Memories of an age of certainty
Len French / Supplied
St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Whareama, east of Masterton, was burnt down on Monday evening. Resident Len French photographed the destruction of the building during the height of the fire.
OPINION: The very day I sent my cousin a little Christmas present in Europe this week – paying the new fortune for postage – the old church in Whareama burned down.
There is a link.
The link is genetic and nostalgia. If you can’t get nostalgic as Christmas approaches, all that’s left is The Beatles, the two of them, to pin your wishful thinking on.
Whareama, east of Masterton, is inscribed in the history of the family, that of this cousin and mine, as well as his church, where there was a bench in the name of the Street family, presumably missing in the brass that melted into hell, as well as the lovely building itself.
* Historic 117-year-old Whareama Church near Masterton burnt down
My grandmother’s childhood home was practically across the street. Nine children were brought up there; a tenth is dead. My great-grandparents George and Alice Street ran a small post office in one part of the house, and Alice also had a darkroom where she developed her own images of her children as they grew up. . When you’re pregnant for 10 years of your life you want lasting proof of results, I think.
Alice and George’s grandchildren all appear to have been photographed as small children perched on the back of the family horse, nervous mothers soaring.
Years later, my mother was thrown from another horse on the property and spent the rest of her life dealing with the effects of a serious head injury.
Obviously, my nostalgia is for colonial New Zealand at the time and its vision of a little Brittany. The church, designed by Frederick of Jersey Clere and built of native wood, was 117 years old when she died, three years younger than my grandmother.
I can imagine the little congregation there singing George’s favorite hymn, AAll the people who live on Earth, otherwise known as The Old Hundredth, and Christmases would have meant traditional Christmas carols sung in a warm little church on a sweltering Wairarapa day.
I grew up with my grandmother mainly, so I borrowed memories from that time. I also still have some of her Christmas decorations when I was a child, including hand-painted Chinese paper lanterns from Wong Nam, the greengrocer where she shopped in Masterton.
This is what I sent my cousin this week. Somewhere I also have tiny paper disks from a Christmas stocking from a long time ago. They came in a little pleated box, and when you put them in a saucer of water, they magically unfolded into flowers. Not anymore, I shouldn’t think. I keep them anyway.
A few years ago vandals threw stones through the stained glass windows of the Epiphany Church in Masterton, where my grandparents were married and where a series of family funerals, including those of my mother , took place. It was the funeral that brought the family closer together as our interest in religion evaporated.
Many changes in 117 years, including the confidence that animated the former settlers, as well as their vision of a village life created in rural New Zealand in which the Maori were little more than vague figures on a distant horizon. and blur.
I don’t think I know anyone who goes to church, although everyone does attend Easter and Christmas out of habit.
The premier of Whareama had a grim picture of what this was all about. “All are miserable sinners in the sight of God,” he warned his new congregation at their first church service, and among the nine of them, the street children have probably done their part. As we do, in a way he could never have imagined.
What I call nostalgia is really longing, for a time when people thought there was certainty. It had been a long time since I thought anything was guaranteed.