St Aidan’s, Anglican church, Remuera, Auckland, New Zealand is a church that was an integral part of my childhood. Integral for two main reasons.
Firstly because, the then very small Corran School for Girls, where I was educated, had a practice of making every pupil walk ¼ mile up the road to attend a service at St Aidan’s every Wednesday morning after the first bell rang.
I am sure, the car occupants driving by, seeing the long, noisy, green (uniform colour) trail moving slowly out the school gates, holding up the traffic as we crossed the pedestrian crossing thought we looked like something from St Trinian’s – Girls of all sizes and stages, creds and nationalities, made one by our tidy uniforms complete with outdoor shoes, boater hats and the all-important fawn gloves!
Anyway that’s what my dad endearingly called us.
Let me digress, (as I always seem to find a way to do!).
St Trinian’s was a British gag cartoon comic strip series, created and drawn by Ronald Searle in the late forties and early fifties, which centred on a boarding school for girls. The dubious characters of the teachers and the risqué antics of the students has no similarity to us at Corran, I hastily reassure you; but you get the picture.
Comedy films followed over the next few decades with less dark connotations and were more popular than the original comic strip. It does need to said that perhaps we older girls at Corran secretly wished we were like our comic counterparts!
Going to the church was part of the school’s Christian culture and became part of the rhythm of childhood life.
The second reason St Aidan’s made an impression on me was, that there was a painting that hung up on a panelled wall near the corner on the left-hand side, at the front.
As a very small child it concerned me. It hung in the shadows with a thin frame made thinner by the gloomy ethereal tones and the aerial view of an anguished figure. I did not really understand what the painting was about, but instinctively knew it to be significant.
It was as the years rolled by, still walking in tidy pairs up Remuera road Wednesday after Wednesday during term time and filing into the church that my awareness of things Christian grew. I realised the figure was Jesus and he was depicted on the cross.
This new knowledge took the picture from a visually challenging piece of art that presented itself to me each Wednesday, to a spiritually compelling contemplator that went home with me.
The print, which I have not seen in any photo of the church for some years is a copy of Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí (1951).
We see Jesus Christ hanging on the cross in a darkened sky floating over a body of water complete with boat and fishermen. The viewer can see, although it is most certainly Jesus on the cross taking the sin of the world, that there are no nails in his hands, no blood trickling down his wrists and no crown of piercing thorns.
According to Dalí, he was convinced by a dream that these features would detract from the portrayal of Christ. I must admit I must agree with him there. As a small child, I would have focused on the blood and the nails, missing the importance of His agony completely.
Corran School Motto is Gaudeamus, translated “Let us rejoice”.
And I do rejoice – for all these years later, the uniform now long gone, the memory of this painting intermittently lingers as if suspended in time, but Christ, the subject of the painting resides eternally in my heart.
Thank you St Aidan’s