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St John's Taree celebrates ‘Coming of the Light’

 

Elder Ben Harry, addressing the congregation at the beginning of the Service in St John’s Anglican Church, Taree.
 

The Celebration of the ‘Coming of the Light’, held on lst July each year, is the National Day for the Torres Strait Islanders, and celebrated on the Islands and on the Mainland. This day is also listed in the Anglican Liturgical Calendar to be celebrated by the Church.

St John’s Anglican Church, Taree, NSW held the Celebration on Sunday 30th June – the day prior. It was set within the Parish Eucharist. At the beginning of the Service, the ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ of the ancestral custodians of the land - the Biripi people - was made by the Special Guest, Elder Ben Harry, pictured at right. He also told briefly, something of his story. ‘Uncle Ben’ was born on Yam Island in the Central Torres Strait, but has lived most of his life on the mainland, working on the railways, including in the Manning Valley, NSW. Currently he is a commissioned Elder in the parish of St John’s Anglican Church, Glebe.

The Address was given by Mrs Moya Holle from the Sydney ABM Diocesan Committee. She quoted from the Scripture Readings, Jesus words: “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)

She related something of the events that the Islanders refer to as the Coming of the Light. In 1871 Samuel McFarlane and Archibald Murray of the London Missionary Society (LMS), and eight New Caledonian mission teachers, arrived by ship off the coast of Erub, or Darnley Island, in the north eastern Torres Strait. At first, it seemed that the Island’s warrior leader, Dabad and the men would slay these intruders. McFarlane, grasping his Bible thrust it towards Badad. Remarkably he lay down his spear and accepted this book.

In 1914, the LMS was in financial difficulties and approached the Bishop of Carpentaria, on Thursday Island, Gilbert White to take over the missionary work in the Torres Strait. That poor, isolated diocese in turn looked to the Australian Board of Missions in Sydney. The General Secretary of ABM, the Reverend Jones sailed with Bishop White on a 12 day journey of the islands, meeting the people and visiting their churches. Their recollections of conditions on the islands before Christianity, they described as - “when all was dark”. They said: “ how now all was changed and we were children of the light and longer of the darkness”.

Following that journey, the Australian Board of Missions issued an appeal for a vessel and two good priests. The money raised, the vessel was built on Thursday Island and named the “Herald”.

The Sung Eucharist was celebrated by the Rector, Fr Peter Tinney, assisted by lay servers. Throughout the Service there were special prayers, acknowledging the celebration of Christ’s coming as the Light, with appropriate hymns.

At the end of the Service the special invited Guests participating the Service were acknowledged – Moya Holle, Uncle Ben Harry and Joanne Timor (Uncle Ben's cousin), pictured below.

Fr Peter Tinney thanking guests – Joanne Timor (Uncle Ben’s cousin); Uncle Ben Harry and Mrs Moya Holle.



All were invited to the Parish Brunch – Mission Lunch – Feast in the hall following the Service.

There was a talk and DVD shown by the Rector; Uncle Ben answered questions and also sang an Island Song in his beautiful voice.

It was a good occasion Christian welcome, friendship and hospitality.

 St John’s Church Sanctuary; altar with Torres Strait Island national flag.
 St John’s Church Sanctuary; altar with Torres Strait Island national flag.

 The Rector, Fr Peter Tinney presenting Rosemary and Don Mortimer with their diocesan Lay Assistants licences.
The Rector, Fr Peter Tinney presenting Rosemary and Don Mortimer with their diocesan Lay Assistants licences.

Don Mortimer blowing the conch shell during lunch in the hall.
Don Mortimer blowing the conch shell during lunch in the hall.

Don Mortimer and parishioners enjoying lunch after the Service.
Don Mortimer and parishioners enjoying lunch after the Service.

 

(Photo credits: Fiona Tinney)


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