Church News November 2014
‘Lest we forget’…
I have found this to be a disturbing and unsettling year. Unspeakable acts of brutality have been perpetrated in different parts of the world. Many thousands of innocent people have been killed, injured and displaced. Parts of the world are again going through a dark and difficult period.
It is against this backdrop that the world has poignantly paused to commemorate some significant anniversaries. In June, world leaders gathered on the French landing beaches to remember the seventieth anniversary of D Day in 1944 (the beginning of the end of the Second World War in Europe). And then, in August, we commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War.
I read recently that when war broke out in 1914, every member of the British Armed Forces was given a Bible as an essential part of their kit. Many came to rely on their Bible and there are a number of stories from the Battle of the Somme, of bodies being recovered from shell holes of men who died with a New Testament in their hands. We cannot know what their faith meant to them but it seems that perhaps they found some solace in the Word of God in their final few moments.
Other stories have come to light including that of Walter Young, a 25-year old Post Office sorter in London when the war broke out. Walter joined his works corps and fought at the Somme, Ypres and at Passchendaele. He was eventually captured by the Germans and was put to work in a Prussian coal mine. Walter’s faith was important to him and he helped to sustain the morale and faith of his fellow prisoners, holding regular services in the ablutions room where the men washed on leaving the mine.
It is remarkable that when it is opened today, Walter’s New Testament falls open at Romans 12, which it is believed he used in these services. It reads,
‘Hate what is evil, hold onto what is good…Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles and pray at all times…Ask God to bless those who persecute you – yes, ask him to bless, not to curse’.
At this Remembrance time, it is right that we should reflect on these words as we pause to recall and give thanks for men like Walter, for all of those who gave their lives for the freedom of others, as well as praying for peace in our own time.