Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day 2008: Lest We Forget.

The Pelicans and I were in a shopping centre at 11am this morning: I’d hoped to be somewhere a little more respectful by then, but getting anything done with two small children and two crazy dogs always takes three times as long as you expect. which is why we found ourselves walking through the foodcourt when a voice came over the public address system calling for one minute’s silence.

It was wonderful to see how everyone stopped what they were doing, and turned their thoughts to that day 90 years ago when the war to end wars itself ended. I’ve no doubt each one of the more than 60,000 Australians killed would have been more than a little touched to see a world that they couldn’t have imagined stop in their honour – but I’m also pretty certain they’d rather have lived to grow old; to take their own children and grandchildren shopping.

To put the carnage in perspective: about 1 in 80 Australians was killed. Another 270,000 were injured: that’s about one for every eighteen men, women and children living here in 1914. By the end of the war it was impossible to walk more than 100 metres along any street of any town in country and not pass a home struck by tragedy.

Miss Madam was intrigued by the silence, which was followed by the Last Post and the Ode. Toddlers have never been famous for their discretion, but she managed to not ask the inevitable questions too loudly. I explained about the daddies and uncles who never came home, and how their one comfort had been the hope that they were making the world a better place for children like her.

Later in the afternoon we went to a memorial on the edge of the bushland not far from our home. It’s a 1/8th size carving of the Sphinx made in the 1920’s by a patient of the returned servicemen’s convalescent hospital which was once nearby.

A relatively isolated place, there’s a strange spirituality that probably means it isn’t somewhere parents normally take children as young as ours – but I think the diggers would have enjoyed the sound of their laughter.

And together we said "thank you", and remembered what they fought to achieve for us all...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Fr. John Hope

In the comments of a recent post Brian mentioned the late Fr. John Hope of Christ Church St. Laurence, one of my greatest heroes. Under his leadership from 1926 to 1964 his church - one of Sydney’s few Anglo-Catholic parishes, and probably the best known - grew spectacularly, despite blatant attempts by the diocesan hierarchy to close it and distribute the assets to congregations toeing the party line. At a time when indigenous Australians were not even entitled to citizenship, and most church leaders were actively participating in the genocidal Stolen Generation policies, he donated property for the foundation of Australia’s first self-managed Aboriginal educational facility. There’s a great little biography of him on the Christ Church web site here, but my favorite anecdote about him comes from L. C. Rodd’s John Hope of Christ Church St Laurence.

Determined to do something once and for all about the “Popish superstition” at Railway Square, the belligerent Archbishop Mowll decided during a meeting in the 1940’s to attack Fr. Hope directly by asking if he was aware that “certain types” of men comprised a significant part of his congregation. “Most certainly” growled Fr. Hope in reply while looking the Archbishop directly in the eyes, “And is it not a good thing that these people so dear to our Lord have somewhere they can go?”

Priests don’t come much tougher than that. God bless him.