Remembrance

St. Michael’s Vicarage
Alnwick

Dear People of Alnwick,

My father was born in the last week of the First World War – meaning that 4th November would have been his 100th birthday.

Of course very few of us need specific dates to remember loved ones who have gone before us (we do that almost every day) but birthdays, anniversaries and dates of death do make those days particularly poignant.

This year, on 11th November, we will remember with immeasurable gratitude the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month 1918.

So many lives were lost in those four years of carnage that, for many, it is difficult to know what stance to take.

As a schoolboy at King Edward VI Grammar School in Morpeth, I recall the seemingly endless list of names of former pupils who had paid the ‘supreme sacrifice’ being read out in assembly by the headmaster and singing the hymn ‘O valiant hearts’ (now considered very politically incorrect) which included these words:

Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
as who had heard God’s message from afar;
all you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
to save mankind – yourselves you scorned to save.

Whether or not one should show any pride (rather than remorse) in the light of conflicts where opposite sides take up arms against one another could be the subject of a very lengthy debate: but one thing is sure – the sacrifice made by millions of bright, energetic young men who had their whole lives before them is worthy of remembrance year after year.

In St. Michael’s we are about to unveil a display of handmade poppies – each one representing a life lost in Alnwick or Denwick. It will serve, we hope, not only as a memorial to the fallen but also to press home the degree of loss which our community experienced.

Nothing can be more moving than seeing the long list of names (even in the smallest of villages) and recalling the effect these sacrifices had on families and communities – often with several brothers from the same household giving up their lives in the cause of freedom.

And yet, wars have continued long beyond the ‘war that would end all wars’. One hundred years later, arms are still being taken up against countries and parties where there is disagreement.

So, as once again we prepare, rightly, to remember all those who lost their lives in the cause of peace and freedom perhaps our most ardent prayer should be about peace and for peace; about a time when God’s kingdom might be established on earth as it is in heaven and for a greater recognition that a lasting peace would enhance the lives of us all.

Let us all, then, take the opportunity this 100th anniversary gives not only to remember lives lost and give thanks for all that has been, but also to pray regularly and meaningfully for the peace which God longs for his people everywhere.

With every blessing,

Paul.

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