Friday, August 28, 2009

YEAR OF THE PRIEST: The Most Reverend Sir Philip Strong KBE CMG CStJ DD MA ThD

As a young man I had the privilege of serving Mass a handful of times for Bishop Strong, the retired Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia (1966 to 1970), who had also been Bishop of New Guinea from 1936 to1962, and Archbishop of Brisbane from 1963 to 1970. Bishop Strong was a staunch Anglo-Catholic with strong evangelical roots, and a man of deep prayer and mystical temperament. His preaching was electrifying. We used to describe him as a combination of "Billy Graham in the pulpit and the Pope at the altar." He focussed on Jesus, the Gospel, the Catholic Faith and the people of God.

Because this coming Tuesday (2nd Sept) is the Feast of the New Guinea Martyrs, we reflect on a sermon of Bishop Strong demonstrating the courage and faith of those who gave their lives out of love for the Lord and their people during World war II. The sermon was preached at St Peters Easter
n Hill, Melbourne, with Bishop Strong referring to the famous stained glass windows in memory of the New Guinea martyrs. Following the sermon is the transcript of the radio broadcast the Bishop made to his mission staff. The latter is from from The New Guinea Diaries of Philip Strong, 1936-1945, edited by David Wetherell, Appendix B, pages 222-223. Both items are available on the Project Canterbury website.

(St John 10, verse

This is the text which is inscribed at the foot of your centenary window, dedicated in 1946 in memory of the New Guinea Martyrs of 1942. It is appropriate indeed that we should be offering this Holy Eucharist in thanksgiving for them, here; this evening of New Guinea Martyrs' Day. For St Peter's Church was, I think, perhaps the first church in Australia to commemorate the New Guinea Martyrs in this way and to do so in such a permanent manner that it might be a reminder of them for all time . . .

Forgive me if I speak of much that you may already know, but I rather guess that after thirty-five years from its erection, many in this present generation may have often admired [your New Guinea Martyrs memorial window], but not realised and grasped all that is contained in it, and the fullness of the witness that it gives. This big three light window is indeed a great work of art and thought to be one of the most perfect works carried out in Australian coloured glass. The theme of it is an inspiration. It was entirely the conception of Canon Maynard with Napier Wailer as its artist.

The theme represents BEAUTY, TRUTH and GOODNESS - three of the attributes of God himself - and shows these being represented and revealed in the Church in Papua New Guinea. Taking first the left-hand light: the top panel is of a woman missionary among primitive children, holding up a flower revealing God through the beauty of nature. Above the first panel is represented the Holy Spirit coming down as a dove. The next panel immediately below it shows a woman missionary in a primitive mission school - as many of them were in those days - teaching the truth as it is in God. Two of the four martyred women missionaries were teachers.

Mavis Parkinson of the coastal station of Gona was one, and I remember how when I suggested to her some months before her martyrdom that she should be moved to an [3/4] inland station which I thought might perhaps be safer, though it proved later that it would not have been so - how she implored me with tears in her eyes not to do so, saying, 'What will the children do if I go?' And then there was Lilla Lashmar of Sangara, who in her last letter to her mother a short time before the invasion, writing of the uncertainties of life then, said, 'I only want to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ'.

Then the third panel below that is of a missionary nurse in a missionary dispensary building, binding up the sick and revealing God through the works of goodness. Two of our four martyred women missionaries were nurses. Margery Brenchley of Sangara, of whom a young Papuan youth said to me after her death, when he told me of many who had died through an epidemic, 'If Sister Brenchley had been here they would not have died'. And the other was May Hayman of Gona, who a few months before her death had become engaged to Father Vivian Redlich. She, like Mavis Parkinson, had said to me, 'What will the sick do if I move from here?' and on a visit to Gona three months later, and only a month before the Japanese invasion, in addition to her caring for the Papuan sick, I found she was nursing also an American wounded airman who had fallen from the skies and been found in the jungle by Papuans and brought by them to Sister Hayman at Gona Mission Station. He would otherwise have died; she undoubtedly saved his life, so that it could have been said of her, as of her Divine Master to whom she was to be faithful unto death, 'She saved other herself she could not save'.

