I’m just back at work after a couple of weeks holidays. A small part of my holiday was spent on and around the golf course. I’m a strictly amateur hacker, but very much enjoyed the chance to chase that little white ball around.
My first golfing experience during the break took place at the incomparable Barnbougle Dunes, on Tasmania’s north-east coastline. Barnbougle is set into the coastal dunes overlooking bass straight. It’s a stunning golf course, rated #3 in Australia, and #35 in the world’s rankings of best golf courses. For golfers, even hacks like me, it’s a special place, and one that I have been looking forward to for a long time.
One of the features that makes Barnbougle so special, is the way it fits perfectly into its environment. This is not a resort style golf course, with artificial waterways, perfectly manicured bunkers, and lush iridescent green grass.
Instead, the course winds its way through the dune system behind the beach, using native grasses, local sand and the natural obstacles present in this beautiful wilderness environment.
Certainly the course designers have done some earthworks, brought in top soil, and carefully crafted greens and fairways, but the overwhelming impression is that they have done so within the context of the original environment.
Context matters. The local environment matters. The result is a golf course that fits perfectly, and appears as though it has always been there. Barnbougle would be a strange place if they parachuted in a resort course like Sanctuary Cove. Context matters.
The same is true when we in the church start thinking about new initiatives. Parachuting in some brilliant community service initiative, or some wonderful contemporary (or traditional) approach to church, community or worship just doesn’t cut it. What matters is looking closely at the community, its needs, its habits, its environment. Context matters, and if the response isn’t contextual, then it’s in danger of doing more harm than good.
When you start thinking about new initiatives, look closely at your host community. How can what you do fit maximise the dunes, curves and existing environment? How can you ensure that you’re not just dropping in an ideas from somewhere else that simply won’t connect with your community? Context matters.
Lessons from the golf course is a continuing series of reflections