Thursday, 5 November 2009

Remembrance & the Prince of Peace

I was a little taken aback this week when rung by the Steward of the church I'm preaching at on Sunday and informed that they expected a two minute silence at 11am just the time when the service I had planned would be in the middle of the sermon and the breaking of the Word. I was heartened and encouraged in my keeness to renegotiate such an intrusion into the Preaching Service when I read Angela Sheir Jones' blog later that day and her reflection on Poppys and Peace, which is well worth a read.

I would want to go further than Angela though as I have never been keen to wear a red poppy in or out of church and have for several years supported the Peace Pledge Union's White Poppy Appeal. However, I am even more averse to the symbol of the Red Poppy as we see it recruited to muster support for the outrageous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq with current military misadventures being equated by Gordon Brown with 'the fight for freedom' in the second World War!

I notice that this week that excellent Christian 'think tank' Ekklesia have published an interesting looking report questioning Rememberance Day culture and making positive proposals as to how it might be revised. Reimagining Remembrance can be downloaded from the Ekklesia website.

I will hold a two minute silence at the beginning of the service on Sunday, a silence that will be prefaced by three stories - the first was told to me by an elderly member of Droitwich Spa Methodist Church about his experience as a soldier in the 'second world war', a war, he believed was necessary to rid the world of the evil of Nazism. His story was of fighting alongside Muslim soldiers from what is now India and Pakistan and how he was moved by their devotion and commitment to prayer five times a day. The second is a story from my wife Annies'' family. The story is of her paternal Grandfather and Great Uncle who chose because of their Christian faith to carry stretchers and not guns and were two of hundreds of young working class Methodist Concientious Objectors, in that futile and murderous war of 1914-18. The third will be of my experience of recently living for a year close to a hospital in Birmingham that treats the wounded soldiers from Afghanistan. I wear my white poppy not out of any disrespect to them but as a reminder of the frequent sight of their bandaged amputated legs as relatives or friends pushed these young people up the street passed my window, the reminder of that sight calls me not to stay in silence but to renew my opposition to these latest futile and murderous military ventures, in the name of the Prince of Peace.