Callsign Shepherd: Vale Rev Kerry Bartlett

25 Oct 2020 by Delia Quigley in: Letters, Thoughts, News

Callsign Shepherd: Chaplain Kerry Bartlett (5 March 1951 - 8 October 2020)

We laughed as Chaplain, Rev. Phil Anderson, explained that when a Chaplain is in theatre they are given either callsign “Halo” or callsign “Shepherd”—and Kerry Bartlett had deliberately chosen “Shepherd”.

Callsign Shepherd. His face looks at us from an Order of Service adorned with eucalyptus. He is dressed in his desert cams, the Royal Australian Army insignia and Australian flag upon his left upper arm, his name Bartlett above his right breast pocket, and his rank slide on the middle front of his cams, bearing the Chaplain’s cross.

Everything in the service was deliberately chosen to reflect who Kerry was, his love of nature, the environment and the connections back to where we come from: His plain pine coffin with rope handles, with a wreath of native plants, each plant chosen with special meaning. Atop of Kerry’s coffin is his photo, his slouch hat and service medals that remind us of his years in the theatres of active service.

Kerry’s humour and his philosophy on life are quoted on the order of service:
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” (The secret life of Walter Mitty)
“Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens” (Carl Jung)

We cried and we laughed as we listened to his family and Chaplaincy colleagues share stories of Kerry. Kerry made a lasting impact upon all who met him, and we could just picture that funny little side look he gave waiting for you to pick up on his little jokes. 

We were brought undone as his brother-in-law Martin Doherty played acoustic guitar and sang ’No man’s land’ by Eric Bogle, which included a medley of The Band played Waltzing Matilda and Silent Night.

The words of Phil Anderson, the readings and Psalm 23, indeed reminded us that Kerry Bartlett was very much a man who fitted the callsign and the title of Shepherd. A chaplain who loved and guided his flock, he loved nothing more that sitting beside soldiers and listening to them, their fears, their hopes, their dreams—just as he did later on, when he sat and listened to the people across our Presbytery, a down to earth bloke who was easy to talk to and offered sage advice.

Kerry was a shepherd to all who worked with him. Even in ‘retirement’ he did so much across our Presbytery and that was evident in the number of Ministers and those of various congregations that were present to celebrate his life and service to our country and to God.

Chaplain Kerry Bartlett made a lasting and deep impression. We are faced with the grief of the sudden call home of a person we know, a person we love, a human we respect, a shepherd that we worked with ... a shepherd that surely deserves the words, “rest now, good and faithful servant”.

Delia Quigley
Former Presbytery Co-Chair