,,Yesterday, I was invited by Vision Radio to speak to listeners across Australia of the moment when 33-year-old chaplain Richard Johnson stood under a gum tree in Port Jackson with an audience of mostly convicts and soldiers and spoke the message of Jesus on Australian soil for the very first time. Churches everywhere celebrated it as Heritage Sunday.
Today Australia’s elected representatives sat together in St Paul’s Anglican church, Canberra, listening to the Bible being read at the beginning of their parliamentary year. Here in Dubbo, the legal fraternity attended a service where the Catholic father admonished them to balance the law with love.
How long will these practices continue in secular Australia? Is it all just a cursory nod to the Deity and then back to business as usual? Perhaps a lingering echo of the question voiced in the first chaplain’s sermon haunts us. ‘What shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits?’ There is an enormous volume of Australian story that strongly suggests there’s a lot we should be grateful for. I’ll give just one example.
This cluster of photos tell the story of the Hassall family who played a key role in the early settlement. The painting is a romanticised version of a young couple, Rowland and Elizabeth Hassall, members of the first missionary group who had sailed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to Tahiti, explaining the story of Jesus to Chief Pomare in 1796. That message eventually saw the Tahitians embrace Christian faith.
The box is the total medical resource that brave couple took with them. The Hassall family were pioneer church builders and educators in Sydney. The grave belongs to Thomas Hassall (the child in the painting) who in 1827 constructed the church/school you can see behind the young staff from next door’s Teen Ranch.
I explained to them this was a sacred site for them because Thomas had launched the first Sunday School to educate currency kids in 1813. Now they were doing the same for 6000 kids who came to their camping program every year. I gave them that story as a good reason why they should hold their heads high.
Join The Outback Historian, Paul Roe, on an unforgettable journey into Australia's Past as he follows the footprints of the Master Storyteller and uncovers unknown treasures of the nation.