Ladies and gentlemen: My Autie Doris

Dal Daily Post di Rotorua, Nuova Zelanda.

E' in inglese, poi se ho tempo lo traduco.
Ma intanto una frase la traduco, una frase su cui io e la niece che abita in Australia ci siamo un po' scervellate sul senso.

Filosofia personale: "Coloro che portano il sole nella vita degli altri non possono tenerlo per sé" ("La frase era sempre in cima alla pagina per bambini del Timaru Herald e non l'ho mai dimenticata")

Our People: Doris Scott


Presbyterians are generally seen as a conservative lot. Be that as it may, when it came to ordaining women into the ministry, theirs is a denomination that was streets ahead of other mainstream New Zealand religions.

With that in mind Doris Scott, a self-confessed non-conservative, is something of a trailblazer. In 1969 the former Ngongotaha Trinity Church minister was the third Presbyterian woman to be ordained in this country, following eight years serving as a deaconess.

When she made the decision to climb the church's hierarchal ladder the Doubting Thomas' said she first needed to further her education. She offered them what she calls "a sop'' _ a year studying history Stage One at Massey "then they [church officialdom] decided in their wisdom I should do another year at Knox Theological College, I didn't learn anything new''.

Doris had already spent a couple of years there post Deaconess' College. The controversial Professor (later Sir) Lloyd Geering, was her Old Testament tutor.

In 1967, Geering hit international headlines when some within the church accused him of heresy. It was an accusation that didn't stick at general assembly level.

Doris was to the forefront of those championing her former professor's right to free speech.

"He was absolutely inspirational, I was very disappointed by the controversy because we were taught in the Hall [college] to look at all sides of everything ... that we had to be open-minded.''

Doris Scott's open-mindedness has been a hallmark as much in her ministry as it has been in her "civilian'' life. Knowing Doris on a non-spiritual level for at least four decades we can, hand on heart, attest that she's about as open-minded as they come. She's also enormous fun to be with, loves a jolly good laugh, and to mix our denominational metaphors is someone whose interests are so wide-ranging they can best be considered catholic, (in the strictly non-biblical sense, of course).

That these are qualities not normally attributed to a stereoptypical Presbyterian minister begs the question has Doris always been of a religious bent?

"Not particularly, no. As a child I went to Sunday School, taught Bible class, sung in the church choir, that was it really. My parents didn't go to church, my mother was an Anglican, my father joined the Presbyterians in the trenches during the First World War.''

So how, then, did Doris decide the life of a churchwoman was for her? Could she perhaps have had a "calling''? ... a word she detests.

The reality is she was given a subtle nudge towards the ministry while in London on her OE.

"I heard this minister speaking at Hampstead Trinity Church, he was talking about how ordinary members of the church had things to do for it too, and I realised that lurking at the back of my mind was this idea that I could possibly become a deaconess. I had a friend in Dunedin who was one.''

So that was that then, no voices from the heavens, no clashing symbols, no flashing lights? "Not for me, no, it was all very prosaic.''

By this stage Doris was in her early 30s but what of the life of Doris Scott, pre and post her ministry years?

Trawling backwards we learn her earliest memories are of the Depression years when her father was among the throngs of the unemployed. "He was a warper in the woollen mills and they were closed. I do remember him doing odd jobs and I would go with my mother trying to sell plants to make ends meet.''

Doris was a child who loved school however it's with some glee that she confides she wasn't a hard worker. ``I read furiously but not the set books.'' She had a particular fondness for those that were travel-focused and travel's remained a passion.

At her mother's insistence she put her education behind her when she passed School Certificate. "She didn't believe in girls having an education because they got married and their education was wasted. Seventy years ago that was very much the norm.''

Doris came to curse passing school cert. She was so certain she'd fail she hadn't applied for the librarian's job she wanted, believing she'd be back at her desk re-sitting it the following year.

When her marks proved her wrong the library job was already filled so in its stead she joined the then Social Security Department.

"Working for the Government was seen as a nice, safe job but I didn't enjoy it a bit, I didn't see why you had to have school cert to do the filing.''

Two years on she moved to the Housing Department, booming in the post-war years, then it was on to Timaru Hospital "persuading ward sisters to find beds for patients''. A brief flirtation with nursing followed. "I had my appendix out and decided I'd like to go nursing but physically it was very demanding and I couldn't keep up.''

In her mid-20s and wanting to flee the nest, she moved to
Dunedin working in the medical records department at that city's hospital. However, her desire to satisfy her travel lust took her back home to save money.

A year with the Land and Survey department provided sufficient funds to buy a passage to Britain "I'd always wanted to see where my parents came from.''
Mum was from Bolton in Lancashire, dad from Peebles in Scotland but Doris' UK arrival was dampened by the death of the paternal grandmother she'd come to meet.

Instead of her planned trip to Scotland, she and a friend cycled around England's south west. In London she found office work at University College Hospital's pathology department and a flat on Hampstead Heath's Parliament
Hill. Hence her presence in the church were the seeds for a life in the ministry began to germinate.

There was more UK travel before she returned home "Europe was too expensive'' and it was another year before she began her studies that were to lead to Miss Doris Scott becoming Deaconess Scott.

Her next three years were spent in Balclutha, flowed by a further three in Palmerston North. "Ministers would retire and be replaced by other ministers, not deaconesses, the church didn't really seem to know what to do with its deaconesses, yet some of us were more highly qualified than the men who were being ordained.'' It was this that motivated her to step up a notch.

Doris hadn't been ordained long when one of her professors recommended her to his brother, then resident minister at St John's church, Rotorua. "He arranged for people to come and hear me taking a service in Palmerston North.''

Doris won't say it so we will, those who heard her preach were impressed ... she was appointed to Ngongotaha's Trinity Church, remaining for 13 years.

"I resigned because I felt I'd been there long enough, that the church needed a change.''

Five years at Wainuiomata followed but she missed "home'' and the house she'd had built in the then new Kawaha Point subdivision. "When you're a minister the houses you live in never belong to you so I was very keen to live in my own home.''

She remained there "until I realised I wasn't getting any younger and being up on a hill wasn't the best thing''.

Twenty five years after her so-called retirement Doris' links with the church remain. She worships at St David's in Owhata and takes the occasional service there. She's saddened that like all denominations congregations are shrinking.

"The question I frequently ask myself is why do people think the church is irrelevant today? There are people who say they are into spirituality so why don't they come to the church to share their spirituality?''

Doris Scott

Born: Timaru, 1927

Education: Timaru South Primary, Timaru Girls' High, Deaconess College and Knox Theological College (both Dunedin)

Family: Three nieces one each in New Zealand, Australia and Italy

Interests: Family, friends, travel, is recently back from Australia. As convener of the U3A (University of the 3rd Age) travel group fills in the gaps of her own international itinerary via the travellers' tales of others. Photography (member of that U3A group too), reading, St David's Church, charter and former member Zonta Club of Rotorua

Overview of the church and her role in it: "I am not a conservative in the church because I think we have to live in the world as it is and a lot of things in the church today don't ring true for me.''

Personal philosophy: "Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others can not keep it for themselves.'' ("That was always at the top of the Timaru Herald's Children's page and I've never forgotten it'').

1 comment:

SUBU said...

Aunty Doris rocks.