4.00pm. Find our more about the choir and ticket information here.
3. The Melbourne Passion Play is a local institution. Having first begun in 1997 in Rosebud in 1997, the open-air play is now performed at Ruffey Lake Park by a cast of volunteer performers. Enter Church Road from King Street Doncaster. Admission is free. Performances will be held on Palm Sunday 24th March at 1.30pm and Good Friday 29th March at 10.00am. Further information here.
'Tanglewood' by Wes Campbell at Easter Retrospective, Parkville
4. Whatever your views about Jesus Christ of Nazareth, few would deny he was a political prisoner whose beliefs threatened the powerful leaders of the day. Browse Amnesty International'scurrent campaigns, and consider adding your own voice with the aim of ending intolerance.
5. Art lovers can engage in an Easter Retrospective to be hosted by Melbourne's Centre for Theology and Ministry, 29 College Crescent, Parkville from Thursday 21st March, 5.30-8.00pm. Dr. Gaye Mitchell, social worker and researcher, will speak at the opening. Paintings by Wes Campbell will be on display providing 'an opportunity to reflect during Lent and Easter'. Opening times are between 25th February and 5th April: Mon-Fri 9.00 am – 5.00 pm and on Sat 16th and Sun 17th March between 12.00 noon – 4.00 pm. More here.
'Transfiguration' by Wes Campbell at Easter Retrospective in Parkville
6. Lunchbox/Soapbox – Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All. Arguing for a return to secular society, Sean Faircloth is the guest of the Rationalist Society of Australia at the Wheeler Centre, 176 Lt Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, on Thursday 28th March, 12.45 – 1.15pm. Visiting from the USA, Faircloth's address will outline his 10 Point Plan for a Secular America which he believes has merit for all democratic societies. Details here.
7. For a dose of high-brow liturgical Easter music you can't go past the frocked-up Trinity College Chapel Choir, Royal Parade, Parkville . Easter program arrangements are available online.
8. Feeling guilty about the Easter Bunny? As part of its Secular Sermon Series the City of Melbourne is hosting 'Christine Kenneally on Lying'at the Royal Melbourne Zoo, on Sunday 24th March at 3pm. The award winning journalist, will look at the nature of community misinformation and discuss tools to detect whether the media is lying or not. Bookings are essential for this free event. More here.
How about adding a further suggestion ... of joining with a local faith community on Good Friday and Easter mornings as it recalls once again, and reflects afresh, on the ancient stories that give rise to this movement that continues to unsettle and transform the lives of individuals and societies across the planet? We might there (re)discover the passion that energised this strange but momentous community movement in the first place. How exciting would that be!