Of all the services I have presided over and preached at, Remembrance Sunday filled me with the most disquiet. Something to do, perhaps, with being young (ish) (who am I kidding, but it's all relative...); being female (?) and having come from a long line of Wesleyan pacifists.
Then I was conscious that Remembrance is one of those unique confluences of civic, religious and local life which, if done well can bless many and enhance the gospel; and if not...Well, we prepared for possibly 50 attending the local War Memorial - perched precariously on a hill which is also the busy main road between two village settlements. Cars ground to a halt and all around, people could be seen walking down the hill and up the hill to converge at the Cross. We ran out of service sheets and still they came. In this tenth anniversary of Afghanistan, perhaps we were even more conscious of the need to honour those who are dying there every week, as well as those lost in the two World Wars.
The theological and liturgical challenge was to be a Minister presiding over a community-owned Act of Remembrance, whilst also being a Minister of the Gospel. Not all decisions about war can be uncritically baptised by anyone wearing a cassock and surplice. But pacifism and politics aside, people clearly still wish to honour the memory of the fallen, and 'it is meet and right so to do'. And so we made the most of this annual propitious mingling of church and state; gospel and harsh reality of war.