The name Arthur Stace is not a well-known name even in Sydney, Australia where his life’s work was accomplished. Yet, the fact that few remember him today is no reflection on what he accomplished, for he truly used his one talent for great effect. With only one word, Arthur Stace changed the lives of countless people and influenced a culture which sadly often no longer recognizes him as the originator.
At ten seconds to midnight at the Sydney New Years celebration in the year 2000, many watching from around the world might have been surprised with what Sydney chose to commemorate at these historic celebrations. At the finale of a twenty-four minute fireworks display featuring the iconic Harbor bridge and Opera House, emblazoned golden letters could be made out through the smoke. As the smoke dissipated, one could clearly make out the massive letters in bright lights on the side of the Harbor Bridge: Eternity. But why on earth were they there? This book tells the story behind the unlikely figure who inspired this word to be shown to all the world.
This book should be required reading for every high school student in Australia. It should also have much wider circulation outside of Australia as the story of the humble Mr. Stace has much to commend it to all audiences. The product of a difficult set of circumstances: a broken family situation growing up, difficult living conditions, and alcoholism almost destroyed Mr. Stace. But then he heard the gospel of Jesus Christ at a food shelter and became a Christian. In that one fateful moment, not only his life, but the lives of many would be changed forever. Immediately, the Lord began to change Arthur Stace from the inside out. Rather than causing trouble for the law and drinking away what little money he had, Mr. Stace became a model citizen. He even began to work with many other homeless alcoholics just as he had been shortly before.
But it was while hearing a sermon shortly after he became a Christian that he was struck by these words: “Eternity – I wish that I could sound, or shout that word to everyone on the streets of Sydney”. The thought of confronting his fellowmen with the truth of the eternity that awaited them after death was overpowering for Mr. Stace. From that point, and for several decades afterword, he began to write the word “Eternity” in beautiful script on the sidewalks and pathways of Sydney. With chalk in hand, he would set out, usually early in the morning, to write the word in the footpaths of those who would be shortly going to work. His goal was simple, to get people to think about what would happen after they die. The implications of eternity are immense and he wished to impress upon the reader the importance of that concept.
His work began to be noticed over the years and yet his identity remained a secret only known to a select few. This biography tells the story of the history and influences on Mr. Stace’s life and how he came to take this interesting step of writing a single word all over Sydney. It also helpfully deals with the many individuals who were effected by this word in various ways. Politicians, pastors, artists and children were all effected. Yet, it was only after much persuasion that Mr. Stace came forward at the end of his life to tell the story in hopes that the story might reach yet further than his chalk drawings. This story deserves to be heard far more widely, and with this well-researched biography, now it can.
Perhaps the main drawback of this work is that it is published by an Australian press. This sadly limits the extent to which this book will be able to reach a wider audience. Also, at times the readability of the biography could use a bit of smoothing out. Yet, despite both of these shortcomings, the book is by far the most well-researched, best attested, and complete overview of the life of this ordinary man. An ordinary man who accomplished extraordinary things by expressing his love for God in a simple word that has eternal implications.
Roy Williams and Elizabeth Meyers. Mr. Eternity: The Story of Arthur Stace. Sydney: Acorn Press, 2017. 243 pp.
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