National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Message in a bottle

March 2016

by Rebecka Colldunberg

Let’s be honest – water is bland, tasteless and downright dull!

If you’re anything like me you will get the sporadic jolt of motivation to ‘drink more water’, whereupon you will dutifully line up eight glasses of water on the windowsill of your kitchen, take one look at them and retreat, defeated, to a darkened corner.

Yes, water is the lack-lustre epitome of monotony in a glass.

That is, until … you need it. When you need water there is nothing else in the world that will suffice. The desperation in you grows. Your mouth becomes drier and drier. You are filled with self-loathing, ‘Why, oh why, oh WHY didn’t I take water with me?’. And then it hits you, ‘That’s right … I think water is boring’.

No other scene in cinematic history quite demonstrates this desperation for water as that iconic moment in Ben Hur, in which we find poor old Ben, having suffered umpteen upsets to his pleasant family fortunes, reduced to a slave in the Judean desert. With very little understanding of the concept of ‘happy worker equals good worker’, his Roman slavedrivers forbid him to stop for a 15-minute water break. And thus, parched in the desert, with a backdrop of sand, sand and more sand, and a heart-wrenching musical theme, two hands appear. The hands are those of Jesus, holding a small, artfully crafted wooden cup of water. With absolute desperation Ben lustily quenches his thirst with the life-giving liquid and finds the strength to carry on.

It is this very Christ-like behaviour that the members of St Paul’s, Glenelg, have emulated annually, during Adelaide’s famous 12-kilometre City to Bay Fun Run (now known as Bay-City), when they hand out bottles of water to parched and despairing runners.

Congregation member, helper and encourager Claire Kleinig explains the initiative’s conception, ‘The whole thing began when one of our members was participating and they commented that our church building is so close to the route’.

The church was so close in fact that congregational runners were able to complete the Sunday morning run and, with one final sprint, make it to communion on time (just!). ‘This one particular woman asked our pastor at the time, David Altus, how we could minister to the runners. The obvious way was to supply water’, Claire says.

Pastor Altus (now SA-NT district bishop) was very keen to support the idea and in 2007 the first crate of bottled water was purchased. In the first year each bottle had a small label affixed, prior to distribution, with the words ‘Living water, St Paul’s, Glenelg’.

In recent years the labels have grown in size and the words have become bolder, reading, ‘Water is a gift from God. May you be refreshed and blessed’, followed by the church name. The labelling …