Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Pig sales and religion

Some days I seem to spend a lot of time driving around. Often it’s good thinking time. I sometimes think about a story told to me many years ago by a friend about a product suggested to a noted maker of sticky notes and suchlike, that they market a pad of paper and pen that could be stuck on the steering wheel of a car. The idea was not pursued as the company did not want its logo to be the last thing people in car crashes saw as their airbag decorated with the notepad sped towards their faces. So I have to try to remember things myself.

I’m working on a part of the book where the Jaeckels senior are trying to make sure that their kids are not too isolated in the new country. They want them to be able to meet other young people, make friends and meet potential mates. One traditional way to do this was by attending church.

In some circles today it is common to bemoan the “deChristianisation” of Australia. It is said that many more people used to attend church. I’m not sure of the percentages, but as I drove along this week I was wondering if there are less Christians or simply less people who attend church because there are other avenues for social contact. It could well be that the number of people who actually believe has remained constant while those who attended church for social reasons have dropped off. Instead they hang out at pubs, clubs, shopping malls, sporting groups etc.

If you lived in a town like Marburg in the 1800s and well into the 1900s, the main social options were the pubs, the weekly dance held by the Show Society, one of many churches or the various sale days such as the 1930s pig sale day pictured below. Church social occasions included picnics that were immensely popular and probably only required one not to actively poke fun at the church’s religious convictions.

Courtesy of Picture Queensland

Of course, there had to be many churches to allow for the various “takes” on religious beliefs. Membership was probably as much regional and ethnic as spiritual. If you were from a certain area in Prussia, you stuck with a familiar church. If you were English, you probably attended the Anglican church. Tiny Marburg had Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Church of Christ and several varieties of Lutheran churches (according to stories the Lutherans were very argumentative and the churches split several times). There was also the Apostolic church out at Plainlands if the menu wasn’t extensive enough. I think that you would have had to stay in Brisbane to worship in any other religious tradition though.

Whatever your faith or lack thereof, the church was certainly a social hub. Every tiny settlement covered most of the bases of society: commerce with at least a small store, overt entertainment with one or more pubs and social/religious with churches. So I don’t think the Jaeckels had too much to worry about.

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