Illustration: Jamie Brown.
It's hard to believe there was a time when television stations didn't run 24 hours. They clocked off at a respectable bedtime between 11 and 12.
If you happened to be watching Channel Nine right to the end, after Eric Pearce had read the news and warmly kissed us all goodnight, there was a five or 10-minute Epilogue provided by the churches as part of a requirement for the stations to provide free time to religion.
One of my earliest memories of working in television was producing Epilogue. It was quite a hazardous gig. Although not on air until late, it was much viewed, commented on and deliciously satirised. It was required to cover all the major faiths in Australia at that time: Protestants, Catholics, Jews. Not easy.
Another hazard was that it was recorded on weeknights at the same time as the legendary In Melbourne Tonight was going live to air. So I'd go to the Channel Nine make-up room with a nervous minister, priest or rabbi about to record their message and usher them to a seat beside one of the skimpily dressed Channel Nine dancers or a chatty comedian while Graham Kennedy was in the make-up chair having his pancake applied, running through material for his 9.30 show time and bantering with all and sundry.
The Epilogue is long gone, as is the church unit that produced it; regulations and times have changed and our society has become more firmly secular.
What seems to have changed, too, is a lack of visibility of church people expressing themselves in the media. Too often the church is only considered newsworthy when it is facing a crisis, or a politician claims some dodgy church allegiance. There seems to be a shortage of Christian activists ready to share their perspective on what is going on in the world.
We have to be grateful to media natural Father Bob Maguire. Although he has been pretty much disowned by the hierarchy of his own church, he presses on doing what he perceives to be the natural work of Christians: serving other people and expressing his understanding of what Jesus' teaching leads him to believe. The documentary In Bob We Trust traces his journey and understandings.
And the new Pope, Francis, is placing emphasis on his own job as a pastor, ministering to people with love and compassion, rather than posturing as a prince of the church. Now that's good news.
Don Mackay is a Melbourne writer.