Wednesday 1st November: Heiwa no Inori

Archbish Emeritus Desmond and the Dalai Lama arrived in Hiroshima today along with their fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams. They were presiding over some sort of peace conference with a stiff entrance fee. However, after that was done and dusted Desmond Tutu and Betty williams took part in an ecumenical service at the Hiroshima World Peace Cathedral.

As Desmond Tutu is an Anglican Archbishop, the Japanese Episcopalian Church was out in force, with one Japanese Anglican bish and several chaplains, a couple of servers, oh and Yours Truly. I had been roped in by the chaplain of Fukkatsu Kyoukai, Noborimachi, to do the NT reading. He readily agreed to my request that it be the King James version and not some pedestrian modern translation. Modern translations have their uses, but the KJV was made for public declamation by men who had not only a deep understanding of the Christian faith but also of literature, rhetoric and oratory.

The OT reading was from Isaiah chapter 11, verses 6-8. It was read in Korean, but the KJV rendering was supplied in the service sheet. An analysis of the rhetorical structure of the passage will reveal the intricacy with which it has been knitted together and give some appreciation of the refined auditory sensibility of the translators:

6. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

7. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

8. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.

Anyway, my part in the service came directly after the reading of Isaiah. My part was to read a few verses from the 26th chapter of Matthew,

48. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.

49. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

50. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him.

51. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.

52. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

I can’t imagine that there were many viewers, but anyway here is the tv extract of the Korean geezer and myself doing our stuff: (Link no longer active)

Anglicans and Roman Catholics took part alongside Tibeten Buddhists and Buddhists of the prevailing Jodo Shinshu sect here in Japan. There was a place in the service for some Muslim chaps to chant something from the Koran, but nobody showed up.

The best parts of the service were the “Ave” sung by a Catholic girls choir and the two Tibetan chants. The Jodo Shinshu mob did a wierd Christian sounding choral sort of thing. Very nicely pulled off, but not very Buddhist – have they got heavily into Fusion or something? I mean this “ecumenical” business is all well and good, but what I liked was the way that each party did its own thing – the Tibetans were very Tibetan, the Romans were as if in Rome, the Anglicans manifested various Anglican tendencies from King James to Archbishop Desmond, and the Korean reader was, well, a very Korean Christian. So what was with the Jodo Shinshu mob?

You will see what I mean if you check the photos of the service:

(Photo album of the service no longer available online)

You will also note the inevitable inclusion of a guitarist in the service – and as inevitably she invited the congregation to join in the singing. Thankfully, she was not wearing open-toed sandals.

The two main speakers were, of course, Betty Williams and Desmond Tutu. Betty Williams spoke briefly and with great dignity from the heart and by heart – her speech was essentially the First Declaration of the Peace People, a peace organisation founded in 1976 in Northern Ireland:

We have a simple message to the world from this movement for Peace.
We want to live and love and build a just and peaceful society.
We want for our children, as we want for ourselves, our lives at home, at work, and at play to be lives of joy and Peace.
We recognise that to build such a society demands dedication, hard work, and courage.
We recognise that there are many problems in our society which are a source of conflict and violence.
We recognise that every bullet fired and every exploding bomb make that work more difficult.
We reject the use of the bomb and the bullet and all the techniques of violence.
We dedicate ourselves to working with our neighbours, near and far, day in and day out, to build that peaceful society in which the tragedies we have known are a bad memory and a continuing warning.

Desmond Tutu, however, gave his interpreter Hell by straying radically from the agreed text. Perhaps inspired by the lack of applause, he told the congregation that they should applaud themselves and that God was very proud of them. Hmm, sounds a bit theologically dodgy to me.

The seasoned old salt made full use of the comedy potential of his interpreter’s struggles to give an impromptu rendition of the archbishop’s thoughts in Japanese – now starting before the other had stopped, now pausing too long, now speaking at great length without pause, now stopping suddenly after the briefest of statements.

But the most impressive part of Archbishop Desmond’s performance was his giving the Trinitarian Blessing in his native South African language, which could have been Shona or Ndebele or Tswana or Sotho or Zulu or Xhosa or Pedi or Swati, I don’t know which.

Afterwards, as I was pegging it along the main drag wondering whether or not to join the Anglican contingent and the Archbish for dinner at the Rega Royal, I bumped into Old Ardle in his blue cardie and yellow tie so we headed off to Molly Malone’s for a quick snifter instead.

Now, Old Ardle can be a bit of a knob at times, but he got his comeuppance at the bar tonight. I was tucking into my Fish ‘n’ Chips and fending off his oggy fingers which were making repeated forays into my grub when he said something along the lines of how I’d have to move a bit quicker if I was to stick the prongs of my fork into the back of his hand, and he whipped his arm back and knocked his pint of Guinness over the bar. Laugh! I nearly… Well, anyway, Old Ardle was suitably mortified and contrite and Mark, the fine manager of the bar, even gave him a thoroughly underserved refill from the tap.

Well worth missing dinner at the RR to see Old Ardle confound himself!

David Hurley