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No place for grace in a
A membership of
many races and faiths
Some customs are worth keeping
Several years ago I joined Rotary in the Fiji Islands. My club
was a wonderful blend of Rotarians primarily of European,
Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander heritage, representing
many different cultures. They were Christian, Jewish,
Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and yes, atheist.
What struck me from the beginning was the absurdity
of the weekly ritual of grace in an organisation whose
principles clearly proclaim that Rotary is non-religious and
non-political. In my Suva club, grace typically consisted of
the recitation of pseudo-religious prayer to a generic deity
that ends with “May Rotary friends and Rotary ways...”
Many Rotarians will immediately recognise it.
As a new Rotarian I shook my head and dismissed
this awkward contradiction as just a weird remnant of a
In subsequent years I’ve attended many Rotary meetings
where there was no question as to the identity of Rotary’s
official deity when grace was offered “in the name of our
Lord and Saviour...” Our Lord and Saviour? I cringed to
think what was going through the minds of the Jews and
atheists that I knew were sitting in that very room.
Refreshingly, I have experienced many Rotary meetings
which begin with a carefully considered thought for
the day, or moment of reflection, which calls Rotarians
to genuinely reflect on the meaning of service and
Grace in Rotary is a sacred cow (pun intended) which
has no place in Rotary.
Rotary Club of Maketu, NZ
As a Muslim Rotary member, I do find it strange
that the Rotary clubs I have attended seem to be
Christian orientated towards their meetings and
projects – Rotary is supposed to be a membership
of many races and faiths.
I do believe the Rotary clubs have to look at
the different religions and welcome all.
My other concern is why there is no thank you
to the original Indigenous owners of this land
and named at Rotary meetings as a respect to
them and to this country.
Rotary Club of Springvale City, Vic
I believe Australia and NZ should uphold their
Christian principles. There are too many ways we
are denying our heritage. Do other countries alter
their customs for us? I think not.
One of the issues that concerns me in modern Australia is that we are tending to become more intolerant. Almost
everything gets media attention and political polarisation. My view of life and living is that there should be a wide range
of tolerance. For me, I ask two questions when considering issues that are at times seen as divisive. These two issues fall
under the heading of justice and care. Is there a sense of justice in what is taking place, and secondly, am I putting into
practice a sense of care that includes both myself as well as others?
People are certainly allowed to have opinions, and these opinions should have room for appropriate discussion. Should
we stop having Christmas celebrations because we know that Santa Claus does not exist, or that Jesus was not born on
that day, or that it is a commercial gimmick? One of the really critical losses of modern society is that we tend to take
away the stories that people live by. In our quest for scientific accuracy and rationality, we have often fallen into the
Back now to grace at the front end of Rotary. Gratitude is an important component for any person. One does not
need to believe in God to be thankful. When I am asked to say grace for my Rotary club, in a clearly audible voice and
without being rushed, something like this is heard: FOR GOOD FRIENDS, GOOD FOOD, AND FOR ROTARY, WE GIVE
THANKS. If one is religious, they hear it their way; if one is not religious, they too hear it their way – but that is life.
One final issue; there are bigger things in the world than arguing over a few words at the beginning of a Rotary
meeting. Certainly there is no place for religious or political propagation at Rotary, but some customs are worthwhile.
After all, we don’t stop talking about sunrise and sunset because it presupposes a flat earth.
Rotary Club of Nelson Bay, NSW
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