Last weekend Darwin Memorial Uniting Church, the church I was brought up in, celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its building’s construction. It was quite a grand affair with performances from the Darwin City Brass Band and the Darwin Chorale, as well as visits from past and present clergy and the odd politician not to mention my family, who made the trip up from Adelaide for the weekend. Fifty years might not sound like much, but in a city that was blown up by the Japanese in 1942 and then blown down by Cyclone Tracy in 1974, a building with some staying power is something to celebrate, especially given the rate at which the city skyline is changing.
Since arriving back in Darwin in November, I’ve been heard to say that walking back into my old church after nine years was a bit like stepping back in time. The same faces were all there to welcome me to the same style of service and same music that we were singing the day I left oh so many lifetimes ago. Having been associated with the congregation since I was born, I really got a sense of having been part of the congregation forever.
It blew my mind and put me right back in my place to see how many people attended the celebration who have been around the church since it was opened in 1960 and had also been part of the seed congregations that went before it. It gave me a real sense of continuity, and of being part of something much larger than even my whole lifetime. Of course, most things in the universe are much larger than my lifetime, but in a society that prides itself on constantly advancing and changing, it was comforting to know that at least some human endeavours have the ability to stick it out.
One of the more moving aspects of the celebration was the music. Someone had managed to dig up copies of music which was composed and performed especially for the opening of the church fifty years ago. As far as anyone knows, it hadn’t been performed again since, until someone slipped a copy to the brass band. Listening to the same arrangement of Abide With Me blended with The Last Post (the church building also serves as a war memorial) that had been played fifty years ago gave me the same sort goose bumps as opening a time capsule, or stepping out of the DeLorean after a flux capacitor malfunction.
Having celebrated the past, the capstone of the weekend was an open discussion on what the future might hold for Uniting Church in Australia. It was fascinating to hear different people’s ideas on what the church might become once the mysterious and unpredictable under 30’s crowd inherit control. I have my own ideas on that front, and I'm planning on putting my grand takeover plan into effect sometime in the next few months. Watch this space.
Garry with 2 Rs