Guest Blog Dr. Jennie Coleman of ResearchwriteNZ shares with us fond memories of an occasion she attended St. Paul’s Christchurch
Just seven days after the Canterbury earthquake of September 4, 2010, my presence was required at a family wedding whose Christchurch venue had been declared safe. But the inner-city buildings beckoned and the digital shutter fairly clattered in response. Red-stickered doors and windows spelled degrees of doom varying from potential to inevitable. The more dispiriting recognition of those beyond redemption was difficult to process. And so, by the time I had wound my way from Cathedral Square, east along Worcester Street, around west Latimer Square to Madras Street and its intersection with Cashel Street, I was hardly prepared for a most encouraging sight: that of an apparently intact, albeit orange-stickered, St Paul’s Presbyterian Church.
So what was it that fuelled such encouragement, such relief and sheer joy that this imposing building had been spared to stand tall, proud and defiant? This church, this spiritual space, a testimony to the faith of those involved in its establishment – this, inner city Presbyterian church, second only in historic Christchurch after St Andrew’s (now at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School). Somehow, miraculously, this place of God had managed to withstand the 7.1 magnitude ‘act of God’ and its plethora of aftershocks.
From the altogether different perspective of personal history, this magnificently defiant edifice holds some particularly special memories of another family wedding – one which included me in the wedding party. It was here, in the summer of 1958, that my much-loved, fun-loving, rock ‘n roll exponent uncle, the late Arran James Craig, married Miss Jean Scott and I was one of their two Flower Girls. I can still recall the excitement of getting dressed for the big day, climbing into a very special long dress of blue & white nylon, its skirt fashionably shaped by the obligatory ‘stiff petticoat’. Nor was it the only obligatory item of Rock ‘n Roll fashion in evidence that day: as the Bride and Groom knelt before the Communion Table, there for all to see were the Groom’s ‘shocking pink ‘socks! His older sister – my mother – could hardly contain her own sense of shock suitably overlaid by horror. And so it was that as my Uncle Arran knelt to receive blessing on his marriage vows he expressed his sense of occasion through the hue of his generation’s music culture.
Although photographic images of a tall, proud and defiant St Paul’s sadly elude recapture, childhood memories cannot be erased; they remain forever coloured less by rose tinted nostalgia than by the humour of shocking pink.