I had an interesting few hours with my old friend Dermot this week.
Dermot is now a big-shot city lawyer- well all right he's a big-shot city lawyer working for the NSW Department of Water. He was here to talk to the Department's employees about issues of farmers breaking water regulations, stealing water etc.
Dermot and I go back to High School days when we were the nerds who just didn't fit in. He was always going to work in the law and I was always going to be the engineer/ scientist. He was dyed in the wool Liberal and I was radical Labor. We spent many hours debating political and economic theory- talk about a misspent youth!
It was clear that Dermot just doesn't get the idea of community. He lives in the suburbs, and life is about sitting in a metal cubicle that transports you to a concrete cubicle where you spend your days in fake interactions called "professionalism." Weekends are spent ferrying the various members of your small group (a.k.a the nuclear family) from your little brick cubicle to events and activities that are meant to make you feel like your life has some direction.
In that lifestyle church is just another event at a different cubicle.
He seemed to find it hard to understand a church building that is set up as a family room, and a ministry that is little more than sitting around talking to people in unstructured ways. I can understand that, because 20 years ago I would have had trouble with the concept too.
Whereas most churches are about building programmes and staging events, we seem to major on building up people. I hope that never changes, and that as our church grows in size we can find ways of keeping that space for people.
We talked about the relative merits of city versus small town living. I can see why living in the inner city might appeal, but living in the suburbs and commuting is crazy. He told me how in the suburb we grew up in, it now takes 20 minutes to drive a few kilometres. It takes him the best part of an hour to go to work in Parramatta which used to be a 20 minute drive.
With so much of work being knowledge and information based these days, most jobs can be done from anywhere. Why people commute like this is just beyond me. Perhaps it's because they cannot imagine a different way of living.
As we put him on the plane to return to Sydney, I realised that we can actually get to Sydney Airport in little over the time it takes him to get there from home.
There is so much to be thankful about living in the country. The biggest thing, I think, is the time and desire to travel at a slower pace with time for real community.