Dr Hollingworth's Regal Return to the Pulpit
By Jonathan Green
The Age [Australia]
July 10, 2006
The pew sheets for yesterday's 10.30am choral eucharist at St Paul's Cathedral noted simply that the sermon would be preached by the Right Reverend Dr Peter Hollingworth.
The text on which his words would draw was contained in the Second Book of Samuel and dealt with the affairs of kings. The unspoken subtext was of a quiet path to redemption.
It has been just over three years since Peter Hollingworth's commission as Australia's 23rd governor-general was revoked by the Queen. His departure from the job followed months of steadily escalating controversy. There were allegations of decades-old rape from a woman who subsequently took her own life, allegations that were strenuously denied and ultimately dismissed. There was also the issue that would finally cut short Dr Hollingworth's tenure, his support, as bishop of Brisbane, for a pedophile priest.
The early months of 2003 were thus the darkest hours in what would be something of an annus horribilis in the life of a man whose career in both the Christian ministry and public service had been exemplary; it was also a blow to the dignity of the vice-regal office.
With all of that and three years of subsequent semi-obscurity behind him, Dr Hollingworth spoke yesterday in honour of his previous employer's 80th birthday, a rare appearance at a public podium.
Despite the regal overtones, it was an event of unassuming modesty, a mainly musical embellishment of the Cathedral's routine observations for this fifth Sunday after Pentecost. All of it, of course, thoroughly British. Trumpeter Elisha Mayiah played God Save the Queen with a sweetly baroque lilt, there was O taste and see, the Ralph Vaughan Williams motet composed for the Queen's coronation, Elgar's Ave verum corpus during Communion and for the Offertory Hymn, the school-chapel familiarity of Henry Francis Lyte's Praise my soul the king of heaven, a work that some in the congregation might also have recalled from the future Queen's wedding in 1947.
To cap it all, the reading that would prompt Dr Hollingworth's sermon was presented by an aptly named lay canon, one Elizabeth Britten.
While the former bishop and governor-general might have been something of a novelty turn, it was the occasion of the Queen's 80th year that took top billing. "Almighty God," said the presiding clergywoman, the Reverend Anne Wentzel, "bless Queen Elizabeth on her 80th birthday celebration, and all who are in authority under her."
For his part, Dr Hollingworth mused on the place of the monarchy in both history and modern society.
The model was David, the shepherd king, whose 40-year reign had already been surpassed — in simple duration at least — by Queen Elizabeth.
"All human kingship risks a denial of the sovereignty of God," Dr Hollingworth said, forming a "dialectical tension" between monarchy's other sometimes competing allegiance, to itself.
In the British institution there was "a framework of certainty between the past, the present and the future". The nub of the Queen's enduring appeal, her fundamental strength, was therefore that "she continues to do what she has always done": present a fixed, reassuring and utterly dutiful point in a turbulent universe.
It seems unlikely that yesterday's sermon will mark a more public turn in Dr Hollingworth's retirement, days the 71-year-old also fills with voluntary work among the city's homeless at the Anglican Church's Lazarus Centre.
"Dr Hollingworth has not preached at this cathedral since his retirement," said the Dean of St Paul's, the Very Reverend David Richardson. "It's simply that of the people that I know, he is the one who probably knows the Queen best."
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