A celebration and send off for
the completed life of John Hutchinson
February 9, 2021
Introductory music playing: Bach cello suite # 1 in G Major, Flower duet from opera Lakme by Delibre, Shenandoah, Near my God to Thee (Indo), Van Matoram (Indian sitar and tabla) – take a flower from basket,
Bagpipes music – Scotland the Brave
D minor toccata Bach, played by Peter Bennett on pipe organ
Welcome by celebrant – Andrew Collis
Welcome to Country – Aunty Ali Golding, Aunty Beryl Van Oploo, Deb Ruiz WallAunty Ali, from the bottom her heart, welcomes to us all to Gadigal land, Mother Earth of the Eora nation, paying respect to elders past and present.
I, Deborah Wall speak on behalf of WRN, late comer settlers of diverse lands. On Gadigal Land where we stand, I pay respect. On this day we honour a gentle soul, John Hutchinson, who dedicated his life to the OTHER. His work and the path he chose will leave an imprint that can’t be effaced. For us he manifests a star – the paradox that lives in the eternal sleep of awakenings, and we bask under its light.
Aunty Beryl says, As a person who breathes the spirit of our country every day, I would like to say to you all, When you think of happy times and moments of sadness, light a candle in John’s pathway and the spirit of our lands will guide him home to Mother Earth.
Hindu Prayer – Neeraj Sharma
The Vision – Sounds of silence (3 min)
Context… Musical Reflection – John Telford
Robyn asked me to say a few words about how music and songs affect and empower us. I was very moved by the organ music which Peter played at the start of this service. And I was also very moved when Robyn told us that for the last two hours before John breathed his last, she held him in her arms and softly sang spirit songs to him – songs which were very familiar to him and which touch the soul.
Songs and music have the power to connect us to the core of our being and allow us to express our emotions. They help us reflect on our relationships with one another and with the whole of creation. Meditative music also has the ability to touch the soul and stir our emotions – sometimes manifest in tears of sadness or tears of joy and gratitude.
I invite you now to sit quietly, and whilst listening to some meditative music to reflect on John’s life and your relationship with him and his family for meditative songs of the Spirit Journey.
My consummation – Londonderry Air (3 min)
This passage from Matthew’s gospel was one of great inspiration for John. John’s whole life was about stepping into the unknown or into hard places, and having the courage to move forward in faith, without fear. On a personal level I’d just like to add that my dear brother- in law, John, always challenged and inspired me to do something different, to take a risk, to step into the unknown. So I’m honoured to offer this reading. Alison Friend
Reading – Matthew 14: 22-32 – Dramatic Reading: walking on water
HOMILY – Rev. Andrew Collis
Matthew 14:22-33 ‘A deep blue beyond the boat’
With friends and co-workers John practised a certain walking on water. He knew about stepping out, facing fears, crossing over … in a daring spirit of hospitality. His God was/is a God encountered in and with others, via networks of trust and hope, wisdom-sharing, peace-making. John loved to live by the water – symbol of goodness and life, holiness and faith. John loved water – the deep blue of the ecumenical movement and order. A deep blue beyond the boat. And beneath it, too. Buoyancy, grace.
I remember John as a coworker at Maroubra Junction (perhaps it was 20 years ago). I remember a gracious person – quick to encourage and support. Kind. Generous and warm-hearted. I imagine now, or begin to imagine, the experiences that shaped him as a person of grace (as a “man of the question”). The relationships that sustained him on a wonderful journey with its dangers and difficulties, storms and cries for help. There are things I would ask him today. I suspect and dare hope I’ll hear him speak through you. It is an honour to be here, and to witness by way of story and tribute the fullness of a life given in response to love. Amen.
Family Sharing stories and tributes – (see other attachment)
Closing words – Dorothy McRae-McMahon
O God, we have received many blessings from the life of John Hutchinson. We believe that you embrace those blessings with your holiness and love. May we open our lives to receive these gifts from John and in your sacredness and enrich our journey ahead with all that we receive. Amen.
Thank you for sharing in this celebration of John’s life. We invite you to place your flower, as a symbol of our care for the earth, on the table with the Urn and cultural symbols, important in John’s life.
Bagpipe music – Skye boat Song (presentation of flowers)
E flat fugue (St Anne) Bach, played by Peter Bennett on pipe organ.
