This year the month of November will have been especially meaningful to many, as we have recalled the Centenary of the Armistice of 1918. As someone brought up outside of the Established Church of England, I don't recall thinking about Remembrance until I was much old-er. Both my grandfathers were too young to see active service in the First Word War and for varied reasons, appeared to have avoided the horrors of the Second. One of them, who had a wicked sense of humour, told us children "The War" was the reason he had lost the tip of his right index finger, but we later found out this was in fact due to an accident in the garden with a deck chair. Having come into the world myself twenty years after the end of the Second World War, I now realise two decades is rather a short time. As a minister I think about Remembrance with a different nuance each year. In the build up to the Centenary I was struck by the posters of soldiers, and large poppies adorn-ing lampposts; a local estate agent even replaced its adverts for million pound homes with the simple message "Lest we forget", a poignant reminder that there is a higher meaning to life than buying and selling.
We all have our felt connections with the two World Wars, and today we are more conscious than ever of the mental wounds carried by veterans of con-temporary conflicts. This is where the sensitivities of our times are markedly different from the 'stiff upper lip' stereotype often attached to the soldiers and officers of the Great War. Today we understand that armed conflict brings trauma to the psyche as well as to the body, and that war leaves lasting damage that is perhaps better sensitively explored, and afforded compassion, than ignored.
Evidence suggests that the very earliest Christian believers were pacifists, and Christians and other people of faith have often struggled with the twin demands of duty to God and duty to country. Whatever one's position, the individual conscience is important and we hope to treat others whose consciences speak differently, with the utmost respect. "There is a time for war and a time for peace", says the Philosopher of Ecclesiastes - a book in the Bible. Perhaps this is the best we can hope for in our fallen world, where for good or ill we are all intimately connected to each other, to the earth and to history. May this knowledge lead us to live lives of goodness, and to work for peace and reconciliation wherever we can.
With every blessing, Claire
Revd. Claire Alcock