Join leaders, Rev Fred Plumer and Deshna Ubeda, at this exciting and inspirational international event in Brisbane, Australia.
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Common Dreams Conference



September 16-19, 2017

South Brisbane, Australia

An opportunity to explore future expressions of faith and spirituality as well as eco-theology, inter-faith dialogue, and indigenous spirituality with a program of distinguished international speakers and eminent Australian and New Zealand experts. 

“For the last five decades, western religion has been undergoing a profound shift away from once familiar, institutionally organized forms of faith and theology towards experiential understandings and personal appropriations of the sacred made manifest in the lives of everyday people. A distinctive language has grown up around this shift – the word “religion” typically signifies religious organizations (like denominations and churches) and he word “spiritual” typically refers to encounters with God (if one is a theist), the ineffable, awe, or wonder (such as experiencing the Divine on a hike or in a sunset). Increasingly religions and spirituality have often been pitched at odds.” – Diana Butler Bass

The 4th Common Dreams Conference will bring together a large number of people with an interest in progressive religion and it follows on from successful earlier conferences in Sydney (2007), Melbourne (2010) and Canberra (2013). The theme of the conference – Progressive Spirituality: New Directions – will allow participants to explore future expressions of faith and spirituality as well as eco-theology, inter-faith dialogue, and indigenous spirituality. A series of lectures, keynote addresses and electives by a distinguished panel of International and Australian speakers will examine Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Aboriginal expressions of spirituality.

Speakers Include:


Dr Diana Butler Bass – Diana Butler Bass is an author, speaker, and independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture.
Professor Pamela Eisenbaum – One of four Jewish New Testament scholars teaching in Christian theological schools in USA
Dr Val Webb – Val Webb’s career spans three countries and occupations as diverse as microbiology, business, public relations, art and religious studies.


Rev Fred Plumer – Fred is President of and a UCC pastor for 20 years, leading interfaith and inclusive activism in his community.
Mr Michael Morwood – Michael Morwood is a former Catholic priest. He is the author of ten books on spirituality.
Mr Graeme Mundine – Graeme Mundine is a well-received keynote speaker on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.
Rev Jana Norman – Jana Norman is Minister at Pilgrim Uniting Church, Adelaide.
Ms Saara Sabbagh – A visionary voice within the Muslim community, Saara is a dynamic public speaker and a much sought after consultant on Muslim community affairs.  She is the founding Director of Benevolence Australia.
Fr John M Dobson OAM – John Dobson is the Chancellor of the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Sam Watson Jr – Sam Watson Jr is of the Munnenjarl and Bin Gubba tribal nations; an Aboriginal Elder based in Brisbane who has been an activist for more than forty years. He is a renowned poet, playwright and film maker. 

Parallel Program for Emerging Generations (genY/Millennials)

Deshna Ubeda – Deshna is the Associate Director of, an author and speaker.
Cassandra Farrin – Cassandra is Marketing Director for Westar Institute and Developmental Editor for Polebridge Press (Westar’s publishing arm).
Rev Lucas Taylor  Lucas Taylor is an ordained Churches of Christ minister currently serving/leading amidst a Uniting Church congregation in Melbourne and one of the creators and presenters of the Beyondering Podcast.

More Info

Prominent among the speakers is the well-known American writer and researcher on progressive subjects, Dr Diana Butler Bass, Professor Pamela Eisenbaum (also from USA) and the outstanding Australian theologian and writer Dr Val Webb who will give major public addresses on the evenings of the conference. These addresses will be delivered as memorials to Marcus Borg, Nigel Leaves and Ian Mavor who have all passed away since the 2013 conference; each of these significant figures was a good friend and supporter of Common Dreams.

Keynote presentations will be reflections on spirituality with this session to be structured so as to give the audience opportunities to interact with the speakers. The electives will expand on the themes introduced in the plenary sessions through workshops, interactive discussions, and lectures; each elective will be repeated so that you won’t have to agonise over which one to select if you find there are two topics of equal interest.

For the first time, a special program for emerging generations aimed at GenYs and Millennials will be held concurrently with the main program on the Saturday afternoon of the conference. It will be led by two of Australia’s most dynamic young clergy, Matt Cutler and Lucas Taylor, together with Cassandra Farrin and Deshna Ubeda who are prominent in efforts aimed at the same demographic in USA.

A pre-conference seminar, Introduction to Progressive Religion and Common Dreams, will be offered on the Friday afternoon. This will be particularly suited to those who are at an early stage of their progressive journey or to those who have not attended earlier conferences and wish to learn more about Common Dreams.

Each morning will begin with an optional period of Reflections in the Somerville House Chapel led by Jana Norman.

A new feature has been introduced by having an Artist in Residence (Alexandra Sangster) who with others will give, at appropriate points during the conference, commentary on proceedings as poetry, drama, and song.

Friday, September 16, 2016 at 7:00 PM - Monday, September 19, 2016 at 9:00 AM (AEST)

South Brisbane - Somerville House, 17 Graham Street, South Brisbane, QLD 4101, Australia

Click on these links for full details of the ProgramSpeakers and Presentation Extracts.

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