Minister’s Letter

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Letter from the Vicarage.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you, I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27)

Dear Friends,

I write this as we begin to head into the season of remembering. Firstly, our loved ones who have died but who we remember at All Souls tide. Then there is, “Remember, remember the 5th November” – Guy Fawkes/bonfire night. And then, there is Armistice day on November 11th.

This year Armistice Day falls on a Sunday and it is particularly poignant as 2018 sees the 100-year anniversary of the commemoration of the end of World War 1. Of course, it will not only be the fallen of World War 1 we will be remembering but victims of the World War 2 as well as members of the armed forces who lost their lives in other and more recent conflicts.

Remembrance Sunday draws human beings together in a way that is almost unique.  Young and old gather to remember and reflect, each allowing some aspect of the reality of war to touch their soul. Some who gather might bring new or not so new memories of active service. Some will carry in their heart the memory of a special loved one who made the ultimate sacrifice. Many will be stretching their imaginations to try to grasp what those people must be feeling.

I have no personal experience of armed conflict. Nor were my parents old enough to serve in World War 2 – they were just small children. But my grandparents lived through World War 2. However, I do know of my great grand-father who died in France, through having sight of the letter which was sent to my great-grandmother telling her of his death, alongside his medal which was, until it’s closure, in the DLI museum.

Many families I visit often mention that their relative who has just died had experiences of being involved in warfare and it is poignant when they recall how they never spoke of what they saw when in conflict – stuff they just kept to themselves because often it was too painful to speak about. Occasionally, an adult grandson will tell me that in their final years their grandfather might speak of their experiences, one shared a journal with their son – but many, many years later. For most of their lives, silence was the only language that could somehow do justice to the feeling, the memory, and the imagination that many of these veterans had.

We keep silence at remembrance – in fact silence is the true language of remembrance.

I think there are two types of silence. The first can be awkward, difficult to keep, making a person feel the need to break the silence. The other sort of silence is different: calm and mutual, it is the recognition that what matters is so much more than we can ever say. The silence of Armistice Day – the silence of Remembrance Sunday – is this sort of silence. It is the recognition that in order to respect what has happened, to begin to contemplate the cost of war, its sacrifice and shame, we do not need to tell another story. Rather we need to be silent together. We need to recognise that sometimes the most important and respectful thing we can do is quieten our tongue.

As we come together as a community this Armistice Day, we will come to remember and spend some time in silence. For of such times are fellowship and community made; and of such times comes the solidarity and empathy that makes us want not only peace for ourselves, our loved ones and the world, but makes us strive for the peace that passes all understanding for all people that dwell on earth.

As we approach then this season of remembering, let us do so in moments of silence with hope and peace in our hearts and in that silence let us pray for peace in our lives, community and the world.

God Bless