Today’s guest is Marlene. Marlene is a new friend that I found when I started going to St. Luke’s – and if you listen to the podcast, you’ll have heard about St. Luke’s – and I fell in love with Marlene’s voice when she did the prayers one week and I thought, ‘She must be a teacher.’ And she is a teacher! So we’ll hear more about that, and Marlene is retired, but like most retired people I know she’s super busy teaching, and praying, and studying, and doing all the things, caring for others. Welcome, Marlene.
The other thing I want to tell you is that Marlene’s had basically no notice of the questions, so she’s very willingly jumped in, and so we’ll see how we go. You’re a teacher, you think on your feet, so I’m sure we’ll be fine.
So, we start where we always start: how did you become a Christian?
Well, I guess I have been a Christian all my life, but my mother was a Christian, and she talked to me and told me about the life of Jesus and so on. When I left home, I suppose I left Jesus for a while. We all seem to do that at some stage. Then I think I decided that I had to teach in a school where Jesus was mentioned quite often, at assemblies and places like that, and of course I found literature that interested me, and I felt that the students I was teaching needed to know about this literature, and therefore to know about Jesus. That’s my early start.
Was there a specific time when you said ‘From this time forward, I’m with Jesus’? Or was it more of a gradual thing?
A gradual thing, through teaching, and through reading the things that I was going to teach. That belief was there, and that understanding, and I guess that help from God was there too.
Are there specific authors that you really fell in love with?
I think many people would know the name of Clive Sansom. He was a Quaker, and I taught with Clive for many years, and he was a wonderful person to listen to, and in his quiet way I think he helped me tremendously too. And then after that I went on to teach in a school, and perhaps took his thoughts with me as well.
So what do you teach?
(laughs) Not an awful lot these days!
What did you teach?
I taught speech and drama. And I did that through the Speech and Drama Centre with Clive to start, and then I went into a school, and I taught speech and drama there as the specialised teacher, which is a wonderful subject to teach.
I don’t know, I did so badly at speech and drama in high school!
I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it!
I think I wasn’t ‘out there’ enough for the teacher, but that’s alright.
You don’t have to be ‘out there’, no.
So how did you show your faith through teaching? You say you were in a Christian school, so you could actually talk to the students about Christianity?
Yes. I don’t know that I ever lectured them, let’s say, but the content – of course, speech and drama is a performing subject, and much of the subject that I chose had to do with poetry, and drama of course. But I chose Clive, once again, because I knew him so well, I chose a lot of his poems. We in fact presented The Witnesses, which is a collection of poems he wrote about the life of Christ. And naturally the students need to know what this means, and some of them understood, some of them just rattled off words, and they learned even by this that you must think about what you say, and understand what you say.
I think that’s very similar to how Andrew Legg teaches the Southern Gospel Choir: it’s the words in the music. You can think they’re not having any effect, but if you have to memorise them you stick them in your brain, I guess.
So you would then attach great importance to what you were actually reading, or thinking about, or memorising through life?
Yes, very much so, yes. Yes, I think that whatever I chose was something that was going to be memorable to the students, but also that would help them in their daily life. Sometimes, when we were getting ready for exams or something like that, some of the subjects were not as – well, they certainly had no religion in them at all – and that’s okay, because that’s life, as well.
And did you go on the stage yourself? Did come to this through a desire to go on the stage?
When I lived in Launceston, many many years ago, yes I belonged to what was known as The Launceston Players, and I think they’re still going. And I did a little bit on stage, but it wasn’t my forte, I didn’t enjoy it as much. I wanted to teach.
I am not a teacher because I don’t have any great love for teenagers en masse. (laughs) My husband has a huge love for teenagers. Did you enjoy working with teenagers? Is that the age group that you prefer to work with?
Well, I taught from about grade 2 all the way through to matric (grade 12). And I loved them all, but my great love was the matric students. It was a girls’ school that I taught at, and we combined with one of the local boys’ schools for things like drama and art and so on. That was very useful of course when I was teaching, because it’s much better to have a boy speaking a boy’s part, so that was the content of my teaching students.
And of course you’re still teaching. You’re teaching at U3A now. Would you like to tell us a bit about what that is, and what you do?
