A Sunday School graduate


Sunday School is a noble institution, a little over 200 years old. In the 1950's the "electric wireless" (what a quaint name) reminded us that "Good citizenship begins at Sunday School." Intended as a good citizen my parents sent me to Sunday School.

My first years were spent at Exeter in the Southern Highlands, South of Sydney, Australia. I gather my parents felt that the Japanese army would have great difficulty getting that far inland, so we were obviously safe there. Dad's perfumery company owned a lavender farm at Exeter, given that the German occupying forces weren't into exporting French lavender oil. Anyway, I was a bit young for Sunday School at Exeter even though the farmhouse backed onto the church.

I had to wait till we moved to Killara before I was introduced to the Sunday School at St.Martin's Anglican church. I arrived on the day of the special missionary film. I was later to appreciate greatly these films of topless native women. National Geographic was also another great source of unbelievably sensuous photos, well sensuous to a Primary School boy that is. I nearly didn't get in to see the film. The Rector, Rev Charlton, was not sure I was old enough to appreciate it. Well I certainly wasn't old enough to appreciate the native women, but in great kindness I was allowed in to watch the film with the big boys and girls.

I'm sorry to say the film was boring, but then maybe next week they would have cartoons, a Laurel and Hardy film, or even Tom Mix. I was to be greatly disappointed, for from that time on all we ever did at Sunday School was start out singing some choruses together and then go and study the Bible in small groups. I soon grew to hate those study groups because we would all have to read aloud from the Bible, one after another. I was petrified when it came my turn because I just couldn't read. A touch of dyslexia saw to that. So Sunday School slowly became one of my many nightmares.

I think I learnt at Sunday School that Jesus loves good little boys and girls. This lesson always concerned me because as I grew up to be anything but good, I came to believe that Jesus obviously didn't love me. Even as an Anglican clergyman the lesson stuck with me. I tried to be good, worked at it, but I knew I was never good enough. How could God ever love a person like me? I know it's crazy, but it was only about fifteen years ago when I came to understand that God is a gracious God, a kind and forgiving God. He actually loves bad little boys and girls, and that's all of us. He loves anyone who asks Jesus for his love. In fact, when we ask Jesus for his love, there is nothing we can ever do to get God to love us more. It's also true, that when we ask Jesus for his love, there is nothing we can ever do to get God to love us less. What an amazing truth. When we reach out to the living God through Jesus, his love for us is 100%, no matter how compromised our life happens to be. Anyway, so much for this early lesson.

The Sunday School picnic was a wonderful event. It didn't quite make up for the horror of trying to read the Bible, but it came close. The Rector, Rev. Charlton, was, according to my mother, a bit past it. She said he would always pray for dead King George instead of Queen Elizabeth. Still, he could certainly get around Killara oval quick smart. He would lift up the front of his cassock, fill it with lollies, and then set off running around the oval with the Sunday School in hot pursuit. Every time someone pulled at the back of his cassock he would throw out a handful of lollies. The trick was to let other people pull his cassock and focus on lolly collection. That was a great year. I won my race and was awarded a water pistol. What greater prize could a bloke receive? I had a pocket full of lollies and a water pistol to boot.

During the year the Rev Charlton retired and a new minister arrived on the scene. He moved from Nowra, Rev Fox was his name, or Foxie as we used to call him. I don't remember him running around the oval at the Sunday School picnic, but I do remember him dishing out Nelson's Blood for the sit-down picnic in the cricket pavilion. All old "picnic suckers" will know that Nelson's Blood is good old raspberry cordial, usually mixed up with some ice in the hot water urn. The tea for months to come always had a distinctive fruity flavour.

There was a lapse in my Sunday School education. I hadn't quite learnt the distinction between "catho's" and "prots". Somehow I ended up in Dixon's gang, and he was a "catho". Knight's crew, who were "prots", didn't appreciate one of the opposition coming to Sunday School, so one Sunday I was given a hiding. Mum tried me at the Congregational Sunday School, but it just didn't feel the same. Anyway, mum kept her distance from the Congregational church after someone cleaned out the urn with sandsoap prior to the visit to the church of the Prime Minister Mr. Menzies. There was great consternation when it came time to serve the tea. Anyway, whoever was responsible, the event gave me the opportunity to graduate from Sunday School in third class.

I sometimes wonder what part those four years at Sunday School played in my life. It didn't turn me into a good citizen and it did screw me up a bit on the crazy idea that good people go to heaven. "No one is good but God alone." Yet it did introduce me to a great bloke. Sure he had long blond hair, but he did seem real. So some kind people introduced this little kid to Jesus. Lucky me!

[Pumpkin Cottage]