17.5.03

Haloscan comments seem to be having some troubles. They've been somewhat erratic in the last 24 hours.

|

The Oxfam Trailwalker: Sydney has been postponed from this weekend to a weekend in June because of the rain. Several checkpoints are under water, evacuation routes cannot be used and one crossing is under four metres of water! The route has been changed this year, so it will be interesting to see the times achieved. The Gurkhas use this as a training run and regularly finish first in a time of 12-14 hours, depending on conditions. Most other teams take upwards of 30 hours.

|

16.5.03

Sydney is a wet and soggy city this week. We have had heavy rain for the last four days. Unfortunately, this has done little to ease the drought except in Sydney gardens and water restrictions will continue. The rain is mostly confined to a narrow coastal strip and dam catchment areas have received little. Last Tuesday, the city had 164 mm of rain. 50kms inland, Penrith had 16mm.

Centennial Park was Sydney's main water source in the 1800s. It is now a large park in the eastern suburbs. Part of the marshy area is protected by a levee bank. In an attempt to stop this breaking and causing severe flooding in parts of Randwick, eight fire engines have been pumping 100,000 litres/minute of water out of this area continuously for the last twenty-four hours. Not far from my place, two people had to be rescued from the roof of their cars by the Westpac Rescue helicopter when they became stranded in a low area which flooded suddenly.

Sydney's several tidal rivers are also having problems. This is a time of very large king tides. There is a tremendous run off into the rivers and a very heavy sea swell which is preventing the water returning easily to the sea.

Relief is forecast for the weekend with an easing of the rain.

|

Back to my thoughts on the church. Rachel and Darren began this train of thought, although others have added to it.

I grew up in an Anglican church and on marriage moved to a Brethren Assembly which I found stifling. Some years ago, we left and were told by family and friends that "we were going to Satan" by leaving. My husband's very conservative thinking swept totally around and he began attending an Assemblies of God church which I did not like at all. After some five years there, I refused to go any longer and we moved to a small church whose pastor was one of my lecturers. Educated at the Anglican Moore Theological college here in Sydney, his aim was to reform Pentecostal theology and to be another Gordon Fee. Unfortunately, this was not to be. He had an affair with a girl at the College where he was lecturing. His wife was my best friend and I was her main support for a very long time.

This hit the small church heavily. While she left because of lies he had spread about her, I continued going. I was in a position of leadership at the time there and had been for a couple of years. I finally left after an attack by many remaining there on both of us. I was devastated at the time. I had been through a similar experience to hers only 18 months earlier ( not for the first time, either,) and had regarded the church as a place of refuge and I had thought of my friends there as closer to me than many of my own family. For five years I went nowhere except for an occasional visit to a local church. When the bus timetable changed, making it almost impossible for me to get even there, I dropped out completely. My husband had walked out of this church quite a while before the affair, after being challenged by several over some way-out ideas he had. He attended church some 30 minutes drive away, so I had no transport. He was usually gone from early morning till late at night, as he believes that if the church doors are open, it is his duty to be there.

I grieved for a long time over the treatment she and I had both received. I attended other churches only spasmodically, usually after an invitation from a friend. How did I feel? For a long time, betrayed, distrustful, let down and extremely saddened. I found comfort in prayer and study, although I deeply missed the fellowship of those whom I had thought to be like minded. I had many christian friends and I met informally with these. Several of us felt disillusioned for various reasons and discussed house churches. Logistics were against this and we did nothing, although I still feel a drawing to smaller gatherings where fellowship can be deep. I am not a person for crowds and large gatherings. I am not afraid to be alone. My husband is often out most nights of the week and I have my own resources. I do not think I could function in a "mega-church." I would be totally uncomfortable.

About 18 months ago, I began to feel that I was to return to this church. There were still people there whom I knew who had been fellow leaders with me. To use a common phrase, I had "unfinished business" there. This was reinforced when on the one day, I met four people from the church through the day. I went back and was warmly received. I'm still attending, although with mixed feelings. The name has been changed, there are many new people who do not know the history. My husband started to attend after a few weeks of my return, as it has become much more pentecostal in its views than when I was there first.

