The Conf

EFAC stands for the “Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Communion.” I could write about EFAC more, but I won’t.

This conference was about connecting a bunch of younger EFAC members & encouraging us to think about leadership, evangelism, and the future of the church. It wasn’t on the official agenda, but one of the other core areas of focus was how many different places we could caffeinate ourselves over a couple of days.

George & Sam enjoying one of the fashionable new Coffee joints. (Mini-T is holding onto the sign)
George & Sam enjoying one of the fashionable new Coffee joints. (Mini-T is holding onto the sign)

 

Getting my fix
Getting my fix

I didn’t take too many pictures during the actual conference time. I was too busy taking notes, but I did manage to take at least one picture of the wonderful food we ate. This was eating out at Spiga.

White wine risotto with prosciutto, lemon zest, feta cheese, roquette and green peas
White wine risotto with prosciutto, lemon zest, feta cheese, roquette and green peas

We also visited Ridley College. I’ve never been there & love, love LOVE the mural!

Ridley
Ridley

So… Sunday night till Tuesday afternoon was lectures (including a book launch for Tim Foster’s “the Suburban captivity of the Church), group work, and some networking. I’d bought my tickets for the return flight long before I knew what the programme was, so I had figured on a 5pm finish. Rather than being upset, I knew this meant I’d have an afternoon to trawl the lane ways before I went home! I got up extra  early on the Tuesday to get a little time in. Here’s some of the stuff I saw.

 

More Cathedral
More Cathedral
Iconic trams
Iconic trams
Moody lane ways...
Moody lane ways…
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
Flinders street station
Flinders street station

 

So…. having survived an awesome conference, one of the better ones I have been to, all that was left for me to do was an 8pm flight back home, a train ride back to the coast, then a loving wife who picked me up from the station with sleeping kids in tow!

It certainly was a hoot!

Waiting to take off
Waiting to take off
Sydney (with the reflection of the iPad app playing an episode of "Big Bang Theory" on the left)
Sydney (with the reflection of the iPad app playing an episode of “Big Bang Theory” on the left)

I think that will be my last conference in a while. But there is another EFAC national conference next year. Something to aim for!

 

 

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Melbourne

I got to spend three & a half days in Melbourne. I visited a couple of churches & went to a conference…. Look, I’m a little tired, so “Mini-T” can tell the story.

 

Thanks Big-T.

So, Saturday morning, there we were, catching an early train, because “someone” is always too scared of missing a flight. “Better to be two hours early than to be 5 minutes late,” we were two hours early.

Thankfully we always have a book to read.
Thankfully we always have a book to read.

We weren’t too worried about a wait. The kindle with me in case I wanted to read some more academic or difficult stuff, otherwise, it was a great opportunity to re-read a classic during the travel times.

It was a first for mini-T, but Big-T is used to catching planes
It was a first for mini-T, but Big-T is used to catching planes

So, we arrived in Melbourne, having had an exciting flight (the North Melbourne Roos were on it with us… also, virgin now has an app which allows you to use your iPad like an entertainment system. We watched Spiderman!), and got picked up by our new friend George.  He’s an assistant minister at St. Thomas’ Burwood (which has recently gone through the kind of re-build that we’re on the cusp of), he has twin boys, and we looked similar enough that when we visited his 8:30am service the next day, one of the old ladies wondered why he was sitting in a pew, no robes on, at 8:30! George was lovely, gave us a tour of his church, and then was nice enough to drop us off at our Phil & Kristin’s house!

Phil & Kristin's house. Somehow, we managed not to get any pictures of P, K & the kids!
Phil & Kristin’s house.
Somehow, we managed not to get any pictures of P, K & the kids!

Saturday afternoon was all about hanging out with the Goldfinches. Saturday evening was home made pizza & NFL with Phil, and then Sunday morning George was back bright and early to pick me up for morning services at St. T’s.

Nice new hall
Nice new hall

 

Their new hall was light & bright. I can’t wait till we start the rebuild at Kincumber.

Two services, lots of lovely chat over morning tea, and then off to lunch with George, his lovely wife Sarah & their three awesome kids. It was too fun a time to stop & take photos.

After that it was off to the city with George, settle in to our hotel, then out again to go visit City on a Hill for the evening service. They meet in the Melbourne Central Hoyts, so it is a service with a really different feel.

Not the most impressive view I've had from a hotel room, but it was still lots of fun
Not the most impressive view I’ve had from a hotel room, but it was still lots of fun
Diet mode off for the conference, so it was fancy burger time before the evening service!
Diet mode off for the conference, so it was fancy burger time before the evening service!
Front row seats for the service
Front row seats for the service

So… there was lots more that happened, but you might have to wait for the next instalment to find out about the conference & the wonders of Melbourne!

Mini-Gs

Lego

We’re hitting the stage of life where lego is becoming more and more popular. Sometimes the kids like to build things following instructions, and sometimes they like to make up their own creations. Either way, as I parent I’m happy. I really can’t think of a better present for a kid than lego.

I was chatting to a guy at church who is lego mad. He has rooms full of amazing stuff and builds the kind of things that lego doesn’t officially make. For example, he just built a brewery that would be over a foot high and at least a foot wide & deep. To do this you need instructions from the lego fan who created it, then you need to source the pieces from your collection, and failing that, online.

All of a sudden I had an idea. If there are places online that sell individual parts, why not make lego versions of our family? I could collect props for people, and then whenever we go on holidays etc. we could take pictures of our lego selves also (I’m calling them mini-Gs. We’ll see if the name sticks….). With a little seed-money from my mum, I jumped onto a couple of sites, and a couple of weeks later, I had the little people you see above!

