Monday 12th January to Saturday 17th January
Just imagine you travel half way round the world in order to escape a Scottish winter and you end up with a Scottish summer – dreich, rain and coolish…At least that is what is was on Monday…but the rest of the week has more than made up for it. The weather is beautiful. For a Scot is has been almost the perfect temperature, 25-30 degrees. There has been little humidity and on the beaches there is a lovely breeze.
This part of Australia has some extraordinary beaches. We were taken to one, Greenfields, that seemed too good to be true: beautiful white sand, crisp clear water, sheltered cove, surrounded by trees, easily accessible and the local council even provides showers to clean off the salt and sand. We wanted to keep going back to it because it was ‘our’ beach and was so good – but as our hosts told us, there is no such thing as a bad beach here. The whole Jervis Bay area has extraordinary beaches round every corner – which makes it all the more extraordinary that the Australian government were at one point planning to build a massive nuclear power station in the middle of this beauty spot. Thankfully they had to back down, leaving only the road structure they had prepared so that driving to Murray beach is like driving into a major urban centre! The only thing that gets near it in Scotland are the white sand beaches of Harris – but then they don’t have the sun and the constant warmth! A good hot day in Harris is like a bad rainy day here – rare!
And its not just the beach – heading the other direction from Nowra we returned to my favourite spot in Australia so far…Kangaroo Valley. For me this place is magical. We have tried three different entrances to this enclosed, Swiss-like valley and each of them is wonderfully beautiful. One day we were headed out the pass towards Berry and a lyrebird crossed our paths. They are beautiful – but it is their ability to mimic that astounds. Have a look at this David Attenborough description of it.
On another exit out of Kangaroo Valley we visited Fitzroy Falls – this is the kind of place that in Europe or the US would be swamped with visitors and coach parties and often turned into some kind of tourist tack…but here we walked 4 km and each viewpoint seemed more stunning than the last. Forget the superlatives, I was just lost in the wonder and beauty of the Creation – and thankful for the Creator.
It’s All About Me
A small cultural observation – both here and in other beauty spots its been sad to see the number of people who have ‘selfie sticks’ and seem more concerned about getting themselves in the photo, rather than marvelling at the beauty of what they are seeing. It’s an indication of the narcissism of our culture that apparently the selfie stick was the most popular Christmas present last year! I guess it really is ‘all about me’. Even as I write this (on the flight back from Melbourne) the girl in front of me is spending much of the journey priming into her I-phone and taking lots of pictures of herself.
Not Quite Cricket?
On to more mundane matters – cricket. I have really enjoyed listening to the Australia v India test and the one-day matches in the tri-series so far. There is something soothing and summery about the Australian equivalent of test match special – although nothing can beat the banter and eccentricity of the English commentators. One of the highlights of being here was the wonderful Christmas present my daughter and son-in-law gave me – a ticket to watch the T20 match between the Sydney Sixers and the Adelaide Strikers at the Sydney Cricket Ground. It was an incredible experience. The SCG is the best sports ground I have ever been in – the sunset over the main stand as the game began was spectacular.
The game was great fun – although I would suggest that T20 is ‘not quite cricket’ – at least not in the refined and genteel sense of the English village green and Lords or Edgbaston! After every ball there was loud ‘dance’ music to entertain and pump up the 22,000 crowd (many of whom were children). There was the ‘snogcam’….the KFC bucket challenge, chips and beer, and lots of paper planes. The latter because the game was promoted by the new movie Paper Plane. It was a wee bit sad that the biggest cheer of the night came when one person managed to fly one down from the stand on to the pitch. The KFC bucket challenge is that if you are wearing a KFC bucket and catch a ball that comes from a six, you get a PlayStation!
For me the most bizarre and surreal ‘amusement’ of the whole evening were the dancing girls (plus a couple of young men) who I assume were the official cheerleaders. Every time the home team scored a six or got a wicket they leapt up and started a dance which was the most uncoordinated you will ever see – like the worst type of dancing you get from a group of young inebriated Scottish men heading home after a night out! I hope they weren’t being paid! It was however a great experience – one day I hope to return to the SCG for a test or one day match….and I would happily go to a T20 event again…a genuinely family friendly event for all.
Cultural observation no.2 – I am not sure what chicken salt is but it tastes so good it must be bad for you!
And so back to the church. It was good to be back in Nowra Baptist church for a second Sunday and to hear a good lecture on how to read the Bible – and then down to the riverside to observe the baptism of a 17 year old girl. One thing I missed was any real sense of Sunday being the Lord’s Day. I suspect that this is because most people only go to one service, and the rest of the day is just treated as a normal day. I am reminded of Bishop JC Ryle’s reflection that if we lose the Lord’s Day as a nation, then we will lose Christianity. Whether or not that is true, I certainly think that it is not helpful to spiritual growth and development not to set aside one day in seven as a day ‘holy to the Lord’.
The Fragmentation of the Church
Another observation. Picking up the Nowra advertiser – you know the kind of ‘newspaper’ that offers a little news and lots of adverts – I was struck by an advert for “Generational Church” who, “exist for the glorification of Jesus Christ through service, community and multiplication”. I asked our hosts, who are wonderful, experienced Nowra native Christians, about this church and they did not know about it. Nowra is a small town (32,000 people) with around 2,000 of those people going to church – and yet it seems to have a multiplicity of small churches. Does this not say something about the disintegration of Protestantism and the way that our poor ecclesiology is harming our witness? It seems as though everyone, including yours truly, is into ‘church planting’ (which could often be more accurately described ‘church re-potting’). It also appears far too easy for any Tom, Dick and Henrietta to start up their own church, maybe with best of motives, maybe because they have fallen out with their previous church, and then go on to further confuse the situation. Non-denominationalism sounds so ‘right’ but in practice is in danger of creating enormous chaos. And since when was chaos the work of the Holy Spirit? I have no idea about the ‘Generational’ Church and who knows but that the Lord may use it for his glory. But its name is dreadful and its mission statement is full of Christian missional jargonise, which is utterly meaningless to non-Christians and even I suspect to most Christians.
One final thought…In Solas we are planning starting a new European News magazine looking at news, politics, culture, the arts etc. from a Christian perspective. When we were looking for an editor for our trial year, we heard of a young man who has excellent journalistic and editorial experience, who lived just a mile from the Solas building. Scott is ideal for the job…the only problem is that he is an Aussie and has returned home. As it happens his home was just an hour from Nowra, and he was on holiday just ten minutes from where we were staying…so we had an excellent meeting, planning the first edition…..it was one of those ‘God-incidences’ which the Lord sometimes sends our way! Anyway watch this space for news of the first edition of Solas!