Our March “Photo of the Month” features what has been described as “one of the most unusual Church services in New Zealand”.
Taken in 1971 in the old Craig family home at Matai, a rural area on the West Coast of the South Island, the Presbyterian service is being conducted by the Rev Alan Goss who only recently spoke of this unique experience. The three elderly and devout sisters, all in their 80’s, hosted a home service once a month, their home having in fact been a venue for services over the preceding 43 years.
What circumstances enabled us to view such an intimate scene of personal worship? Lindsay Crozier, the Presbyterian Church Photographer, was in fact related to these sisters whom he aptly referred to as “Faith, Hope & Charity”. On the allotted Sunday, each had their own appointed task, one to play the harmonium, one to arrange the furniture, and one to provide afternoon tea. These routines were described as being “set in concrete” with all help being politely refused. On this occasion a local parishioner has joined them. The sisters preferred to sing the hymns of old and Communion would never be taken as they did not consider themselves worthy enough to receive it. Each Wednesday, and accompanied by flowers, they undertook visiting at Greymouth Hospital, a way in which they could practically demonstrate their Christian love and concern for others.
Although there was no television, the Rev Goss noted that their home was full of books and that they were very much aware of what was going on in the outside world. The walls may have been bare T&G board but are hung with an interesting accumulation of old pictures and a hand-worked sampler.
They may have lived in a world surrounded by the past but their life truly demonstrated the enduring Christian ideals of Faith, Hope and Charity.
By Donald Cochrane, Curator of Photographs