November 2018 - A Hundred Years of Remembering

A Hundred Years of Remembering


One hundred years since the signing of the Armistice is surely something to be remembered and marked, with both solemnity and with gratitude.

In a world that seems to increasingly idolize the contemporary soldier (particularly in the USA), it is hard, in this modern age, to imagine the lives of those who fought in World War One. Diaries from the time show that many initially joined the services in search of adventure; rushing into uniform that they might see the world, with thoughts of service and sacrifice further from their minds. As the war progressed, and conscription began, the possibility, or perhaps likelihood, of death would have become more apparent.

In the past few weeks American military sources have admitted that recruitment is down because the economy is up, perhaps thereby explicitly linking poverty with military service for many. Maybe the opportunities open to those who enlist are closed to others who come from similarly deprived backgrounds. Though not always because of poverty, perhaps signing up has always been done from a mixture of motives.

When a country moves from a state of peace to a time of war, this may be considered as a failure of government, diplomacy and the international community. It might be necessary, or at least unavoidable, but it should only be because everything else has been unsuccessful. At this centenary, we remember those who sacrificed their own lives in the pursuit of peace, and we honour them with dignity and, when words fail us, silence. People die because of the failures of others.

We also remember that many young men were sacrificed in the pursuit of victory, and that the choice was not always theirs. Citizens do not generally join the services in a time of conflict primarily to be victorious – but to bring about peace once again. This is why our contemporary Remembrance Sunday services and Acts of Remembrance put such emphasis on repentance and recommitting ourselves to the active pursuit of peace. These occasions are not about glorifying the dead – and certainly not glorifying war – but weeping over a nation's loss with gratitude. We also dedicate ourselves to responsible living and faithful service, striving for all that makes for peace. We do not choose to live as cowards, but rather seek to live lives of justice, courage and mercy.

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
we will remember them.

Nick Bird

Your Rector

This letter from Revd Nick Bird appeared in the November 2018 issue of The Grapevine