As thousands upon thousands converged in the centre of Melbourne to either participate in the Anzac Day march or to line Swanston Street and St Kilda Rd in support, a contemplative service for peace took place in St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral.
Truly we shall remember them is an ecumenical initiative seeking to change the narrative that erupts around Anzac Day as the birth of the Australian nation. The annual service started in 2014.
Monday’s service of lament, repentance and Easter Hope began in silence, even as the sound of bagpipes and drums permeated the stone walls of the cathedral.
Poetry by one of the great anti-war poets, Siegfried Sassoon was read. Others shared stories of loss and grief and pain – a personal account from The Somme in 1916 where 1.12 million British, French and German soldiers lost their lives; the courage of the conscientious objector; the war carried out on our own soil as Aboriginal people were massacred and later stolen as part of the story of white settlement.
The Uniting Church’s Rev Dr Wes Campbell, a member of the Truly we shall remember them Steering Committee, began his sermon: “We gather to remember the war dead, for those who forget the dead will soon forget the living. Lest we forget. We learn this on the Cross.”
Twice he exhorted the gathered congregation that “we need to be angry at the waste [of war]”.
“As we do violence,” Dr Campbell continued, “we become opponents of the Gospel. If we forget our story we no longer know who we are.”
Following a prayer of confession, worshippers were invited to come forward and light a candle for peace and remembrance of those who died or are suffering from war.
Truly we shall remember them seeks to remind people of another kind of Australia, “historically discernible, both bloody and beautiful, which provokes our imagination and reason to envisage a different narrative and a different future in which peace and reconciliation are to the fore.”