Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, May 22, 2017

What a great model for the Church in our times.

At one of my chaplaincies there is a delightful woman in her forties. I call her the "girl racer of the forklift", because she is so skilled at driving a forklift, stacking pallets, loading a truck and organising the area she looks after. She used to play women's rugby football, then coached it and has always been a devoted member of her club. She recently became president of the rugby club, I think the first woman president of a Dunedin rugby football club. Usually these clubs are the domain of men, and women are just the "helpers". 
I was talking to her recently and she was telling me that the Rugby Club has in recent years opened its doors to other codes. There was a nearby association football club (soccer) which did not have facilities or a training ground. The rugby club opened its facilities and grounds up to this club. The soccer club joined the rugby club. Then a Netball team likewise did not have facilities so they too became one with the Rugby Club. They are all part of the one organisation though they play and train for their different codes. At the end of the season there is a prize giving night. All three groups join together and celebrate the season, with each group giving out their prizes as part of a combined celebration. 
In times past rugby union players looked down on soccer players as wimps, playing a "namby pamby" game. Soccer players scoffed at rugby players claiming they were "all braun and no brains". A women's and girls netball team would not be seen as important. But here the old battle lines of gender, age and code are crossed, and they support each other, share facilities and celebrate together in the name of sport. 

What a great model for the Church. In my last Church I tried to get our central city located Church building to be home for all sorts of life enhancing groups. It worked to a degree. At one stage we had monthly multi-ethnic "family" nights celebrating the cultures, music and foods of different nations. We hosted people working on and teaching about sustainability, climate change and the environment, encouraging their work and in a sense sponsoring their events. Many of these folk were atheists, but we connected with their passion, and they found a home in our wider community.  In earlier years too, we had Sunday night ventures where once a month we "Celebrated the Community." We enjoyed choirs, drama groups, musicians, authors and others who would come together in a cabaret style setting to express their talents. I think, however, that this wider vision of "Church" was something many of the traditional Church folk found hard to cotton onto. It was not fully supported. I saw these wider groups as somehow part of our wider "family" or "Church Community" but the more traditional Church members saw them as just community groups getting cheap use of our facilities. The Church people did not support our multi-cultural family nights as much as they could have. In some ways they missed out on the breadth of God's world. If God is "in all and through all" and if we believe that "in him we live and move and have our being" then Churches should be open to celebrating "life" in all its richness. Anyway as my "Fork lift driving rugby club president" told me about her club and their activities, I could not help thinking what a great model. They join together to celebrate "Sport" not just one code. The Church could/should join with others to celebrate "Life" not just be a religious club of a certain denomination.

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