Are they absolute doppelgängers? Maybe not, but I think they are pretty good. Certainly close enough that you can guess who everyone is pretty easily.

I’m looking forward to thinking of creative ways to use the mini-Gs. (Don’t worry, I’ll post real pictures too!)

 

Lego-2

 

Slow Change

Can I tell you that they always play well together? Heck no, there are times when they go at each other, hammer and tongs!

But do they love each other? Yeah, they do. They are rarely more than a couple of meters away from each other. They share a room, they share their food, and despite knowing, categorically, that they aren’t identical twins, they share a very similar look!

The twins are slowly changing. A word or two sneaks into their vocabulary. Now, when they don’t do something they are usually be actively disobedient rather than just not understanding.

I think it’s about to get interesting!

And now… cut to the cute photos.

The progression...
The progression…
Happy little vegetates
Happy little vegemites
Love, baby, love, that's the secret!
Love, baby, love, that’s the secret!
They even provide each other transport!
They even provide each other transport!

Redemption?

 

 

What kind of record?

According to the BBC article (click on the pic to visit it), Nick Hancock is an adventurer. His record breaking achievement required him to sit on a rock for fourth two days.

Now I’m a big fan of all things Scottish, and I am all for the idea of finding extra time for personal reflection, but this is the kind of thing that just leaves me wondering. Have we so little to do with our time, that we have to invent challenges like this to keep ourselves entertained?

Of course, just when I was despairing, I realised nick had a website. On his site he notes that the main reason he is doing this is to raise money for “Help for Heroes,” a charity that supports British Soldiers who are wounded at war.

So… spending up to 60 days on a small piece of rock… the ultimate waste of time, might somehow find redemption if the outcome is that it raises funds for people who can often feel trapped by their disability.

On one side I am a little sorry that I doubted Nick.

On another, I still think there must have been a lot of money that went into this expedition that might have been employed in a more effective way.

But I’m also glad that, with a little bit of ingenuity, even the most obscure and useless things can find some kind of redemption!

After all, isn’t that God’s promise to us?

 

 

 

 

Wall

Charles & Jeremiah
Charles & Jeremiah

 

These are the two pictures that hang on the wall in my office.

Both were gifts.

To the right is a page from a very old German Bible. It’s from Jeremiah 38 and has a small illustration of him being thrown down a well. My mate Dan gave it to me as a reminder that sometimes ministry comes with a great cost, but the service is God is worth it, and the rewards are far greater than the costs!

The second picture was a gift from my lovely wife. It’s a caricature of Charles Spurgeon. He was known as the “Prince of Preachers.” In the 1850’s he regularly preached to congregations of 10,000 or more, and his sermons were so good, that they were printed after he gave them and you could buy them in the street in little booklets. Yet Spurgeon himself was no stranger to pain. Spurgeon, despite his prodigious talent and enormous success, struggled with illness and depression for much of his life. Additionally, during a service in 1856, someone yelled “fire” causing a panic, a stampede, and the death of several people by trampling. Spurgeon was shattered by this and it remained with him for the rest of his life.

Spurgeon is a reminder to me that no minister, even the famous ones, has an easy ministry. That there are costs and there will be troubles. Yet, Spurgeon, like Jeremiah, knew that his strength lay not in his resolve, in his talent, in his charisma, or anything else, but the fact that God would give him the strength he needed for the task he had been set.

My life in ministry is never quite straightforward either. There can be frustrations and failures that poke their heads up amongst the victories and joys. It helps to know that this is a story that has been told in the lives of every Christian. And whatever God has in store for me in the rest of my days here on earth, I know that my final destination is the same as these two great men.

Today they encourage me on my study wall. One day they’ll encourage me face to face as we sing God’s praises in heaven!

Religion vs. Jesus

Well I am back and I think I might stay a while. Back to writing about family, about faith and about culture.
Today, Religion vs. Jesus…

This video did the rounds about a year ago & was pretty popular. There is certainly some good elements to it.

The Good

I think the author, Jefferson Bethke, picks up one one of the big biblical themes. What does it mean if you have all of the external trappings of “religion” but fail to have the relationship that is at the heart of it? Jesus himself was hard on the Pharisees who were so committed to religious rules that they tithed the herbs in their garden, but failed when it came to justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).

I think the church has done a spectacularly bad job when it comes to painting a picture of Christianity as being about a personal relationship between the God of all creation, and us, his creatures. We are wonderful (particularly institutional churches like us Anglicans) at making things about the clothes we wear, the pews, the buildings, and the people we hang out with. It’s helpful to have a corrective that reminds us that, not only is this not at the heart of Christianity, but Jesus spoke against such things!

The Bad

That said, there are many faithful Christians who have a vibrant relationship with Jesus who are also part of the “religious” structures. “Religion” is not inherently dangerous… it is only a danger when the structures that are built to point people to God become a sort of god themselves.

Over my years in full-time ministry, I have met a number of people who are caught up in the pageantry and formality of religion. I met someone who was an ordained minister, yet didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and said they couldn’t ascribe to the creeds that they led their congregation in week by week. It breaks my heart to think that people might be caught up in the “religion” without a deep and personal relationship with Jesus… But I also knew that there were Christians in that persons congregation who continued to grow, who continued to open up their bible and discover a God who loved them. I also know that the formal structure that is the Anglican Church is still something that members of our culture still feel connected to, that it is a means by which we can reconnect with people who haven’t darkened the door of a church in many years.

I like the point that Jefferson’s trying to make. In the end it is all about Jesus… I want to honour him in everything I do, and when I see “religion” in the right context, it can do just that!