Jul 28, 2014

The commemoration of the beginning of the Great War

Sunday 3rd August 10am, a reflective service commemorating the beginning of the Great War.
Category: General
Posted by: suzi hedgecock

We do not often commemorate the outbreak of a war. It is unusual to focus, so much, on the beginning of a conflict; it's a struggle to find what to say. Can a subsequent generation genuinely apologise for the actions of previous generations?

What is clear, is that this "Winter of the World" - as Wilfred Owen, the poet, put it - which closed in with such "perishing great darkness" in August 1914, demands prayerful reflection and a community expression.

The service will be "vigil like," a watch of prayer, echoing the famous comment of Sir Edward Grey as he looked out from his window in the Foreign Office, over St. James Park, that "the lamps are going out all over Europe".

So, in a simple way, we shall mark the passing of peace into the enormity of the looming, mechanised slaughter of the next four years. We need to be honest about the horror of all this, without rushing to apportion blame. The human frailty that leads to inexorable cycles of violence, feeds our need to find scapegoats.

It was a complex picture of emotions, that August 1914. Officers and men, village folk, were standing on the brink of something from which it would be hard to pull back. There was a confidence, hope, camaraderie, bravado, naivety and humour.

The service will try to capture something of this complex picture, holding it all before God in prayer and stillness. It will conclude with the sharing of the Bread and Wine, an Agape. An Agape, as compared to Eucharist, is more of a symbolic meal, focused on friendship. It relates to the ancient practice - table fellowship. It is of great symbolic importance for this service, I think. The reserved sacrament will be used for the bread and wine for the communion. So this agape meal liturgy will be used, as the focus will be on friendship.

The service will not be as the Remembrance Service in November, but a particular marking of the centenary of the beginning of war. Pairing of Scripture and the poetry of 1914 and the songs and hymns is important.

So, although the service is at 10 o'clock in the morning, it will reflect the moving from Light to Darkness. It may seem odd as we are more used to the other way round; but this is an opportunity to recall, at the beginning of those 4 years, this fundamental, theological truth that for God, even the darkness "is no darkness to thee," (Psalm 139) and that the light of the crucified Christ shines most intensely at the heart of that darkness.

Father Freddy

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