Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A little blue church

On Sunday we went to the local Uniting Church. We are members of our local Uniting Church in Picton (hello to all of you!) which is one of the most friendly and welcoming churches we've ever been to. I feel a particular affinity, as my family were Methodists in the UK going back generations and were lay preachers. The Methodist church, for those who don't know, has a tradition of being very socially aware, which is what Christians should be, it would seem to me. I've been pleased to see this seems to be the case wherever you go in the world.

Anyway, the Uniting Church here is a lovely blue building, as you can see from the picture. (Those of you who know anything about the history or beliefs of Methodists will be amused to find it next to this pub on one side - and another pub on the other!)

In common with rural medicine, they seem to find it difficult to recruit ministers to areas as far away from cities as this. Their solution is to borrow a minister from Papua New Guinea! They rotate through for 2 years from the PNG Uniting Church.

Chatting to the minister before the service, he was experiencing his own culture shock, I guess, as he had been very surprised to learn that, unlike in PNG, many members of the community, including members of his own congregation, would go out fishing, visiting other islands, those sort of recreational activities instead of going to church. This would be ub heard of in PNG, and I hadn't really thought about it.

The sermon was quite fun - ostensibly about being humble, but ranging all around about true and false visions, messages from God, going to hell - quite tub-thumping really (and not my sort of thing!) What struck me most though was the singing - everyone really sang as if they were really enjoying it, harmonising to very simple choruses - and it shows how when people really put themselves into their singing, the results can be quite moving. It reminded me of my time in Zimbabwe, where the same thing happened - people were singing these familiar tunes in the local N'dabele language.

I learnt after from another friend here, that the Uniting Church here is where Papua New Guineans themselves go when they're on the Island - and apparently there's a lot of prejudice here against people from PNG. It sounds like some Australian attitudes in microcosm. However, I only have this second hand, I haven't knowingly seen it myself yet, so don't quote me yet.

By the way, I felt less threatened than I often am at a fairly fundamentalist sermon, and one of the main reasons for that is that I'm reading "God - A Guide for the perplexed" by Keith Ward, and it's brilliant. It describes the history of philospohical thinking about God, but is also quite opinionated, and funny without being flippant.

If you thought today's post is dull, then you'd better hope Emily says something funny tomorrow!

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