Governor’s Prayer Breakfast 2005 – Keynote Address

Thursday 4 August 2005

by His Excellency Lieutenant General John Sanderson, AC
Governor of Western Australia

This is the sixth Governor’s Prayer Breakfast I have attended since being sworn in as Governor of Western Australia on the 18th August five years ago. Yesterday when I spoke to Peter Goodall about this morning’s event we both agreed that the numbers attending had doubled from 600 to 1200 over that period of time. This is a very gratifying development – one that shows, not only that the reputation of the prayer breakfast is growing by word of mouth, but that there is a developing sense of commitment to each other and the land we live in, and that this can be expressed in spiritual way by praying together.

While we should not be surprised by such a growing awareness in a frontier and exciting land like Western Australia, we should be grateful that this spirit blossoms in an environment of economic rationalism that seemingly discounts human spirituality as a positive in the bottom line.

I have spoken about this issue often during my time as Governor – in the context of the pressures on our environment, the struggle of our rural communities to share the opportunities of a growing economy, reconciliation with our indigenous people and the alienation of some of our young people from society. I have also spoken about the importance of leadership in unleashing the creativity that is the essence of all human beings and in building an inclusive society that reaches out like a beacon to those around us. These two issues of spirituality and leadership are, in my mind, linked together in the Christian commitment to faith, hope and love. It is love that invokes leadership of the highest ideals, it is that leadership that encourages faith, and that faith gives us hope for the future, focussing our energy and creativity in building a society that endures.

I drew on this concept as expressed in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians when I gave the memorial address for the Boxing Day tsunami disaster in St George’s Cathedral this year. I did so because there were those in our community who were questioning the relevance of a God who allowed such tragic natural disasters to inflict such misery on so many people. In a response to this depressing view of the world we live in I wanted to point out that the real expression of human spirituality in this was the great up-welling of community concern in Australia that saw our people commit record sums of money and other humanitarian effort to help the victims of the tsunami. There was a sense that we were all in this together – the human family united across geographic, cultural and religious divides by our common humanity and a compassion that surmounts the fear and suspicion of the contemporary world.

We have much to be thankful for in this wonderful state of ours. Western Australia has abundant natural wealth and rapidly growing prosperity that is combined with educational and cultural opportunity second to none. Our land and its flora and fauna are staggeringly beautiful and our horizons are vast.

Clearly, not everyone has the sense of sharing this opportunity, or the sense of security that should accompany this prosperity. Fear continues to influence some sections of our community and cause brittleness in our relationships with others, causing us to sacrifice some of our freedom and the freedom of others in the mistaken belief that this will make us feel more secure. I know from my experience of these things that it is stock in trade for terrorists to amplify these fears and foster these divisions and loss of freedom.

What will undoubtedly make us feel more secure is to confirm our relationship with God through both our actions and our prayers. And that is one of the main reasons for this prayer breakfast. This is a two way street. We communicate with Him through our prayers, putting things right between us, and we communicate with each other by being here together in the belief that our worship and our prayers will draw a response from a loving and engaged God. Leaders from all sections of our community have joined us this morning united in that belief.

I welcome you all here as patron of this event. It will be my last as Governor. Lorraine and I will go at the end of October. We feel the need to engage more closely with our families, particularly our rapidly growing grandchildren. But I can assure all of you that I will cherish the memory of the prayer breakfasts – not simply because of the event itself but, perhaps more so, because of the related fraternity I have sensed as Lorraine and I have moved around our regions. People come from all over this great state to be a part of this expression of thankfulness and spirituality that is the prayer breakfast. I congratulate Peter Goodall and the Committee who have brought us all together and who have arranged so many outstanding Christians to address us each year.

I am sure you are going to enjoy our speaker this year. Ken Duncan is a deeply spiritual and gifted man who has travelled the world with his camera, seeing God in both his human subjects and in the landscape. His experience embraces the whole world, past and present, but he has a particular passion for this mystical land of Australia – something that I share with him. I look forward with great anticipation to him sharing his journey and his passion with all of us this morning.

Thank you for sharing this morning with us.