A packed-out gathering was given a rare treat recently in Dunedin, a showing of dramatic images of the life of the church going back a hundred years or more.
Missionary pictures once shown on the famous old magic lanterns showed why Presbyterians were hailed as the most informed folk in the country about the wider world; about for example, the New Hebrides, China, India. A film-strip ‘The Heart of the Matter’ about the New Life Movement in the 1960’s showing the rapid expansion of the church and its ministry into new housing areas, the suburbs, the work camps of the huge hydro-electricity projects.
Fascinating to see the Church at the cutting edge of technology at that time, and inspiring to see the optimism and determination to galvanize congregational energies throughout the country to finance and support so many new initiatives.
It was a special treat to have one of the pioneer photographers, Keith Lyon present, who had specially come down from Christchurch for the event, and was delighted to be walking, as he said through ‘memory lane.’ Great also, to have Stuart Vogel from Auckland in the audience. For this is a national resource, which we can tap into to explore our rich and encouraging heritage.
It was certainly a different world, a different time, one of our early films even being shown to Members of Parliament and commended by Prime Minister, Walter Nash. Roars of laughter from the audience, greeted, too, many of the captions which reminded us how far we have progressed from the male dominated church of just two generations ago. But it was also a wake-up call, reminding us of the imaginative and compassionate outreach of our Church in our distant and not so distant past.
Believe it or not we have in our Archives no less than 180,00 visual images: photographs, slides, film-strips, videos, which are being carefully preserved, thanks to the support of the General Assembly and the Synod of Otago and Southland.
This occasion was a first ever presentation of a tiny fraction of them by Yvonne Wilkie, our Archivist, and Mike Tymons, who curates the collection. Let’s hope there are more such occasions, and that they can be made available to the whole church.
We also welcomed Anne Jackman the new Director Presbyterian Research Centre, incorporating the Archives Research Centre and Hewitson Library of which we will hear more about down the track.
by Peter Matheson