The people are lovely, warm and welcoming and generous, but I find it hard to put aside my experiences and trust them fully. There is a good spread of ages. The music is technically brilliant, although there are many songs which I do not sing. Far too much "ME and Jesus" as I read earlier this week.The preaching is quite competent, but I don't enjoy it. It's a case of finding verses to back what is said, rather than expository preaching. This has led to a dearth of teaching. In fact, I think that the pastor cannot recognise this lack, because he has no real teaching himself to draw on. He has several degrees and has worked at a high level in communications, but he has no real theological training. Many in the group hold post grad. qualifications, but their faith is still at a Sunday-School level. Their outlook is good and they have a heart for mission. They support 100% a couple from the church who are overseas and also give to the work they are involved in. I prefer to have communion regularly. We can go several months without it as a congregation, although some home groups have communion regularly. I do find that there is some pressure exerted by the pastor on taking part etc. Others don't seem to notice this, so perhaps it is another hangover from my early distrust. I find there is also pressure to come to the front for prayer each week and each week it is the same people who respond. Does his self esteem depend on this? I used to wonder if I lacked something that I did not go forward. Now I wonder why the same ones go all the time.

So this is my personal experience and it colours my thinking, no matter how I might try to put it aside.

I believe that when we become Christian, we are part of the people of God. That is a rich theme which can be traced through Scripture. We have no say in that. We are part of the church whether we like it or not. The NT calls it "ekklesia," (wish my Greek font worked with blogger>) It seems to me that this is not so much the topic of recent discussion. What is questioned is how this works out in practice. I disagree totally with the practice of signing "members" of a particular local gathering or denomination. I can see no justification for it.

This question of membership seems to me to be tied in with a success mentality. The more people on our roll, the more successful we are, is the thought. I see just the opposite in Scriture where God often works with a remnant. And more people can give more to our building fund. I've heard this expressed, I'm not just being cynical. The church is much more than buildings, although that may come as a surprise to some. The church exists without buildings. I have seen some churches which met in a school or wherever, fall apart after gaining a more permanent abode.

The idea of a house church still has great appeal for me. However I am wary of the way these sometimes develop. A small, incestuous, inwards looking group can develop. The Brethren Assembly I entered was a bit like that. Fellowship, however defined, can become all important and outsiders are not really sought or welcomed. There is no real accountability as to doctrine either.

I sometimes wonder if some colleges do not run secret classes on control and pressure. I see, as I look around me, various degrees of control exerted by pastors. Some of this is financial, some spiritual to the point of abuse in some cases. I do not read the role of a pastor like this in scripture. In fact, I question whether Paul would recognise the role pastors now take. I am totally unsure that what we see as ordination had a counterpart in the NT.

I see in Scripture that worship is to be our response to God for who he is. Our whole life is to be lived as worship and mine falls down badly here. However is this what the teaching is? No. Worship is the 30 minutes of singing at the start of the service and we have "worship leaders." In many cases, this is "feel-good" type music, which would not be out of place on a secular radio programme. Often, not even many names would have to be changed. I believe there is a place for expressing love of God, but many songs nowadays are totally over the top.

I look for a deep fellowship with my fellow christians. Although I have been disappointed in the past in this, it is still a hope. However, I suppose I must realise that we are all still here, not yet in heaven, the "now and not yet" of Paul's theology. As such, I probably expect too much.

Perhaps I place too great an emphasis on good teaching. I believe there needs to be a balance of warmth and teaching. How else do we know how to pick heresy. Where I am advocates a devotional time every day. Great stuff, and I'm not sarcastic. I have never heard them advocate a balancing time of serious study, although a lot of the congregation would be capable of this. As a result, there are a lot of airy-fairy opinions floating aroud as fact. We don't even use the Nicene or Apostles' Creed as a basis or test of belief.

I have also noticed a general distrust of other branches of Christianity. Is our little group the sole repository of truth? I very much doubt it. There can be in the church an attitude of arrogance to other Christians. How very superior we are. I see that this is often fostered from the pastor down so apparently this comes from the governing body of the group.

I have gone on for too long and much of what I have said is disorganised. I struggle with the current concept and exposition of church. Then again, I am part of the problem, being human.



|

Go and read palmer's Journal and pray for this family.

|

14.5.03

Congratulations to brownpau. A Masters and an award.

|

Rachel and Darren have had related discussions on the church. I thought I'd weigh in with my own feelings. However it may have to wait till Friday. Things have come up that I need to look to.

|

12.5.03

Are you a fan of bumperstickers? Try some of these Blogstickers-
bumper stickers for weblogs.
Link thanks to Mike Todd.

|

I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the mess concerning our Governor-General at the moment. It seems to me that there are many strings entangled into a huge knot. Untangling these will be difficult.

