Sunday, 16 January 2022

In remembering lies our hope and future

WHAT does it mean for us to remember? The publication of this week’s Henley Standard sits between Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, when many will gather at memorials or in churches or join the crowds at the Cenotaph in London from their own living rooms.

When we remember we have a sense of self; we have a sense of the past, of our own history, the history of others; we have a sense of the present, of who we are and how we are made; we have a sense of the future, how we take that remembering and carry it forward.

Addressing the future and remembering, the Royal British Legion, which celebrated its centenary in May, say: “If we are to maintain our peace and freedom we must always remember.”

Remembering may be different for each one of us. Recently, I was speaking to two former RAF fighter pilots. They have been present at Remembrance services for the last 50 to 60 years, often recalling their early air force careers and those on their squadrons — other young pilots, who like them, were in their early twenties — who were killed in training.

For them, and for many others, may ring true the lines from Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

Yet when we meet to remember it is not to glorify war, but to remember before God those who have been lost to it.

I once spoke with an RAF padre who said to me, with tears in his eyes as he recalled an horrific incident he had witnessed in Bosnia: “There is no glory in war.”

This year, in the Hambleden Valley, we will be doing some remembering of our own and, in particular, of Major George Howson MC, who lived and is buried in Hambleden.

When he returned from active service in the First World War, he did not forget the men who had fought and been wounded in those battles.

George’s remembering of the disabled servicemen led him to set up the Poppy Factory, opened in 1922, where disabled veterans were employed producing vast numbers of poppies each year.

The factory continues to produce the poppies and wreaths for the Legion to this day. And carved on George Howson’s gravestone is a cross with a poppy at the centre.

As we pause to remember this November, as we see crosses, with poppies at the centre laid in fields of remembrance, may we remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not the present, not the past, not the future.

Let us remember that love: for ourselves, for our friends, for those with whom we served, for those who served whom we never knew, for those who continue to serve in the armed forces.

May we carry that love with us into the future, reminding future generations of it, because it is impossible to be beyond God’s reach and in remembering that lies our hope and our future.

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