Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"The old girl's not as bad as I thought...!"

Inside this ailing old body is a 1960's angry-young-man, anti-establishment, anti-materialism, hippie still trying to get out and express himself. For years I have had a love/hate relationship with this old girl we call the church. I have a deep conviction that the church, if it is to be a true follower of Jesus, needs a profound reformation from its inward looking religious imperialism to a more outward, community embracing servanthood. The old girl needs a make over! One regret I have as I look back on my life and ministry is that I have been too "nice" and been afraid to rock the boat. Then again, many of my fellow 60's contemporaries have left the church and that has made it a lonely journey. But I have been and continue to be critical of the priorities, culture and expressions of the church.
Yesterday I was at a training day for the Otago/Southland Emergency Services Peer Support Team that I am a part of. There were various EAP (employment assistance provider) agencies making presentations. I was making a presentation for chaplaincy. It reminded me of the breakdown trucks in Melbourne rushing to the scene of an accident to vie for customers. These people seemed intent on grabbing the "caring for people" dollar that employers have to part out these days. As I listened and then presented, I could not help thinking the old girl has something to be proud of. Long before anybody else had thought of caring for employees, the churches had banded together and formed the Inter-church Trade and Industry Mission and its equivalents in other countries. Back in the '60's the old girl was caring for employees, well before it became fashionable! One of the groups presenting was a group called "Relationship Services", now an independent counselling service provider. It was stated that they grew out of the old "Marriage Guidence Council". That too was an initiative of ecumenical church people way back in the 50's & 60's who saw the need for couple's to have access to counselling and pre-marriage guidence. In these two spheres the "old girl" was a way ahead of the world around about it! She has not been as bad as I had thought. There are some things to be proud of. That's where God is I suspect, a way out in front breaking in new territory, and at times the old girl has been there with him. (Photo: When a couple of firemen took the "padre" to a place called "Pulpit Rock". )

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