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  • Added March 13th, 2015
  • Filed under 'All Sorts'
  • Viewed 1304 times


By George Davis in All Sorts

Hymns resonate today because they point to a quintessential value we all cherish. The notion of caring for others, whether reflected in a benevolent God, or in the life of a true humanitarian is what we all aspire to. Being in the other's shoes gives us a better perspective.

On 26 February last I attended the funeral of Dr Henry McKinlay (1929-2015) who would have been well-known to some of the older members of the Mornington congregation as the physician who attended them in the 1970s and 1980s from his home practice in Napier Street. Many local identities and also a good smattering of senior medical personnel in Dunedin were also present.
During the funeral service we learned of Henry's work in far-flung reaches of the world for humanitarian aid organisations. He worked stints in Cambodia, Afghanistan and Lebanon to name three. His skills were highly regarded and he was sent to dangerous areas. His family can remember him with great pride as an affectionate and humorous family man and a quiet, respected and unassuming humanitarian.
The three hymns chosen for Henry's funeral are close to my heart: 'Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah,' 'Who would True Valour See' and 'Nothing Is Lost on the Breath of God' - the last being one of Prof Colin Gibson's notable pieces. Indeed, they seem to bridge the impressive chasm between the local, personal and the eternal. As with many males of my generation and before, I was taught the bass line of the Welsh hymn 'Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah' at high school, and it has remained a favourite ever since. The words represent to me the flavours of the Old Testament and the dependence of the people on a powerful and unfathomable God, guiding humans to safety in an uncertain world.
'Who would true valour see' the John Bunyan hymn which reflects his turbulent life as a nonconformist preacher and his 12 years of imprisonment following the Restoration of Charles II. He is of course, most well-known for Pilgrim's Progress, (1675 & 1684). Bunyan shows a worthy pilgrim beset by the vicissitudes of life in a vivid word-picture. He (or indeed, she today) stands like a lighthouse in a raging storm. Not all is so staunch, and occasionally, like us, the pilgrim slips into the slough of despond[ency]. We are persuaded though that by Christian labour we will eternal "life inherit."
Colin Gibson's hymn, 'Nothing is Lost on the breath of God' lifts us into the modern era where there appears a partnership with a loving God - not defined as a father figure but eternally caring for all humans and other living creatures in the world we briefly inhabit. We are assured of eternal care and God's goodness forever.
These hymns represent both stability and change. They resonate today because they point to a quintessential value we all cherish. The notion of caring for others, whether reflected in a benevolent God, or in the life of a true humanitarian is what we all aspire to. And it is there, not in warlike endeavours that the salvation of the world can be found.

Being in the Other's Shoes: being over there..
In a few days the 18th March will slip by. It means little in New Zealand, a country presently swamped by the militaristic resonance of Anzac Day. Indeed the focus of most New Zealanders', and Australians' attention will be on the up-coming celebrations and commemorations in Turkey. In particular, much will be made of the Gallipoli battles of 1915, but particularly from the Anzac perspective.
These were part of the British Dardanelles' campaign which was lost to the Turks, and from which the Anzac forces withdrew from the 10th of December 1915, after 8 long frustrating months fighting an enemy force which was much more tenacious than first assumed.

What do the Turks make of this? It certainly strikes them as peculiar that thousands of New Zealanders and Australians each year in fairly constant and large numbers swamp that area which they call Çannakale. Indeed, the battle to retain the area is not known by the name of the famous strait of water, the Dardanelles, but by the name of the region and its largest city, Çanakkale. The defensive battles of 1915 are called Çanakkale Şavaslari (Çanakkale Battles) and are most celebrated with the holiday Onsekiz Mart Zaferi (18 March Victory). The Turks use the term Onsekiz Mart Zaferi elsewhere in the year to remind them of the victorious foundation of the Turkish Republic in the naval battles against the British and French combined forces in the Dardanelles that day.
Where does Anzac Day sit in all of this? Well, this year is not the centenary of Anzac Day (although this has already been stated on TV1 news) but the centenary of the Gallipoli Landing on 25 April 1915 starting around 4.30am. The first Anzac Day was commemorated in 1916. The Turkish people enfold Anzac Day as one of their own commemorations within the generic term "Onsekiz Mart Zaferi" i.e. 18 March Victory. It is sobering to find out that Turkish people have been attending The Gallipoli area since 1916, first as returned soldiers and these days as students and families. Their presence on the Peninsula, honouring the 82,000 Turks who died in defence of their country (approximately double the British and French mortalities) has been constant. This fact was made clear to the British both by Mustafa Kemal in 1930s and by the Turkish Government again to the British in 1952 at the time of the collection of money for the massive Turkish national martyrs' memorial at Fortress Point, clearly visible from Troy.
What is most amazing and reassuring in all of this is the generous spirit that shown to visiting New Zealand and Australian citizens when they visit Gallipoli. Perhaps it is time for us also to remember what 18 March means to the Turkish people.
George Davis.