Martin Andrews was an Anglican priest who decided in World War I that as a pacificist he would not fight, biut he could serve Kingand Country as a stretcher bearer. He was sent to Gallipoli with the bristish troops. On the eve of the invasion of Gallipoli, there was a great party on board ship. An officer told the troops they were in for one hell of a time the next morning and if anyone survived they coudl count themselves lucky.
Around midnight one of the officers sought out Martin Andrews and asked if it were true that he was a priest in civilian life. Martin said he was and the officer asked if he would be willing to conduct a communion service for the men as some were asking for a padre. Martin willingly agreed. The announcement went out that at midnight a Eucharist would be held on the deck.
Men I have never seen before come up and whisper, “I haven’t been confirmed; can I come?” Tell them all can come of they want to: everybody, Andrews replies.
A box is converted into an altar and the men crowd into one end of the ship. A silence descends. “We do not presume to come to this Thy table in our own Righteousness,” Martin begins and row upon row of men kneel upon the deck. “I can hardly reach them,” writes Andrews, “soldiers and sailors from all parts of the Empire, suke’s sons, cook’s sons, sons of a hundred kings. It is too dark fo rmy tears to be seen as I whisper to each one, ‘Preserve they body and soul unto everlasting life.”
Martin Andrews later vecame a Canon in the Anglican Church and a South Australian airman from Moonta was billetted with him during World War 2 for some R&R. Canon Andrews told him he was rowed from ship to ship and gave Holy Communion to as many as he could before the attack on Gallipoli began.
Christians believe that the ordinary elements of bread and wine in the Holy Communion carry a special quality of Christ’s life once they are blessed by the Holy Spirit of God – irt is one of the sacramental rituals of the church that nurtures in christians th elife of Christ, empowering them to live that life and work for his peace and justice in the world.
On the night of the 24th April 1915, many soldiers received the sacrament of the life of Christ for the ordeal they were to face. An ordeal not of their making, nor of their wish, but one they were willing to face for the sake of the freedom and joy of the Christian world they knew and loved, because it was built on the values of human dignity and love. It was built on an ethos of doing good to all, because everyone is your neighbour and forgiving your enemies as a sign of seeking peace and reconciliation.
In th euglinessof war; in the inhumanity of humankind against each other and in our capacity to do eveil to each other, people often ask, and I count myself among them sometimes – Where is God in the midst of this? Why doesn’t God step in and stop it?
I have come to the conclusion that God is always there in thre midst of war. God is always stepping in to stop it and to call people to peace. Who can hear his voice? Who will dare to look for another way?