Favourite music medley, while Guests place flowers on the table and share greetings
Grace and Peace
Jesus Walks on the Water
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
A journey of a life time
A celebrative send off for John!
I acknowledge the Gadical People of the Eora Nation. We honour and respect the First Peoples, the custodians of this sacred Mother Earth, and thank Aunty Ali and Aunty Beryl, with Deb, for their ‘welcome’ to us all. I open with a quote my sisters shared: Life is a book: some chapters are sad, some are happy, and some are exciting. But if you never turn the page, you will never know what the next chapter holds!
I want to thank and honour all on this Journey, those, who have passed and joined the communion of saints, those who have sent messages of love and care, those who are present today and on-line from different parts of the world. I want to thank our immediate family – Kiran and Neeraj, Glen and Eiji, who with Rosemary and Alison and Chris, have worked with great compassion over this past week, to create a celebrative Send-out for John! He wanted a party! Thankyou to Marjorie, John’s sister in Perth, her husband, Van and son, Kohan, and my brothers, Grant with Glennys and Adrian with Judith, who are with us in spirit on line.
I want to thank the medical and care teams who have seamlessly surrounded John with practical care over the past 12 months, and the wonderful Tender Funerals team, and folk at Wesley Taylor Village. I want to thank the Inner City Parish team (the same team – (well almost) with whom we began this journey 50 + years ago) for bringing this send-off into full bloom today. Amazingly the Inner city parish community has bookended our lives together! Finally, I want to thank the many friends who have been there for John over many months and years and helped behind the scenes, for today.
I want to thank several groups of people with whom we are still closely connected, or work with, overseas – the Karo Batak Church folk of North Sumatera, our Indonesian and Indian families, The Institute of Cultural Affairs, (colleagues in Asia Pacific and globally); and the CDCC Church of Democratic Republic of Congo. I want to thank the members of the Womens’ Reconciliation Network, (WRN) with whom I work almost daily, in solidarity and love, for justice and voice for the first Nations People of this country.
Thank you everyone for being here with us face to face or in spirit. Hello everyone across the waves! While in recent times, John has played a quiet partner role, it has been a real partnership all the way! It was only a few weeks ago that he had several robust secular theological conversations with newer friends, hungry for exploring the meaning and purpose of life. Just a week ago John had participated (somewhat!) in his last monthly Asia pacific zoom meeting which he had helped establish 40 years ago with colleagues in India and Nepal!
I want to share some memories and highlights of John’s life which he chose to share with me. I’ll begin with an appreciation from John’s sister, Marjory Ikin, in Perth –from the early years.
* John – a Balmain Boy … My warmest memories of John as sister to an older brother, included his adaptation of the phrase ‘some more’ to ‘more some’ for any food! – and eventually life itself!
* The second family anecdote was when he was a young lad involved in piano lessons and his teacher reported to our parents his non-appearance for tuition. It was ultimately discovered that he had been attending religious services conducted in a Balmain park – “Mr McKittrick’s Tent”. Needless to say, Mr McKittrick, was an Evangelist! (But John did not become evangelist or a missionary!)
*. The third anecdote was “Did we all remember when in his late teens (1950s), whilst preparing for a social engagement, John, standing on the front verandah at our Balmain home, in a stark white tuxedo with a bright yellow tie, just waiting to shock the rest of the family as we arrived home one day.” I highlight these anecdotes as they display the food-loving, lively social person that he was, with an early budding religious curiosity, always challenging the status quo.
For John and his family, continuous travel has marked their work in supporting various community development initiatives. The fruits of that labour have been shared by many. For me, personally, as a sister, I experienced a brother totally devoid of any temper or judgement of others but rather one whose main characteristic was humour and taking life as it presented! Thank you Marjory
Our journey together
In 1966, John and I met in the Library of the Australian Council of Churches, in Kent Street, Sydney, where I was briefly working before studying for a teaching career. In the mid 60’s, Australian Frontier with the Inner City Parish team, had invited a crazy wonderful bunch of revolutionary Americans to work with a bunch of us in Redfern, then across Australia. The vison was making the gospel relevant and accessible for common man – ‘renewing the church for the sake of renewing the world!!! – no less!! This was the early days of the Ecumenical Institute / Institute of Cultural Affairs as it is known today.
