Thank-you Fireys as Sydney prays
Sustained applause greeted Rural Fire Service Senior Assistant Commissioner Bruce MacDonald as he was introduced at a Prayer service at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral on Sunday 19th January for those affected by the bushfires.
“We are all aware that the effort to respond to the bushfires has involved a tremendous team of agencies including the Fire and Rescue NSW, Police, SES, Ambulance, the Australian Defence Force as well as church and community organisations,” the Dean of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, told the congregation as he welcomed Commissioner MacDonald. “But we know that a huge weight of responsibility has been shouldered by the volunteers of the Rural Fire Service. We have become used to the calm and careful leadership of Commissioner Fitzsimmons, and we understand that there is great network behind him of men and women who have dedicated hundreds of hours, leaving their own families and homes in many cases, to fight the fires putting their own lives on the line for the sake of others. Please accept on behalf of your whole team, our grateful thanks. Through their efforts, countless lives, homes and properties have been saved.” Dean Raffel said.
We gather to give thanks for acts of selfless heroism, compassion and generosity.
During the service, the congregation prayed for the families of volunteers Geoff Keaton, Andrew O’Dwyer and Samuel McPaul, who lost their lives in the service of their communities. “Please accept our condolences to the whole RFS family. We are deeply thankful for the courage, selflessness and determination of our fireys - the ordinary membership of the RFS who demonstrated extraordinary commitment. Thank you. The NSW RFS have won our deep appreciation, esteem and sincere gratitude.” the Dean said.
The service was attended by dignitaries including the State Governor Margaret Beazley and the Police and Emergency services minister David Elliott. “We gather to grieve the destruction of so much that is precious to us all. We gather to offer sympathy, support and comfort to those who grieve and to assure them of our commitment to ongoing care,” said Archbishop Glenn Davies in opening the service.
“We gather to acknowledge our failures to care for the land and to seek God’s mercy in sending rain, bringing healing and comfort, and help to persevere and to rebuild lives. We gather to give thanks for acts of selfless heroism, compassion and generosity. Most of all, we gather to proclaim the comfort, help and hope that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.” From early November, the Archbishop has been issuing calls for Christians to pray for those fighting the bushfires, the weather conditions and an end to the drought. During the service, there were interviews with Anglicare disaster recovery officials and chaplains ministering to those affected. More than $5,000 collected at the service will go to the Anglicare and Anglican Aid Bushfire appeals.
Let’s respond ...by turning toward each other in compassion and by turning toward God in prayer
In his sermon at the service, the Bishop of South Sydney, Dr Michael Stead echoed the thanks to the RFS volunteers. “We’ve been grateful for the heroic work of the RFS and other emergency services, and many Australians have responded with open-hearted generosity to those who have lost so much. And – for people of faith – we have prayed: prayed that God send rain to quench the fires.” Bishop Stead said. “Our service today is an opportunity to turn toward our fellow Australians in compassion and mercy: to share with those in need, to grieve with those whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed and comfort those who have lost loved ones. It is also an opportunity to turn toward God, in thankfulness for the life-giving rain we have recently received and in prayerful dependency as we look to the future.” The bishop spoke from the book of Job on the ways to respond to suffering and tragedy. “Let’s not respond by turning away from God in despair, nor by turning against others in blame. Let’s respond instead by turning toward each other in compassion and by turning toward God in prayer and dependency.”
Photo: Rural Fire Service wreath laid by Senior Assistant Commissioner MacDonald