OPINION: Remembrance will still go on in our minds if not in person
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James Marston is frustrated churches will close again for four weeks
It’s like grief isn’t it? Shock, anger, despair, sadness, and, eventually, acceptance – I think many of us are going through a gamut of emotions as we face the challenge of lockdown two.
Following the rather melodramatic political theatre of Saturday night, I am miffed and sad that once again our places of worship are closed, let alone the thought of facing a minimum of social contact for a minimum of four weeks. I am angry too that this virus is causing so much disruption and misery for so many.
But what can we do? Resignation and acceptance, while keeping a critical eye on those acting in our name, seems our only option. Though I note that these days shopping seems to be for many a go to way of feeling safe – joining a queue is such a tried, tested and quintessentially British response to shock.
In the meantime, as the loquacious clamour for clarity in an unclear world continues, there are mumblings that remembrance won’t be happening.
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Whether or not it happens in the traditional way, remembrance will take place I am sure – we won’t be letting a virus stop our thoughts drifting towards those who died in service of our nation. So today, and lest we forget, I thought I might share with you the sermon I prepared for the remembrance service I had been planning for Sunday at one of the village churches here in East Suffolk.
Remembrance Sunday is not only the bringing together of a village community but also one that is marked nationally and internationally. It is a day that unites us in purpose and action.
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We are not here today to glorify or celebrate war. We can see for ourselves all too often on our television screens and elsewhere the awfulness of armed conflict. We are not here either to delude ourselves: war is an obscenity but war exists nonetheless.
Instead today we bring to mind those who have answered the call of their country and died in order to keep the flag of freedom flying and to keep us safe.
We remember first, with sadness, sympathy and respect those directly scarred or involved in the tragedy of war. And we bring to mind secondly, the shame and horror for what we have done to one another.
That’s is why today we also pledge to strive for all that makes for peace.
The Christian faith teaches a doctrine of love, of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of humility, of thankfulness, and of hope before God. And we do this act of remembrance today with prayers, well-chosen words, poignant music and, ultimately, silence.
Silence because it seems fitting. Silence because sometimes that is the only response we can make. Silence because ironically it gets the message across. Silence because it is powerful and demands of us a moment of reflection. And silence in the Christian tradition has long been used as a vehicle through which God can break through in to our thoughts.
Ultimately silence also offers us an opportunity for thankfulness. And here, now, we express deep gratitude for those who gave their tomorrow for our today but we also express gratitude for our community as it is now, for our freedoms and our liberties. And we also bring to mind the servicemen and servicewomen of today serving our United Kingdom.
And for all of these things, on this Remembrance Sunday 2020 – we thank Almighty God.
Last week I wrote about my own experience of loneliness as a way of sharing with you my hope that all shall be well in the end. Which, no doubt, it will. Though I am not relishing the coming weeks, I do feel slightly better prepared. I’ve got a list of projects, I am painting my bathroom and sorting out my utility room in a bid to stave off the frustration of doing a jigsaw, and I will be exercising ministry by email, and telephone.
As a priest and as a journalist I am conscious of those on their own at this time, particularly the elderly who are facing these coming weeks with trepidation and worry.
If there’s anyone who might like to chat at any time do contact me on either 01728 688451 or firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me at The Rectory, Aldeburgh Road, Friston, Saxmundham, Suffolk, IP17 1NP.