Getting Churched


My mother, bless her soul, decided I must be "churched". We were Presbyterian, but as the Church of Scotland was not present in Killara, I was sent to the Church of England Sunday School. Rev Charlton was the minister. All spoke warmly of him, although they did say he had this nack of praying for the King in the State prayers instead of the Queen.

My most vivid memory of Rev Charlton was his running around the Killara oval chased by the Sunday School kids. Whenever we pulled his cassock he would throw out a handful of lollies. I'm not sure whether they were wrapped or not, or even if I got one, I did have a great time.

I left Sunday School when someone punched me in the stomach. I think it was at the showing of a missionary film. You know the type of thing, how wonderful it was that all the native women now had bras. I'm not quite sure what this equipment had to do with their spiritual life, but somehow it seemed important then. So ended my first excursion into the Christian faith.

Being 14 and Church of England, can be a problem. It was confirmation age and no amount of arguing was going to stop my mother sending me off to the classes. On Sunday afternoons I usually played tennis; now, I sat in the Church and learnt of things mysterious. The Rector was one Norman Fox, a lovely bloke. Still, I didn't want to be there, but then, there were all these beautiful girls in the class and I was just starting to notice the difference.

I can't say I learnt anything at confirmation classes except that breaking the 7th commandment on adultery was a serious sin, but totally unintelligible. As far as I could fathom, I broke it every time I looked across the class at those girls.

There was a bonus in all this. Once a month I could attend the Fellowship tea and be bored silly with a missionary speaker, and I could get to the once-a-term Church social.

To prepare us for the Church social we attended the Killara school of dancing where we learnt the Fox Trot, Pride of Erin,The Canadian some-thing-or-other, and so on. Once prepared, we were launched on the social scene at St.Martin's Killara. We be-suited and be-pimpled gentlemen stood on one side of the hall while the girls sat on the other. The band struck up, and filled with fear and trepidation, we strode across the hall to ask someone for a dance. In those days my eyes were set on Carol, but Jeff, my best mate, liked her as well. I tended to feel that the safest place was in the men's toilet having a smoke.

In later years we tried to convince the Ladies' Auxiliary to allow us to introduce Rock-n-Roll, but it was all to no avail. They would not let "the Devils' music" into the Church hall.

As a confirmed member of the Church I rolled along at irregular intervals. It was on one of these occasions I was asked to join the Fellowship Bible Study Group. "A bit religious" I thought, but I had nothing better to do. In the"holy huddle" I found a little centre of meaning and acceptance. Our little group soon concluded that most of the members of the Church were not true believers. Even the Rector was viewed with some suspicion. In our eyes, he was not a Bible Man, but he still loved us.

My lunacy only lasted a few years, for like most pubic adolescents I grew out of it all. None-the-less, I learnt some important lessons that I would never forget.

Like so many in my fellowship days, I said the words, mouthed the prayers with all the jargon of Zion, testified to my faith, tilted at windmills and burnt heretics. Yet none of it had much substance. My religion served as a framework for meaning. It gave me security, purpose and place, yet I knew not Jesus. After our little excursion in religion most of us drifted away from it all. It got us through our adolescence. Of course, for some, the crutch had grown into a permanent attachment - the pharisees of the future. They could never survive without it. Oh yes, and for just a few, it was real, but then I was yet to discover that.

I suppose the experience taught me that it's very easy to manipulate a response from people. Create the right environment, control the group dynamic, manage the input and wallah, good little christians.

While performing the religious life of a "full-on pain-in-the-neck" there was another piece of lunacy I observed in myself and others of the pious brigade. Jesus called it pulling the specks out of the eyes of others while failing to take the log from our own. It took me years to understand what He meant by that, since I was too busy doing it.

It's hard to be good, yet we members of the "holy huddle" made a pretty good job of it. We opposed the new extension of the Church as it was only going to house unbelievers anyway. We even argued strongly against prizes at the Sunday School picnic. Oh dear! classic hypocrisy. We busied ourselves finding sin in everything but ourselves!

I remember only one School Scripture lesson and I suspect that's the norm. Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one was a Churchman who spoke of his goodness. The other was an evil man who asked for forgiveness. Jesus said that only the sinner went home as God's friend. I had become the pious Churchman inflated with my own goodness. I studied my Bible, witnessed, attended rallies, stuck my nose in everyone's business but my own, and I was a fraud. In fact, most of the members of the "holy huddle" were frauds.

Yes I drifted away, and St.Martin's Killara probably breathed a sigh of relief. I was yet to discover that there was only one good thing I could ever do in God's sight and that was accept the good He had done for me in Jesus. And the lesson I learnt from it all? It's just far too easy to be a hypocrite.

[Pumpkin Cottage]