Last weekend, about 250 of us set off at 3.00am from the previous site of the Featherston Army Training Camp to commence the re-enactment walk of some 60,000 soldiers over the Rimutaka Hill to Trentham Camp during WW1. Some were regular army force, some were dressed in replica WW1 uniforms, some were descendants of those who had made the original trek. I marched as the ‘honorary padre’ for the Masterton RSA.
The morning was clear and cool as we marched off towards Featherston, where we stopped and conducted a short predawn service commencing with prayers and this also included the Last Post. It was then onwards towards the hill itself, with a refreshment break at double bridges at the base. Following 2½ hours of good steady pace (and a couple of snack stops) we arrived at the summit under a veil of mist. There was a very moving dedication and blessing service of a wonderful new monument, now permanently sited at the summit.
Pictured left is the Commemorative structure dedication and blessing by Reverend Merv Jones (black cassock) and Reverend Colonel Lance Lukin
After a very hearty breakfast, we departed to walk down the other side towards Kaitoke. From there we were bussed to Upper Hutt and marched through the main street to the Civic Centre, where another service was held.
Total march distance was 21kms – but more importantly for me it was yet another opportunity to take church to the community. I had many interesting conversations with other marchers, about their lives, church, God – the list goes on. One fellow marcher complemented me on my ‘fancy dress’ of black cassock and priest collar. He thought I was really getting into the whole mood of the march……… until he asked “You’re not a real priest are you?” and was mortified when I said “Yes”. And it opened up another conversation.
Last Sunday was for me a great memory of an event that will probably never happen again but also a good example of taking church to where the people are.
Reverend Merv Jones
Priest Associate, St Matthew’s, Masterton