Rest in Peace: Pastor Allan Heppner


Today the Lutheran Community in Melbourne, and especially those at my wife’s and daughter’s parish (St Paul’s Box Hill), mourn the death of their beloved pastor, the Rev. Allan Heppner, after a very short but sharp battle with cancer.

As fate would have it, I was giving a lecture at the John Paul II Institute this afternoon on Ratzinger’s Eschatological Anthropology, and had just gotten to the subject of the “the body and soul after death” when Cathy rang with the news. We prayed for the repose of his soul there and then, thanking God for his ministry and life. Dr Adam Cooper, who was my “baby sitter” for the class and who also knew Allan as a colleague in the Lutheran ministry, read a beautiful translation of the Dies Irae to conclude our prayers.

Allan and I did not always see eye to eye on matters liturgical and theological, but as Cathy said to me this evening, he was an examplar of humble servant leadership in his time as pastor at St Paul’s. He was the celebrant at our marriage, and baptised our second daughter Mia, so, with these family celebrations, it isn’t surprising that we have a couple of photos of Allan around the house.

Please pray for Allan, for his wife Deborah and his daughters in their grief, and for all who were close to Allan and benefited from his pastoral care. There were so very many.

Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Rest in Peace: Pastor Allan Heppner

  1. John Nolan says:

    Should be ‘luceat ei’. What is the Lutheran position on praying for the dead? Anglicans officially don’t do it, but in practice often do. Catholic funeral Masses have become very tacky and maudlin these days, and I have heard it said that it is the Church’s ‘ministry to mourners’ which smacks of heresy. A couple of weeks ago I did a round trip of 100 miles to sing at the Requiem Mass of someone I didn’t know, but who had requested a sung Mass and commendation according to the Usus Antiquior. The celebrant was a young priest who had taught himself the EF after his ordination; there was no homily or eulogy; but this was a proper Catholic funeral. I hope people are prepared to do the same for me when my time comes.

    I never knew Pastor Heppner, but have offered up a prayer for the repose of his soul. Denominational differences no longer matter at these times. Anima eius, et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

    • Schütz says:

      The Lutheran Confessions do not absolutely forbid praying for the dead, and Luther left open the possibility that one might pray “once or twice” for a departed soul and then leave it at that (any protracted prayer, he thought, betrayed a lack of trust in God). Yet in the end, Lutheranism rejected the practice of publically praying for the dead in their liturgies for the very obvious reason that it raised questions about the intermediate state and hence about Purgatory (they were not able, as the Orthodox do, to hold together the rejection of Purgatory and the promotion of the practice of Prayer for the dead). Of course, the other practice that went along with prayer for the dead was the offering of the sacrifice of the mass for the dead. If the mass was not a sacrifice (and this was the cardinal Lutheran objection to the Mass as celebrated by the Catholic Church – and still is) then it could not be offered for the dead.

  2. Gareth says:

    John: The celebrant was a young priest who had taught himself the EF after his ordination; there was no homily or eulogy.

    Gareth: It is interesting to note John as you note here that ‘Eulogies’ during a Reqieum Mass are a recent phenomenon.

    I have experienced when Catholic pass away the eulogy and all speeches on the persons life given at the rosary around the coffin in the Church the night before and during the actual Funeral Mass, the priest concentrated on the Gospel and tried to relate that (without going overboard) to the person’s life. It actually worked very well and makes sense seeing only God knows the state of our Souls/Requiem Masses are for the repose of our Souls.

    Will pray for this intention David.

  3. Matthias says:

    I rememberhearing about Pastor Heppner when I was in the LCA at Ringwood with your friend Pastor AB as my Pastor.” Blessed in the sight of God are the deaths of His Saints” Not Auf Wiedersehn Pastor but Guten Abend until THE MORNING

  4. John Nolan says:

    In pre-Reformation England even quite lowly people would want ‘shrift and housel’ (absolution and viaticum) on their deathbed and the full funeral rites of Placebo, Dirige and Requiem (Vespers, Matins and Mass), plus a trental (30) of masses subsequently. When the Reformers swept all this away it must have occasioned real anguish. I have attended some really dreadful Catholic funerals (white vestments, “we’re here to celebrate the life of …”, “she’s now an angel in heaven etc.”) complete baloney, and of all the post-V2 horrors, perhaps the worst.

    The fact that the Church is offering prayers and sacrifice for the soul of the departed, and for all the faithful departed, is entirely obscured. Like the rest of modern ‘liturgy’ it is designed to make us feel good about ourselves. It is a perversion, a disgrace and a heresy.

    • Schütz says:

      John, I refer you to this article which appeared in The Age in connection with the funeral of prominent footballer at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, even though the deceased had a Catholic background.

      Note especially Archbishop Hart’s comment:

      ” He said the funeral guidelines at the cathedral were the same as at all Catholic churches throughout the world: a funeral is not a commemoration of a life but a service of worship and prayer for peace of a person’s soul – ”though in the context of a person’s life”.”

  5. John Nolan says:

    Thanks for that, David. The problem with guidelines is that people think they still have a lot of leeway. One problem is that priests tend to play to the audience – the deceased may have been a practising Catholic, his children will probably have lapsed, and his grandchildren will probably have not even been baptized. Friends and former colleagues are unlikely to be Catholic anyway. There is a tradition since the 1960s that the Church’s time-honoured liturgy and music is something to be ashamed of. So let’s have something that everyone can be happy with. I believe this attitude to be profoundly mistaken.

    In 1997, when Princess Diana was killed, the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, celebrated a Requiem Mass for her in the Cathedral. Her official funeral the next day at Westminster Abbey was an embarrassment, with Elton John reworking his sentimental Marilyn Monroe ballad and Diana’s reprobate brother insulting the Queen from the pulpit. One (non-Catholic) commentator observed that her Christian funeral had been done the day before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *