Saturday, September 7, 2013

Australian Highlights (1)

The last two and a half weeks have blistered past with so many extraordinary sights and memories (and very limited internet access for postings!)  Our first stop in Perth proved exhilarating, though nine sessions in four days fairly pushed me.  Our hosts were magnificent with superb accommodation looking across the Swann River to the Perth cityscape.  After preaching in two contrasting Perth churches on our first Sunday, I launched into giving plenary addresses at the Biennial Conference which (very happily) coincided with the 50th. anniversary of the Baptist seminary, now called Vose Seminary after its founding Principal Noel Vose.   

Noel has been a real friend of our family since 1981 when he undertook sabbatical study in CambridgeUK where I was minister.  Two and a half years ago he was gravely ill but he recovered well and at nearly 92 he was wonderfully evident as the conference began.  Carol and I never thought we would see him again so you can imagine the mega thrill of sharing several conversations with this marvelous man of God.  I cannot exaggerate the joy of meeting him. Later, at the 50th. Anniversary Service he spoke for 5 minutes and typically avoided saying a word about himself or his key role with the early vision, but rather commended  the value of reflecting on history for deepening spiritual life. 

At the end of the evening we engaged in our last conversation which included some reflections on our personal histories together.  Eventually, when the time came for us to leave (nearly everyone else had gone) he concluded with these sparkling words: 'Well, the next time I’ll see you will be in heaven'. No one has ever said that to me before with such warmth and conviction.  He made it sound such a glorious certainty! It broke through the sadness of knowing that our paths would not cross again humanly, with shafts of joyous, hope-filled faith and assurance.  We left him, profoundly grateful for his friendship to our family and all the guidance and time he shared with us, and with big smiles that we will meet again in God's future. What an positive benediction! Wowee, Noel! 

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