A few days ago, when writing about the strength of the wind in Martinborough, I mentioned the trouble encountered by those who built St Andrew’s Anglican Church in 1883. It was blown sideways in the middle of a service, so hasty additions had to be made in the form of buttresses down one side. I had a feeling some readers might not have taken me seriously, so I have taken a photo:
Isn’t it a lovely church? It’s very sweet – if freezing cold – inside too, with wood panelling, wooden pews, beautiful stained glass windows and polished brassware. Local ladies do the flowers, which are always glorious. When someone gets married, they put ivy all around the entrance. I haven’t been to church for decades, having been thoroughly put off when at boarding school because we were always praying, and going to church, and Archdeacon Scott at St James’ in Lower Hutt was so dry, with his broad Scots accent we couldn’t understand a word he said. I always remember Sir Walter Nash, a former New Zealand Prime Minister, sitting in front of us with his two sisters, eating boiled lollies and dropping the papers on the floor. I enjoyed the hymns though, and singing in the choir. (A very close friend of mine who died last year from breast cancer used to say, “You should always end the day with a good hymn”, except she didn’t spell it that way. She was outrageous.)
Anyway, when my 87-year-old mother moved to live in Martinborough this year, I told myself it wouldn’t kill me to take her to church each Sunday. She put herself out for me many times when I was young, getting up at the crack of dawn to help me get my pony ready for a gymkhana, or pony club, making lunch for us, sewing beautiful clothes for me which I, little prig I was, turned up my nose at because I wanted bought clothes like the rich kids. So I accompanied Mum to church and, you know what? they actually have a brilliant vicar at St Andrew’s in Martinborough – Archdeacon May Croft. She’s intelligent, down-to-earth, a wife, a mother, trained as a dental nurse, knows real life. Her sermons are brilliant, and, now that Colin comes too, we actually look forward to hearing them – it’s my weekly dose of philosophy – and I do think she helps others try to become better people because of what she says. It makes a lot of sense, and yes, it would make the world a much more peaceful place if more people tried a bit harder to be kinder and less pig-headed, and sulking stupidly. I told her one Sunday, that I feel like applauding after her sermons.
The other thing I learned is that church, for so many people like my mother, is not just a matter of going along to pray and look like a good Christian, it’s about community, looking out for others and including others. Mum’s met so many new friends in such a short time, good people all, and I must say we’ve met some very interesting people too, doing fascinating jobs – one historian who’s writing a biography of a famous explorer, a prison chaplain, Dame Miriam Dell who used to teach me science and history at school (and who is the Aunt of Green MP Sue Bradford), a maths professor, plus various farmers and grapegrowers.
I even knitted a huge double blanket, out of peggy squares, which was sent off by Operation CoverUp to the poor orphans in the Ukraine, who live in freezing conditions in concrete dormitories. There are also fundraising dinners (for the local school to buy a dyslexia reading recovery kit), and a few Saturdays ago there was the church fair in the town hall which raised over $6000. This is the glue that binds small communities together. It’s heartening, in today’s seemingly more violent and depressing world. It suits us just fine.