By: Mark Henderwood
St Hilda’s Anglican Church in Wellington’s Island Bay recently hosted Splendid Drop, a beer tasting night in the church, celebrating the life of Catholic sister, Suzanne Aubert. Aubert founded the suburb’s Home of Compassion, and is on the road to becoming New Zealand’s first official saint.
Organisers Jeremy Woods and Mark Henderwood said they wanted to go “fully beer, fully church and fully Aubert, lavishly combining the goodness of all these elements.” Six brews were prepared, each representing elements of Suzanne Aubert’s story. Firstly, a saison spoke of her homeland France. A gingered beer spoke of her work with children, a passionfruit sour celebrated the Home of Compassion, kawakawa was a nod to her medicinal pharmaceuticals and so forth. Tuatara Breweries got on board after Archdeacon Stephen King got on board and brewed a one-off called ‘Petal and Pestle’.
Splendid Drop was part of a wider festival called CompassionFest. The combined churches of Island Bay arranged various events including a Taizé service, soup night, political conversation, healing tonics workshop, historical society presentation, kidsfest and an art exhibition. This level of church unity is routine in Island Bay with Baptists, Presbyterians and Anglicans taking turns to have a combined service each school holiday and for the three Sundays after Christmas; however, Compassionfest took this collaboration to a new level to deepen relationships with the Home of Compassion and St Francis de Sales Catholic Church.
The nave of the church was kitted out with 3m tree branches in a wild aesthetic that worked a treat. In his cassock, Archdeacon Stephen King boldly took the mic and navigated the evening, dispersing stories that aligned the beers and Aubert’s life. Live music was provided by Jonathan Berkahn and friends. Jonathan prepared different music for each of the beers, utilising the pipe organ, Hammond, plainsong, celtic, renaissance, Bach, Beethoven and some freaked jazz tunes. It was an enchanting cacophony. The beer tasting was a total winner, attracting around 100 punters and not just ‘church folk’.
Compassionfest was highly successful. Ecumenical goodness was in full effect. Organisers would like to thank everyone who got involved and came along, the church community, and local businesses who supported the events.