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Parish letter

From the Rector

 

Dear All

This is the season of Remembrance. ‘Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”… the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it.’ Ecclesiastes 12:1, 7 (NRSV)

The month begins with the remembrance of All Saints and All Souls - a reminder that we are bound together as one church - one body - with those who have gone before.  The celebration of All Saints’ Day had diminished somewhat from it’s high water mark following the reformation, but we still keep it here in the East Downland, if only a few days early.

There is of course a different sort of commemoration on the 5th of the month, and for many people it does mark a change in the year. The mixture of smoke from bonfires and fireworks hangs in the air and with the bite of approaching frost, the ground hardens and we know that winter is coming. Our thoughts then turn to the dead of two World Wars, and countless conflicts since. On the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the guns fell silent in the ‘war to end all wars.’ (An optimistic and, sadly, flawed epithet if ever there was one.) People gather around the Cenotaph in London and at memorials in villages, towns and cities around the world to pay tribute to the millions who gave their 'todays' that we might have a 'tomorrow'.

There are those who have a problem reconciling the message of Christianity with this annual remembrance of the sacrifices made in war, but I would like to suggest that it is not impossible to reconcile them. The importance of remembrance is present throughout scripture and with perhaps only one or two exceptions, I have not heard in Remembrance Sunday services the glorifying of war that is often the root of people’s objections.

The phrase ‘Just War’ is bandied about rather a lot whenever there is the possibility of our armed forces being sent in to action. It is understandable that politicians would seek to justify their decision to go to war, but it is also important to remember that ‘Just War’ theory has a very specific meaning within Christian theology. Underpinning the theory is the belief that even a Just War is a disastrous tragedy, but at the same time the best and only option that is left.

I don’t intend to get into a long discussion of Just War theory here, but only to say that on Sunday 12th November we will be holding our traditional services across the benefice to remember those who “shall grow not old as we that are left grow old”, to pray for those who serve in the armed forces now, and to give thanks for the peace, however fragile, that we enjoy in this country today.

 

With every blessing

John




 

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