By Rachael Hanna
In recent weeks Mornington worship has been greatly enhanced as members of the Church family have shared their faith stories. Here Rachel Hanna simply tells her story so far, from childhood and adolescence in two churches, to life in the police in a big city, to maturing faith as a mother and teacher back in the Church in which she was nurtured.
My first experiences of the church were traditional family focused affairs. Sunday School which gave the occasion each week to wear your best clothes, my Granddad on the door, in the choir and discreetly dispensing half peppermints to grandchildren sitting near him. Church was inextricably linked to the Sunday roast and family day that followed.
Less traditional was the fact my parents were divorced , and when we were with Dad we attended the Catholic church. My Grandparents had pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary front and centre in nearly every room of the house. I liked them.
In 1978 we came to Mornington Methodist and began a relationship that continues today - and that I am introducing my children to. I want them to experience the same positive childhood experiences of church that I had.
In the years in between, away from Mornington, I attended church mostly at Christmas, and mostly the Catholic church. I felt comfortable in it’s rituals and the familiarity of the service no matter which church I attended. But as a church in which to base myself and my faith on a permanent basis, no. I enjoy the open, progressive, welcoming, inclusive, accepting and familiar aspects of Mornington Methodist church, and perhaps would not be anywhere else if not here.
My experiences in 15 years of policing predominantly in Auckland were enough to test anyone’s belief or faith. But I know that God was with me when I was terrified on my own, on beat, in Auckland city on my first night shift and scared of the dark (a fact I hadn’t confided in my recruiting officer!), or when I had to protect my partner from a huge offender intent on killing or maiming him, when entrusted with the complaint of a 12 year old girl sexually abused by her father for eight years, and the other victims of sexual abuse and other crimes, or when advising families that a loved one had died, or in the myriad of situations that on the face of it seem impossible to deal with.
I believe God helped me to have the strength and courage I needed.
I find it hard to describe or define my faith. Other than it is just that – faith in God and Jesus. My husband, a detective of many years, deals in facts and evidence, and that is his standard, what he asks. I can only say that for me I have a belief and I accept it as true – although it would never stand up in a court of law. Trying to reconcile the information and stories we have from the Bible and other sources is often beyond me. I have never read the bible, I have read parts of it – and enjoy the readings each week and the sermon which relates to them. It gives me something other than my personal interpretation and experiences to ponder.
It is also an hour or so of fellowship and calm in the whirlwind of the week, and I enjoy the opportunity to allocate that time to my relationship with God – because the timetable is tight, and it’s not something I do a great deal of at other times.
I struggle with incorporating my faith into everyday life – to make it relevant and not selfish. I have a sense of responsibility to do my bit, to contribute, but find when time and money are limited the opportunity to minister to others is reduced. It’s easy to feel guilty for not being more proactive with my faith as I know God would like – but if I wanted more guilt I would still be at the Catholic church!
My first response to most situations is prayer. It is an instant option, a reaction, without thought. It is my dialogue with God, and the most defining element of how I operate my faith. I have found that since having children I pray more than ever before. Often on a Sunday morning – which can be an unholy rush - I have heard the words ‘for God’s sake will you get your shoes on and get in the car’. I should point out this does not typify my prayer!
I often think my level of faith and perhaps relationship with God is superficial compared to others which seem so profound and deep. I have wondered if I should have had some revelation or other profound experience myself, and what that might be like. But I conclude that it’s probably like looking at other people’s marriages – you don’t really know what goes on in the inside.
I love the words and sentiment of the hymn Brother, sister, let me serve you. ‘I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh, I’ll laugh with you, I will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through’. Sounds good to me.