Book review - The story of the Anglican Bush Brotherhoods
As the Sparks Fly Upwards
I am a great admirer of the wonderful work of various Anglican Bush Brotherhoods which planted the Christian faith, and congregations, in some of the remotest areas of Australia. The earliest Brotherhoods were mainly comprised of dedicated young priests from the Church in England.
I have often wondered what these men from ‘England's green and pleasant land,' made of the Australian Outback ... the distances, differences, heat and flies. Richard Stamp, a former Bush Brother, has provided something of the answer in this book with its fictional tale of Brother Mark.
As the Sparks Fly Upwards has been beautifully written by one who is a master in the use of words. The author is also an artist with words and paints a wonderful landscape of the uniqueness that one finds in the Australian Outback, together with brightly coloured portraits of some of the wonderful characters who live far from the well settled coastal fringe.
I started to wonder about some of the colourful characters the author introduces to the reader. Are these really fictional characters? Could their exploits and adventures be true? Was Miss Vercoe's fishing catch real? How about ‘Nails the Undertaker?' What about ‘Ferret,' and ‘Chugger?' What of ‘Wendy,' whose bright undergarments attracted the attention of the unmarried Brother Mark. These are just a few of the many wonderful characters introduced to the reader.
Then, upon reflection, I realised that these are ‘dinkum' Outback Australians - just like many I have been privileged to meet in my own ministry as a Bishop in the Outback.
Alongside the places and characters in the book there are to be found little cameos - of faith in action, of the nature of a call to ministry, and of the loneliness of being a Bush Brother far from home and family, and serving in that vast, challenging , wonderful part of Australia known as the Outback.
As the Sparks Fly Upwards is a book that brings with it some of the humour of the Australian bush. It is a book to be enjoyed.
Review by Bishop Ron Stone, former Bishop of Rockhampton