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The love that conquers death: Remembering those killed in the Swanston Street wall collapse

An address by the Dean of Melbourne, the Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe, at a commemoration of the lives of Dr Marie-Faith Fiawoo, Bridget and Alexander Jones, at St Paul’s Cathedral, on 28 March 2014, the first anniversary of their accidental death following the sudden collapse of a wall on Swanston Street:


What is the most important thing in life God gives us, Jesus is asked by a teacher of the law in today’s gospel reading. And Jesus tells him that the most important thing in life is love: ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbour as yourself’, Jesus responds (St Mark 12.29-31). The greatest thing there is, is love: God’s profound, generous love for us; and, out of that overflowing love, our own capacity to love ourselves and those around us: ‘love God with all your heart and your soul, and your mind, and your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself’.

Love is the source and purpose of our being: we were created out of love and for love when God made humankind in his image as women and men, and saw that what he made was ‘very good’. And love is the goal of our being: as Christians we believe that God showed forth his love for us most closely when he gave his only Son, Jesus Christ, so that we might share in his love, and live lives freed from the fear of sin, and death. The love we have for one another, the love that sustains our being, is rooted in the profound love that God has for us, and showed forth in the death of his only Son, Jesus.

And because of that love, Christians believe that death has been conquered by love; that although in the midst of live we face death, death is not forever: rather, we believe that love is forever. Love for the God who gives us life when we a born, and a new life when we die. Love for ourselves, and all that is good and life-giving in our lives. Love for those we love, and those God gives us to be our neighbours: our friends and companions on our journey through life.

It is in this confidence that we honour today the lives of the three young scholars who died a year ago today as a wall further up this Street collapsed on them, killing researcher Dr Marie-Faith Fiawoo, whose family join us today to remember her life with us, and students Bridget and Alexander Jones. We remember them today, and give thanks for what they were to us: three people we recall because we love them, even though they have been taken from us. And we give thanks that the gift of love remains for us: the love they gave us, the love we have for them, and the love that God gives us and all who love him. A love that is forever; a love that is stronger than death itself.

‘One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Thanks be to God for the gift of the lives of Marie-Faith, Bridget and Alexander, and for the love that we have for them. And thanks be to God that his gift of love conquers death and has given us, and all the departed, the firm and certain hope of life in his presence forever. Amen.

Photo credit: Wayne Taylor, The Age