John Morrison – 8 October 2017

It’s good to be back with you after 7 weeks in the UK. Even though we attended many church services while we were away (3 each day during our week on Lindisfarne Island!), there was something very special about worshiping with you again at Canberra Baps last Sunday.

The very familiar words of one of the hymns resonated with new significance in view of the walks we did in Scotland, England and Wales.

We are pilgrims on a journey
    and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
    walk the mile and bear the load…
I will weep when you are weeping;
    when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow
    till we’ve seen this journey through.

As I sang those words, they reminded me not just of our recent walks but also of our life-long commitments to each other. But the words were written, of course, with a much broader context in mind – our relationships with one another in the family of God. What a beautiful, and challenging, expression of those relationships.

Kristine and I witnessed an incident during our time in London which, it occurred to me, was an allegory of the opposite. On the day of the match, I managed to get two of the last of the 60,000 tickets to see Arsenal and West Bromich Albion play at Emirates Stadium. Towards the end of the game, which Arsenal won 2-0, a heated argument broke out right in front of us between two men who were both West Brom fans. It began when one man took exception to the other’s negative comments about a poor passage of play from their team. The best I could tell from their heavily-accented shouting over the top of each other, the first man went on to claim that the team would never get anywhere with their current coach and style of play while the other accused him of being a traitor (and other derogatory terms I won’t repeat here).

It seemed strange to me that they were both fanatical supporters of the same team and yet were so vehemently attacking one another. As an observer, I thought if they just listened to each other they would probably find there was much more on which they agreed than differed.

Allegorical? Unfortunately, it can be like that in churches sometimes. Equally devoted supporters with different views on some aspects can become bitter opponents if they fail to listen with grace. I hasten to add, and I’m glad to say, that it’s not an allegory of what I’ve witnessed at our church. In fact, quite the opposite.

I was disappointed to miss the Ears to Hear Reflection Weekend and Signpost Sunday due to our trip. I’ve been delighted, however, to hear very positive reports of those times of sharing and reflection. I’m impressed with the draft document that has resulted from the process so far and look forward to the refining and adoption of our goals towards the end of this year.

Remember: “Companions on the road”.