The bottom panels of each of the three lights portray martyrdom, and the bottom one of that first light shows two women missionary martyrs and the two Papuan martyrs fleeing before the Japanese. We may think of those two women missionaries as representing Mavis and May, often called 'The two Gona Sisters'. I have already given you a glimpse of the confidence I was privileged to share with them which enabled me to see dearly the purity of heart that was in them and the measure to which they counted the cost, and their willingness and readiness to give up all for Christ's sake. When speaking to them of what the Japanese might do to them if they came they simply said 'We are in God's hands, and are ready to suffer for them if he so wills'. I felt humbled indeed after their deaths to realise that I had seen in them the true martyrs' spirit of selfless devotion; and I felt indeed that immediately they had passed through their transient sufferings, terrible though they may have been, by being taunted by their captors and then bayonetted to death over an open grave, their Glory must have been unspeakable. The Church in New Guinea from its earliest days owed so much to its women missionaries - but of that I have not time to speak tonight.

Then we can see depicted in that bottom panel the two Papuan martyrs, Leslie Gariadi and Lucian Tapiedi. Leslie, the faithful helper of Father Henry Matthews who died with him; and Lucian, the loyal and faithful attendant of the Sangara missionaries, who was killed by axes by the heathen people who took the missionaries captive to hand them over to the Japanese, when he stood up for them and tried to defend them. Of all our martyrs in Papua, his body and that of the two Gona Sisters alone were recovered, and it is appropriate that white and brown should have been eventually laid side by side in graves at the Sangara Mission Station, even though that was to be eventually devastated in the Mt Lamington eruption of 1951.

Turning now to the middle light of our New Guinea Martyrs memorial window - the top panel shows the glorious Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, Dogura, and the pro cession led by me, as Bishop, on its way to the Consecration at which your one-time Vicar Father Maynard was present. This symbolises BEAUTY, first revealed through nature, now expressed in the worship of the Catholic Church in that beautiful House of God which gave such inspiration to all of our martyred missionaries when they were assembled there for our Conference in 1941, less than a year before they were to lay down their lives for Christ.

The second middle panel is of the Procession formed outside the Cathedral, and the then Archbishop of Brisbane, the late Dr William Wand (later Bishop of Bath and Wells, then Bishop of London, and then Canon of St Paul's Cathedral, London) seated and hearing the Petition for its Consecration being read out. This symbolises TRUTH expressed now in writings. And the third panel is of the interior of the Cathedral before the High Altar at the time of Communion - a Priest giving communion the GOODNESS of God in the Sacraments, clothed in purple vestments because it is through suffering that we enter into glory and triumph. Beauty, truth and goodness. And below is the martyrdom of three priests. Actually there are four priests commemorated today, for besides the three working in Papua, Vivian Redlich, Henry Holland and Henry Matthews, there was also John Barge, beheaded by the Japanese in New Britain. He was the only one I did not know personally, for at that time New Britain came under the Diocese of Melanesia, only to be taken over into the Diocese of New Guinea in 1949.

Of the three I knew so intimately, I have already spoken of Vivian Redlich; that happy, youthful, gifted, gallant soul - and yet subject as kindred spirits like him so often are, to depressions. A former Bush Brother in the Rockhampton Diocese who, when his term of service in the Brotherhood was over, decided not to go back home to England whence he had come, but to offer himself for missionary service in New Guinea, and who had joined us only a year or two before he laid down his life for Christ. We rejoice to think that the story of his martyrdom which, inspired David Hand to offer to take his place in New Guinea, is enshrined for all time in the Chapel of Modern Martyrs in St Paul's Cathedral, London.

Then there was dear Henry Holland, one who was aging in the Master's service; simple, sincere and wholly surrendered; living, loving and working only for his Master Jesus Christ; first, and for many years as a lay Apostle of Christ to the peoples of Sangara and Isivita, and then to the great joy of himself and his people, endowed only a few years before he was called to make the supreme sacrifice with the gifts of the priesthood, that he might minister sacramentally to those whom he had led to the knowledge of Christ. He had resolved to put a white flag up on his station; thinking in his simplicity that the Japanese would respect that, and he had resolved to stay on his station, and only at the last moment he realised that if he did so the Japanese would not only kill him - he was ready for that - but all his Papuan fellow-workers and their families, and so for their sakes only he left it for the jungle, only later to be beheaded with the other missionaries.

