Blue Flag Churches

When we returned to the middle of Tennessee in the middle of the U.S., we missed staying on the beach in Portugal. Walking on the beach walk each day, removing our shoes and walking through the surf, and enjoying a place where many people got out and walked were wonderful. We wanted more, but this time, we decided to do it a little different, and stay on a beach in Spain to see how it was the same and how it was different.

We rented an Air BnB apt on the Costa Blanca and it looks wonderful after the first day. I woke up to watch the sunrise over the beach (the south facing beaches of Portugal meant the sun neither rose nor set over the ocean.) Of course, from our apartment, we have two high rises that blocked part of the view. Never-the-less, we were closer and could see more water than from any Portuguese apartments that we s43421456_10215625435604121_8685194625868103680_ntayed in. Even better is that we have two balconies. The first is completely glass enclosed and makes a lovely place for breakfast with the 8 am sunrise making it even better. The second is open, but the morning sun results in it being too hot. Afternoons and evenings seem to have a strong wind from the east, so only lunchtime is shady and wind free to enjoy this spot. The nights are cool enough in October that even the enclosed balcony is a little too cool. The Apt., though, being protected by two sets of windows, stays comfy.

Today, the first day, we took three walks. On the first one, we walked down the beach, first south until we got close to the end of the sand, near the rocky point. At that point, we saw horse poop on the sand at the edge of the water. We turned around immediately. Then we walked far down the beach northwards. As we walked north, we noticed the sand is a lot finer than in Portugal, signifying smaller waves hit the sand. This made for firmer walking, not sinking in and having to work harder to walk. I noticed that there were no breakwater like in Quarteira. There must not be a current trying to sweep away the sand. Furthermore, waves broke farther out, meaning the shore didn’t drop off into deep water nearly as quickly. All these result in a warmer water that is more pleasant to wade or swim in. The waves, breaking farther out, made for better body surfing, with people enjoying that.

IMG_20181009_181321630_HDRIn addition, we noticed that more and more people were enjoying the beach and water as we walked north of the apartment. As we wondered why, we came upon a sign declaring this to be a “Blue Flag” beach. Later, I looked it up. The beaches must attain and maintain environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criterion. The beach looked lovely, but I wondered how the horse poop a couple of miles south might affect the Blue Flag status. An additional facet was the frequent places to recycle. I compared this to the greenway back home in Murfreesboro. Here they have separate bins for glass, aluminum, and cardboard, plus trash bins. I saw very little trash on the beach, plus people picking up their dog’s droppings with none left abandoned. Back home, the litter in the river and in the bushes along the greenway was rather disgusting, and surprised me how I took it for granted until I saw a place kept clean. Certainly, I could see how relaxing the vigil might result in a beach that was like the greenway and unsafe to enjoy. Many European tourists make sure their spot has Blue Flag status before coming. When a city loses tourist dollars by not having a Blue Flag rating, they will spend quite a bit to get it.

Our second walk was mostly to sit, read, and enjoy the beach. By then, 4 pm, the wind had picked up. As I walked through the water, I noticed that most of the people had left the beach. After I enjoyed a strenuous walk through calf deep surf, I returned to Regina to read, but the wind made it too cool to enjoy long. Finally, after falling asleep on the sofa, we decided that both were too tired to cook (jet lag was still affecting us strongly) so we walked a found a burger place, where, as you might expect, we ordered salads. Two immense bowls of salad appeared and two hungry people had to admit defeat. (I know what I’ll have for lunch.) Despite this, I only managed to get 6 miles walking in, not the 8 of my goal.

At the end of the magical day, I mulled over the “Blue Flag” concept. What if Churches could get Blue Flag status. They would have to have a similar sort of criterion. There would be an educational criterion. Not only would they have to teach the Gospel, but actually train people, not teach them to sit in the pews. What other criterion? A socially active one where people got out of the church and interacted with the community? A fiscally transparent one, not just making the Pastor rich? What about an accessibility standard, where all people felt welcomed? All these criterion would have to be broad enough to be available to most denomination, of course. Can you imagine moving to a strange town, and not having to shop a huge number of churches, but expecting that one of the few Blue Flag churches would be your style? After investing time and money in a decent looking church, I have had to leave due to major flaws; bitter power struggles, the pastor taking all the money, and racist viewpoints. Others Churches have been a delightful experience, but why not have something that helps you find the gems?

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