Archive for July, 2009

living water … thirsty land … assembly posting 1

I resolved weeks ago, before spending leave with Dale and Jeremy in the USA, to blog some of the experiences, joys, struggles and insights at the 12th National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, which is meeting from 15-21 July, on campus at the University of NSW.  So … while probably not blogging every day, here’s a start … something from the first 24 hours or so.

03The theme of Assembly is Living Water Thirsty Land – a theme so excellently shared and engaged last night as Rev Alistair Macrae from Melbourne was installed as President – a three-year fulltime position, following on from Rev Gregor Henderson.   Al began his sermon – based on Jesus’ John 4 encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well with these thoughts …

The inspiration for the theme of this Assembly came from a photograph in the Melbourne Age some years ago. It depicts a ute on a remote outback road. It is a poignant story. Two men set out to travel from Perth to Alice Springs on the Great Central Road. The vehicle runs out of fuel. They subsequently run out of water and days later are found dead in the shade of their vehicle.  Subsequent investigations by indigenous trackers reveal that the men had ranged considerable distances from the vehicle in a fruitless search for water. The trackers point out that had they known where and how to look, the men could have accessed life saving water within 200 metres of the vehicle.

The story has subsequently has become something of a metaphor for me for both contemporary culture and the church’s mission. There is a significant spiritual thirst amongst many of our neighbours in this land. Consumerist capitalism, the dominant ideology, doesn’t yield on its promises. Jesus knew that 2,000 years ago. People do not live by bread alone. Bread at least, yes. And Christian people should be in the forefront of providing for people’s physical needs. But not bread alone. Our thirst for meaning, for the giving and receiving of love go largely unrequited. And the church? Claims that the church is the repository of living water, or less grandiose, the dispenser of it, have been revealed as hollow.

But how about thinking of the mission of the church as pointing people to the source of the living water? Church as witness. Our woman from Samaria has much to teach us in this regard because she is an evangelist.   Click here for the full sermon

Please keep Al in your prayers.  A great theme song called Holy Spirit Rain has been written by two NSW ministers.  Hope to use it at Indooroopilly in the coming weeks; chorus goes:

Rain on us, Holy Spirit. Rain on us, Holy Spirit.

Cleanse and renew us in the way of grace,

Let us in joyful praises seek your face,

so that the name of Jesus fills this place

Holy Spirit rain. Holy Spirit rain.

cov1Through much of today, apart from some time in working groups (groups of about 14), we have sought to connect with our sisters and brothers of the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress.  This morning, we revisited the covenant made with Congress back in 1994.  Former President Jill Tabart reiterated her words of apology and openness.  The words of Congress’ then-Chair Pastor Bill Hollingsworth were also shared.  We sang, we prayed, we lamented, we confessed, we resolved to move forward together in Christ.   Tonight, as Congress gave their report and their National Administrator Shayne Blackman shared, we were brought up short as we reflected on the “intervention” program currently mounted with aboriginal people in the Northern Territory by both the territory and federal governments.  I find it disgraceful that there has clearly not been appropriate negotiation, listening and conversation (far more than consultation) with the first peoples of this land about this.  The governments’ intentions may well be honourable – the way they are going about it seems a long way short of what it needs to be.

Rev Gregor Henderson as outgoing President is a man of great faith, vision, humanity, depth, sincerity and love for God and God’s church.  He has made a great contribution to the live of the churchGregor1these past three years, and now returns to congregational ministry in Canberra.

Covered a bit in this post.  A good start!  Shalom.

and now, the end is near …

IMG_3440Well, it’s just after 7 on a sunny Friday Pittsburgh summer morning.  Our time in the USA and Canada is just about through.  In four hours we head to the airport and begin the  trip home: four hour flight to L.A. (via Phoenix, Arizona), three hour layover at L.A. then the 14 hour biggie across the Pacific. We get in at about 5.30 am this coming Sunday 12th.

I feel this trip has been different to the many other trips to the States over the past 26 years:

  • I’ve done SO much more driving – about 2000 km worth. I’m genuinely concerned that I’ll hop into the mighty Yaris on the LH side on my return and drive down the right side of the road. Serious!   Dale and I have talked about a driving holiday for years.  It was a  blessing to have Tom & Diana’s van for the 10 days that we had it for. The American road system makes Australia’s seem so inefficient
  • it’s been our most ‘unhealthy’ trip. These past days, I’ve relapsed with the hayfever/blocked ear/runny nose thing that afflicted me across the Pacific and beyond at the start of all this.  I’ve been to the pharmacy several times.  That said, this is nothing compared to Dale’s misadventures.  Just when the rotten cough seemed a thing of the past, it’s resurfaced in recent days.  The foot/ankle – after her 3rd trip to the doctor a few days back – is not broken.  X-rays confirmed this, but she’s been hobbling for a while now.  She would never have dreamed that this trip would have involved her moving around on several occasions by wheelchair OR motorized scooter
  • we’ve had much better opportunities to connect with Dale’s family.  This has been the main purposes of our trips to these shores.  I have little family back in Oz … all of Dale’s are over here.  That Jeremy has been able to establish relationships with his U.S. cousins etc has been wonderful.  It was great having him with us for much of this trip.   It’s been important especially for us to spend time with Dale’s parents – both around 80 and both (especially Mom) dealing with significant health issues.  Time with them has been precious, and Dale really feels the distance half a world away.
  • An aside – we had dramas two nights back after we took an anxious phone-call from Jeremy.  He’d left his wallet in a cab in Montreal.  he calls us quite distressed around 9 pm — so here we are calling umpteen taxi companies there.  You can imagine the intricacies of yours truly in his Oz accent trying to explain things to a French-Canadian … who initially responds in French.  My “3” in Year 12 German was not all that helpful at this point.  The good news is that we took a call next day with the news that the wallet was found!  Fortunately, Jeremy had checked into his Montreal lodgings prior to this, so he could access some money via the credit card imprint they had for him.  A big pheww!!!
  • we’ve been able to delve into some of the earlier history of the U.S. Our visits to Williamsburg and Jamestown SettlementDSC01644(Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the US – 1607) were really great.

So … Australia here we come.  We’ll spend Sunday on our return trying to stay awake so our body clocks can readjust, enjoying our cats, going through much mail, enjoying a Brisbane winter (after a mostly-mold North American summer). Come Monday, I’ll be back on deck at Indoooroopilly Uniting, before heading to Sydney on Wednesday for the UCA National Assembly.  I’m thankful for getting my Trinity College lecturing prep done prior to us heading overseas!

For Dale, school begins again on Tuesday.

A big 6 month awaits us.  By the end of December, I will have finished up at Indooroopilly UC, we will be reading to move house and ministry context to Oxley-Darra UC, Dale will be readying to move into brand-new classrooms at Somerville.

DSC01626We thank God for the opportunity to spend these three weeks as we have done and thank all of those who have followed our journey and kept us in their prayers along the way.

See y’all!

we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all …

So far on this trip we’ve experienced American music (two music halls of fame), American scenery (Niagara Falls & amazing greenery), American hospitality (time with family & Ralph and Margaret).

DSC01542These past two days, we’ve connected with American history, government and a fair dose of American patriotism and pride, culminating in the traditional 4th July (yes, today) family picnic in the park, music playing and fireworks to complete the day.  The past 24 hours we have been at Colonial Willliamsburg, one of the key centres in the leadup to American independence.   It’s a place Dale and I have wanted to visit for many, many years.  Imagine a historic centre, with streets and buildings faithfully restored to their mid 1770s style, live street theatre capturing the mood and events of the times, lots of fife & drums bands and cannons blasting, people everywhere — it’s that sort of place … and very tastefully done. The “Revolutionary City” drama component down various places of Duke of Gloucester St was superb!  I never thought I’d be moved by a public reading of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, but let me tell you, at 12.30 pm this afternoon, this born-and-bred Aussie sure was.  Dale (born-and-bred in the USA) was too, mind you!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator witDSC01572h certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

It made all that driving worth it.

Yesterday, was Washington DC day.  It’s the day when your truly (with that supposedly super-organized ‘aura’) really came unstuck.  Having already eaten humble pie when it became apparent that no – we hadn’t been defrauded through a sham tour booking – the tour was real; I discovered why the tour bus didn’t pick us up at our hotel at the pre-arranged 9.05 am.  Why?  I accidentally booked the 6-hour tour for the day before!

DSC01494Anyhow, apart from one significant setback, the All Aboard DC tour was superb, taking in all the obvious sights of central Washington DC: war memorials, memorials to Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and FD Roosevelt, Capitol Building, White House, Pentagon, Smithsonian National Museums (so many of them – and they’ll all free), sight of the 9.11 Pentagon bombing, National Cathedral and much more.

I found parts of the tour incredibly moving:

  • the F.D. Roosevelt Memorial – built primarily with granite (a common building material, so as to reflect FDR’s common touch),DSC01504and strikingly landscaped, complete with quotations scattered throughout from Roosevelt himself.  He was clearly a great man.
  • the Lincoln Memorial – a powerful statue of Abraham Lincoln sits inside it, and meanwhile on the steps leading up, there’s recognition of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream …” speech in the early 1960s
  • the powerful landscaping and design of the Korean War Memorial, which like all the other war memorials, far from glorified war.

DSC01595The real downer  2/3 of the way through our tour was Dale’s ankle injury – we think it’s severely sprained, not broken.  It happened as she was alighting from the bus which was parked a bit too far our from the footpath (sidewalk as they say here).  She bent her ankle awkwardly in landing; and was in severe pain thereafter.  This all meant that Dale had (quite literally) an armchair ride of Colonial Williamsburg this day just ended – through the services of a wheelchair which we needed to hire.  The good news is that the ankle injury is (very) gradually improving.  We pray it’s well-and-truly in 6 days time when we begin our “homeward bound” air travel.

