Chilling in ‘Straya: Melbourne

The SPA (South Pacific and Australia) churches held a retreat in Melbourne, and I decided to go. This is just a bunch of pictures that I took on my trip.

The city

Melbourne is a big city. More people live in Melbourne than live in the entire country of New Zealand.

Melbourne is not known for its distinctive skyline, but it does have a few interestingly-shaped buildings.

Such as this skinny tower (and you know I’m going to use that bird I caught by accident as an excuse to use the birds tag).

The city has an extensive tram network, which is free inside the city center. Somewhat like Denver, I guess, except much larger scale. The trams running down the middle of the road sometimes make driving even more awkward than it would otherwise be. And driving in Melbourne is pretty awkward.

Speaking of awkward, I’m not sure what this is a monument to. Possibly a potato with a tumor. Or maybe a dessicated eggplant.

Side note: some people here (I think it’s a UK thing) call an eggplant an aubergine. People here also call zucchini and other types of squash courgettes and a bell pepper a capsicum, so all bets are off when you’re in the vegetable aisle.

Fortunately, this monument is (at least comparatively) more normal.

This car is driving me absolutely insane trying to identify it. I feel like somebody tried to dress an old Lincoln limousine up as though it’s a Packard from the 1930s and then bought the wrong hood ornament off eBay.

Back to the city, though.

We got an opportunity to climb up to the roof of a 9-story church building (more on that in a minute), so I was able to take some decent photos.

Australia is generally North of New Zealand, but Melbourne is on the South coast and as such is about the same latitude as Auckland. I was hoping for some nicer weather, but as you can see it’s about the same as back home.

(I just annoyed any of my North Carolina friends who are reading this by referring to Auckland as “back home”. Sorry folks :))

Walking through Melbourne is a generally interesting and not unpleasant experience.

The tour

Those of us from out of town were given a great opportunity to take a city tour with a twist: instead of looking at tourist stuff, we would examine the income gap and look at the city from the eyes of the homeless.

The tour was given by Urban Seed ministry, an organization designed to help the poor and homeless in Melbourne. These tours are an important part of the ministry’s efforts; raising awareness is necessary if the problem is going to be addressed at scale.

Jordan is shocked by everything we’re hearing! Or possibly just scratching his head.

Collins St. Baptist Church started Urban Seed several years ago. This church is quite old and ornate; definitely impressive!

The inside is just as impressive, and was also dark enough to make exposures somewhat tricky.

The graffiti

As part of the tour, we went to an alleyway where graffiti is not just permitted but encouraged. I wonder if something like this would help to abate Auckland’s graffiti problem?

Possibly not, but some street artists certainly have gone all out here!

I find it interesting to see beautiful, intricate street art defaced by common tagging or someone choosing just to write over top of it. I think it’s even more impressive to see these artists expending so much time and energy on such an impermanent medium.

Despite its legitimacy as a graffiti site, the alleyway is not entirely on the up-and-up. Our guide said that sometimes his tours (which he often gives to school groups) can be interrupted by drug deals or drug users.

Perhaps as much as anything, coming here as middle-class tourists to a place where people clearly have spent the night in the recent past illustrates the gap we were meant to be observing.

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

Tourists! Woo!

The dilemma

One of the activities of Urban Seed ministries is to give drug users a safe place to go, get needles and clean water, and consume their poison of choice.

Our guide believed very strongly and vocally that doing so is part of the ministry of Jesus. Others might argue that when Jesus instructed his followers to give cups of water to “little ones”, he didn’t expect said water to be used for dissolving illegal pharmaceuticals.

Ultimately, we have to reach people where they are. If we create a ministry that excludes the marginalized, the repressed, and the judged, Jesus won’t be there. He will be outside, ministering to the people we’ve excluded. This isn’t license to discard our convictions or our morality, but it is a challenge to step outside ourselves just a bit and, most importantly, to love more and judge less.

The end

Afterward, we went kangaroo hunting. Look, we found some!

Come back next time to see where the rich people live in Auckland!

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