So many things happening at the moment! Mostly I feel excited, but there are also elements of fear and sadness. Here’s the lowdown.
Last Sunday we shared a wonderful celebration with our eldest son Ryan and his fiancée Miriam. About 100 people landed at our home for the engagement party. Everything went like clockwork. Amazing teamwork from everyone involved and we were blessed with excellent weather. I had to make a little speech and spoke of the nervousness all parents have when watching our kids choose a life partner. We are deeply invested in a good outcome, but really have no say in the matter. What a joy (and a relief!) that Ryan has chosen such a fantastic girl as Mim. Heather and I couldn’t be happier and will be delighted to welcome her as our new daughter when they marry on 18 December this year.
I only just made it to the party because that morning I was preaching my last sermon for Liberty Church of Christ. I’ve been serving that church as an interim pastor for the past six months. It’s a fascinating church – seven congregations in five locations! Very occasionally all the congregations come together for a combined service. We arranged one of these to coincide with my final day with the church. The Menai congregation hosted us at their local Public School where they hold their weekly café church. People came from the Strathfield, Villawood, Carramar, Greenacre AM, PM and Arabic congregations to make up one big, diverse crowd. Lunch afterwards was a fabulous time of meeting people and enjoying the sensational coffee they do down there at Menai. I will really miss working with the elders and staff team of Liberty Church. They are currently interviewing for a new Senior Pastor. From the little bit I know of the candidates I’d say it’s looking good!
Last month I travelled to Thailand for a couple of important meetings. The first was the inaugural meeting of the International Society for Urban Mission. That was an initiative of Ash Barker, founder of UNOH, who lives and works in the Klong Toey slum of Bangkok. He’d called together a bunch of people who are either involved directly in urban ministry to the poor or who have some investment in resourcing those who do this kind of work. I felt so privileged to be among these folks and to strategize ways to promote and strengthen ministry among the poor in majority world slums. We laid some good foundations and those present have now gone off to work on their parts. A journal called ‘New Urban World’ is in the pipeline, a website is being developed and a Summit is being planned for early 2013 in Bangkok.
I’ve been loving my part-time role at ACOM. Although it’s just a small portion of my total work life, its one of the most rewarding because I’m part of a great team and we’re preparing the next generation of leaders in ministry and mission. There’s not much more important than that! My boss, Steve Smith, said a while back that he wanted to ‘blood’ me into the world of academia by getting me to represent ACOM on some committees at the Sydney College of Divinity. Well, he has his wish. I’m now part of the Doctor of Ministry Committee and a member of the Subdiscipline Coordination Panel for Christian Spirituality. That’s the ‘esoteric’ side. The ‘grassroots’ side will be interacting with students via Moodle (our online education portal) and mentoring some students, which I’m looking forward to very much.
Today I need to pack. I’m heading off tomorrow to the UK for 5 weeks. This will be the first of nine trips over the next three years. I have a contract with the mission resourcing agency Together in Mission (TiM) to establish a mentoring service for Christian leaders. In the beginning I will BE the mentoring service, but over time I will train others so that in the end there will be a network of mentors available through TiM. Alongside mentoring I will also have the chance to work with TiM’s training arm, Springdale College in preparing students for ministry and mission. This might turn out to have some good synergies with what I do for ACOM. Also I will be available to do some church consultancy – the first church is already lined up and I have a session with them in Birmingham this Sunday. These trips will be 5-6 weeks in duration, so I will end up spending a third of my time in the UK. So much time away from Heather presents some challenges for us, but we have a great oversight team in Ray and Gwenda Cheal and Barry and Dorothy Rice who will keep an eagle eye on us and make sure we don’t fall apart. I return to Sydney at the end of March.
In the periods I’m back here in Australia I’ll be picking up my ACOM responsibilities, doing some freelance mentoring, training and consultancy, and trying to find a bit of time to write. I have an idea for a book that my publisher thinks has promise. All I have to do is write it!
For those of you who have been reading ‘Rick’s Rave’ for a while you’ll notice this one has been a bit different. It’s been all about the facts of what I’m doing rather than reflecting on the significance of those things and their connections with larger issues. I apologise for that. Perhaps it’s an indication that I’m just running from one thing to the next right now. I’m trying hard to resist the tendency to skim across the surface of life. My daily devotional time has been a real anchor for me in recent months. Praying the Lord’s Prayer without fail every day has been a very good formational discipline. I’m still loving reading God’s Word using the One Year Bible – even though I’m in Leviticus at the moment and it’s pretty heavy going! I’ve been experimenting with praying for particular people every day for a month at a time. This has been tremendous for my sense of connection with those folks. Right now it’s my immediate family and the eldership teams at Castle Hill, Liberty Church and the Pavilion Church in the UK (where I used to be pastor many years ago.) These habits of the heart take me deeper than would otherwise be the case with the busy schedule I have at the moment.
Hopefully, next time I’ll do a bit more ‘raving’ about what it all means and where God is in the midst of it all. Until then, I pray you may know His presence with you as a daily reality and be filled with hope for what He will do in and through your life.