Remembrance and Reconciliation
As we enter the month of November we think of Remembrance, especially those who have given their lives in service of our nation. Those of us who visited Bayton Church during the Festival of Churches weekend in September and who saw the beautiful and interesting displays there, found the details of those who are commemorated in the War Memorial most moving. Daphne Gray had done a great deal of work to find out about all the people listed on the memorial at Bayton Church. This kind of work is being replicated all over Worcestershire and you can access it on the web.
If you look at www.rememberthefallen.co.uk you will find a list of many war memorials in Worcestershire. You can then view the list of names on that memorial, and then click again to find out some details of each individual. Sometimes there is little more than a name, but in many cases more details have been found. It could be the details of the death of the person, if they died in active service. For others there are details from the census at the time. This is a remarkable project to make these names come alive to us who remember them all this time later.
Sadly conflict seems part of the human condition. We are very prone to it and it can easily turn violent. Even entering a new millennium has not stopped human beings being really cruel to each other. We are all appalled by the violence in Syria and the various groups seem to fighting against each other. It is not as though there are just two sides to that war. Sadly armed conflict draws others in and we think again of those from our own nation who have served in conflicts over the years.
Military victory (or defeat) is not the whole story. A side might ‘win' in Iraq or Libya, but it is no good if a country remains in turmoil. The peace has to be built as well - and there needs to be reconciliation. I know that we are in deep political waters here, where people have different views, but there is so much to give thanks for in the work of people in Europe to try and build a new peace and reconciled relationships between people who have fought each other in the past. This is a driving force in the creation of the European Union. Maybe the political integration has gone too far - but the desire to build a common European society to help prevent war in Europe is good.
I don't know whether you have visited Coventry Cathedral. I suppose the architecture and design looks dated now - but the whole history of the destruction of the old cathedral and the design and building of a new one is really interesting and powerful. How appropriate then that there is the International Centre for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral. When the old cathedral was destroyed in 1940, the Provost of the cathedral made a commitment not to revenge, but to forgiveness and reconciliation with those responsible.
When I visited the Centre a few years ago I was also shown round the cathedral by a young intern from Dresden. It was a powerful reminder of this work of reconciliation. Much of the work of the centre was centred at that time in the Middle East and in Nigeria. We see the conflicts and fighting in the news, but do not hear so much about those working, often behind the scenes, for reconciliation.
Reconciliation is at the heart of the Christian Faith. St Paul wrote, ‘..in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,... and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us'. Colossians 5.19
This month we remember those from the armed services who have given their lives for our nation. We remember and we learn from the past. Armed conflict continues to be with us. We always need the work of reconciliation too - for this allows us to move on to live in peace.