Tuesday, October 02, 2012

PAGE FORTY-EIGHT: a different sort of church

When we arrived in Narromine, we discovered there was no Baptist Church and no Church of Christ, in this little town of only about two thousand people.

But the people in the Narromine-Trangie United Parish were friendly and enthusiastically welcomed our family of three. They loved having a young family with a baby, and when Danny grew and began wandering up and down the aisles, they didn't bat an eyelid.

In the church I grew up in and the one we attended after we were married, there was no printed liturgy. We may have occasionally said The Lord's Prayer, but we did not say any creeds or read from a prayer book.

However, although there are not set prayers, in actuality there can be a lot of repetition in the supposedly informal churches. And sometimes the oft-repeated things can be a de facto liturgy, except that it has never received the care that has been given to the written-down liturgy in the formal churches.

I was surprised when I found myself enjoying saying the creed and the order that results from a liturgy. Our second minister in our time at Narromine was Rev Joe Eddy. When Joe led us at The Lord's Table, he often said something like the following words to us:
Come, not because you are strong, but because you are weak
Come, not because you love the Lord a lot, but because you love him a little, and would like to love him more.
Then, in saying a prayer to help us to confess our sins to God, he would say something like this:
We have treated those closest to us in a way that we would never treat a stranger.
Joe also had his fun side. In one service, he colluded with Laura Forrest, the organist, and had us singing a well-known hymn to an alternative, but very well-known tune - but none of us could figure out where we had heard the tune before. It was maddeningly familiar, but what was it? After the service was over, he revealed we had been singing God's praises to the tune of The Pub with No Beer!

Danny with Grandad Sims
Our minister in our first year at the church was Rev Barrie Wright. He was very kind to us when we needed to get Danny to hospital quickly. One day when Joan was changing his nappy, she turned around for a moment to get something and found he had rolled onto the floor in that split second of time.
He seemed to be fine, and went to sleep, but the next day, he was in pain and Joan wasn't sure what to do. I was at school, and Barrie came to the rescue and very kindly drove Joan in to Dubbo for Danny to be looked at the Base Hospital.

The medical staff discovered that Danny had broken his collar bone. He healed quickly and everything was soon back to normal. But apart from his kindness, what impressed Joan was how Barrie observed the speed limits, shall we say, religiously. He was scrupulous to slow down to the speed on the next road sign a little before he got to it. The roads would be a lot safer if we all drove like our minister, who modeled the life he recommended to his congregation.

In the Narromine-Trangie parish, there were lots of little churches, as well as the two main ones. Dandaloo, Eumungerie and ... I forget the others. To cope with these demands, the minister had some lay preachers, both men and women.

Although I had been brought up with conservative views on lady preachers, (and still have conservative views) honesty requires that I record that the women in the parish usually did a better job! Their talks sounded prepared and interesting, whereas the men's talks were often rambling and sounded like they needed some work. 

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