Yesterday I started my reflections on growing up in a migrant church in the 1950s. Today the story continues …
By my mid teen years we were worshiping in Geelong. This congregation, which was much larger, did not have its own building yet and had also moved several times – from a Temperance Hall (with amiable rats) to Church Halls. At this time I attended “Catechism classes”, also in relocated army huts. (A story for another occasion involves the Friday after school Catechism classes held at our home. But that deserves a special heading of its own). Previously we had had Saturday Morning School. Every Saturday morning, (as the name suggests!) the children from Ocean Grove were herded into a windowless van my dad normally used to cart veggies, and were sent to a house in Geelong, which also doubled as a theological college, (these dutchies weren’t shy!) and we spent two hours learning about the Bible, Church History and creation while our Aussie friends played football, tennis or cricket. I must confess they were not my favourite two hours of the week. It was an attempt by our parents and the church to compensate for the lack of Christian education, not as I suspected at the time, a form of sadistic adult cruelty.
Around that time, due to the closure of our church, we started attending church in Geelong which had a very traditional dutch minister. When asked what the church was doing for evangelism, his honest reply was, “We open the doors of the church every Sunday.” He soon returned to Holland (and, I believe, to a “black stocking” church) and a new minister arrived who had a profound impact on my life. Rev. J.W. Deenick was a staunch Calvinist who had an amazing sense of the the Christian’s role in the Kingdom of God. With the gift of hindsight I realise that he planted some of that in me.
The church services were just as dull as usual – the hymns sober, the organ slow and not a
guitar in sight. I recall on one occasion being reprimanded by my dad for wearing corduroy trousers, “Would you visit the Queen wearing those pants?” “She hasn’t invited me,” I thought but didn’t dare express. However, now with the new minister there were activities to get involved in; Holiday Clubs (or Vacation Bible Schools) to run and Beach Missions to organise during the summer. For a keen teenager this gave purpose to a Christian’s life. Looking back, it was a time when we began to shed our ethnic hangups and sought to become part of Australian society and bring our own unique contributions: coffee, Calvinism and cigars – not necessarily in that order.
All the while we still had our dreaded catechism classes after which followed the more enjoyable youth club time with its topical studies, business meeting and games – as well as meeting girls. This is where I discovered my wife – after a few false starts!
Tomorrow I want to explore my entry into Christian education.