Saturday, 31 January 2009

Novel references to Australia #1

John Corey of the New York Police Dept is on his way to interview a contact who lives on Staten Island. On the way, he thinks to himself:

I don’t know this outer borough very well, but when I was a young rookie, cops who screwed up were routinely threatened with being exiled to Staten Island. I used to have nightmares of me walking a beat through woods and mosquito swamps, twirling my nightstick and whistling in the dark. But like most places whose mere mention makes your blood run cold, like Siberia, Death Valley, or New Jersey, this borough of New York is an okay place […] It was also home to many city cops who may have been sent here originally as punishment, and who liked it and stayed—sort of like how Australia was settled.

Nelson DeMille, Night Fall (Time Warner Books, 2004): Page 161.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Connect 09 website is live!

Hey everyone - the Connect 09 website is live! Check it out! Multiple language portals - luvit!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Merrylands East Presbyterian Church

MEPC used to be called Arabic Presbyterian Church. It began about twenty-five years ago as - er - a Presbyterian Chuch for people who spoke Arabic (funny, that...). Most of the members are from Egypt; some from the Sudan, Iraq, Syrian, Lebanon and Palestine. At the beginning they only did church in Arabic. The main service is still in that language.
About twelve years ago they started an English service for the young people growing up here in Aus, who's preferred language is English. This is the group I'm ministering with. I'll be their second minister - there's already an older man, Sami Gerges, who's the main minister for the English congregation. I think they want me because I'm closer to the second generation - like them, I grew up here in Aust. My main responsibilities will be:
  • sharing the preaching load with Sammi;
  • training in ministry & leadership;
  • evangelism.

Last weekend I attended the church camp. It was a really good opportunity to get to know people. I think I was well accepted by both the youth (English-language congregation) and their parents (Arabic-language congregation). When I say youth, they're not children - they're high school, uni/TAFE and young workers, at that age & stage of life with maximum ministry potential. Should be fun. Stay tuned for more news.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Some thoughts on Next Gen (KYLC) last week

I spent last week in Katoomba, at the Next Gen conference (formerly KYLC), helping to lead a small group as we studied systematic theology. Two things I learned:
  1. I am now officially old. During the conference I started reminiscing, with a couple of other old fogies, about the bad old days, when the conference was still called KYLC, and we used to meet in Katoomba High School, and the convention centre had a dirt floor, not nice bitumen like today. I found myself saying things like "you young people don't know how good you've got it. When I was your age…"
  2. The quality of delegates is improving. I studied Strand Three, Systematic Theology, in 1997 (I think—or was it '96? See, told you I'm getting old…). At the time, I definitely knew less than the delegates in my group last week. As part of the study in the small group, they had to come up with a plan for a series on a topic of their own choice. The topics they selected were impressive: the role of music in worship; is every Christian an evangelist?; women in ministry; what does it mean for the Bible to be simultaneously a human and divine document?; and so on. And their proposed series were even more impressive—they were coming up with stuff that I could only think of after a four-year, formal degree in theology.
The church perseveres, and the gospel continues, fundamentally through God's mercy, not through human effort. That said, we are supposed to find reliable people, to whom we can entrust the gospel (2 Tim 2:2). If my group was representative of the quality of young church leaders, the next generation is—as far as we can humanly tell—in good hands.

Good news!

Good news: Christ is risen! Hallelujah!
Oh - by the way - I've (finally) been officially employed as a part-time assistant minister at Merrylands East Presbyterian Church.
But let's get back to the real good news: Christ is risen! Death has been defeated! Woo-hoo...!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Off to Next Gen

I'm about to head off to lead a group in Next Gen conference - the new-look KYLC (Katoomba Youth Leadership Convention). I mentioned in a previous post how much I'm personally indebted to KYLC - I'm looking forward to giving something back.
This'll be the first time that I'm teaching Strand 3: systematic theology. Looks like a big group - some 14 participants. I'm glad I'm not solely in charge; the main leader, Scott Tarrant, tells me he's been teaching strand 3 for three or four years. I'm quite looking forward to watching him in action & learning from him.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Can you keep a secret?

