10 March 2013

Going to church

When I first came to Auckland, in 1973, a Christian of a little over two years, I was very fortunate to make friends with Richard Flinn and Ross Jackson.  They two were post-grad students at Auckland University (Richard was doing political studies, Ross chemistry), i.e. a newly-minted lecturer, and still a post-grad student myself, working on my PhD in linguistics.  I was keen to know more of my faith; they of theirs.  Ross, and, I think, Richard, had been brought up Baptists.  I, of course, was a convert, but was, then, a Baptist.  By the time I left New Zealand for Yap in 1976, I was Reformed.  Ross had either become Reformed by then, or was on the way.

And Richard had left to do a theology degree at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, and, unsurprisingly, returned to Auckland Reformed and was ordained a minister.  Mangere Reformed Church planted the North Shore Reformed Church as a missionary initiative, with Richard as minister.  So when we returned from Yap, with the intention, under Richard's sponsorship, of starting a Reformed Church in Pukekohe, it was, naturally, the North Shore Reformed Church that was our missionary sponsor.  Thus, on our return, our membership was transferred from Avondale Reformed Church, where it had been, officially, during our eight years in Yap.

Every Sunday we bundled our four children into the Morris Oxford, and set off for the 65 Km trip to church in the North Shore - including the hour-and-a-half service, three and a half hours were involved.  The chilly bin in the boot with sandwiches and drinks was a fixed institution.  We were excused, because of distance, from the evening service.

I keenly recall the first few times that we attended church there.  I think, now - alas, I paid too little attention to their feelings at the time - that it was distressing for the children, particularly Johnny and Helen.  To be brought into the society of strangers of your own age, who all know one another well, is a challenge for all of us.  For young people, old enough to recognise the fact that 'them vs us' is important, but not old enough to have developed their own ways of dealing with new situations, it is doubly challenging.  For our children, brought up until that point in an environment in Yap where their association with others was almost exclusively limited to their own family and family friends, it must have been, at least, bewildering.  I recall one or two things that support this: Helen's evident real fear, when we would get out of the car, of being separated from us - of being left behind, I think!; Adele's reversion - she was only eighteen months old - to a diet exclusively of breast milk and mashed bananas, though she had been eating commercial baby food for a long time before that.

We continued to drive to the Shore to church through, I think, to mid-1986 - or it may have been mid-1987? - when Michael, Richard's brother, had been ordained and was to become our minister.  We began meeting in the St John's Ambulance Hall in Pukekohe.  Our driving to the Shore was at an end.

We had also now to deal with the question of home-schooling.  Yap presumably had compulsory education laws.  We never had to deal with them.  We just home-schooled our children from the start.  New Zealand was a different matter.

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