Saturday, April 25, 2009

Anzac Ceremonial - Let's do better!

With the terrible weather and a bad knee I didn’t get to Anzac commemorations today. But several televison broadcasts have moved me during the day. It’s great to see the younger generations creating something new out of this significant tradition. It’s inspiring to hear stories of great courage and patient bravery. It’s especially good to hear people acknowledge learnings from the disasters of war.

However, each time some religious professional is called to the rostrum to “give” the “prayer” or the people are asked to make Christian affirmations in a hymn, I become uncomfortable. I can sympathise with Helen Clark’s decision to eliminate the ritual grace from the Parliamentary Dinner in honour of the Queen.

Among the personal archives I am sorting through these days I find a newspaper clipping about an Anzac service in Mt Wellington over four decades ago. It reported a ceremony in which prayer to the Christian God was not thrust upon everyone; in which different ethnic groups were drawn together rather than separated by religious affirmation; in which the integrity of commemorating sacrifice did not require a veneer of Christian comment.
I deeply believe we need special occasions to celebrate, remember and be thankful. Helen Clark could have used some words in which all present could reflect on the benefits we enjoy. And we need to create imaginative and creative “liturgies” for public occasions which are not based on the assumption that our country is populated entirely by earnest churchpeople of British descent. We could make a start with a credible national anthem.
But first, perhaps, a cuppa and an Anzac bikkie... It's a special Day.

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