This month, as you will be aware, brings us once again to Remembrance Sunday. This year it is perhaps a particularly poignant occasion as we mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.
But of course, for many of us, and certainly for the next generation, we are not truly remembering the events of the two world wars as they were over before we were born. It is, for my generation and the generations to come, an ‘inherited’ memory rather than any actual memory. A narration of life in another time but one which I think we need to hold on to.
I am always pleased to hear from the many folk who can tell of life during the war (by now, WWII of course), what childhood was like, food rationing and blackouts and how different things were when the war ended. The narration on Remembrance Sunday is so that we remember the shocking horror of the two world wars; we remember those who gave their lives in service; we remember that war has not ceased and that there has been conflict and violence and war in the decades since the two world wars, and there still is today all round the world.
I think this remembering, this narration, is important for our society. In part, so that we can acknowledge the individual stories of sacrifice, of heroism, of tragedy, of hope; but also so that we can pledge to live differently, so that we can look to the past in order to strive for a different future – for our children and grandchildren but also for the millions we don’t know all over the world who are caught up in war and conflict.
In the Old Testament of the Bible there is a slightly obscure book called Ecclesiastes. The unknown writer displays many traits in his (and it probably was a he) writing – humour, pathos, insightful wisdom – but he also writes a piece of near poetry that many of us might recognise. It comes in chapter three and begins “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” and continues with a list of contrasting events and happenings that occur over the course of a life: “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to speak and a time to be silent….” He ends with “a time for war and a time for peace.”
Now we might want to debate some of these things, but what the writer does so well is name the realities of life. Remembrance Sunday is undoubtedly a time to acknowledge times of war – of sacrifice and service to country – but also to strive for times of peace, now and in our future. Remembrance Sunday is undoubtedly a time to hold silence – two minutes as the nation remembers – but also to embrace the time to speak out: against the atrocities of war around the world.
Together we ‘remember’ that which is past, we acknowledge the reality of the present day, and we strive for a different future.
Rev Rachel Rosborough