“Neighbours” was launched in 1985, and
it’s filmed at a studio that’s about a 10-minute drive from my home here in
the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The actual street used for outdoor scenes
is also nearby. It’s shown in 57 countries, and has made international stars
of such names as Kylie Minogue and Natalie Imbruglia. Even Russell Crowe has
The reason I watched is that the theme of
the 4,000th episode was a fire and dramatic rescue at a church, and the
actual church used for location shooting was
Holy Trinity in Doncaster, where my family currently worship.
Holy Trinity is an Anglican church with a
strong evangelical tradition. We moved to it two years ago because of the
powerful biblical preaching, of a quality we had not encountered before in
Melbourne. Others are being attracted too, and the church is steadily
growing. Construction has just begun of building extensions.
The original church is a lovely stone
structure, more than 100 years old, and much in demand for weddings and
christenings. It is also used occasionally by “Neighbours” when someone on
the show gets married or dies, or a baby needs to be christened.
I guess I should be proud of that, but
somehow I’m not. Because it is clear that nowadays for so many
Australians—especially young Australians—that is their image of “church”: an
old stone building that you visit for christenings and weddings and
funerals. That is presumably why “Neighbours”—an unimaginative show that
deals in stereotypes—chooses Holy Trinity for church location shooting.
How wonderful if we mentioned “church”
and young Australians conjured up images of love and forgiveness and healing
and reconciliation. There’s a spiritual emptiness among so many people, but
the traditional church does not seem equipped to respond.
When Holy Trinity launched its church
expansion appeal I declined to contribute. I can’t say I really know what to
do about the spiritual problems of our society, but somehow I feel that
right now larger church buildings are not the answer.
May 11th, 2002