It’s the University of the Third Age, and believe me I feel like the Third Age at times! (laughs) But that’s alright, I have the most beautiful class. I’ve been teaching for quite a number of years now with U3A. You have to be getting on a bit to start doing that sort of thing, but it was lovely to be able to meet up with people of the same age – or not probably quite as old at times. We read plays. And that, of course, once again brings you into, ‘what is life?’ I choose the plays, but not always, some other people will suggest them at times.
There’s a huge wealth of literature out there. I mean, everybody goes for Shakespeare. Do you find that there’s more modern works that are now available that’s good? How do you choose?
Well, a book suggests to me which plays are available. The modern plays are very modern. Of course you have to contend with the language of modern plays too. I never say to my – my students, I suppose I can call them, they’re not really my friends – I never insist that they repeat the words that come up at times. They can put whatever word they want to in, it doesn’t matter. If it offends them, if it worries them, then they can use whatever they like.
And I guess that you’d have some quite deep conversations after going through those plays?
Yes, yes we do. As a matter of fact I had my hearing aids fixed up again because when I’m in discussion I quite often couldn’t hear what they were saying, and that’s a bit of a drawback! So, yes, we discuss quite a lot about what is going on in the play, and what has been said and so on. I don’t know that many of them are believers, I know some of them are, and that’s nice. Some of them get a little bit offended with the plays that are there, and I have a little chat to them afterwards.
And just say ‘This is life’? Yes, I think that some Christians are scared of the performing arts area because it so often gets, I guess twisted. I guess that’s my question to you: what’s your answer to people who are scared of the performing arts?
I think I would probably just say to them, ‘It’s not necessarily what you read on the paper that is important. It’s how you cope with it, because if you go out into the world, the world is like that, so you cope with that.’ And it’s the way you are able to read the part that’s in the play, but I would always ask them not to let it worry them. Because it isn’t a big thing at all.
So when do you feel close to God?
Always. I know people say that you feel close to God when something traumatic happens, and I guess I did at times there, but now I feel close to God always. It doesn’t matter whether I’m driving along in the car, or sitting quietly by myself, it’s in the back of my mind all the time. I know that God is there with me, and so that’s wonderful. I think you find that when you’re by yourself too, quite a lot.
How long have you been by yourself?
About 15 years.
Yes, so knowing that God is there and you can talk to Him at any time.
It’s good. It’s good. And I do talk to Him. Once upon a time I had a dear husband I would come home to and talk to, but now I don’t. I don’t even have a cat or a dog anymore, and I used to talk to them. But it is wonderful to know that it doesn’t matter whether you’re driving or sitting, wherever you are, you can talk to God. And it’s a great comfort.
What’s one thing about God or Christianity that you wish everyone knew?
That God is there. Everyone doesn’t know that, and that is a very great sadness to me, and I’m hoping that through my work in the church that we can do something about bringing in more people. It’s very important to me that as many people as possible will know about our dear Lord and what He’s done for us, and what He still does for us.
What do you do ministry-wise in the church now?
Pray. And pray, and pray. I’m doing services, I sometimes read, I sometimes do the prayers for the people, and I always pray before I have said these prayers. I always ask that these words that I have chosen are the words that people would want to say themselves, and would agree with. Because it’s no use just rattling off a whole lot of words that are meaningless to other people, and so that’s another thing I do. I take part in as many things as I can within the church. I went along to a writing group for a couple of weeks, which was lovely (laughs) but then of course my U3A takes over after that and I can’t do that anymore. And we have an Alpha course going at the moment, as you know, which I think is terrific, absolutely marvellous, and I hope that we can go on and get more people to come along to that. Because once again it’s not only the visual thing, but it’s the discussion afterwards which is great and does help immensely.
And you lead services?
Yes, down at Mary’s Grange, about every month Heather and I do a service down there called Morning Prayer. We just sing a few hymns, and have a little talk, and do some prayers. If anyone wants to sing – we have a beautiful man down there who loves to sing – and so he might sing by himself at times, and so on. It’s great.
That’s so lovely. I’m just encouraged by your life. You just seem to go out and do whatever you can do, and having the Kingdom in mind as you do it is wonderful.
That’s nice, but it really is just something that I enjoy doing. I’m not sort of thrust into at all, it’s that I want to do it, and I like to do it. And people around me are so beautiful too. I love people.
It’s building community?
Oh yes, it is. And I live in a community, and that’s wonderful too because apart from doing social things together, we have a little prayer group on a Monday morning, which is lovely too.
That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us.
Thank you for inviting me.