From John’s theological college days, and from when I first met him, he had become known as a Man of the Question!! After some serious exposure on ‘edge’ theological rethinking, we realized we perhaps had a shared future! – Our gurus included Rudolf Bultmann, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Tillich and H Richard Niebuhr, Kenneth Boulding, Victor Frankl, Nikos Kazantzakis, and many others, together with a black book of sermons ‘Radical Obedience in a Secular Age’ by spirit gurus and colleagues, Joe Matthews and Frank Hilliard. This extensive body of work became our guide for many years!!!! And the Black book! – heady thinking of the 60’s! We began training to lead workshops based on the thinking of these theologians.
In preparation for marriage, we built a life timeline for the next 40 years (1967 -2007; we wrote on our tombstones! We seem to have out lived that by a few years!!!!)
In December 1968, Ron Denham, (one of the founding Inner city parish ministers, and a member of this church today) married 2 rather radical spirits in Parkes. We took the train to Adelaide for 3 weeks, stayed in the honeymoon suite at Nanyara, attending one of the first of many Ecumenical Institute/ICA training programs over the next 50 years. For the year of 1969, our first home was above the chemist shop (now Dominoes) in Redfern Street, Redfern. John continued to work in the inner city parish, and Robyn in Marrickville Public School for one year – my first year of teaching – the year of the moon landing. John continued his Chaplaincy role, at Ascham Girls School, Sydney, as head of an innovative program introducing the girls to world religions! We attended ‘cadre’ meetings in South Sydney Uniting Church in Raglan Street, Redfern. A highlight of that year, was a very eventful return bus trip across the Nullabor with 30 colleagues, to the Perth ICA Summer program! We broke down halfway!
At the end of 1969, we had saved enough money to attend the 3 month Academy training program on Chicago’s black West Side. There, we were exposed to a whole other world, as the black community worked to rebuild, out of the ashes of the riots of the 60’s – a community of hope that stands today – 5th City! From there we continued to expose ourselves through our own six month global odyssey, through Scotland (John’s heritage), Europe, Asia and Australia back to Redfern – life changing indeed!! Heady days – joining the global movement of social change! These first six years in Australia, working with the church and education and learning how to facilitate with the Ecumenical Institute in Australia, beckoned us to a different life of service! Our lives were changed forever! – ‘Do you love the Church? Do you love the Church? Asked Joe Mathews (at the door of Paddington manse one day) – ‘then serve the world!’ Via the EI/ICA, we drew strength from the global spirit movement of people who CARE! Today we are a tiny grain of sand in an ever growing movement of people who care for humanity and the environment across the world! We learnt early on the power of STORY, SONG & SYMBOL to transform lives! This community of care is inclusive of all religions, beliefs and cultures, and you are all a part. It is unconditional love for family and community! We were, and are, deeply connected – we call it the crimson line!
INDIA – 1972 – 1975
So in 1972, after working off bonds etc, we took a leap of faith to work voluntarily in India – for 5 years -learning, training, facilitating in the arena of the grassroots community building and social change. This was the first step into the real unknown, leading to similar work in Kenya, Indonesia, Timor Leste, the DR Congo, and of course Australia over the next 50 years! In India, John became a master at riding the 3rd class trains, across the country, securing a luggage rack to sleep on for a few extra rupees, working with communities, facilitating grassroots social change and sharing participatory methods (these days known as ToP – Technology of Participation). We were members of a secular Family Order, living corporately in community, based in Bombay, Delhi and Hyderabad. These folk are part of our extended family today – Hello! In 1975 baby Kiran came into our family, and we began the 5 year adoption process! Kiran started life with us in a well -lined vegie basket crib with Pat Balm making her first baby clothes! We returned to Sydney for three months to be with family.
KENYA – 1975 – 1977
In 1975, we were assigned by the ICA, to KENYA help establish the Nairobi Community House. Attending the World Council of Churches, kicked off a wonderful collegial time with colleagues from around the world, wearing our usual garb of ‘service blue’.There we were involved in community development work, and supporting the Kawangware village project. I worked at an international school for self support. One highlight was a self-made safari in Kenya, with 4 adults, 2 babies in an old jalopy, led by a Kenyan English colleague. An overnight fire, being circled by a lion, then getting lost in Nairobi National Park! A memorable story!
