Just spent a bit over a week in Western Australia. This post is simply a "been there, done that". I travelled across to be the keynote speaker at "Summer Spirit", an annual synod gathering which was attended by about 120 people. The theme was about growing disciples for the sake of mission. The group seemed to be engaged, interacted well and I received positive feedback. I caught up briefly with some old friends (including Ray and Aladina Foster from Grampians days). The only downside was the end of day Q&A where some folks want me to tell then what their church should do...
On Sunday morning I preached at Floreat UC, then had lunch with old friend George Davies and his wife peg. This included meeting their two house guests who are performing at the Fringe - she was doing a solo show as Karl Marx and he was a puppeteer who had been metaphorically roped into being a mermaid (merman...) in a tank on the previous evening.
Yvonne arrived from Adelaide in the afternoon and we went out with Rick and Helen Morrell for dinner and "Pirate Church" at the Fringe Festival. "Pirate Church" is a very funny and rude satire about the church and religion by an Anglican Priest and Uniting Church Pastor, with a subtle authenticity to Christian faith through and behind it. Brilliant, edgy, not for the faint hearted.
Monday involved a visit to Fremantle to see Yvonne's cousin Ray Clee (who is a UCA minister) and his wife Jenny - fabulous seafood lunch by the water. Then a meeting about lay education in the synod and planning for the involvement of young people in the UCA Assembly meeting in July. In the evening I led a workshop on 21st century faith formation in a digital age as a follow-up to John Roberto's visit last year. Two pirates were in attendance.
Several wonderful days of leave followed. South to Busselton to visit old friends Ted and Rae Witham. Ted is a Anglican priest and Rae is now a school chaplain. We were at Duke together in the mid- 80's. Busselton is a lovely beachside town. I could live there tomorrow. Wonderful to catch up briefly.
Then south to Margaret River and two days of wineries, craft places, local food and beaches. Didn't want to come home. We found a great little unit in Prevelly, a small coastal town with surfing beaches. I cooked huge local steak and marron. We tasted great, ordinary and dreadful wines, all overpriced. Saw $10,000 hand-made wooden tables and $40,000 paintings.
Walked through the stunning Mammoth Cave. Bought some local pottery. Stole a table at a chocolate shop for an picnic with local bread, smoked salmon, brie, olives, and salami. Tried and bought raspberry, apple and blueberry vinegars, amazing chocolate liqueurs, truffle salt, local olive oil, cabernet jelly, a few books (one signed by former PM John Howard and one by Masterchef George Colombaris), and several bottles of wine. Sat in a small Greek Orthodox Church (without a congregation) built as a tribute to WW2 by a local returned soldier (and founder of the town).
Then up to Bunbury where we visited two other old friends - Greg and Vicky Ross from QLD. I met Vicky in the first parish in which I ever worked as a student youth worker in north Brisbane, and then Greg when I came back to Brisbane as the Synod Youth Consultant. A very pleasant seafood meal at the waterfront. And we enjoyed worship with the congregation on Sunday. Karyl Davison whom I interviewed for my research is part of this community.
Morning worship led by Greg at St Augustine's UC. Then a drive back to Perth and a late flight home.
I don't understand WA. Really. The whole place puzzles me. But I like it a lot, and if it was closer I'd be visiting often. It still feels like the western frontier, such a mixture of familiarity and foreignness, as if reality was shifted by a few degrees left. And we've never even been north of Perth. Bring that on soon.