Last night I attended the AIDS Candlelight Memorial Service in St Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin. It was a miserable wet night so not surprising there were only about 20 people plus the choir present.
It was led by Rev Juan Kinnear, the Dunedin priest who is in an openly gay relationship and whose ordination was one of the many reasons I chose Dunedin to live.
I never attended a service in Sydney, mainly due to travel distance, but am sure it was never held in the Anglican cathedral let alone led by an openly gay Anglican priest.
There is a photo in today's Otago Daily Times. It does not seem to be online so I have scanned it below.
I only had one close friend die of AIDS but of course knew many others slightly including two ex-students. And thinking of my sexual activities in the late 70's and early 80's I am sure I was in contact anonymously with many others.
The service began with the hymn "In a world where people walk in darkness, let us turn our faces to the light." I do not think I remember this elsewhere but have found it on Youtube.
I am glad the only light was candles as I could not sing for tears as I thought of all those who died and are still dying, mainly in Africa.
Let us light a candle in the darkness,
in the face of death a sign of life;
as a sign of hope where all seemed hopeless,
as a sign of peace in place of strife
For the light is stronger than the darkness
and the day will overcome the night,
though the shadows linger all around us,
let us turn our faces to the light.
The choir sang Psalm 121 and Requiem Aeternam, music by H. Walford Davies but most memorable was their Taize chant as they processed out and could be heard disappearing down the darkened nave of the cathedral.
Juan just gave a few reflections. First he remembered teaching in a school in South Africa and setting an assignment to write an essay on what the students would do after school and realising as he read them that very few of them would be alive by the time they finished their schooling due to AIDS.
Secondly he remembered the day the first person in his group of friends was diagnosed with AIDS and he said, and he was close to tears, just as I could say:
"I was not more moral, I was not more careful, I was just damn lucky"