Thinking about Church & Mission from the Ox-bow lake

IMG_4199 IMG_4288 IMG_4290 IMG_4305 2014-01-09 15.21.44 2014-01-11 16.28.44


The above photos were taken over a period of about year as I took my dog , Ruby, for walks along the River Otter in Devon, when i lived there for a while. The Otter had a number of twists and turns, initially it was possible to walk beyond the post in the fifth of the photos, and right around the island. A year later and it was cut off.  In fact you can see the same post on the second and fifth photos.

It was a very slow process, however, the final act of breaking through the shrinking barrier was pretty quick happening in a weekend when the South West experienced a not too irregular bout of torrential rain & flooding.

What was spectacular was that the River immediately became faster and accelerated. And the Water left around the Bend, became stagnant.  (though a haven for wildlife.) Slowly the Oxbow lakes will dry up, being filled only by the rain.

The situation of the Ox-bow lakes or Billabong (for thats what those new lakes are called in Australia)- causes me to ponder a few questions;

How many metaphors of the Christian life like River occur when we don’t realise that the church might have changed in its shape, so its no longer part of the connected river

ie; we might tell young people to ‘go against the flow’ – at least they’re in the flow.

  1. What about working with young people and in communities – how might the church provide places of stagnation that are still alive – teeming with wildlife that are attracted to a slower pace of life?
  2. Does the Oxbow lake satisfy the needs of its occupants, those attracted to it, yet the river runs past?
  3. Can the church if its the metaphorical lake connect with the river (if the river is culture)- and should it try to?
  4. If the church is the stagnant lake, and the river is the Spirit of God hovering and moving over the moving waters- how might the church reconnect or follow again with the rhythm of a moving, acting, sending God?
  5. What is going to happen to the fish? Trapped in a smaller lake, swimming round in circles. More susceptible to prey? Hence the herons and Egrets just visible on one of the photos.
  6. The River will never connect with the lakes ever again, at least not in that direction. within 2 weeks a beach had formed- what might this say?

The good think about the Ox-bow lake above, is that it is fed by a small river from the upland farm land, just outside the village of Ottery. So it is unlikely to dry out completely. There will be some life left in it. Enough to maintain its existence as the river passes by. Maybe there are other metaphors for you in this scenario, relating to your work with young people, in your practices, or the practices of churches and organisation, and ill leave you to reflect on these today.



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