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Letter from Australia – 88 – Cockatoo Island, Prince Philip and the Saints in Queensland

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It’s cold in Sydney!  Really…it is.  18 degrees with a blustery wind makes it feel cold.  But the sun is still out and it’s still beautiful.  Each city has its own beauty to discover, and Sydney is no different.  In Dundee, even after 27 years we had not managed to do have the walks in the surrounding area which were stunning.  Here there are so many beaches, bush walks, islands and cultural/historic sights to visit.  Yesterday for example we went to Cockatoo island – the old prison, ship building and repair centre for Sydney.   It’s always a joy to go on a Sydney ferry!    It was fascinating seeing the history and somewhat sad to see how the working men who literally built this country were treated at the end – and also the brutal conditions in which convicts were kept.  All in the midst of such beauty. (Here are a few photos…)

This weekend has been rightly dominated by the death of Prince Phillip just short of his 100th birthday.  Whatever one may think about him, or royalty, you have to admire his tenacity, faithfulness to Queen and country, and the great good he did through things such as the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.  One cannot but feel sympathy for the Queen who has spoken of the ‘great void’ left in her life – little wonder given that they were married for 73 years!  However, it appears that some people just can’t feel sympathy – their politics means that they were not only unfeeling, but they felt it necessary to pour out bile on Twitter.  It’s unfair to blame whole groups for what appears on Twitter – would we like Christianity to be judged in that way?  But the Greens and the Left (the Greens are in effect just  revamped version of the communist party in most Western countries) seem to have more than their fair share of vicious commentators.

I find it interesting that so many Christian outlets and commentators seemed desperate to claim the Duke as some kind of Christian saint.  The Archbishop of Canterbury even called him a ‘man of very profound faith’ who ‘had an extraordinary prophetic gift’.   I wonder if they have any basis for these claims, or whether they are just using the word ‘Christian’ in a more general cultural sense as a substitute for ‘good person’?   I recall the minister who after preaching about the resurrection was asked by Prince Phillip if he really believed that. When he said ‘yes’, Prince Philip replied ‘b….y nonsense’.  I hope that in later years he changed his mind and came to believe in the Risen Christ, but as far as I am aware the Duke made no profession of following Jesus Christ and to claim him as a believer, seems somewhat disrespectful, both to him and to those who are believers.    I thought that the service in St Andrews cathedral got the tone and balance just right.   It was dignified, thankful and measured.  Above all it pointed people to Christ.  Bishop Peter Hayward’s sermon was biblical, compassionate and courageous.


I was also impressed at our own Church – St Thomas’s – where John Woodhouse spoke and prayed appropriately about Prince Philip.  There is still a level of loyalty to the Crown here in Australia (although of course the Sydney Morning Herald immediately ceased the opportunity to talk about a Republic!).   I’m not a big fan of singing ‘the old national anthem’ (as John put it), or indeed any national anthem, in church.   Especially when I remember verse six:

May he sedition hush,

And like a torrent rush,

Rebellious Scots to crush.

God save the Queen!

Although in fairness it should be pointed out that that verse was about Marshall Wade and the threat from (not so) Bonnie Prince Charlie!

Speaking of saints – I have met quite a few recently.  In recent weeks we attended a small Presbyterian church on the Sunshine coast, and I spoke at the Darling Downes convention in Warwick, Queensland.  Both were very different settings and cultures, from each other and from North Sydney.   When we went to the Presbyterian church – initially it did not look promising.  It was in a community centre and seemed a little quirky…however you should never judge a book by its cover!   I thought the service was excellent – the ministers preaching was biblical, culturally connected and with a warmth for his people and love for the lost, which warmed my heart.  The singing was enthusiastic and the hospitality and welcome generous.  We loved it – not least because it answered the most basic question positively – could you invite a non-Christian to it?!

Darling Downes was much more rural.  The town hall on the main street was a little bit like something out of rural USA.  I felt that the people were a little discouraged, but I hope they were encouraged by the Word as we spent eight sessions looking through Colossians and considering how it applies to todays’ world.  Again, I loved the people – there was warmth, and interest and a genuine love for Christ and his people – the mark of saints all over the world.  These are people most of whom will never get more than a line in their local newspaper when they die, but they are so precious in the Lord’s sight.  “Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of his saints.” (Ps 116:15)

Most of us will probably not live to almost 100 – but however long we live on this earth, may we live as followers of Jesus and may we ‘die the death of the righteous’ (Numbers 23:10).

