Smoke from the incense burner hovered tentatively over the altar of St Andrews in the Paddock as though surprised to find itself resurrected in this tiny country church.
A few years before, resurrecting Anglo-Catholic ritual would have seemed overdone for the last remnant of a declining congregation, three people who persisted in gathering, still alive to unknown possibilities.
A distinct possibility arrived in Liz Greville, a red headed ball of creative energy with attitude. I first got caught up in her irresistible drive about 10 years ago when she decided I would be the tailor's dummy for her entry in the World of Wearable Arts competition.
My brush with high fashion was a refined form of torture as red silk poppies were pushed and pulled and pinned into life on me. I found myself complying but laughing all the time as so many do when Liz bears down on a project.
Her determination and artistic skill has fuelled the creation of innumerable copes, mites and stoles for New Zealand's clergy. But once a project is completed she's eyeing up the next because her joy is in the creative surge of energy that brings ideas and fabric together in living works of art. It's how the faithful remnant of three began multiplying.
A chance meeting with a trainer for the Montessori inspired Catechesis of the Good Shepherd hooked Liz. It's a programme that values the spirituality of children and tries to encourage their shy, tentative experience of the Divine to flourish.
With the enthusiastic backing of her growing community, Liz plunged in and after training in Brisbane and Chicago now leads the development of the programme in New Zealand. But the kudos of that is of little interest to her, what matters most are the children that gather each Thursday afternoon in the atrium.
Liz says it's about faith, 'true faith, that inner faith that needs freedom to explore and grow while not tethered to nor boxed into the power and control credos of yesteryear.' She quotes Tennyson, 'There lies more faith in honest doubt believe me, that in half the creeds.'
Honest doubt must be good for a community because St Andrews in the Paddock has managed to pull off a magnificent feat. A new building to house the atrium, where a growing group of children has their inner faith nurtured, where they have freedom to explore and grow into their own living works of art.
Jammed into that tiny church with 120 or so other honest doubters, I was struck by the power of being caught up in the creative ritual, music and sheer energy of a community alive in the moment of celebration.
As Liz says, 'a healthy community, tolerant of each others faith position, and supportive and encouraging through all those times when we are vulnerable human beings.'
They've named their new building after Pat Chapman, one of the hopeful remnant. I think she would have smiled and ticked the box for resurrection as the incense swirled amongst that bunch of honest doubters.
Images: Judy Wagg
Judy is a soulful photographer from Masterton who also finds joy in the creative process. Check out more of her amazing work on Spirited Images.