After my brief break to honour Anzac Day, I am returning to my blogcation story.
Two nights and three short days have passed. Now it is time for my friend to embark on the next stage of her journey. It is time, it is the hour, for us to say goodbye, just as we have done before. We know the words well. They are words that are integral to an island childhood of many farewells, and, sometimes, few returnings.
Words, as integral as the liturgies, the creeds, the hymns and Bible stories my friend and I absorbed, filtered through layers of cultural and religious and missionary ambiguities and diversities. The miracle is that we absorbed and retained any of the Anglican faith at all, surrounded as we were by every religion, and interpretation of it, that one could imagine. For example, Diwali was almost as much fun as Christmas; the sounds of the Call to Prayer were more part of our day than the ringing of church bells; fasting could mean Ramadan or Lent, missionaries could mean Methodist or Mormon, and so on; but, as children, we simply accepted all the differences of faith with equanimity, as part of what made our community specifically ours.
As a parting gift, and in memory of those early shared bonds of faith, my friend gave me an extraordinarily beautiful book “The Scrolls Illuminated”, illustrated by Australian artist Fiona Pfennigwerth.
Fiona takes 5 ancient texts from the Bible and uses her understanding of Australian nature, and the Bible, to bring the texts ” across time, culture and geography to those of us in the 21st century “at the ends of the earth” – and anywhere between.” She enriches old stories of faith by adding a unique Australian filter; much as we children grew our faith through a particular Pacific lens. The book was the project for Fiona’s Honours and PhD studies in Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle, Australia.
And the result of her talent and study is Joy; pure Joy.
Yesterday we commemorated Anzac Day. “Now is the Hour”/ “Po Atarau” has been sung as a farewell to our troops as far back as the First World War. It was also sung when passenger ships left Fiji. “Now is the Hour” became a huge international hit in the late 1940s, thanks to Gracie Fields and Bing Crosby.