A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about facing the crisis, noting that crisis includes both danger and opportunity. Today I want to tell a story…
Imagine a ship of yesteryear which sets sail for a faraway place. It has a young crew of enthusiastic sailors with adventure in their heart. On board are all the provisions for the journey; the hold is stocked with bread and wine, with all the other essentials.
The journey is long and arduous, no-one really knows the destination but there is an old map and a tale which goes with it, describing a great journey and an amazing city. Hope lives on in the heart of the sailors. They persevere despite storms and rough seas. Occasionally one is washed overboard and a funeral service takes place. Sometimes one of the sailors, or a group of them, jump ship to join sleeker more modern craft hoping for a quicker arrival at the destination. The rest of the crew, mourn briefly but remain resolute.
The ship is becoming harder to handle with fewer sailors, and as they get older it is more difficult to climb the masts and set the sails. They are weary. And the ship is beginning to leak, there are sometimes more below decks pumping water than there are above to hoist the sails.
Then an awful reality dawns on them. The ship may not last to their destination, sinking is a very real possibility.
On a calm day, they gather in the galley to review their options. All the lifeboats are gone, the lifebuoys are perished and the holds are steadily filling with water. The captain suggests that they build another craft from the good material of the old ship. He paints a picture of opportunity to be redeemed from the failing old galleon but warns also of the dangers. There is danger in doing nothing but there is also danger in how they use the material of the old ship – if they take too much, they may simply hasten its demise, if they take too little, there may not be enough to build an adequate craft and if they build too slowly they may not be ready when the ship finally sinks.
There were some who loved that old ship and did not want to give it up. They wanted to struggle on; they were convinced that all would be well. There were some who were tired of the old ship and were excited about doing something other than bailing water. And there were many who simply didn’t care.
Stories can be told to elicit a particular answer, or sometimes to make you think about alternative answers. Jesus told stories and left them hanging in the air – very few of them were explained, and now two thousand years later, we still find preachers interpreting some of those stories. This story is about creating a future. We can create a future by hanging on to the past, or we can try to make things different, or we can simply do nothing. Each is a valid alternative but they will create different results.
If you read the General Secretary’s report to Synod for 2016, you will see that we are trying to create a different future for the Uniting Church in WA by making things different now. I encourage you to read it.
To close, let me quote from the Rev Peter Laurence OAM, CEO of the Anglican Schools Commission in WA writing in the Anglican Messenger dated August 2016, “The reality is that the average person is not engaging regularly with the conventional structures of the church. They are not in our pews on a Sunday, attending Bible Study on Wednesday night or Mother’s Union on a Friday morning. What they may not realise is that the church, in all her forms, will cross their path many times throughout their year. It may not be through Sunday worship. It may be through our caring agencies, whose arms stretch far and wide throughout all age groups and social classes. It may be through aged care provision for themselves, their parents or grandparents. It may be through our schools, who alone educate well over 150,000 Australians.”
We have a different future, it just depends on how you look at things now, and what you do about it.
Rev David de Kock
General Secretary, Uniting Church WA