Wednesday, 17 October 2018
WE will remember them. Remembrance Sunday is a difficult and poignant balancing act for clergy and civic leaders.
It is absolutely right that we honour the fallen of both world wars and other conflicts and it is proper that we remind ourselves of our own duty to promote peace and reconciliation among all nations and creeds.
The Royal British Legion and other charities are wonderful in the way that they incorporate their support for serving and retired forces personnel into the rituals and the wreath-laying.
Mostly the clergy do a brilliant job in affirming God's sovereignty over the affairs of the world, even though we continue to do our human best to make a terrible mess of the whole of Creation.
But there is an increasing difficulty with Remembrance Sunday. This is that for most of us we have nothing first- hand to remember. The generation who lived through the Second World War are coming to the end of their lives and as they pass into glory so does their experience of war. Those of us who remain are left with second or third hand accounts.
The vestiges of wartime that can still be found in the woods around Henley and the surrounding villages — the camps, the bunkers, the depots — are slowly being demolished, sold or consumed by the undergrowth.
In these circumstances, as the horror of war is dulled by the passing of the years and the grim reality of the human cost is romanticised into a few choice poems, Remembrance Sunday can become a trite exercise in media manipulation and social expectation.
Unless. Unless we hold fast to the fact that, even though most of us may no longer (thankfully) have any first hand experience of world war to share, we are still able to live freely in the peace that resulted. The signs of war in our landscape may be crumbling but there are signs of peace in abundance for us to celebrate: schools, hospitals, places of worship, care homes, parks, shops, sports grounds and gardens.
Once we properly notice these blessings and gifts, then perhaps we will be able to see our local war memorial with fresh eyes. Not only is it the place where the dreadful sacrifice of war is brought home before us but it is also the place where the peace which we share has one of its deepest roots.
Whether we have gone to war personally ourselves or not, we can all at this time pause for a few minutes to be mindful of, and grateful for, the gift of peace.
13 November 2017
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