My Favourite Window

August 31, 2011

Annual Report


          How do I begin to describe a year in which all of our lives have been touched by the Pike River Mine disaster, turned upside down by the Canterbury Earthquakes, and for me, any truly useful contribution to the Church, feels mired in the lassitude that has followed Elwin’s death since last November.

          At our last AGM, we all realised that if David Ayers was elected Mayor, he would be distracted to some extent from the Ashley Community Church, but even he could not have anticipated the leadership role that awaited him after the devastation that the September 4th Earthquake caused in the eastern parts of the Waimakariri District.

          Yet the Church has come through this difficult time almost unscathed.  It has continued to serve as a place of worship and contemplation, and it is gratifying to know that one Ashley family used the Church to observe the national  two minutes silence during the Canterbury Earthquake Commemoration Day.

          After the September Earthquake it was still possible to forge ahead with plans for the Church’s Anniversary celebrations, although with the closure of the Rangiora Town Hall for repairs, we lost our major fund-raising opportunity (a charity film screening).  The Thanksgiving service taken on St Simon and St Jude’s Day by Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch, was a celebratory and uplifting occasion, marking 140 years since the laying of the foundation stone.  Descendents of Charles Solly Houghton, who had laid the stone, attended both of the anniversary events.  Although not a Committee member, Elwin’s help was invaluable in staging the successful variety concert the following evening, and that concert will hold special significance for our family since it was Elwin’s last public performance poignantly full of promise for our daughter Bryony.

          A fortnight later our family used the Church for Elwin’s final committal by Father Jack Witbrock (after a secular ceremony) and as overnight resting place before cremation.  Kitty and I slept that night beside Elwin in his coffin, and I felt strongly how important my own work in the preservation of this spiritual and historic place means to me.

          David, with his wife Marilyn and their Lead Worship Team, once again conducted a child-friendly Christmas Carol Service with compassion for the losses in our Community.  I especially appreciated Marilyn’s sensitive and thoughtful wisdom on this occasion.

          It seems to me that the Church’s spiritual energy has continued to carry it through this time when the Committee has been so distracted from its administration that meetings have been cancelled or held infrequently.  A detail of our retrieved windows featured on the cover of the 2011 Autumn edition of Heritage Magazine; the well-written article about them, being distributed across the country.

          Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti’s displaced North Canterbury “Hub” students have visited the Church on a field trip, and Rangiora High School students used it as a location for an entry in the national 48 Hour Film Project.

          Looking back it seems remarkable that we have managed to make any administrative progress at all, but we have.  David introduced Richard Heal as a prospective Secretary/Treasurer and he was duly elected.  It has been a difficult year to be inducted into the position, having to field for instance, Inland Revenue demands based on information lost in their red-zoned, earthquake stricken office. David’s persistence has also seen the approval of the Lotteries Board grant for the first stage of the proposed fire-sprinkler system.  The building has been checked twice now by both Historic Places and Council inspectors, with a plan of work provided for our attention.

          In spite of a lack of morale this year, we have maintained a steady flow of fund-raising.  With Anniversary income, sale of hay, donations from Elwin’s funeral, garage sale morning tea, and jam sales, as well as a generous donation from another Founder’s descendent, we have raised nearly $1200 towards the $3000 restoration cost of the returned windows.

          The grass continues to grow, and for mowing it thanks go to: Elwin Jamison, Gerald Stanbridge, Julia Witbrock, Richard Heal and Jeneane Hobby.  For other grounds maintenance thanks also to Graham Harris and Wayne Morrison.  For feeding the troops we are grateful to Joan Shivas, and for the use of this meeting room at no cost we thank the Ashley School PTA.

          With Father Jack feeling less able to conduct his daily offices and regular services, we have all been concerned that the vitality, with which his presence has imbued our little country church, will fade.  In an attempt to at least maintain the appearance of regular use I look forward to learning, from Father Jack, the art of changing the ‘colours’ for the different ecclesiastical seasons.  It seems too, that the Eastern Orthodox Church is still keen to worship at Ashley using visiting clergy.

          In these newly-written Canterbury days, it feels as though the Church of St Simon and St Jude at Ashley has fresh relevance as a heritage survivor. It is also heart-warming to see that a new and youthful generation is taking an interest in it.

          Hopefully this year of adversity, which has strengthened sense of Community so much, is a stepping stone to new potential and continued progress with the Church’s maintenance and restoration.


Steve said...

Hardship - or rather the battle to overcome it - really does bind people. Really hope it's onwards and upwards from here on in.

Jeneane said...

Thank you Steve. A recent survey has indicated that suicide rates have fallen dramatically in Canterbury since the earthquakes, due presumably to people connecting and listening to each other. Maybe we all need a bit of ongoing hardship to be truly healthy, though man-against-nature hardship, seems infinitely preferable to man-against-man hardship.

Being Me said...

What a deeply profound and connecting entry. Man vs Nature hardship: I agree. These are times that are testament to human strength and connection, but godawful to live through.

Thank you. You have given me something today, on reading this.

Jeneane said...

Being Me, synergy at work... It never occurred to me that this Annual Report might also act as inspiration for people beyond this immediate community. But the year has been truly remarkable and I am touched to be able to give you something to contemplate.