And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed;
for this must take place, but the end is not yet. (Matthew 24: 8 NRSV)
This is an unusual Anzac Day, with almost all public commemorations cancelled
This year, most Anzac Day commemorations in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere have been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
On Saturday 25 April, the Australian War Memorial in Canberra will hold a private, nationally televised commemorative service at 5:00 am AEST. The ABC will live-broadcast the service nationally and stream it online. In some state capitals, after this national service, ABC TV will broadcast local services.
In New Zealand, Radio NZ National will live-broadcast the official dawn service from 6:00 am. TVNZ will screen a special Anzac Day program from 11:00am.
In both our countries, there is a social media campaign encouraging people to stand in their driveways at 6:00 am local time with a lit candle or other light, to honour our veterans. If you join in doing that, listen for the sounds of The Last Post. If you are a brass musician, you might play it yourself, as renowned Australian jazz musician (and Christian) James Morrison is suggesting.
Even if we can’t attend dawn services and marches this year, we can still remember and honour the men and women of Australia’s and New Zealand’s armed forces who have risked their lives—and who continue to risk their lives—to protect the security of their fellow citizens.
2020 marks 75th anniversary of end of WW2
It is now 75 years since the Second World War ended in 1945, on 8 May in Europe, and on 14 August in the Pacific. The Ode of Remembrance recites that ‘age shall not weary them’, but all the same the ranks of WW2 veterans are now very thin, and all are in their 90s or older. So, our time of recognising and personally thanking these living veterans will soon come to an end.
Defence personnel deployed for peacetime responses
Our governments often authorise deployments of Defence Force personnel to respond to disasters at home and abroad.
In recent weeks, Australian Defence Medical Assistance Teams have been deployed across the country to help deal with the outbreak of COVID-19: in northwest Tasmania; in WA to evacuate cruise ships; and setting up quarantine stations. During the summer bushfire crisis Defence personnel, regulars and reservists assisted with evacuations. More recently they also delivered relief supplies to Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Harold.
Among other deployments, the New Zealand Defence Force played a major role in responding to the Christchurch earthquakes, and has readied itself for the COVID-19 response.
In 2020 Australia has over 58,000 permanent and over 21,000 reserve Defence Force personnel, and New Zealand has over 9,000 permanent and nearly 3,000 reservists. Between us, that’s a total of more than 90,000 personnel, plus civilian support and families.
In times of crisis such as these, the presence of Defence personnel who personify espoused Anzac virtues such as courage, discipline, ingenuity, mateship, humour and service often serve to calm and reassure anxious civilians. We can be thankful that our Defence Forces have no role in government or politics, which rests firmly and democratically in the hands of the electorate.
Others among us who exemplify the same Anzac spirit in disaster response
In 2020, in addition to acknowledging our Defence Force personnel, we can also give thought to, and thanks for, for the many non-military personnel, such as doctors, medical staff, support staff, and others, who are serving us well in the frontline battle against COVID-19. The scale of the challenge we are facing, as governments, businesses, workers and society, is frequently being compared to a wartime situation.
Thanksgiving prayers for Anzac Day
- God, our creator and sustainer, you revealed yourself and your character to us in your Son, Jesus Christ. As we have just celebrated at Easter, he died that we might live.
- We thank you for those who devote their lives to serving others, often placing themselves in harm’s way. Bless them with courage, wisdom and insight to know and act when it is possible to preserve and nurture life, when it is necessary to give their lives, and when, as a last resort, the only option left is to take life. Help us not to judge them for doing what is necessary, even though sometimes we might not desire it. Give us grace and generosity of spirit to thank them for their service.
- On Anzac Day we especially give thanks for the men and women who have served, or are currently serving, in our Defence Forces. Help those who currently serve to conduct themselves well. Bless the work of all Defence Force chaplains, including the leadership of Lutheran pastor, (Brigadier) Darren Jaensch, Director General of Chaplaincy for the Australian Army. Help the chaplains enable active service personnel and veterans who still suffer physically and mentally from wartime experience to find peace through faith in you and your Son Jesus Christ.
- In this time of COVID-19 we thank you for the skilled Defence personnel who are assisting in the response to the virus. We also thank you for the many civilians displaying the Anzac spirit, serving their neighbours with courage, compassion and discipline. God our helper and comforter in times of trouble, please help is all to work well together, and sustain all these volunteers and workers when they grow weary.
- We pray especially for:
- Our leaders who believe that none of us is expendable, who must weigh up the expert advice they receive; help them to make the right decisions.
- Those who plan, coordinate and implement public health measures, such as public health officials, scientists, health service managers, doctors and nurses, pharmacists, medical suppliers, and cleaners.
- Those who plan, coordinate and execute economic measures, such as politicians, senior public servants, academics, lobbyists from businesses and unions, and those who implement financial support programs for employers, individuals and families.
- Chaplains, pastoral care staff, social workers and mental health experts who provide counselling and guidance for those suffering from anxiety and depression in uncertain times.
- Charities who help with the needs of individuals and families who ‘fall through the cracks’ of other systems of support.
- Teachers who must rapidly adjust educational methods to keep students learning while schools are closed.
- People with skills in communications technology who are working to keep communities functioning.
- Volunteers, who so often are the ones who must make a little go a long way when there isn’t enough for everyone.
- We pray for the leaders and people of nations with fewer resources than we enjoy, whose governments are under-equipped to respond. Please help them to negotiate this most challenging time wisely, justly and compassionately. Help wealthier nations like ours, even as we grapple with our own crises, to reach out where we can with a helping hand.
- Finally, we pray for ourselves, for patience, peace and endurance. Help us to accept the constraints on our usual freedoms and give us the will to act in the best interests of all.
In Christ, our Lord, Amen.
Pastor John Henderson
Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand
Adelaide, 22 April 2020