Lessons from a Boat Building
written by Rev Gary Heard

There came a critical moment last Friday night as part of the Dockfest “Fast and Furious Boat Building Challenge” when we lowered our construction into Victoria Harbour. We held our collective breaths as it left the last support from the dock and committed itself to the water: would it sink? Over an hour earlier we had made a design change to improve its flotation capabilities: sealing the floor between two pieces of MDF, thus creating a raft-type effect. Our sense of relief (elation is not an appropriate word) lasted only a short. When the starting gun sounded, we watched our vessel bobbing up and down in the water, being blown back in the wrong direction by the wind. No amount of paddling could rescue the situation. We were in a slow boat to nowhere.

There was a small sense of consolation when one of the other contestants sank before they could even leave the dock, but that diminished as we watched the other contestants making their way around the course while we bobbed up and down on the spot like a marker buoy. If the boat is a symbol of the church, there were some serious lessons for  the coming year.

More is less: in our determination to avoid sinking, we hampered our ability to progress. By eliminating one risk, we hamstrung our ultimate purpose.

If we needed to catch the winds, we had to design a boat with some depth. Sailing boats need a keel to take advantage of the wind. By providing no penetration into the water, our sailing capacities upwind were zero. To switch the metaphor: we needed roots.

Less is more: With our focus on avoiding sinking, we designed a boat big enough to support all four of us (and probably one or two more). But flotation came at the cost of transport. We were on a boat going nowhere. So we needed to find something more of a balance which gave greater ability to move forward.

Remember the ultimate purpose: our desire to avoid the embarrassment of sinking may have impacted our planning. It might be better to sink just before the end (as the then-leading boat did) than not sink at all and remain in the starting blocks.

The fact that we were still on the water, going nowhere, and unable to catch the winds gives us hope only inasmuch as we have opportunity to learn, grow and change. We will enter the next challenge ready to adapt and change. I wonder how the same lessons might apply to our ministry as a church community?

March 20, 2005
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