Saturday, January 03, 2009
While in Australia, we enjoyed a trip up the Coorong. It’s a vast mix of saltwater, lagoon and freshwater, a beautiful and peaceful place where the Murray River meets the ocean. It’s also a scar on Australia, as the entire place is basically dying. Irrigation demands upstream combined with human manipulation and drought mean that Australia’s largest river lacks the fresh water strength to flow out to sea. Mile after mile of the mouth is basically salinising. Birds are leaving and fish are dying and dredges are working non-stop to stop the river mouth silting up.
As part of the day long tour, we walked over some sand dunes. Suddenly our guide bent down and started digging. In a few minutes, he offered us fresh water. In the middle of these desolate sand dunes, there was water. A bit further on, he showed us the piles of cockles, and the eating place of the Ngarrindjeri people, who have been the traditional custodians of these sand dunes for over 6,000 years.
I stood there astounded. Put me in that place, amid those barren sand dunes and I would die. Yet other humans have learnt to live within this environment.
I pondered the implications for spirituality. If the church is declining in the West, then could at some point, the way we do church actually be killing the fresh waters of faith? If Australians can live out of sync with their environment and in so doing, begin to kill the Murray, then are there ways that Christians and churches are living that are actually killing faith?
I thought of middle-class families, rushing kids from one learning opportunity to the next, too busy rushing to spend time enjoying.
I thought of churches who live in older buildings, when so much energy simply has to go into window repair and the manse roof, rather than into nourishing faith and vision.
I thought of denominations I have consulted with, and the way that their understandings of full-time ministry warp and shift their vision of what it means to be missional.
I thought of smaller missional communities, often younger people, keen, radical. They don’t need a building nor a full-time minister. Yet without these structures, and in times of flux and change, they can lack wise, older heads to lead and guide. How are such communities networked and resourced?
Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals: environmental stewardship, farm profitability, and prosperous farming communities. What might be the shape of sustainable spirituality? Here’s a list of starters.
2. It would be sensitive to contemporary culture, acknowledging that this is our environment and needs to be read respectfully and lived in sustainably.
3. It would make formation and discipleship of the next generation a priority.
4. It would network widely and broadly, aware that only in collective knowledge can one small part make sense of a wider whole.
What else? Does the analogy work? What might a sustainable spirituality collective look like?
I’m actually wondering about making this a major blog theme over the next while. I’m even wondering about blog rename – sustainable Kiwi, in order to capture some of the nuances of the above, which “alternative” and “emergent” and “missional” seem to have failed to mobilise around.
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