Rev Rex A E Hunt, MSc(Hons)
World Water Day 2021
21 March 2021


“If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water…”
(Philip Larkin, ‘Water’)

The ‘Australia Day Honours’ 2021 were (again) full of controversy.
Especially the Companion Order of Australia (AC) awarded to
        former tennis great, and now Pentecostal pastor, Margaret Court.

The protests… not for her prowess as a former sporting champion
but for her outspoken language and views—repugnant to many Australians—
        on homosexuality, conversion therapy,
        same-sex marriage, and transgender people.

Within hours several outstanding Australians returned their Australia Day awards,
some from previous years. Among them were
        Journalist Kerry O’Brien
        Medical doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo
        Minister of Religion Alistair Macrae
        Artist Peter Kingston

Peter Kingston is best known for his paintings that capture the energy of Sydney Harbour,
and for his environmental activism
that helped save several harbour-side icons.
“I am returning my award because I believe the elevation of Margaret Court is contrary to the integrity and meaning of the award and her effort in amplifying divisive opinions has not made our community a better place and contradicts the objectives of the award.”

He could have added some additional words from former Uniting Church
National President, Alistair Macrae, who stated:
“It is utterly disingenuous, in this day and age, to claim that Mrs Court’s sporting achievements can be separated from her highly publicised comments about LGBTI people… Religious faith has private as well as public ethical dimensions. As a minister and theologian, I am aware that bad theology kills people.”

While not down playing such genuine protest, with which I happen to agree,
such extensive media coverage over-shadowed another Australia Day award recipient,
        Indigenous elder, artist, and educator,
        Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann AM
                  for being named the 2021 'Senior Australian of the Year’.

She is perhaps best known for her reflections on dadirri,
“inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness”…
        something like what we call ‘contemplation’.

In a speech on dadirri, which she gave in 2002 when Principal
of a Catholic primary school in Daly River in the Northern Territory, she said
Ngangikurungkurr is the name of my tribe. The word can be broken up into three parts: Ngangi means word or ‘sound’, Kuri means ‘water’, and kurr means ‘deep'. So the name of my people means 'the Deep Water Sounds' or 'Sounds of the Deep’… We are River people.”

Her comments continue…
“When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again. I can sit on the riverbank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in this silent awareness.”

Deep water sounds…
As a religious naturalist that is contemplation I can relate too.
        On Australia Day. On any day.
        But especially on this day—World Water Day.


Held on 22 March every year since 1993
World Water Day focuses on the importance of freshwater.

This year’s theme is ‘Valuing Water’ as it seeks to raise awareness
of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water.
        And it is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis.

While recognised as the driest inhabited continent on earth,
with ten named deserts and 70% of the land mass classified either arid or semi arid land,
        Australia does have many river systems and fresh water lakes.

I am told there are at least 439 rivers—the longest being the Murray River (2,375km).
While the largest freshwater lake is Great Lake, in Tasmania.
        It has an area of 158 square km, measures 22 km by 11 km,
        and fills a shallow depression averaging 12 metres in depth.

As others have said… there’s nothing quite as tranquil as a lake.
There's something about the still water
        that forces your brain to relax…



(I acknowledge that most of what follows is dependant on Crosby’s thoughts…)

Donald Crosby, a philosopher and religious naturalist suggests that
the sacredness of nature is primordial.
”Nature as a whole and in its every particular aspect is sacred and can be judged to be miraculous in the sense of arousing… a persistent sense of awe and amazement.” (Crosby, Discourse, 86)

In his important essay “Master Symbols of the Ultimacy of Nature”
Crosby draws one’s attention to the appropriateness of ‘water’
        as a symbol of the awesome character of nature.

He offers three images: a cascading waterfall, an adjacent stream/river
that rushes away from it, and finally enters into a quiet lake.
“I propose that we view this scene, not just as an enticing aspect of nature, but as a symbol of the whole of it.” (Crosby, Discourse, 87)

• Waterfall: symbol of the formidable powers of nature,
powers of surging creation, and enigmatic of the dazzlingly beautiful things of earth

• Stream/River: suggests by it turbulent flow the ever-changing face of our universe

• Lake: symbol of peacefulness, rest, and assurance
we may often experience in the presence of nature
        especially on a misty morning, a sunset evening, or a moonlit night.

“It is obvious,” Crosby writes,
“that every living being on earth requires regular amounts of water for its survival. Life and water, therefore, go necessarily together… Earthly water does not give a promise of eternal life, but it is essential for mortal life. As such, it is a fitting symbol of nature as the religious ultimate that endures through all change while all of its creatures, including us humans, come into being and pass out of being.” (Crosby, Discourse, 89-90)


Water. A substance composed of the chemical elements
hydrogen and oxygen and existing in gaseous, liquid, and solid states.

Water. The womb of life… in tidal pools, in clay beds, in volcanic vents… life emerging.

Water. It makes up more than two- thirds of our world and our bodies.

Water. Drinking, washing, cleaning, cooking, growing food.
Most precious resource for survival.

Water. Deadly serious for all who live by agriculture in lands
with no dependable rivers, or when the rain doesn’t come at the right time.

Water. Has a cycle that lasts forever…
“The water in our taps and oceans and tears and clouds has been water forever. That means that the water that baptises children has washed over every generation before them. It has bathed the bodies of the dead and the freshly born. It has been cried by saints and thieves. It has quenched the thirst of history’s people. And before there were people on earth, this same water carved valleys and coastlines from mountains. It shaped our landscape; it shapes our lives.” (Cheryl Lawrie 2009)

On this weekend/day—World Water Day—I invite you to charge your glasses with refreshing water.
And as you raise your individual glass to drink
“view this simple but necessary act as a kind of ritual recognition and celebration of the religious ultimacy of the natural world in which we human creatures are privileged to live our lives… [and] rejoice in the everyday miracles and wonders of nature, and reverence the whole of nature.” (Crosby, Discourse, 91)

Crosby, D. A. More Than Discourse. Symbolic Expressions of Naturalistic Faith. New York. SUNY Press, 2014
Larkin, P. “Water” <famouspoetsandpoems.com> Originally published in The Whitsun Weddings 1964
Lawrie, C. “Baptism. A Reflection”, The Age, 7 November 2009
Macrae, A. “Why I am Returning my AO Honour”, Crosslight 28 January 2021
Miller., R. J. “Free Rain”, The Fourth R 34, 1. January-February 2021, 1
Ungunmerr-Baumann, M-R. Living Water, Blog, 26 January 2021. <https://www.thelivingwater.com.au/blog/dadirri-our-greatest-gift-to-australia-says-indigenous-elder-and-2021-senior-australian-of-the-year>

• Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Water’
If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.

Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes;

My liturgy would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,

And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly.