My favourite pizza includes prawns, avocado and garlic. Unfortunately, our daughter doesn’t enjoy prawns, so we compromise when we order pizza together. We are all created differently and have varied preferences. How we relate to God is no exception. Not everyone finds God draws near to them via the same experience. Two of my preferences are to interact in a conversational way and to be outdoors in nature. Hence, I have experimented with activities that utilise these features to offer different ways of connecting to God and each other.
Our walking groups have been enjoyed for over 5 years by about 200 people. Being outside, particularly in the bush, is good for the soul, just in itself. The intricate beauty and diversity of creation reminds me of the goodness of my Creator and of the love and care invested in each creature. The interdependence between the species is astounding and humbling. I hope to evoke that sense of wonder in those who walk with us. People are encouraged to use all their senses to appreciate the beauty around them and leave behind the stresses of daily life. As we gratefully acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, I also give thanks to the Creator, who loves us all - past, present, and future generations of all people. Later in the walk, a contemplative exercise is offered. Walkers can process this from their own spiritual basis. We learn from each other’s insights and engage to the degree we choose. We enjoy communal conversation over the food we bring. This has formed a community that cares compassionately for each other and our environment. I find these walks refresh my spirit and draw me closer to God. The attitude we bring to the activity determines its worship content.
Our Book Club is another setting where we engage together in a respectful, conversational way. The books we choose provoke our response to social concerns. Hugh Mackay’s Beyond Belief was our first, highlighted by a visit and discussion with the gracious author. Since then, we have been educated about other faiths by their representatives and have continued to challenge our perspectives on life with Australia Reimagined (Hugh Mackay), God is Good for You (Greg Sheridan) and most recently, Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe). There is plenty of time to discuss issues over cheese and wine (currently from home over Zoom) as we only discuss a chapter or two each time. As our perspectives change, behavioural change will often follow.
Jesus’ central command was: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (The Bible, Matthew 22: 37-39).
It’s central for me too and I encourage others to come on a journey with me to do our best to live it out. Does this mean going to Church on Sunday? I’ll be more frank about this next time – I promise!
The articles here are currently written by Liam McKenna, Lane Cove Community Chaplain.