See you next week,


PS. In the past month I have flown to Melbourne, Canberra, the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane. Each plane has been packed – and planes are now the only place I have to wear a mask. I was somewhat amused to be traveling on the train this week, where we were all ‘strongly advised’ to wear a mask.90% of people didn’t.  In a city where there is no community transmission, what’s the point?  Why do officials and politicians think that this is necessa


PPS.  Since then I have come across Andrew Marr’s interview with Archbishop John Setanu – it is fascinating



Letter from Australia 87 – Jonathan Fletcher, Richard Sibbes and the Civil War in English Evangelicalism




  1. “the Greens are in effect just revamped version of the communist party in most Western countries”

    I’ve heard people make this claim before but aren’t they really opposites in many ways, at least in economic terms? Communists =focus on developing a massively industrialised state. Greens = gocus on developing an economy of small, cottage industries. (I’m not defending the Greens by the way!)

    ” I’m not a big fan of singing ‘the old national anthem’ (as John put it), or indeed any national anthem, in church.”

    I agree. I think a separation of church and state should mean no national anthems or flags or celebrations of national days like Australua Day, even honour rolls for war dead in churches. It should be a place focused on the worship of Christ alone and yet, even as the West becomes more and more hostile to Christianity, it is still easy to conflate Christianity and a kind of nationalism in some churches.

    I am hkad you are liking Sydney and it is wonderful to hear positive news from Queensland after that really long and very depressing discussion about the terrible state of the Alingcan Church up there.

      1. Possibly. When I ws a student at uni (late 90s) an economics professor there was doing a study on whether the Greens’ idea of a cottage industry-based economy was viable or not (I don’t know what her ultimate conclusions were but her early findings were surprisingly positive.) The Greens may well have moved on since then. I’ll do some research.

        As for the Commies, all of what I know sbout their current thought comes from occassionally reading that Trotskyist news/propaganda site some of whose links I published here last week and, of course, Trotskyists aren’t even in the mainstream of the Communist world.

        Cheers and God bless.

      2. Speaking of which, here are the Trotskyists’ latest news reports on Australia and the preparations for a confrontation with China, to get an idea of their thoughts/concerns/propaganda on international affairs

        As usual, be discerning when reading this as it is propaganda and remember, even if we empathise with the Communists on some issues, ultimately they are NOT our friends and are militantly opposed to religion. We know from history what they are like when they are in power, even while they are preaching, “Peace! Peace!”

        ALP, Unions Back War Preparations:

        Government, Dutton as New Defence Minister Allegedly White-Washing Brereton War Crimes Report as They Prepare for China:

        Alleged US-Led War Drive Against China:

        Taiwan Threatens to Shoot Down Chinese Drones:

        War with China Closer than People Think:

        Biden Record Military Budget:

        UK’s New Military Policy:

        Russia Military Exercises Over Ukraine:

        US Sends Warships into Black Sea:

        Turkey Threatens Montreux Convention:

        More Ukraine/NATO:

  2. It made me laugh audibly to read your blog with Prince Philip saying nonsense about the resurrection. I can just imaging that happening. I think those that may be overly positive about the prince were eulogising. Isn’t that what happens when talking about someone who has died as a celebration of their life? I know I didn’t say anything nasty about my dad at his funeral though like everyone else he was not always the paragon of virtue that he might have seemed from listening to people speak about him there.

    On the other hand yes, you are right I think when you say “it appears that some people just can’t feel sympathy”. I was pondering this myself – it is sad that even in the death of a person who thought not without fault has done good with support for the queen and youth for example wiht the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme that the knives are quick to be drawn out with ill being spoken of the dead.

    I guess that’s human nature and what we see of Jesus’ response to that in weeping over Jerusalem, because of him seeing need there and longing to gather the people there as a mother hen gathers her chicks but they would not let him. And the same being true for every individual with him waiting at the door to be invited to come in.

