by contributing writer Brian Austin
A recent trip to the Bay of Fundy brought something home to me rather forcefully. Navigation tools are far advanced from the time Samuel Champlain established a settlement at present-day Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia in 1605. In many parts of the Bay, narrow channels can be easily crossed at high tide in 10 minutes with a small motor boat or even a row boat. Most of the people who regularly make those crossings have all the navigation tools available. Some of the more seasoned ones can read patterns in the waves and currents as easily as most of us read print. But every year a few of them get caught when a fog bank comes in quickly. Every year a few get caught in a sudden storm. Most make it through somehow. But a few don’t.
Present day print resources provide outstanding tools for navigating life. Very few people who attend our churches and use our libraries will not own a Bible or at least have one in their home. How many of them are making the crossing, but their GPS is sitting on a shelf at home? It’s usually easy, quick and comfortable. They’ve done this before and had no problem. Yet life has a way of bringing fog-banks and storms. Our churches are full of people who don’t read their Bibles
. Their GPS is sitting on a shelf somewhere and not turned on. They have all the right tools, but they’re not using them.
Virtually everyone coming through our doors has access to the Bible and many Bible Literacy tools. It’s a Spiritual GPS with the maps and charts astonishingly accurate and up-to-date. Probably 2/3rds or more of those people rarely if ever use those tools. I can’t fill that gap. Our pastors can’t fill that gap. But together, just maybe, we can stimulate enough interest that people will begin to read the Bible for themselves. Together, just maybe, we can bring enough balance to the bits and pieces they know that they will begin to hunger and thirst for a deeper grasp.
Maybe what we need as a church – maybe what the people listening to the preaching and using our library need is a storm – not enough to shipwreck us, just enough to remind us that the tools so readily available have no value for us unless we actually use them.
Brian Austin is a published novelist, poet, fish enthusiast, and church librarian. He has been an active part of HMC and it’s Resource Centre for more than 30 years. He and his wife live in Durham.