Amanda and Will Nicholas are Uniting Church ministers. And they’ve also been married for 22 years – which is quite remarkable when you take into account Will’s fruit-testing technique.
I had only just arrived in Tasmania the day before I first met Amanda in 1996 on the 26th of January.
At age 24 I was taking a year out of my studies as a theological candidate in Sydney to work as an intern at the National Christian Youth Convention in Launceston. I had piled everything into my Mitsubishi to drive down and started unpacking when Amanda, who was also working on the convention, arrived with her family.
It was supposed to be a team house but a number of the other members were unable to live there or had other plans.
So we ended up in the house, just the two of us.
Amanda’s family were very welcoming and we went out for a lovely lunch. There’s a bit of a family story about me eating a peach. The whole family passed it around to decide whether it was ripe. When it got to me I decided the best way to decide was to just bite into it.
That’s when I discovered it wasn’t ripe. I then had to make a quick decision about whether it was appropriate to spit it out or just crunch it up and swallow it, which is what I did to some amusement.
Amanda and I spent a lot of time together after that. We’d go to movies, we went to the same church events and were working in the same office.
However, I’d describe myself as relationally oblivious right up until Easter that April.
When I went back to Sydney my mother asked who this Amanda was that kept cropping up in all my conversations. My mother really felt there was something more going on so she pushed me to do something about that.
During that time my great aunt, who I was very close to, died. The first person I thought about ringing to talk to about how I was feeling was Amanda.
She also rang me as a first choice when she was struggling and left temporarily stranded while away from home promoting NCYC in the NSW Riverina.
We got married in Wynyard Tasmania where Amanda’s family is from and just about everybody from the Uniting Church in Tasmania showed up. It was a great day of celebration.
Amanda is extremely creative and very musical. At the same time she is also very organised and logical. So, there is this lovely combination I find absolutely wonderful of creativity and logical thought. It really complements by creative randomness.
It’s a great joy to be able to brainstorm ideas and to bounce off each other in terms of what we might do with a sermon or a program or a creative practice.
Sometimes, however, we talk too much shop. We have found ourselves talking shop in the wrong places, such as in the shower or as we are trying to go to sleep last thing at night. We have to work hard to keep that work/life balance happening effectively.
I was 18 and living at home when the Order of St Stephens opportunity to help with NCYC came up. I really felt called to do that but I had also been accepted to the music conservatorium. I remember going for a walk with Dad and said: ‘Dad what am I going to do?’.
I decided helping with NCYC was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in something that was going to have such a big impact on everybody. At the time I didn’t realise how much of an impact it was going to have on me.
It was one of those moments where I felt like I was really listening to what God was asking me to do. Every now and then I think about what my trajectory would look like if I hadn’t have done that.
Will has a red baseball cap with a Crowded House symbol. That was the hat he was wearing the day I met him. He was a bit of a dorky looking guy.
He’s got such a character about him and such an expressive face and everything he does is with full body. He doesn’t have a good poker face and, yes, it was obvious that peach wasn’t ripe.
From the first I felt a level of safety being around him.
Will was different enough from me that it was always entertaining and interesting, although sometimes it was to my frustration.
After that Easter, when we both found that the person we most wanted to call was each other, we were on a road trip around the East Coast. We had been having a conversation about what it would mean for us to not see one another come the end of NCYC.
We talked about writing and phoning and perhaps catching up in person once every 12 months and I didn’t feel that was what our relationship was about. Will said: “Well, we should get married” and I said “all right”.
Later Will turned to me and said: “Are we serious, we should get married?”. I said: “Let’s think about it.”
There was no big fanfare. It was just another natural progression for what had been the organic development of our relationship.
Then we got sprung coming out of the jeweller’s shop by one of the people in the office.
It hasn’t always been easy. Because it’s something we’re committed to be in together there’s always that sense that whatever happens we’ll face it and work it out.
We centre each other. He’s taught me to be more spontaneous and I’ve helped him think about the internal brain check before he makes the statement or action.
There’s been some really interesting times and not always positive. When times are turbulent for us we kind of completely swap personalities. He’s the one who becomes more calm and more logical.
It’s such a lovely gift to us because we are so different even in times of difficulty we can manage to navigate it quite peacefully and quite calmly.
So there’s been some moments where we’ve really been tested but it certainly has been a joyful experience.
One of the lovely things is 22 years down the track you don’t feel like you have to entertain or be around each other all the time.
In doing so we are helping one another become the best versions of ourselves.
Will ministers at St David’s Uniting Church, Newtown, and Amanda at East Geelong Uniting Church.