Sheelagh Wegman writes - My story will probably seem a bit strange to some people. I sometimes feel wistful, when I read the stories of other Christian folk who were brought up in loving and stable Christian families with siblings and cousins and a close community. They seemed to have been very blessed.
Yes, my life has been a bit different but nonetheless rich and interesting. And certainly blessed.
We were a migrant family of the 50s and 60s and life had its challenges. Not having the family networks that most Australian families had – no grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins – can lead to a feeling of isolation. No ‘six degrees of separation’ with us!
We ate ‘weird’ food like rye bread, potato farls, gammon, tomatoes, and real cheese that the grocer would cut from a huge muslin-wrapped wheel in his shop. People told me that tomatoes were ‘poison’ because ‘they’ll giv’ ya hives’ and any cheese but Kraft Cheddar in a blue box was regarded with deep suspicion. As for the pickles my parents used to make – we won’t go there!
Doing well at school and being on the tubby side made me the perfect target for bullies and nasty nicknames. Early days were sometimes lonely and miserable.
While my parents were not churchgoers, they did send me to the local C. of E. Sunday School. We learnt the basic Bible stories but the best part was the book prizes that we’d receive at the end of the year.
Books have always featured large in my life and my parents had a huge collection. Almost every room in the house had a big bookcase. Nothing was off-limits – I could read whatever I wanted to, but some books were way beyond my understanding – and boring.
Small country towns were rather ecumenical in those days. While we were nominally C. of E., the best piano teachers in the town were the nuns at the local Roman Catholic Convent School and for several years I walked the mile and a half once a week for lessons with the black and white robed sisters who gave their young pupils an excellent grounding in the practice and theory of music.
Talking to friends in later years, I discovered that those of us who learnt from the nuns thought that these amazing women were not quite human. People were divided into ‘men, women … and nuns.’
Going to church was a bit hit-or-miss but my Scots-Irish Dad did know his Bible and would enjoy arguing various points of Christianity and other religions. It was not until I was at high school that I began to think more about Christianity.
I was fortunate to board with a couple of mentors, a mother and daughter, both women of deep faith. They never preached, or made a fuss, but in their quiet ways in the care of the six boarders in their home they were a strong, gentle witness. They prayed daily and we girls were welcome to share in their quiet times. The way they lived and their obvious love for the Lord made an impression and eventually led me to make my own commitment to Jesus.
Then came university, with a great mingling of beliefs and ideas. In the 60s and 70s there was a rising spiritual awareness, not particularly Christian mind you, but a recognition that people were spiritual beings in some way. It was a seminal time in history with big issues facing the world: the Vietnam War and conscription, nuclear disarmament, the Cold War, stirrings of the environmental movement.
It was a heady time and my Christian friends comprised a very interesting group. There were Methodists and Presbyterians (most of these eventually merged to form the Uniting Church), and Baptists, Quakers, Church of England, Open Brethren as well as one or two Roman Catholics in the mix. The Charismatic movement was erupting. There were many meetings and gatherings of like-minded students. Discussions in the Uni Ref. were lively! It was at a university Christian conference that I met my architect husband.
Completion of studies in languages, lots of piano playing and choral singing, various jobs that always had something to do with words – sometimes written, sometimes verbal! – and marriage, three children and five grandies have all brought much joy.
I sometimes think I have the best job and love my work in writing and editing, especially when it encourages and enables people on their own writing journeys. It really is a privilege.
It is interesting to reflect on the past and see how God’s hand has touched my life on a daily basis. It’s been a constant. Through some major ups and downs and medical issues I have been blessed and upheld in prayer by some wonderful Christian friends. We have changed churches a few times and the children have grown and moved away, but we’re in the ‘right place’, useful contributors in our Anglican cathedral, our present church community.
My relationship with Jesus is still growing and there’s no other way I would want to live except with him at the centre of my life.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. The above photo is the upper part from this portrait.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html