I was sitting pooped on the back verandah of my home in Braidwood, a country town an hour from the capital of Australia, Canberra. I had been working on the kitchen with a friend, laying vinyl tiles, if I remember rightly. Quite easy to lay, really; what I can't understand is how four boxes of tiles could cost $600. Must have gold in them or something like that. Anyway, tiles were the order of the day - all part of that bottomless pit called, "restoring an old home". And like all mad restorers, once restored you sell it. Well, that's what I did. Total madness!
There we were on the back verandah taking a breather. From the verandah it was possible to see the Braidwood Anglican church. It was kind of in my backyard. A building of imposing brick and granite, gray slate roof and a wonderful stain glass windows that takes your breath away. It is a beautiful and peaceful place, solid, everlasting.
Father Ian had rung the bell and as we peered down the side of the church we could see a crowd gathering. "Obviously a local funeral" we surmised. Just faintly we could hear the organ, and what an organ. The church contains this wonderful pipe organ, and what a brilliant instrument it is. So, just faintly we could hear the sounds of the service drifting across the backyard.
We continued to eat our jam tarts and debate the issues of life.
We could tell that the service had finished. Crowds spilled out across the road and slowly a cortege developed. The thing most noticeable was the number of cars that moved slowly past the church. We could only see a few cars at a time go past from our narrow view, but they kept coming. Then a few stragglers, then nothing. All was over.
Little faces laughing, sneering, grimacing, viewed the scene. Few noticed them. They looked down from on high. Gargoyles, water spouts for the church tower. They laugh at our foolishness, they sneer at our weakness, they wince at our littleness. They remind us of our mortality, of our end, of our passing - "dust to dust". Strange to have a medieval tower on an Australian church. It was built in 1900 and those monstrous little figures were carved by a stonemason named Joseph Hamilton; thirty years later he worked on Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance. So these little monsters, clinging to the outside of the church tower, sneered at the scene below. You see, they understood the secret. Beyond this place the ravage of time, inside, the light of immortality.