I have three secrets which I am about to systematically divulge online.
1. Where am I going to church this year?
This is a bit of an open secret – most of you know I’ve been negotiating with Merrylands East Presbyterian Church. I’m still haven’t been formally appointed – Committee of Management still need to authorise my salary (!!!) – but I think I’m in. I’ve been introduced to the English-speaking youth congregation - they'll be my major ministry - and I’m doing one talk at their church camp next weekend. Details will follow in future posts.
2. Where am I living this year?
I told you: Edinburgh! You know – the one in North Parramatta.
I’m living in a unit block in North Parramatta, named Edinburgh. Appropriate for a Presbyterian, especially a Subcontinental one (*huh...???*). It's a little two-bedroom unit - real bachelor pad - which I've got all to myself. I've turned the main bedroom into the LIBRARY!!! (*Yahoo!*) Pics in future posts. And I'll have a housewarming once I get the rest of my furniture & set the place up (yes, I did the most important room first: the library. Anyone surprised?).
3. What have I been up to in the last couple of weeks?
Ah yes, this is the best secret of all. Let’s just say I’ve been working on a major publication project. I expect it’ll take at least another six months to finalise – by which time my co-author and I will have been working on it, on & off, for a whole year. What is it about? You'll have to wait & see (*heh, heh, heh...*).

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Interesting resource: religion-online.org

Found an interesting resource: http://religion-online.org/. It's got full texts by recognized religious scholars. More than 6,000 articles and chapters. Topics include Old and New Testament, Theology, Ethics, History and Sociology of Religion, Communication and Cultural Studies, Pastoral Care, Counseling, Homiletics, Worship, Missions and Religious Education. Includes a search function.
Most of them are liberal, though. Even those described as evangelical-conservative are more "soft" evangelicals like Ron Sider and Clark Pinnock. The two entries I found by true conservatives - Carl F. H. Henry and J. I. Packer - did not represent the breadth of either person's thought. So, handle this site with care. Although there's nothing wrong with getting to know what the liberals think. It's quite a good idea, actually. That way, we can disagree with them with integrity.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Check out the new CASE website!

CASE - the Center for Apologetic Scholarship and Education - has an excellent new website! Check it out!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Prizes for guessing my favourite Narnia character

Last month, I ran a little competition to guess my favourite Narnia character. I offered two prizes: one for the first person who correctly guessed the character, and one for the most interesting explanation of why you think a particular character is my favourite.
The responses were:
  • Reepicheep - because you're always up for a fight, no matter the odds (Mark);
  • Mr Beaver - because he tells the kids about Aslan, and guides them to him even at risk of his own comforts, while looking after their welfare and also being very cuddly... (Sash);
  • Reepicheep - because I think he is just like you. Always willing to do what it takes and not afraid to say what you think (Vera); and
  • Mr Beaver - cos he looks like you as a teenager! (my Mum) (*sigh*).
The answer was Reepicheep - as correctly guessed by Mark. As a prize, I'm sending him two play masks for his kids, and a how-to-draw-a-superhero kit which he can give the kids, or use himself if he really wants...
As for the most interesting reason: I was torn between Sash and mum - both went for Mr Beaver, which is interesting - but it's boring to give a prize to one's mum, and family members are usually exempt from competitions, so I think I'll give this prize to Sash. I'll get her something from my holiday in the Snowy Mountains - maybe something on beavers... :)

Friday, 2 January 2009

Moved house; one step closer to what I'm doing this year; on holidays

Sorry for the extended silence. I've been moving house. I now live in Edinburgh, with a castle on one side and a factory on the other.
Edinburgh? Castle? What???
(*Tee-hee*)
Also, I'm one step closer to knowing where I'll be ministering this year - but it's not yet signed, sealed or delivered, so I have to hold off on making it public. Let's just say that the meetings so far have been very encouraging. One of the church leaders, when he met me, said "it's so good to have you" - putting it in the present tense, as if I'd already been employed.
I'll be away for a week, on holidays with my parents in the Snowy Mountains. I'll explain everything when I get back - Edinburgh, castle & all.