For about 17 years, we have been going away most Easter weekends with friend from our old church in Melbourne, North Ringwood Uniting. It started when we were worshipping there, then continued when we moved to Horsham, and has continued in Adelaide. The participants have varied over the years, but the constant (apart from one year) has been the Mitchells and the Smiths - Murray and Jenny and until recently, Hayley and Brenton. In a life of intolerant ministry, changing churches and communities, this ritual and these friendships sustain us. They're a rock at Easter for us.
This Easter we went to Robe, on the SA coast in the Coorong, a quite remarkable part of Australia. The Coorong itself is an inlet the size of an inland sea that stretches over 100km, the river Murray meeting the ocean. Our weekend away has moved from camping to indoors. I have to admit that wherever we meet between Melbourne and Adelaide, visiting local wineries, cooking, local walks, craft shops and board games are part of the weekend. Our Easter reflections vary - local worship services, readings, space and symbol.
On Sunday morning we went to the local Uniting Church which is also the Uniting Church campsite, Tarooki. For years there was a Coorong Presbytery Easter Camp, now run by Scripture Union with strong UCA support. The minister from nearby Naracoorte was the speaker and their youth & children's worker, a student at Uniting College, one of the key leaders. We've had some dreadful Easter Sunday visits to churches on our weekends away, so it was a sheer delight to be with a community of mainly young people to celebrate Easter Sunday.
Great energy and passion in the worship. My "God-moment" for the weekend came in the Bible reading of the resurrection. I don't remember which Gospel it was. What I heard was "Why are you looking among the dead? He not here. He is risen." WHAM. BAM. I have been looking among the dead for our Dad and our brother Paul for these past several years. I have been and certainly do remain in grief. But I will stop look among the dead for them and start to know that they are free from pain and that God knows and holds them dear. I don't know what this means but it was a moment of clarity for me about 'moving on' from a bunch of things, picking over stuff in the past, not letting it be dead. That's the main thing for me and it's pretty huge. I'm not sure why, although I'm sure that experiencing such deep grief and loss is a large part of it. I realise that few people have any idea how difficult this journey has been for me.
Easter Sunday worship caused immediate discussion among our family about sin, blood, death, atonement, perfection, etc, etc. We sang a lot about Jesus' death (but not about his rising). We watched a long, forceful, loud video about the meaning of the Cross. The video felt like a battering ram.The positive was that we had rigorous conversation afterwards.
I understand this worship and theology well from my own experience, and it is clear that our girls don't buy it and look to me respectfully for a different account of Christian faith that makes sense of Jesus and the Cross. And they're looking for more than a cause. They get that part more than the church does. They are already on board with many causes in quite committed ways. They're not interested in a Christianity that just makes everything a bit better (do your own Niebuhrian analysis here). They know what a UCA congregation is but it bears little resemblance to their lives at this time.
So I came away with lots to think about. Where do young adults get to have rigorous conversation about faith with Christians outside a church building? I'm grateful for the ministry of friends who host gatherings and spaces where young adults can question, doubt and explore.