A Hundred Years On

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Archdeacon Mike Gilbertson reflects on the lasting impact of the 'war to end all wars'. 

The ‘war to end all wars’ was nothing of the kind. There has been another world war and countless smaller conflicts since. But the First World War continues to hold a particular place in our collective memory. Perhaps it is the sheer scale of the loss of life, or the sense of destructive stalemate of trench warfare. Perhaps it is the memory of small communities decimated as groups of young men signed up and died together, or the eloquent and haunting poetry we still read today.

This year, the one-hundredth anniversary of the armistice of 11 November 1918 falls on a Sunday. Our churches will be at the centre of collective remembrance when our communities pause to reflect, a century on. In most places, the same parish church where the those who served in World War 1 grew up still stands, and it is poignant to think of that silent connection.

Society more widely does recognise this. £40m of public funding has come to cathedrals to help with upkeep ahead of the anniversary. Many churches have taken part in the moving There but Not There initiative, installing the transparent outline of a First World War soldier. War memorials have been refurbished and signs have been provided indicating the presence of war graves in churchyards.

But beyond this, the church has a real opportunity and responsibility this autumn to speak again to our communities. To speak of the love and grace of our creator God, who is faithful whatever the depths to which humanity sinks. To give space for thanksgiving for the sacrifices made for our freedom by earlier generations. To remember the suffering of Jesus, who stands with the victims of war. To proclaim the hope we have in the resurrection and the work of God in bringing healing, reconciliation and peace.

Let us help our communities reflect with dignity on the past, but let us also encourage them with hope for the future.


Page last updated: 29th Oct 2018 11:41 AM