New Norfolk Anzac Day Address 2020

The Reverend Celia Hooker speaking at
last year’s New Norfolk Anzac Day service.

By the Reverend Celia Hooker
St Matthew’s Anglican Church

ANZAC Day 2020 – a day to honour all men and women who  have participated in wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations around the world – but on Anzac Day we are particularly focused and remembering the young men who fought at Gallipoli 105 years ago and the nurses who cared for them.

From 1916 this day was officially known as Anzac Day and as I said this is a day to remember and honour those who have – and are still – defending our country. When people reflect on the ANZACs they think of the infamous landing at Gallipoli on the 25th of April, 1915, and it is appropriate to remember that this battle stands out as defining the spirit of our nation.

I need not remind you that the ANZACs fought with perseverance and courage in the face of despair and sadly failure.  After four months of training in Egypt the ANZAC troops left for Gallipoli and at dawn they landed on the beach known now as Anzac Cove.

The landing was nightmarish as the beach was at the bottom of a steep slope, meaning that the men had a tough and dangerous struggle to climb up the beach while the much-organised Turks rained shell and gunfire down onto them from above.

The ANZAC fighting man was born at that moment. They fixed their eyes on what had to be done and they began to climb the steep slopes clawing at the tussocks to steady themselves – little did they know the horror that was enfolding. I read in a Mercury supplement that it was a graveyard, a hell hole, a wild unforgiving landscape of mayhem that no one who survived could ever have envisaged.

Little did they know of the huge part they were to play in the history of Australia – little did they know that they would become our national heroes The men stayed 8 months in Gallipoli, but in this short time they had 25000 casualties including 8700 deaths. We have read so often that it was their courage, the mateship and their determination that bonded them during this time.

Last year’s Anzac Day dawn service at New Norfolk.

Sadly we are not meeting as a community today, rather as individuals, many standing at dawn at the bottom of their driveways, maybe with a candle, maybe just with thoughts and memories.

We realise that there will be people throughout Australia and New Zealand that will be doing the same, heads bowed low, maybe shedding a tear – a tear for all men and women who have selflessly served in conflicts over so many years; these men and women will not be forgotten.

There are family members that have lost their loved ones and they have stood proudly over the years, and know that Australia is grateful for the bravery and sacrifice that has been made for their country. There are many who returned from battles who have continued to fight the demons of war, not all were understood, and not all were able to survive the mental traumas – this is a horrible legacy and I pray that their families remain proud of what they sacrificed for our country, maybe not on the battle field but in their torment.

Because the landing  at Gallipoli was at dawn, it is a symbolic time for us to rise and see the light of the new day, which helps us to remember the dawning of a new generation, but we look back at the bravery and endurance which has helped shape our country.  We know that we are not just talking about history, but we are honouring those who continue to serve with the same spirit.

Sacrificial love has been shown to us over the years by so many. As long as we are Australians I believe this will continue. In the New Testament we read in the gospel according to Matthew: “You have heard it said ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy’, but  I tell you to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven.”

I understand that it is hard to pray for those who act and think differently, but only good can come from prayer. Let us think and act with sincere love and respect. Let this begin here in our own homes, in our own towns, in our own country.

Floral tributes on the New Norfolk Cenotaph on Anzac Day 2019.

As I said, this year is a different year, it is a time when there are many people isolated and some who are lonely, as we reflect it helps us to acknowledge the loneliness that was experienced as young men and women spent time in the trenches, or working in distant hospitals, in a distant country away from family and friends, some were so young.

As we have recently celebrated Easter we know that Jesus also laid down His life for us, a sacrificial death so that we could live with a hope. We also know that there were times He may have felt alone. The night before He was put on the cross He prayed in a garden and His mates were tired and slept …  He was alone.  He was alone praying and knowing that He faced conflict.

When He faced his accusers He was alone, His mates were elsewhere, His loved ones were at a distance. He was alone. Yet He knew that God was with Him, He knew that death could not hold Him. As he died on the cross, He prayed for others.

Let us pray:

God of love and liberty,
We bring thanks today for the peace and security that we enjoy.
We remember those who in time of war faithfully served our country.
We pray for their families,
And for ourselves whose freedom was won at such a cost.
Make us a people zealous for peace, and hasten the day when nation will not fight nation.
This we pray in the name of the one who gave his life for the sake of the world:
Jesus Christ our Redeemer.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer:

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