    But yes, it is good to turn to beauty wherever it may be and to be part of alchemising what is ugly into beauty.

    “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Phil 4:8).

  3. Nazi politicians were only “on the ideological Right” because they were to the Right of Communism .

    The term Nazi , as we all know, is a truncation of National SOCIALIST.

    The full name of Herr Hitler’s Leftist political party was ” Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei .

  4. I found this comment on a Royal Forum website regarding the beliefs of the Royal Family:

    “The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are very religious, as was the Queen Mother. Regardless of the Duke’s odd request for time limits on sermons. This is the man who has sent memos around Windsor urging staff to accept Jesus as their saviour.

    Among the Queen’s children, Prince Edward would have to be the most religious. He received a lot of slack for his religious conviction at Cambridge and Uni. He never misses Sunday service, regardless where he is and until recently didn;t do engagements on Sundays either. One girlfriend also dumped him as she considered him too religious. It is something he has in common with Sophie who is also very religious. There religion is something that is kept private – like the rest of their lives.

    The Princess Royal and the Duke of York are not very religious, never have been, I’m afriad. I believe Ann sees it as another duty and Andrew as a simple waste of time.
    As far as Charles religion goes it possibly doesn’t match orthodox Anglican doctrine, someone told me that that Charles is now the high priest of mudge podge. So yes spiritual yes, religious no.

    The younger royals not too certain of. They are normally still returning from their night out or recovering from it on Sunday. As far as the grape vine goes, it doesn’t bode well. As was told that they get forced to attend church with the Queen even on Christmas and Boxing days, getting warned that the press will notice their absence as ask. But if there is no press the younger royals rarely attend.”

    When the poster was asked to provide evidence for her claims, this was her reply:

    ” I think the antedote about Prince Philip appeared in one of Ingrid Seward’s books, uncertain which. The Prince Edward article was in the News of the World in the 1980’s – the name of the article’s headline was something like “too posh to Party” or something like that. Sorry it is not available online.

    It was actually Mark Philips who said that Anne sees religious observation as a waste of time. But he is not much of a character witness. Andrew apparently liked sleeping in upon ship, it was his crew mates that gathered that he was really not that concerned about religious matters. Mind you, of course you can not equate church attendence with religious convection.”

    Another commenter on the same site said the following:

    “Charles is IMO the most regular church goer bar the Queen. Wasn’t it Paul Burrell (can’t stand him but hey) who said Charles would have an alter set up at home to pray at while Diana could never see the point if they weren’t at a church. He also has a number of friends (so called or actual who knows) who are ministers etc.

    I’ve had the impression Andrew may attend church at windsor as a way to see his mother (which doesn’t say much about his own faith) and the fact the Royal Chapel of All saints is basically in his front garden at Royal Lodge.”

    Couple this with the information I added to the previous post and the late Prince Philip seems to have been sincere if unorthodox (panentheism):

    There is also the evidence I gathered in the comments section on this page that the whole family is evangelical Anglican:

    I haven’t heard that stry about Prince Philip denying the Resurrection. Like you, I hope he came to accept this tenet of faith for the sake of his personal salvation. God bless.

  5. On that same Riyal Forum, they are saying that Charles and Camilla are – thankfully – very regular churchgoers these days so that, at least, bodes we for the future of the C if E when he becomes supreme head.

    “Charles and Camilla are regularly seen at the church at Tetbury but the locals respect them and so let them get on with their worship in private.”

    They also apparently attend tegularly whwn they are at Highgrove. Also:

    “Of the queen’s 4 children Edward is seen as the most active church go-er, Charles comes next and both Anne and Andrew are not considered that religious and active church go-ers other thsn whdn expected of them because of royal duty or tradition followed by many Anglicans who are members but only attend for special occassions”

    1. Sigh. I watched another documentary on Prince Philip’s life today in the lead up to the royal funeral this evening that contradicts the information above. It said he was notoriously an agnostic who loved to bait his deeply religious wife’s clergy friends when she invited them to dinners.

      I guess God alone knows the truth of that man’s heart. Let us hope he was saved before he died. He was certainly gifted plenty of time and warning. God bless.

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