A number of times I have thought I would’ve liked to write more but I found that I didn’t know how to communicate complex reality that I found myself living in.
The last five years have been a time of profound dislocation for me. Five years ago I was the director of Fusion’s work in the state of Victoria in Australia. Five years later here I am in Alberta, Canada, getting close to completing a Masters in Theological Studies and serving as a Pastor in a denomination (the Christian and Missionary Alliance) that I was barely aware of in Australia.
I began writing this blog as part of the transition from the work in Victoria and to make sense of my world, as I tried to work out what I believe and what I wanted to hang on to, as my world seem to be constantly changing.
Writing the blog sent me on the path to finishing my first real book, “Six Radical Decisions” which was published by Fusion in the U.K. and subsequently in Canada (My first book, Faith Reflections, was a compilation of some of the most popular reflections from this blog). The book was my attempt to name what was important to me, and what I wanted my life to be about. It has been encouraging to see how the book still seems to be encouraging and challenging people.
Being in a new country has been more challenging than I expected. I think I assumed it would take about three months to settle in. We are now getting close to to two years and the differences between Canada and Australia still continue to surprise me. One of the biggest challenges is how many of the little ways people communicate are different. I find I have many more transactions where I don’t really understand what someone is saying, and they don’t really understand what I’m saying.
Another thing that I had not reckoned with was the fact that normally you live your life in the midst of the product of lots and lots of decisions you have made over a long period of time. Decisions such as what phone company to use, what doctor to go to, what bank to use, what to purchase at a supermarket, how to insure your car and where to go on a family day out. In a new country all these decisions need to be made over again, and just doing life takes much more energy than it did in a familiar setting.
Engaging with the Masters of Theological studies has been both life-giving and affirming. It has help me to deeply appreciate both the training I received through Fusion, and the fairly unique approach that Fusion took to mission.
Probably the biggest personal shift has been stepping into working at a church as a Pastor. I never imagined I could work in a church setting, but the process of writing my book resulted in me becoming more and more committed to the idea that we need to find new ways of helping the church engage with mission. I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy my job. God has been kind and has sent me church family that was ready for what I could bring.
St Albert Alliance church in many ways is a very ordinary middle sized, middle-class Protestant church, but in other ways has been on a remarkable journey to discover their own voice. It has been a joy to get to know the leadership team and the congregation. There are some very special people who God is using to change the world.
A few of the highlights at the church this year have included:
- Taking a team to Mexico to build three houses.
- Canceling our church service and running festivals in four locations around our city.
- Holding a massive thrift shop event where everything is free twice a year.
- Bringing some of Fusion’s training into the context of the church and seeing how well it works.
- Starting the journey to work out how we as a church re-form to enable all our people to find the mission God has for them personally and starting a weekly men’s early morning get-together as part of the outworking of this.
- Cancelling our church service and instead helping our people put together hampers in 100 small groups, which they then took as a team to distribute.
- Having the opportunity to be preaching fairly regularly and seeing how people are responding.
All that said, it has been a huge time for our family with stresses and strains I could not have imagined. I think I am only now coming to a point where i’m starting to be able to lift my head and start to process what the last five years have been.
One of the sadnesses for me in it all is that the transitions have taken so much emotional energy that I haven’t had the space for the people in my life that I would want to. Leeanne and I have often spoken about our hope to move out of ‘survival mode’, which I think is the place we have found ourselves in for five years.
My hope is that we are gradually coming to a new “normal” and for at least a patch of time we will have more emotional space, but that is a process. Part of the process for me is the sense that it is probably right to start writing again. I hope that you will start to see a few more reflections appearing on this site as I start to find the words to express the journey that God has us on.