The Compassionate Friends founder, Canon Reverend Dr Simon Stephens OBE has visited Australia and spent three days with our Compassionate Friends. It was a pleasure for all of those who were able to hear him speak and spend some social time with him. His visit in Sydney was coordinated exceptionally well by Sue Berry, and a number of other TCF NSW members. Sue Berry (previous TCF NSW President) and Mike Berry (current President of TCF Australia) actually opened their home and hosted Reverend Stephens during his time in Sydney - a big thanks to them for enabling Simon to spend time with us.
Sue has written a narrative of the events below and we have a number of photographs from Simon's visit.
Reverend Simon Stephens is presently working in Honiara and the Bishop allowed him to take 3 weeks to visit the TCF organisations in Australia. First stop Sydney!
He arrived on the evening of Friday 8th May and was rather tired from the flights and waiting at airports for connections. After a late supper of soup, bread and cheese, he took a hot bath (there has been no hot water on the island since early March!) and retired for the night.
On Saturday 9th May Simon was up early for an interview with ABC 24. After leaving the studio in Ultimo he arrived in North Sydney to give a talk. Fifty excited members and friends listened attentively. He first spoke about his work in the Solomon Islands, including tales of the snoring saltwater crocodiles outside his hut. He told us the story of how, 49 years ago the Compassionate Friends started and how world wide it has become. Sadly countries such as Russia and China do not allow NGOs to operate so TCF does not officially exist there. We were informed that many bereaved people feel alienated from the people meant to care for us because of the inability in today's world to cope with death and bereavement. The perceived lack of time of some professionals has meant that the needed care is not always forthcoming. This has meant that TCF is the only support for some bereaved parents.
Simon went on to talk of the ministry of TCF in reaching out to one another, symbolised by the logo of the 2 hands. TCF changes lives by giving hope, it shows bereaved parents that they do not walk alone; to discover not only the will to live but to love again, and through dialogue make other agencies aware of the role of peer to peer support.
Emphasised also was that there is much to do. There is a wealth of experience within TCF and that our roles and our skills need to be acknowledged. Simon felt that the purpose of his visit was to thank all those who have represented TCF in the past and to encourage all those walking in those footsteps today. TCF gives testimony to the power of love to come from the shadow to discover life in all its beauty.
Mothers Day, Sunday 10th May. A beautiful sunny day. Brenda Robilliard and Simon Stephens worked together to deliver a service at HMAS Watson. This is a beautiful chapel in Watsons Bay overlooking Sydney Harbour. The theme was "A Legacy of Love". Tony Carroll and Jenny Wandl each did a reading. Carolyn sang, Joy and Peter Rappo brought baskets of flowers and each of us placed a flower in remembrance. Afterwards many members went to the Rose Bay RSL for lunch.
On Monday 11th May Reverend Stephens was invited to do an interview on ABC radio (see our news item for the broadcast). During the interview 4 bereaved parents phoned in and spoke of their experiences immediately following the death of their child. After the interview he was off to the Hazelhurst Gallery in Gymea. The Miranda Chapter organised for Simon to see the TCF Rose. Fourteen members joined Simon for lunch.
As we hosted Rerend Stephens, we hope he slept well and rested as he left us to go to Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, Murwillumbah and Brisbane, before returning to Honiara on 28th of May.
Please select the thumbnail pictures below to see a full size view of the photographs!