Australia Day Three – Brisbane to the Gold Coast

I awoke at about 4am on Thursday, which was unfortunate.  But I made some coffee and did some writing.  Dave awoke a bit later and, likewise, sat and wrote.  He’s written several books on community organizing and such, and I am even more impressed with his theological vision for his neightborhood…and the world.  The two of us are in many ways sympatico, and I plan to come back here to West End Brisbane for a longer stay sometime.

Around 7:30, we walked a few blocks over to Black Star Coffee, which is presently housed in a small warehouse.  I watched (and filmed) as Matt roasted a batch of beans


He’s already started a similar company (People’s Coffee) in New Zealand, and now he’s helping at Blackstar for a while.  Blackstar is a part of The Waiters Union, which is the community that Dave and Ange started when they moved back from India.  Their commitment to the community of West End is really astounding, and Blackstar is a part of that.  Matt joked about all of the emerging churches that have failed coffee houses in their pasts, and about how important it is to have a bigger vision than a cafe.  Well, these guys have a bigger vision.  They’re also true coffee connesiers, and they pull an amazing shot:


The rest of the morning consisted of a personal and interesting conversation with a group that is basically the emergent-esque cohort in Brisbane.  We talked about life and church and ministry and theology.  I really, really enjoyed my time with these folks.

After lunch, Duncan drove me to his home on the Gold Coast.  We went to his gym for an hour, then out to dinner with his family.  On the way across the parking lot to the restaurant, it seemed that a tree was coming alive with birds.  Duncan explained they were rainbow lorikeets, which make a racket for about 90 minutes each evening:


After dinner, another conversation with church leaders and others from the Gold Coast, then off to bed.  All in all, a long and gratifying day.  I get Friday basically off, so I’m looking forward to the down time.

Day Two in Australia – Brisbane

Carolyn Kitto and I both got up early and left for the airport.  Carolyn works for World Vision Australia, and she was heading for their annual day of prayer in Melbourne.  She was meeting Mike Pilavachi there, and he led the prayer day.

I flew to Brisbane.  As we pulled away from the jetbridge, I saw my suitcase on the tarmac and thought, “Oh, shit.”  It’s now 24 hours later, and I still don’t have it.

In Brisbane, I was retrieved by Duncan MacLeod, a long-time emergent blogger and networker.  He currently works for the Uniting Church in Australia (a 1970s merger of Methodists, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians).  We went to Duncan’s office for a couple hours and I caught up on emails, etc.

At noon, we left to have lunch and a 90-minute conversation with a group of about two dozen Baptist church planters.  The conversation was cordial and passionate.  We found areas of agreement and disagreement, to be sure.

After that, we went to meet up with Dave Andrews.  Dave is also known to many emergents around the world.  He and his wife, Ange, spent many years in India, living as a Christian communal presence.  A few years ago, they moved back to Brisbane where they founded the Waiters Union.  The name, Dave told me, comes from the idea that a good waiter is a helpful but not overbearing presence at a restaurant.  They’re trying to be the same in the West End of Brisbane.

As Dave describes a bit in the video below, the West End is Brisbane’s most eclectic, diverse, edgy area.  It’s full of ethnic restaurants, has a large aboriginal population, and is also struggling with gentrification and the concomitant rise in housing prices.

The Waiters Union is a collective of a few dozen people who live in several houses in this neighborhood.  As Dave told me, “It’s Christocentric, but not Christian.  Our value for membership in the community is not whether you ‘believe’ in Christ but whether you’re living a Christlike life.”  They’re quite involved in the activity of the neighborhood, and they’ve got several ventures like a fair trade, organic coffee roastery, which I’ll be visiting on Thursday morning.  The whole thing reminds me a bit of ReIMAGINE, and Dave said something that I’ve heard Mark say: “We’re caught between the emergent church and the new monastics.  Now quite one or the other, but a little of both.”

After dinner (see below), Dave and Matt drove me to a nearby church where Duncan hosted the local emergent network, called “Postcards.”  We chatted for a couple hours about all things emergent, then back to Dave’s house for a few hours of sleep.

Dinner in Brisbane…

…with Dave Andrews and Matt from the Waiter’s Union.