November 25, 2022

Serving The Thirsty: The Old Church of the Golden Nectar

We went to our newly renovated local pub/hotel last night after work for a meal and a drink, and to check out what is a stunning renovation of an almost 100 year old building. It’s the Bassendean Hotel, about ten minutes walk from our house. It used to be fairly downtrodden and tired, but after more than a year of renovations, it looks amazing inside and out.

A little bit about our suburb. It’s old, it’s on the river and near the trainline and only 15 minutes from the city. It used to be a working class suburb with a lot of migrants, but it’s gentrifying, and quickly. It’s one of the greenest suburbs in the area, literally and politically. We like living here. It’s been nearly six years and we love the changes.

And last night the Bassendean Hotel was packed. Young couples with dogs (pooches are welcome), parents with kids (there’s a great playground inside the beer garden), older couples having a wine. The evening was balmy, it was the end of a busy couple of days work for my wife. The food was great, and the wait-staff super friendly We were on a date, kinda making up for lost time after me being away for weeks on end. Planets align right there! Here’s a picture of my Jill feeling chill.

As we were eating, a Christian bloke in Perth who has a keen heart for people to know Jesus, and who held a significant ministry to a national sporting team walked in with a friend. We talked about the changes to the building. And then on Facebook this morning we had this banter:

“The old church of the golden nectar”. He’s on to something. My friend’s got a keen eye for culture. He knows how get around to a gospel conversation with anyone, without batting an eyelid. What’s more he and I had both noticed the slogan on the back of the tee-shirts “Serving The Thirsty”. And we both picked up that it was saying more than what’s on the surface.

If you Google the Bassendean Hotel, this comes up:

Serving the thirsty since 1930, The Bassendean Hotel opened its doors to a line forming down the street from 9am, with locals thirsty for their first pint. Standing on the corner of Old Perth Road for nearly 100 years, it has carved out a place as your cornerstone pub and for many, it’s an extension of their living room.

Serving the thirsty? Interesting. An extension of your living room? Nice. And as my our banter shows, it immediately pushed both of us to thinking about the One with a reputation for serving the thirsty. There’s also this on the webpage.

This is an inclusive community that welcomes all. It’s got the flags and the statements to prove it. A safe and welcoming space, like your lounge room where your thirst will be slaked.

And you know what? It feels like it does. It feels heaps better than the old version of the Bassendean Hotel. The lady who clips my dog owns the shop across the road, and she’s an old school, dreadlocked hippy who lives out on acreage past the city. Even she loves the new Bassendean Hotel. Not the swanky part of it. Not the kid-friendly bit. But as she told me, “They’ve got something for everyone.” And for her that’s the sports bar out the back which feels “old school” enough (AKA 1980s enough) for her to enjoy it.

It truly sounds like the place everyone would want to be. Welcoming, and serving the thirsty. And it works. Why? Because it does tap into that need that people have for the kind of place it describes itself as. It certainly felt like that last night. Even the woman at the well would have been welcomed there in a way that she wasn’t welcomed in her home town.

Except of course, she would have thirsted again.

There’s something to love about the good gifts that God gives us. A nice suburb, a great place to hang out and have a meal or a drink with loved ones. A place that feels safe for all of the family. All great gifts. And I want to affirm all of that. But no matter how much they serve us thirsty types, the Bible says there’s a thirst that they can’t slake, a welcome they can’t give, and a home that they can’t provide.

Here in Australia, in places like Bassendean, it’s often hard to see what space there is for Jesus. When the newly renovated hotel can provide all the good stuff and be a place of meaning and community and significance, then it’s something of a challenge.

But the fact is there’s a thirst in humans that the Bassendean Hotel can’t reach. It can provide almost all the thirst-quenching a modern life might need in terms of pleasure and relaxation, and perhaps a certain level of meaning. Almost all the meaning someone might need is available in a modern city like Perth. It seems to me that the anxiety that is so prevalent across the Western world is not because we have deep lack and are unhappy, but because we have deep fulfilment and are so often dissatisfied. That thirst is served and served and served and served. But it just won’t be slaked. Just won’t go away.

Here’s another thing. The newly renovated hotel has a newly renovated carpark too. And that carpark backs onto another old Bassendean building, St Mark’s Anglican Church. It’s been a bit run down lately too, and seeking a new rector to come in and bring some focus to the place again.

Well just this past few weeks a friend of mine, Mark, (no relation!), was appointed to St Mark’s and began a gospel ministry there. He could do worse than putting up a banner that states “Serving the Thirsty” as well. Mark will point people to the Jesus that St Mark proclaims in his Gospel.

Next week I’m going to meet with Mark and talk about the start of his work in the area. He’s looking to move in to the suburb soon. Right at the doorstep of the place in our town whose aim is to serve the thirsty (at a price), will ring out a message that says this:

“Behold, every thirsty one, Come to the waters, And he who has no money, Comebuy and eat, Indeed, comebuy wine and milk Without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)

The new church of the truly golden nectar. The Bassendean Hotel has got competition!

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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