Sunday 27th March 2016
In my mid thirties, I dabbled in online dating. There are two things I remember about the process of creating a profile to entice prospective partners—firstly, women are prone to ‘under estimating’ their age and body shape, while men ‘accidentally’ add a few digits to their height and income bracket. Secondly, in the box where you could indicate your ‘belief’ I categorized myself as ‘spiritual but not religious’.
Jakkie and I share a similar spiritual outlook on life and for a couple who are not religious, we spend more time in church than many practising Christians.
We both grew up in church communities. For me, the Church of England played a huge role in my upbringing and family history. I was a chorister and an altar boy who was christened and confirmed into the family of God, before becoming a born-again atheist who would later evolve into a spiritually minded thinker, with a critical respect for many different religions, philisophies and practices.
Jakkie’s family was more religious than mine, as her maternal grandfather was a minister in the United Reformed Church and her mum, Joy, still plays an active role in the church where he preached.
Together, we have always loved visiting ancient churches on our country walks and enjoy connecting with the sacred nature of those buildings that seem to us to have cultivated a spiritual presence through years of worship and devotion.
In terms of actually ‘going to church’, we tend to hold out for the big two—Christmas and Easter. We enjoy singing popular hymns with more gusto than is decent for a couple with modest vocal abilities. We also enjoy the free tea and snacks in the church hall after the service, where we get to chat with the church regulars who are brave enough (or nosey enough) to try and find out more about the odd, new couple who were singing out of key.
As with many European invaders before us, we decided to bring our religious traditions with us to Australia and mark Easter Sunday by inflicting our enthusiastic singing and free tea-drinking customs on an established church community.
First we did a quick recce of the three churches on offer, like English tourists holidaying abroad, trying to find a restaurant that serves recognizable food.
We dismissed the Catholics (too strict and Roman) and the Baptists (too evangelical and American) and set our minds on the homespun familiarity of a 9am service in the wooden Uniting Church, with a 2D fresco of the Easter Story outside.
Then on my early morning walk, I discovered (courtesy of the community notice board) that there was also a heritage-listed church, that dated back to 1915, which had broken with local building tradition, by being constructed out of sandstone.
This was St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church and it was putting on an 8am matinee and holding it’s main show at 10am.
The town was still asleep, save for one old lady gathering pecan nuts under a tree in an abandoned park, filled with overgrown netball courts. Not far from here, I discovered St Barts, hidden down a side street. The moment I saw the beautifully tended, stone chapel, my heart instantly opened and I knew we’d found our victims/community for Easter 2016.