Synod 1936 debates war, marriage and leisure
The Auckland Diocesan Synod of 1936 was held in troubling times as World War II loomed in Europe. Italian forces had invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) the year before and the Spanish Civil War had begun.
The curse of war
As Synod debated the place of the Church in international affairs, Archbishop Averill spoke passionately against the challenge of “self-intoxicated madmen” and the “curse of war”. He said that while there was a certain glamour to war in past days, there was no glamour in the indiscriminate slaughter of non-combatants and soldiers alike.
“I believe it is the will of God that war as war should cease and that some substitute be found, and I believe that with international tribunals we could succeed without proceeding to this terrible massacre,” he said.
There was a long discussion about the need for self-defence and whether this was justified, but Synod eventually carried motions declaring war as contrary to the will of God, urging Christian people to strive actively for peace, and advocating a settlement of international disputes by arbitration.
Synod took place that year from Thursday 15 October to Tuesday 20 October in St Mary’s parish hall in Parnell. The day before was a ‘quiet day’ for synod members and clergy, and a rally in support of home mission was held that evening. Synod sat every day for three hours in the afternoon and again in the evening. Archbishop and Mrs Averill hosted clergy and lay members to lunch in the Bishopscourt library after their respective conferences on Thursday and Friday morning; they also held an ‘at home’ in the Town Hall for synod members and their wives on Saturday afternoon.
Leisure and marriage
Another weighty topic of debate was the increase in leisure following the Government’s recent introduction of the 40-hour week. A motion was put suggesting that the Church should make sure people used their leisure “rightly” and noting that public houses and billiard saloons had already claimed some of the people’s “new spare time”. The Archbishop’s son, also a priest, said it was the duty of Christian people to encourage young people to turn their leisure to cultural, religious, and aesthetic ends. The motion was carried unanimously.
Other business included a motion urging General Synod to appoint a commission to consider church marriages. Concern was expressed about the general “lack of reverence” by people attending weddings and the “great number of marriages which were unsuccessful.”
Old St Thomas’ Church
On the last day, the city missioner moved that old St Thomas’ Church in West Tamaki – an overgrown ruin – should be restored as a centennial memorial. During debate, the Archbishop confessed that he couldn’t bear the word ‘centennial’.
“l think we should stick to centenary. Possibly we should say it as ‘cent-ee-nary,’ but at any rate let us stick to the word centenary instead of centennial.”
Synod’s solemn deliberations were interrupted one day when some children turned up, clinking coins in tins and asking for ‘a penny for the guy’ as Guy Fawkes’ Day was approaching. The Evening Post reported that, “three small, masked figures…made a noisy appearance before the bewildered assembly. For a few minutes their intrusion was rewarded well, and they were then persuaded to leave with their funds augmented and their spirits buoyant.”