Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Welcome visitors to our beautiful place

THERE are some beautiful places in our world. Places where we can enjoy the quiet beauty of God’s creation, soaking up its atmosphere, smelling the freshness of the air, taking pleasure in the colours and sounds that surround us. Places where we are able to enjoy stillness and peace in the midst of the busyness and distractions of our daily lives.

Earlier this year, I was privileged to visit a place just like this on the other side of the world, in New Zealand.

Lake Tekapo, on the South Island, is a place of great beauty and popular with tourists from all over the world. By day, its turquoise waters contrast with the snow-capped Southern Alps in the distance, by night the purity of its atmosphere has earned the area recognition as a “starlight reserve”.

Without the light pollution that we experience in so many places, the sky above Lake Tekapo is a myriad of stars and an opportunity to attempt to grasp the awe and wonder of our universe.

The view is expressed beautifully in one of the ancient poems or Psalms that we read in the Bible as we “look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established” (Psalm 8:3).

To truly capture the beauty of these scenes, by day or by night, I found that one of the best places to view them is from the Church of the Good Shepherd which stands on the shore, looking down the lake.

This small stone and oak church — founded in 1935 — is built to the glory of God. And God’s glorious world can be seen by sitting on one of the wooden pews inside this tiny church.

As I sat quietly, my eyes focused on a simple cross which stood on the window sill behind the altar. Beyond the cross the panoramic window gave breathtaking views of the lake and mountains. It was indeed a place of great beauty and I was grateful for the quiet welcome that I received on entering this tiny church.

However, I was not alone — people (like me!) had come from across the world to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd, so the area is not always a place of stillness and quiet as coachfuls of people arrive to photograph and enjoy the view.

The church has come up against many challenges because of the large numbers of enthusiastic tourists who visit this beautiful place each year.

We, too, live in an area of great beauty; the lovely towns and villages along the River Thames attract people from all over the world, particularly in the summer months.

As we move into the tourist season, may we be prepared to share what we have been given with others, to be welcoming so that our visitors may also take away good memories of their visit to this beautiful part of the world.

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