Poppies and pews: churches honour the fallen with ANZAC events

Australian churches are harnessing the power of story and of place, looking to turn a distant war and the soldiers who fought in it into living and breathing lives.

The power of story

One such church is Annandale Village Church in Sydney where they’ve taken stock of the Roll of Honour board up on the wall of their church and tried to unearth the stories behind the names which make up Annandale’s ANZACs.

Douglas Grant, WWI Soldier from Annandale

Douglas Grant, WWI Soldier from Annandale

Each week they’ve been sharing new stories, including that of Cecil and Herbert Winkworth, brothers who lived on the main street and Douglas Grant, one of 1,000 Indigenous ANZACs to serve in WWI. Village Church has invited locals to come along to the church on ANZAC Day for a special service titled “Died For Us”, with the line: “Approximately 1,200 Annandale men served in World War I. Hear their stories and remember their sacrifice.” To read more stories head here.

Poppies for miles

Inspired by poppy projects across the world, many Aussie churches have looked to engage their communities and honour the fallen by crafting poppies – crocheted or paper cut.

In NSW, the Forster-Tuncurry Anglican Church has gathered a whopping 13,000+ poppies from their community as part of the “Great Lakes Poppy project”. The women of the church were inspired by two Melbourne ladies who started the 5,000 Poppies project who plan to fill Fed Square with poppies on ANZAC Day.

A pile of poppies

A pile of poppies

The Forster-Tuncurry Anglican Church decided to dream big and do their own poppy project as a way of getting more engaged with the community. They initially hoped for 5,000 but that number has grown now to more than 13,000. The poppies were used at the re-dedication of the Tuncurry Memorial Park, while others have been distributed to be displayed at memorials around the Great Lakes area. The majority will be used by the Forster-Tuncurry RSL Sub Branch, who will display them annually until 2018, the centenary of the end of WWI.

Over in WA, the Pinjarra St Augustine Catholic Church has covered the steel cross outside their church in poppies. At night the cross is lit up. The poppies were sewn to shade cloth before being attached to the cross.

A group of 20 women from St John’s Anglican in Dee Why, Sydney have created a wall of knitted poppies inside their church. Visitors are invited to leave a name on a memory card in remembrance of a relative or friend and the cards will be attached to the poppies. The display is open daily, except Wednesday mornings, at St John’s Anglican Church, corner Oaks Ave and Avon Rd, Dee Why.

Light on a hill

Inspired by the Vivid Light festival in Sydney, Christ Church Cathedral in Newcastle, NSW will be lit up with symbolic images of WWI over the next four years to mark the centenary of the Great War, starting this week. The Dean of Newcastle, the Very Reverend Stephen Williams told the local paper two giant images would be projected onto the north-east and north-west corners of the tower. The illumination project was made possible due to a federal grant under the ANZAC Centenary Local Grants program.

The place where it all began
Albany is the last place in Australia many troops saw before they died in WWI. The port of Western Australia was the departure point for ships carrying the ANZACs to Egypt to join WWI. While back from the war in 1918, army chaplain Ernest White is said to have held a church service at St John’s Church Albany for Australian soldiers who’d died. After the service he and several parishioners climbed to the summit of Mt Clarence, overlooking King George Sound where the convoys of troopships had gathered prior to sailing to Egypt.

View from Mount Clarence, Albany, where troops left for Egypt

View from Mount Clarence, Albany, where troops left for Egypt. Credit: Chris Fithall, via Flickr.

11 years later when he became Rector of the church, Padre White began the tradition of a Dawn Eucharist at St John’s, followed by a ceremony at the Soldier’s Memorial and a walk up to Mount Clarence. There he would read the Ode as a wreath was cast into the waters of King George Sound.

St John’s Albany did a re-enactment of the first service and walk Padre White undertook in Albany last Saturday.

History in song

Other churches will be using music as a way to commemorate the centenary of Gallipoli. Heathmont Uniting Church in Melbourne is holding a Songs of the World War Years – Anzac Centenary” concert on at 2pm, which will involve a 40 piece band.

Meanwhile, the Australian Chamber Choir will be singing: “Soul of the ANZAC” at St John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Flinders on Sunday, March 15, at 3pm. The concert will involve music from six of the countries involved in WW1.