INNER CITY PARISH – 1977 -1981
At the end of 1976 we returned to the INNER CITY PARISH – living in Redfern, Waterloo, and Darlinghurst , where we were part of South Sydney Community Aid, working with Indigenous and multicultural communities in social change and justice.We began hosting exchange students from all over the world, hosted English students, and joined the SERVAS hosting program. This global exposure, bringing the world into our home, continued on and off for the next 30 years.The birth of Glen in 1980 in Darlinghurst, heralded many memorable moments on the balcony of the old Palmer Street manse.
INDONESIA – 1981 – 1988
In 1981 we accepted an invitation by the Karo Batak Church and New Zealand Board of Missions partner, to work in Community development in North Sumatra, Indonesia. I resigned from the Department of Education again!!! We took 6 year old Kiran and 1 year old Glen to enjoy the next 5 years living in Java and North Sumatra, Indonesia! Highlights include –
Becoming part of the Ginting Suka, Sinulingga and Harkingto families, and being received into the Namorambe community with a Mengket Rumah ceremony. Hello!
Learning Bahasa Indonesia!
Sitting at the feet and listening to the local communities and working with them to effect the social change they aspired to – grassroots community building.
Working with farmers in demonstration plots exploring alternative crops and livelihoods – and growing huge watermelons!
Helping set up local clinics in the context of the village community development program.
Working with the women in setting up 70 village pre-schools across North Sumatra
Glen, as a young boy, accompanying the women, in establishing these village pre-schools, and attending the International school in Medan
The pain and excitement of putting Kiran on the plane from Sumatra to go to Boarding school for 5 years in Malaysia.
In Namorambe, the children enjoying village life in the rice paddies and neighbour’s yummy kitchens and
At Bendungan, enjoying picnics, jumping from tree branches into the river, and riding the rapids on old tyres!
ASHFIELD, ROCKDALE, ARNCLIFFE, CRONULLA, NARRABEEN – 1988 – 2021
In 1988 – we returned to Australia and the first thing we did was to walk with 1000’s on the BRIDGE WALK on May 28! We were immersed again into the Reconciliation movement in Australia! The next 30 year chapter, was in Australia where we were directly linking community development and education in Australia, Kenya, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Timor Leste, the Democratic Republic of Congo over many years to now.
In 1989 John became parish minister for Rockdale, Bexley and Arncliffe.
After medically retiring in 1994, John continued to serve and facilitate in many different places – Sydney, NSW country towns and India, over the next 20 years, from our base in Arncliffe.
During this time, I worked in various DET schools, and we were both involved in the Reconciliation movement and community development in Asia.
Glen introduced us to Lake Mungo – with his play building workshops through Shopfront Theatre, with the local Indigenous community of Balranald, the production of the anti racist play – MUNGO!
In 2004 – I had an amazing Educational Exchange year in a Perth School, and in the school holidays, we explored Western Australia – north, south and east! John spent 3 months supporting work in India, during this time.
In 2009 and in 2011 – we celebrated Kiran and Neeraj’s Indian wedding – in Cronulla and Delhi, welcoming Neeraj into our family.
In 2017 – After 8 years in Cronulla, on account of John’s health, we moved to Narrabeen on the beach, continuing the journey!
Time in Narrabeen has been relaxing and inspiring – being so close to the ocean, the lake and the bush. John was able to enjoy these beautiful surroundings.
Last year, we welcomed Glen’s partner Eiji to our family. They enjoy inner city living, with their doggy, Ralphie, working from home during COVID!
To the present, we work with colleagues, locally and globally, facilitating and working with the Reconciliation movement and the ICA in Asia Pacific .
I would like to close with a couple of quotes:
*. A story from a letter John wrote to Alison, my sister, from Indonesia in 1985: ‘bursting out of an illusion, the girl heard a voice, and it called her name. You are loved of God (/Allah/the mystery/the universe). So she went into the desert and again she heard a voice – ‘forward, stretch your wings of courage and passion, the past is gone forever, the future is open. And she said YES! YES! YES! I am loved of God!’
*. From one of our many spirit songs: ‘Gloriously condemned to die: life is new, a great resurgence! Community with all the faithful, and I, I am forever at the centre tranquil.’
Thank you for being integral to our journey of a lifetime! Grace and peace to you all, Robyn Hunchinson