My own position first: I am not a monarchist and I voted for a republic in the referendum a few years ago. However,the current role of the Governor-General does not bother me. There is little real political influence involved, although the Prime Minister was sacked by the Governor-General back in 1972. Although not a monarchist, I still pray for the government and this office is part of that. The current mess is demeaning the office and because the incumbent is a Christian, the church is affected as well. The appointment of a bishop to a secular office was probably not a wise move.

Hollingworth has now stood aside, while an attempt is made to sort out things. It should never have come to this. He should have stepped down from the office when it first became apparent that he had sheltered pedophiles while he was a Bishop in Brisbane. Not only did he shelter one who was close to retiring age, but he allowed another to remain in a position where such temptations could be satisfied. He insinuated in a TV interview that the fault was not on the part of one man concerned but that he had been seduced by a 14 year old girl. In other words, Hollingworth was weak and used his position to cover these crimes. As I said earlier, doctors, ministers of religion and teachers are required by law to report suspected abuse in this state, and I am sure there would be similar legislation in other states. Even if there were not, surely there was a moral obligation on him to speak out and to remove the offenders.

Much of the press was strident in opposing his placement in the position in the first place. I think that they have been trying to find evidence to use against him. I also think that some sections of the press have been whipping up opposition to Hollingworth wherever possible.

They now have an opportunity fall into their lap. Hollingworth has been accused of raping a teenager at a youth camp many years ago. He denies ever having anything to do with that diocese and that he ever attended such a camp run by them. You can imagine the uproar. The matter is supposedly going to court.

When the articles are read more closely, it is apparent that it is not a simple matter. For a start, the time expired since then means that special leave has to be granted by the court for any case to proceed. The plaintiff was abused by others and picked Hollingworth from a photo of him about that time, obtained by her lawyers. Others, even from her own family deny that she ever spoke of such a rape, although they knew about the other abuse she had suffered. What makes things even more difficult is that the plaintiff is now dead. She committed suicide. Just how is this case to proceed when she cannot be questioned?

The media is having a wonderful time of this. Were the case ever to come to court, the opportunity for a fair trial would be questionable.

The Governor-General is in a dilemma. If he resigns, there would seem to be a tacit admission of guilt. I actually believe he is innocent of this charge. If he remains, then there is still the matter of his weakness over the child sex abuse offenders. I find this weakness and his inaction inexcusable, even though it happened before his appointment as Governor-General.

His position is being demeaned and the church is also under fire. I believe the only honourable thing he can do is to resign. So sad.

|

I had a lovely Mothers' Day yesterday. I was collected unannounced from church and whisked off for a picnic near Cook's River. Everyone was there except one daughter-in -law. My husband was still interstate so underlying tensions were minimal.

There was a good set of equipmwent for the little people to play on and they joyously fed bread rolls to the ducks on the river.We had simple food - rolls, chicken, some salad and fruit. A bottle of wine and some champagne drunk from plastic wine glasses to complete the meal. I love all my family dearly and each member is important to me. They give me much support. Little Andrew who is four said to me, "I think you're a really nice grandma." Mind you, I am the only grandma he has. Miss Two said, "Grandma, I luuuuuv you." As she said the same thing to her two small cousins, I think "luuuuuv' must be the new favourite word for her.

When it became cool and windy later in the afternoon, we adjourned to have coffee closer to home. Then I returned home and my husband arrived, tired and cranky after a week of being "superspiritual" at a convention interstate and jealous of my simple day out.

|

Westpac bank has started to open some branches on Saturday. so what's new? We used to have this level of service many years ago. We also used to have postal deliveries twice a day and once on a Saturday. The postman used to blow a whistle to alert residents to a delivery. Whistle and twice daily deliveries are a thing of the past now. Petrol used to be served too. Now it is supposedly discounted at a self serve station.

When I was young(er) the insurance saleman used to call to collect premiums. The baker called daily and left fresh bread in a box on the porch. I can also remember the rabbitoh man, the iceman when we were on holidays at the beach and the rag and bone man. I nearly forgot the clothes prop man who came with a horse and cart also. And let's not forget the "dunny man." Such a worthwhile community service in an unsewered outer suburb, even if we girls lived in fear of being dicovered in the out house. It's probably only about 15 years ago that daily deliveries of milk stopped in our area.

Ah, the joys of nostalgia. Can you tell I'm suffering from Mondayitis?

|