A Reflection from Andrew


- Andrew Tonkin, minister at Mildura church

The alarm went off. Bleary eyed, I looked at the time. 4:30 a.m. Why in the world was I waking up at the God-forsaken hour of 4:30 a.m.? Oh, that’s right, I had to be at the Mildura Airport by 5:45 to catch my flight to Melbourne for the November Gathering for Churches of Christ Vic/Tas. So after showering, eating some toast and drinking a large mug of coffee (extra strong) my wife dropped me off at the airport. There was no romantic goodbye kiss. All she did was grunt at me, “You can catch a taxi next time” as she drove back home and went straight back to sleep for a few more hours.

I arrived at Melbourne airport and went and collected my hire car. As a country boy I never look forward to driving in Melbourne. In Mildura a two minute hold up at a roundabout is considered a traffic jam. So as usual I gripped the wheel so tight that my forearms went numb and I drive like some crazed character in Grand Theft Auto (if you don’t know what that reference means, ask your children or grandchildren). At one point I nervously drove through the Domain Tunnel. As I came out the other side it was bucketing down rain. I thought that I had taken a wrong turn and somehow ended up in Ballarat. Eventually I made my way to Southern Community Church.

As a few people started to gather for the meeting the usual awkward meet and greet began – trying to put names to faces to churches and then remind people how far Mildura is from Melbourne when I kept being asked if I drove down that morning. “Oh, I didn’t realize it was that far” was the most common response.

The input for the day was terrific. Billy Williams gave a very prophetic charge to us all in regards to statements we make concerning Indigenous ministry. Billy’s challenge is one that should remain with us for a very long time. Essentially what he said was that statements are a waste of time if we don’t put deliberate action behind those statements. I truly believe that we can have all the flowery words that look good on paper and make us feel all politically correct in our white middle-class churches, but it doesn't mean much if we don’t conquer our prejudice and embrace our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the love and grace of Christ.

It was a very long way to go (I was hoping for a cake from Claire for traveling the longest distance to be at the meeting). It was a bit expensive by the time I paid for a return flight and a night’s accommodation. I’m sure there could have been something else I could have been doing that day. But the truth is that it was all totally worth it. I like to think that we are a family in Churches of Christ. Remember when we were called the ‘Brotherhood’? So whether there is a formal vote or some informal conversations to be had, I consider it to be a privilege to gather with my fellow ministers and members of Churches of Christ. As a minister in the most isolated town and church in Victoria these gatherings are very valuable. It would be good to have shared it with a lot more people.

And anyway, if I had stayed in Mildura I would not have had such a nice cup of coffee with Paul Cameron at the end of the day.

P.S. I am still waiting for that cake!


-- Thank you Andrew --