History… has never mattered more… by Stewart Perry

It is good to be back… but it was nice to have a break. It was also nice to have some short family adventures in the 3 weeks. Leanne wasn’t able to take leave so we had to make the most of our weekends. Last weekend Leanne, Caleb and I went to Melbourne and saw the musical ‘Hamilton’. It was amazing! The music may not be to everyone’s liking but we loved it, I particularly loved the fact that there was no spoken dialogue, it was all either rhythmically delivered, rapped or sung.

We did get some excellent advice from our church’s resident History expert, 9:30am congregation member, St Hilda’s History teacher and History podcaster, Paul Letters that we should really watch the American Cast recording before we saw it live because there is a lot to follow. It was great advice and after seeing the live version I listened to the podcast (which Paul does with his son James called ‘Dad and me love history’) on the musical and the history behind it.

I must admit over the last 12 months I’ve rekindled my love for history. History (closely followed by Maths) was my favourite subject in high school. I remember despairing in Year 11 when I realised I couldn’t do both Ancient and Modern History for my final 2 years of schooling and had to make the difficult choice of choosing Modern History.

With all that has been going on in the last few years and with all that is going on in the world at the moment, I’ve formed the view that History has never mattered more…

I remember as I was preparing to sit my final high school exams, having a visit at home from another Anglican Priest who was also a history teacher. My parents had been hassling me to try and remember all the dates and names of the time frames I was studying (which I wasn’t doing very successfully at the time). This informed man told my parents, which I did find mildly amusing, that “that’s not how we study history anymore”. It was far more important to identify the problems and the issues and then apply those to the situation than it was to remember dates and names and that markers would be looking for students who understood history and its implications today rather than those who could just memorise facts and figures. I was both relieved and challenged at the same time.

Memorising something by rote is hard but once you’ve got it in your head it seems to stay there. I can still recite various different verses that I used to help me memorise things in school. But I think understanding why and how and its impact requires a deeper level of work.

One of the reasons we tend to ignore or overlook history is that we just don’t want to do the deeper level of work.

As we look at the wider church and our church specifically as it recovers from the pandemic decline which has accelerated an already present decline, I think we need to take a look at our history and do that deeper level of work if we are able to present something meaningful, engaging and most importantly Jesus centred to our world.

Australian Anglican Priest and Biblical Historian John Dickson has always had my interest and respect for the way he approaches scripture and history. And I was really engrossed in the book ‘Dominion’ by Tom Holland and have since become a fan of his history podcast which I now listen to regularly trying to catch up on all the past episodes I’ve missed. ‘Dominion’ is an exploration of how Christianity has shaped Western thinking and culture.

As I’ve looked back at the history of the church and the history of the world I have been able to see the problems and issues and I’ve also been challenged on how we might approach the situations we encounter both within and outside the church. But I’ve also realised that none of this is easy work. It’s messy and complicated and requires that deeper level of work.

As important as it was for me, and as important as it is for everyone to take breaks… it is also important to commit to a deeper level of work and not just look for easy answers and quick solutions. From my reading of scripture and church history, the biggest moves of God have always occurred in response to individuals and communities who have committed themselves to that deeper level of work.

There is so much, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can impact and influence in our world if we take the time to identify the problems and issues and commit to the deeper level of work required to bring Godly hope to our world.