I anticipate that this will be one of many installments of “Similar…But Different.” We’ve been in New Zealand precisely one week and already the list is long…grocery shopping, driving, laundry, banking and money, daily routines (i.e. morning and afternoon tea)…. This installment, however, has to do with two first Sundays: our first Sunday as pastors of Lovington Church of the Nazarene, 7.5 years ago, and our first Sunday at Hamilton Crossroads Church of the Nazarene. They are so similar…but different.
Similar… There were 27 people at church. This was the case on our first Sunday in Lovington, where the church board had sent letters to everyone who had previously been involved in the church, inviting them to welcome Jaron home and engage in the future of the church. There were about 27 people who worshiped at Hamilton Crossroads this past Sunday as well. Both groups were made up largely of a handful of committed church members who find their bodies to be aging and their energy waning.
But different… When Jaron and I arrived in Lovington, we were the youngest people in the church. His parents were the next youngest. There weren’t any children. At Crossroads, there were a couple of other young families and a total of 7 children, including Quentin.
Similar… It was summer.
But different… Our first Sunday in Lovington was at the beginning of July 2008. Summer was in full swing. Our first Sunday in Hamilton was the beginning of December 2015. Summer is just beginning. This is the last week of school before a six-week summer holiday.
Similar… A husband and wife pair led the worship with a piano and a vocalist.
But different… In Lovington, the husband and wife pair was Jaron’s parents, life-long members of the church, and were accompanied by another vocalist. The Hamilton worship leaders are a husband and wife team from Singapore who have recently been granted permanent residency in New Zealand. They have two children and are acclimating to new jobs and ministry roles as well.
Similar… We ate a potluck meal after church. Everyone brought a dish or two to share and there were more desserts than anything else, as is the Nazarene potluck way.
But different… Included in the fare in Hamilton was a fried rice dish from Singapore, corned beef, and pavlova. And of course, everyone drank hot tea. Lots of it. We weren’t squeezed into a small fellowship hall space, but we were huddled around tiny tea tables as we broke bread together for the first time.
Similar… The church gifted us with a food pounding. The food pounding included great staples, as well as foods we would rarely buy.
But different… This food pounding included treasures like pulled lamb, Vegemite, crumpets, and Edam cheese.
Similar… We were setting up residence in a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house owned by the church just a short drive from church.
But different… This parsonage is called a manse. We’ll save everything else for another blog post dedicated to window screens and heating and cooling and faucets and the loo.
Similar… We felt incredibly welcomed, incredibly blessed, and incredibly humbled to be a part of the work of God in each place. We anticipated what God might do. We made space for God’s dreams to fill our minds and hearts. We saw a place and a people filled with hope and potential and possibility. We also saw a community that was lost and hurting and in desperate need of the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.