Then there was that faithful servant of God, Henry Matthews, who had been for many years Rector of Port Moresby, and who at the general evacuation at the beginning of the war decided to remain to act as chaplain to the then very young and inexperienced Australian soldiers being rushed up to Port Moresby to defend it and Papua. In the months that followed, though his own home and church were shamefully looted by those very soldiers whom he had stayed to serve, he did most noble and self-sacrificing service and became beloved and admired by all as he went about doing his Master's service. I spent some weeks with him in April 1942 over Holy Week and Easter and witnessed, and was humbled in doing so, his courage, fearlessness and complete disregard of his own personal safety. Great was his grief when the military authorities decreed that as he was well advanced in his sixties, his chaplaincy must cease on 8 August and it was on the previous day, August, the Feast of the Name of Jesus, when he was still a chaplain, that he was killed by machine gun fire when travelling by sea to minister to some mixed race peoples in the west of Papua.

Finally I turn to the third light of our window. At the bottom is represented the martyrdom of two other women missionaries and a layman. We can think of these as being the two Sangara Sisters, Lilla Lashmar and Margery Brenchley, and the lay missionary carpenter, John Duflill; all three of whom with Vivian Redlich and Henry Holland were beheaded on the Buna beach and their bodies thrown into the sea and never recovered. Of Margery and Lila I have already spoken--they had for years devoted themselves to the work of the Mission at Sangara, and their refusal and scornful rejection of all suggestions that they might go to safety was typical of their dogged determination and whole hearted acceptance of their vocation as missionaries; and their refusal continued even on the day after the Japanese landing had driven them out of Sangara Mission Station, when an Australian soldier at some risk to himself sought them out in the jungle and offered to take them across the mountains to Port Moresby. The young layman, John Duffill, had only been with us three years, but in that short time had shown a keen desire to ser and devote himself to the work of Christ and his Church, and a conscientious application to each task that had been allotted to him. He had refused to go on furlough when his furlough was due because of the pressure of his work. Had he done so he would not have been with us in those critical days and would not today be numbered among the Martyrs. He was with me in March 1942 when the first enemy attack on the north-east coast fell on us, and he manifested at that time a courage to be admired.

With the other three panels in the third light, the theme of Beauty, Truth and Goodness works upwards rather than downwards as with the other two lights. With the third from the top is depicted the destruction of native villages and the sufferings of the native people. It symbolises beauty being destroyed by war and wickedness, as is still happening all over the world today in many spheres and ways; the attempts of the powers of evil to undermine and mar God's handiwork in the life of the Church and of the world.

Then above it there is the panel of reconstruction - a missionary who is meant to represent the late Archdeacon Romney Gill, sitting surrounded by his people with plans drawn for rebuilding. This symbolises Truth being redeemed: that is the constant way of the Church; rebuilding, reconciliation, restoration.

Finally, in the top panel, is a priest offering the Holy Sacrifice clothed in a green chasuble - green, the colour of growth and perserverence - and above him a vision of the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, corning down out of Heaven. This symbolises the vindication of goodness. This vindication with the great and historic truth that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church I saw and felt vividly on my recent visit to Papua New Guinea, just over a month ago for the Consecration of a national, only the third so far, as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Aipo Rongo. Bishop Blake Kerina was a schoolboy at Dogura when I first arrived as Bishop of New Guinea in January 1937, over 45 years ago: Later I licenced him as a teacher and evangelist, in which he did wonderful work, and at a later date still he was the first Papuan to offer himself to me to go as a missionary with Bishop David Hand to open our missionary work in the north of New Guinea in the Highlands, where he has remained ever since.

As I preached and took part in that Consecration on St Laurence's Day 10 August 1980 in St Laurence's Church, Simbai before a huge crowd of Highland Christians on the nineteenth anniversary of the landing of the first missionaries on the coast of Papua, hundreds of miles away beneath Dogura, I felt indeed the triumph of goodness over all losses, adversities and sufferings. I had felt it too on a visit I paid during the weekend before to Popondetta, that very area where most of our missionaries suffered martyrdom, which at that time when they did so had few if any Christians and was but a smallish native village and is now one of the largest towns in Papua New Guinea. And when I preached to a large congregation in the fine Cathedral of the Resurrection in Popondetta and visited other centres of vital spiritual life in that area, the Christian Training Centre, the newly transferred Theological Seminary, Newton College for the training of future clergy, the Friary of the Society of St Francis at Ururu, the Community House at Hetune of the Papuan Sisterhood of the Visitation, and the large and splendid Martyrs Memorial School for boys at Agenehambo with over 400 boys - all these have undoubtedly sprung out of the death of the Martyrs.

The Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. Martyrs, like the Good Shepherd, laid down their lives for the sheep because, like him, they cared and loved and were imbued with the spirit of sacrifice which springs out of an unconquerable love, a love which witnesses to God's great attributes of beauty, truth and goodness, even if they have to be attained through much tribulation. As is also inscribed in the window: They knowing full well the risks elected to stay with their flock.

Let me end with the Book of Common Prayer Collect for the seventh Sunday after Trinity, which I learnt by heart as a small boy, having been taught it by my parents, which I think is a prayer for the triumph of beauty, truth and goodness:

LORD OF ALL POWER AND MIGHT, who art the author and giver of all good things [beauty] : Graft in our hearts the love of thy name [beauty again], increase in us true religion [truth], nourish us with all goodness [goodness], and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

31 January, 1942 (Radio Broadcast)

Now I would like a heart-to-heart talk with you. As far as I know, you are all at your posts and I am very glad and thankful about this. I have from the first felt that we must endeavour to carry on our work in all circumstances no matter what the cost may ultimately be to any of us individually. God expects this of us. The Church at home, which sent us out, will surely expect it of us. The Universal Church expects it. The tradition and history of missions requires it of us. Missionaries who have been faithful to the uttermost and are now at rest are surely expecting it of us. The people whom we serve expect it of us. We could never hold up our faces again, if, for our own safety, we all forsook Him and fled when the shadows of the Passion began to gather around Him in His Spiritual Body, the Church in Papua. Our life in the future would be burdened with shame and we could not come back here and face our people again; and we would be conscious always of rejected opportunities. The history of the Church tells us that missionaries do not think of themselves in the hour of danger and crisis, but of the Master who called them to give their all, and of the people they have been trusted to serve and love to the uttermost. His watchword is none the less true today, as it was when he gave it to the first disciples - "Whosoever will save his life will lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake and the Gospel's shall find it."

No one requires us to leave. No one has required us to leave. The reports some of you have heard of orders to this effect did not emanate from official or authoritative sources. But even if anyone had required us to leave, we should then have had to obey God rather then men. We could not leave unless God, who called us, required it of us, and our spiritual instinct tells us He would never require such a thing at such an hour.

Our people need us now more than ever before in the whole history of the mission. To give but two examples:

1. Our Native Ministry. We have accepted a big responsibility in the eyes of all Christendom in founding a native ministry. We have given birth to it. We are responsible before God and the Church for its growth and development on sound Catholic lines. It is still but in its infancy. We cannot leave it to sink back into heathenism. We must stand by that to which we have given birth.

2. Our Papuan Women. Our influence is just beginning to tell with them. How would they fare if all our women missionaries left. It would take years to recover what the locusts had eaten. Our Papuan women need the influence of women missionaries today more than ever.

No, my bothers and sisters, fellow workers in Christ, whatever others my do, we cannot leave. We shall not leave. We shall stand by our trust. We shall stand by our vocation.

We do not know what it may mean to us. Many think us fools and mad. What does that matter? If we are fools, "we are fools for Christ's sake". I cannot foretell the future. I cannot guarantee that all will be well - that we shall all come through unscathed. One thing only I can guarantee is that if we do not forsake Christ here in Papua in His Body, the Church, He will not forsake us. He will uphold us; He will strengthen us and He will guide us and keep us though the days that lie ahead. If we all left, it would take years for the Church to recover from our betrayal of our trust. If we remain - and even if the worst came to the worst and we were all to perish in remaining - the Church would not perish, for there would have been no breach of trust in its walls, but its foundations and structure would have received added strength for the future building by our faithfulness unto death,

This, I believe, is the resolution of you all. Indeed, I have been deeply moved and cheered more than I can say by letters I have received from many of our staff this week who have been in a position to communicate with me, and I have reason to believe that others who have not had that opportunity think and feel the same way. Our staff, I believe, stands as a solid phalanx in this time of uncertainty. Their influence has already had a stabilizing effect on the community, and though harm has already been done, counsels of sanity are beginning to prevail again in the territory before the damage has become irretrievable. However, let us not judge others, but let us only follow duty as we see it. If we are a solid phalanx, let us see to it in the days to come that it is a phalanx of Divine Grace, for only so can it remain unshaken.

I know there are special circumstances which may make it imperative for one or two to go (if arrangements can be made for them to do so). For the rest of us, we have made our resolution to stay. Let us not shrink form it. Let us not go back on it. Let us trust and not be afraid.

To you all I send my blessing. The Lord be with you.


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