On the evening of 5 August the Newcastle group, Christians for Peace, held a solemn ecumenical service on the 73rd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The event was hosted by the Adamstown Uniting Church and attended by some 150 people, including religious ministers and lay people from various denominations with a noticeable presence of religious Sisters, Dominicans, Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of St Joseph.
Meditative music struck the quiet, reflective tone, the pianist in tune with the hearts of those drawn to the event. Following the welcome, a prayer period followed. Poems, solo and communal hymns, readings and intercessory prayer drew all to involvement. Each section was short and unhurried, with different persons leading. The variety and quiet, steady rhythm of the prayer was unifying and solemn. It opened the darkness of death, sorrow and great wrong and also brought the Gospel perspective of hope.
Poetic images spoke without naming.
‘Bruised black clouds shed tears over a whole world…. And God wept for these were His children.’
One refrain we all prayed was ‘How long must we cry out?’ Another was ‘Teach me to do what is right, work in the darkness, trust in the light. And may love be the path that I walk upon’.
Two Scripture passages were read, the first, Micah 6:8 ‘What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God’. The second was the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.
Dr Jennifer Barnes sang of God weeping, in words of Shirley Murray. ‘God weeps at love withheld, at power misused.’
After the period of prayer, Sr Monica Sinclair rsm introduced Fr Frank Brennan sj, quoting Paul Keating’s phrase, ‘meddling priest’, Kevin Rudd’s ‘ethical burr in the nation’s saddle’ and indicating Fr Frank’s long involvement in issues of justice. She summed up his role as ‘shining the light of the Gospel into the dark and messy corners of our world’.
Fr Frank took as his title, ‘A planet to heal’, the title that revered former Jesuit Superior General Fr Arrupe gave to his ‘Reflections and Forecasts’. His address moved from Fr Arrupe, Fr Arrupe’s experience of the bomb, to Frank’s sister’s words, to the two way impact on both indigenous and non-indigenous of Australia of injustices inflicted, to the world political scene, with America, North Korea, and Richard Flanagan’s address in the current Garma festival.
Typical of Frank’s presentation, his clear, calmly spoken words were not an academic exercise, but, in a conversational, wide-ranging yet cohesive style, cut to the heart of what our humanity asks of us, here and now, in the big issues, in the light of the Gospel. Frank, as the earlier prayer did, called us to ownership of our identity as children of God. There was a quiet power in Frank’s address. He noted that the only way to guarantee the non- use of atomic weapons again is to ensure their non-existence. He noted too the white-anting of our government of the dignity of all persons, whatever their nationality.
Frank has generously shared his address online. Click here
The final part of the ceremony was a lighting of candles for peace by all gathered and a concluding blessing from Rev G. Garnsey.
Afterwards all shared a friendly chat and supper.
Jan Tranter rsj