Small Details and Big Barriers by Stewart Perry

It is nice to be back but we did have a great holiday, particularly the 2 weeks we spent in Singapore and Thailand. We’d never been to Singapore and loved it! I’m pretty sure we’d all go back there for another holiday in a heartbeat.

Singapore is renown for its public transport system and a number of people had mentioned to us before we left, that it was incredibly easy to get around on public transport, particularly the trains. We even had a very generous couple give us their 2 travel cards (similar to our Go Cards in Queensland) to get us started once we arrived along with some great tips on how to use the system.

And our experience of this transports system was exactly how people described… except for one small detail when we arrived…

You see we discovered, after trying to top up the 2 cards at each of the self-serve terminals at the train station, that we couldn’t make it work. We needed to buy a 3rd card for Caleb and so went to the nearby 7-eleven to purchase a card and to try and top our cards that weren’t working in the self-serve terminals. As we told the sales assistant what we wanted, she tallied our total and we handed over our card and… it didn’t work again. She then helpfully told us that you could only purchase and top up cards with Singaporean bank cards or cash. The penny dropped as to why we’d been unsuccessful with the self-serve terminals… the next problem was that, thinking we wouldn’t need much if any cash that day, I’d left our Singaporean Dollars in the safe at the hotel. Fortunately the sales assistant saved us from a trip back to the hotel by allowing us to “purchase” some alcohol (which you can buy from convenience stores in both Singapore and Thailand) and then return the same alcohol and she’d refund us cash with which we could then use to purchase a travel card and top up the ones we’d bought with us.

Success! We could enter the worlds gold standard train system and could now travel with ease. But it did leave me to contemplate how small details can become big barriers.

We were very fortunate that this sales assistant was able to both recognise we were tourists and explain the system and was generously willing to work out a solution to help us. She could very easily have said: “I’m sorry I can’t help you, you’ll need to come back with some cash.”

The chances are, if you are reading my words, then you have a reasonable understanding of our church’s systems and church systems in general. We can easily take for granted that like every facet of life and culture that there are systems that people who are part of them know and understand. But if you are not part of the system or familiar with the culture, small details can become big barriers.

Our wardens and then our staff team did some planning just before I left for leave, we’ll be continuing the planning process and including Parish Council in the coming weeks. One of the questions that we’ve been considering in our planning is: what would it mean for us to be a church that is expectant of people coming back to church?

What would it mean if those people coming or coming back were unfamiliar with the way we do things at the Anglican Church Robina? What should be our posture?

I wonder if it’s a bit like the sales assistant… we need to recognise, explain, inform and be generous.

Sure we do have staff members, parish councillors and people “rostered on” to help… but how much difference would it make if every single one of us had a posture of recognition, explanation, information and generosity?

The reality is that for those coming in to our community at every level, whether it be a Sunday morning or a mid week activity, whether it be our Op Shops, Early Learning Centre or playgroup… there are so many small details that could become big barriers.

Unlike us on holidays, we would have gone back to the hotel, got some cash and then come back. I would have been cranky with myself for not thinking about bringing cash but we needed to get to our destination so I would return. Those attempting to connect with us, when they encounter our many small details may not return because the barrier seems too much for them. No one in the world in which we live HAS to connect with a church. The fact that they are trying to should excite us enough to want to have that posture of recognition, explanation, information and generosity.

I wonder if we can prayerfully reflect in the coming weeks on what our many small details are, and how they can become big barriers. In doing that I pray we can be excited by the fact that people are coming and coming back to church and its activities and ministries… how will we respond when they arrive?