ANZAC Day Observance
With the Cathedral’s historic role one of supporting civic life, church leaders say it will be an honor and a privilege to host an ANZAC Day observance April 25 on behalf of the Australian Consulate General-Houston.
ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first military action by the newly formed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps — or ANZAC — in World War I’s 1915 Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey. The spirit forged amid their sacrifice has provided great meaning and relevance to Australia’s sense of national identity, according to government representatives.
National observances have expanded to honor all Australians who have served and perished in war or peacekeeping. The solemn occasion is about sacrifice, however, not Gallipoli or Australian nationhood.
Planning the upcoming service of remembrance here has been a collaboration between Australian diplomatic, governmental, and defense officials as well as church leadership. The service meets the government’s strict template of service traditions but has been expanded to also commemorate the shared commitment of Australia’s military alliance with the U.S. Forces who have fought together in every major conflict for more than a century.
In Australia, ANZAC Day services held at dawn convey the message “Lest We Forget.” In the U.S., traditional services of remembrance occur at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and in several large cities with Australian Consulate General locations.
When the Australian Consulate General- Houston opened in 2015, it presented an opportunity to have an official, reverent ANZAC Day service in Texas, says the Consul-General, the Hon. Alastair Walton.
As a venue for the inaugural service here, the Cathedral was an excellent fit, he says. The search found a deep connection with Cathedral leadership — and an extraordinary connection with the space itself; a stained glass window in the sanctuary honors those who served and perished in World War I.
“We want to make this a meaningful and landmark service,” Walton says. “It’s a unique recognition of our [countries’] shared commitment.”
A commemorative coin commissioned for the service honors the military’s role on one side and that of the Cathedral on the other.
The special service is open to Australian and New Zealand military personnel, U.S. veterans who have served with ANZAC comrades, expats, parishioners, and “all who wish to remember,” Walton says.
As planned, the ANZAC Day observance has a special service at 10 a.m. on April 25 in the sanctuary. The Cathedral Choir will present hymns that honor the supreme sacrifice of those who serve.
In support of the service, a brief military procession on Texas Avenue at 9:45 a.m. by the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets will include a cavalry escort, drum corps, and a gun carriage with a casket representing the Unknown Soldier. Members of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) will convey and encircle the casket as a focal point within the sanctuary.
Walton appreciates the Cathedral’s role in the proceedings: “This couldn’t have happened without the church.”
“ANZAC Day at Christ Church will be a holy occasion,” says the Very Rev. Barkley Thompson. “I am deeply honored that Christ Church Cathedral was asked by Consul-General Walton to host the first-ever ANZAC Day observance in Houston.
“For Australians and New Zealanders, ANZAC Day has the importance and solemnity of our Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day combined.”
The Rev. Arthur Callaham will be the Cathedral’s representative at the service. “This is a new endeavor for the Cathedral, for the city, and for the consulate,” he says. “To be of service to those who live and work in our community is in our DNA.”