During the First World War, New Zealand confronted death on an unprecedented scale. For chaplains at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, dealing with death and burials, and writing letters to grieving family in New Zealand were a regular part of their duties. During the war, churches and their ministers in New Zealand, with their well-developed theology and rituals around death, were faced with dealing with personal and public grief without either the soldiers' bodies or traditional funeral rites.
The Supreme Sacrifice? New Zealand chaplains and churches, and the construction of death in WWI
This lecture will examine how war rhetoric, the pastoral concerns of chaplains in Europe and ministers in New Zealand, along with societal pressure helped shape the language, theology and practices around death during war, and the legacy these things left.
There will be an attempt to analyse objectively the reasons why these deaths took place. Emotional involvement may make this a difficult process because it introduces the search for reconciliation to the act of war remembrance. Such reconciliation, if it is for the long term, may involve recognition that there have been failures in understanding and a lack of truth. This means facing up to our own failings as well as willingness to forgive others. In such a process the sharing in war remembrance with descendants of former combatants, whether in New Zealand or overseas, assists by encouraging an awareness of a common humanity.
The careful analysis of former wars is not dissimilar to the enquiry instituted after every major tragedy. It is undertaken in the belief that it is entirely compatible with respect for those who died. It is an appropriate response because it seeks to ensure that similar tragedies should not affect this or future generations. It will be asking whether, through the mercy of God and the ingenuity and compassion of humankind, an alternative may be found so that war itself may no longer be seen as an inevitable response to the situations which the world faces today.
Reverend Dr Allan Davidson (ONZM) is a Presbyterian Minister, historian and has lectured in Church History at St John's Theological College for 27 years. He is the author of many books, chapters and articles on religious history in New Zealand and the Pacific, including Christianity in Aotearoa: A History of Church and Society in New Zealand.
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The Dorothy Brown Memorial Lecture is Part 1 of the War Remembrance and Reconciliation event at Auckland Museum. A Study Day will take place on Saturday 7 November. The event is organised by the Aotearoa New Zealand Peace and Conflict Studies Centre Trust, New Zealand Christian Network, Pax Christi, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and Auckland Labour History Group. The War Remembrance and Reconciliation event will focus on the remembrance of the war dead in three wars: the Musket wars 1807 - 1842, the New Zealand Wars and the First World War 1914 - 1918.
Kindly supported by Auckland War Memorial Museum.