Address for Armistice Day 2020
For over more than a century, people in the Commonwealth have gathered on this 11th November to remember those who have died in wars and armed conflict. Today, Armistice Day, marks the day that the First World War ended, on 11th November 1918. Over the course of that war, 880,000 members of the British forces died. This was 6% of the adult male population and 12.5% of those serving.
In the Second World War there were 384,000 British soldiers killed in combat, and 70,000 civilians in this country died largely due to bombing raids during the Blitz. In the 75 years since 1945, just over 7,000 members of the British military died in armed conflict.
Here at Hurst College, much smaller then than now, the numbers also reflect the enormous impact the two World Wars had. During the First World War 112 former pupils and teachers died in the service of their county. During the Second World War 75 men lost their lives. In addition to them, another ten members of this community have died fighting for our freedom in various other conflicts, including most recently in Afghanistan.
Continue reading “When numbers become names”
A sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 7.55-60 & John 14.1-14
We have been adjusting to a new and unfamiliar way of life now for almost two months. We have come to realise the things we miss, and our hopes for the future. The news in these past few weeks has focussed almost solely on Covid-19, and I do wonder if we are indeed focussing too much on ourselves, but I will come back to this later.
The one day on which the news here in the UK was different, was last Friday: VE or Victory in Europe Day. I suspect a particularly poignant day for those of you who remember the first VE Day: Churchill’s memorable speech and street parties throughout the country. The question in how far the Church should be involved in civic celebrations such as VE Day and Remembrance Day has always been a topic of conversation, as there is a wide range of opinions on the relationship between our faith and armed conflict.
Continue reading “The way to freedom”
Homily St George’s Preshute, Remembrance Sunday 10th November 2019
Today we are joining people throughout our nation to mark Remembrance Sunday. In our Act of Remembrance that follows this Communion service, we bring to mind those who have lost their lives fighting for peace and freedom. As we hear the names of those of this parish who died during the two Great Wars, we are once more reminded of the scale of loss that this country, and other nations, suffered.
Remembering is at the heart of our Christian faith. It is what Jesus told his disciples to do, every time they eat the bread and drink the wine: do this to remember me. The act of remembering is not just a mental exercise of calling to mind those things in the past, but it is a collective act of bringing to the fore those events and people who have shaped us into who we are.
Continue reading “Children of God”
Sermon 3rd November 2019, All Saints’ Church Stanton St Bernard
All Saints’ Sunday: Ephesians 1.11-end, Luke 6.20-31
Today the Church celebrates All Saints’ Sunday, so it is lovely to be here with you in All Saints’ Church. When I took a school assembly for All Saints Day last week, I asked the children how they thought that they might recognise a saint. The first answer was that saints may be dressed in robes, which is a fair point if we look at a lot of traditional paintings and artwork. The second answer was that a saint is someone who does ‘good’ for other people. Maybe my favourite one was someone who answered that you could ask the person themselves. Although I’m not sure what a person would need to say to convince me.
Of course the question, in a way, was the wrong one to begin with, as the most accurate Christian definition of a saint is someone who the Church trusts to be in heaven after having lived a holy and virtuous life. So that means we can only know who were saints in their life-time, not those who are. Continue reading “Be a blessing to others”
Remembrance Sunday Sermon
St Mary’s Marlborough, 11th November 2018
It is good to see so many people here this morning: the Mayor and Town Council, members from the Fourth Military Intelligence Battalion, Cubs, Scouts, Brownies, Air Cadets and people from the Town. Thirty years ago, it was generally assumed that people would slowly lose interest in Remembrance Sunday, as fewer and fewer of us have lived through, let alone fought in, a war.
However, as we have commemorated the centenary of the First World War, the last four years have seen a renewed interest in the lives and stories of those who fought and died in the trenches. In many ways, I think that I, we, have very little authority to speak about them and their experience. Those who were there at the time and survived, were often unable to speak about what had happened, as it was too horrific to put into words, and so I would like to suggest that we can only do so, because we don’t know what it was like.
Continue reading “We will remember them”
All Saints’ Sunday: Revelation 21.1-6a & John 11.32-44
Homily St George’s Preshute, 4th November 2018, 8.00am
The readings set for this year’s All Saints’ Sunday, make us particularly reflect on what happens when we die, in other words the transition from our earthly life to our heavenly life with God; and on what happens when time itself comes to an end, the so-called second coming.
Although I believe that the Christian hope and faith in a life after death is fundamental to our faith in God, I am not sure how helpful I find it to speculate what may happen when we die. Yes, I believe that death is not the end, but those who are left behind, regardless our beliefs, will have a sense of loss and pain when someone we loved we see no longer.
Continue reading “To be a Saint is to be yourself”
A reflection for the season of All Saints’ and Remembrance
Today, 1st November, we celebrate All Saints’ Day. Today, we give thanks and remember the lives of the saints and tomorrow, on what is called All Souls, we have an opportunity to remember all those who have died, particularly those who have loved, encouraged and inspired us. So, this week marks the beginning of a time of remembering in Britain, as, coincidentally, it is also the time that Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the House of Lords on 5th November 1605, and the First World War ended on 11th November a century ago.
Why do we remember? What is the point, is it not something that prevents us from looking forward, as we continue to look to the past? I found a moving and profound answer to these questions in a recently published book, which I read last week. It is called “War Gardens” and it is written written by Lalage Snow, a writer, filmmaker and photographer. Over a period of about six years, she went to different areas of conflict, such as Kabul, Ukraine and the West Bank, and interviewed people who had a garden. She asked them why they kept a garden going at a time of war and oppression, and what their gardens meant to them.
Continue reading ““I feel what these plants feel””