Tomorrow – we begin the trip back to Dale’s folks in Ohio, stopping along one of the interstates overnight – well, not literally!

What a day, another one full of history, meaning … and oh … refills of apple cider throughout the day (think apple juice), and not to forget Taco Bell for dinner.  See y’all.

the Maid, the hospitality & the long drive

The last 48 hours have been rather incredible – for mostly wonderful reasons (with one notable exception … I’ll come to that)

DSC01457On Wednesday, having checked out Niagara Falls from the US side, along with Ralph and Margaret W,  we parked our borrowed car at the Canadian (Horseshoe) Falls – and spent the next five hours there.  An absolute highlight for this trip was the Maid of the Mist boat ride Jeremy and I took right up to the “roar” and wind and spray of the Horseshoe Falls on the Maid of the Mist — a ride (and I’m no risk-taker) I’ve been wanting to do for a LONG time.  It was fantastic – you get so close, and there, you are overwhelmed with the force of the water teeming over those falls (and the American Falls not far away too!).  All over in a about 30 minutes, but it was, to quote from the PR guff, “the ride of a lifetime”.  If you ever get to go the Falls, you must take the Maid of the Mist ride.  Dale is still not well from this horrible cough of hers, so she stayed up top with Ralph & Margaret.  For lunch, we dined at Tim Hortons. (take note, Glenn!) Tim Hortons is as synonymous with takeaway food in Canada as McDonald’s is in the USA (and of course, globally).

IMG_0302From there, the five of us drover to Hamilton, a large city just outside Toronto – on Lake Ontario, where we farewelled Jeremy.  He really wants (and indeed had planned all along) to do his own thing from here – here gets back in Ox on 15 July … the day I head off to the UCA Assembly in Sydney.   We’ll miss having him around.  Over the next week and a half, Jeremy hopes to check out the world-renowned Montreal Jazz festival, do some couch-surfing, connect with his relations Bill Bajzek and Bonnie Bowers somewhere in eastern North America – it’s almost that vague, and spend lots of money.  I just wish he didn’t have that huge suitcase to lug around.  Anyhow, we wish him well.

Yesterday (Thursday) we embarked on what we knew would be our long, long drive from Pelham (near Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada)DSC01451 to Washington DC .  Leaving just after 8 am, we finally got to our pre-booked DC hotel at about 8.30 pm.  I drove almost 500 miles (800 km) yesterday and NEVER want to do that again.  I was fine for the first 2/3, but the last bit was as demanding as ….  Drove through some beautiful countryside on the way down.  I wonder if USA folk really appreciate their Interstate highway system.  A few days travelling on Oz roads and they sure would.   The GPS in Tom & Diana’s car has proved invaluable, especially in the final stage of yesterday’s journey, as we tried to find the Capitol Skyline Inn.  We look out from our hotel room (a good deal at $129/night) and the famous dome of the Capitol is not far away.

Today, we head off firstly on our 6-hour tour of the sights of Washington DC before checking out  and heading towards Colonial Williamsburg.  Tomorrow is 4 July/Independence Day – it will special being at a place like Williamsburg for this.

These four days are really the only time on our trip when it’s just Dale and me together – we are appreciating that.

We journey on

This foray into the States (and a bit of Canada) had always been a four-stage thing: family reunion in Nashville, time with Dale’s folks in Garrettsville OH, a weeklong driving holiday and some final time with Dale’s family. We are now in part3 … time has really flown.

Yesterday, we headed northeast from Garrettsville, after a wonderful breakfast with Dale’s folks at a small Polish restaurant nearby. Mom is of Polish heritage going back a few generations … which made the tine special. It was their chance to farewell Jeremy – later today he’ll start doing his own thing in Canada and NYC. Bit concerned about the size and weight of his suitcase though. It’s been marvellous having him with us these first 11 days … he’s been a real pleasure to be around. He won’t be with us in the final chapter of our journeying here.

Yesterday we made it to Niagara Falls -a marvel to behold. We took advantage of the trolley-bus to get around. We were last here many moons ago … and never saw half then what we managed to see yesterday. We all took some amazing photos!

We are staying in Canada at the home 25 minutes from the Falls, of Ralph and Margaret. Margaret is a sister to David Teakle from our church and friend (not sister as earlier reported) of Lorna Lightowler from IUC. Ralph and Margaret are proving to be gracious hosts and offering marvellous hospitality. The connection? They’ve heard about Circles of Care from IUC and are keen to pick our brains on how our church does pastoral care. We look forward to the conversation tonight.

Today, before farewelling Jeremy we take the short drive back to the Falls (Canadian side) to take in the Maid of the Mist boat experience … wait for next post.


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