Sunday, November 12, 2017

Building a New Jerusalem - A Service for Remembrance Sunday

Text of the Week: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea. Psalm 46:1-3

Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to any who are worshipping with us for the first time. On this Remembrance Sunday, during our morning service we shall observe the two minutes silence. As we read the names of those who lost their lives in war associated with this church we remember that those who were in that First World War longed that it should be the war to end all wars. We remember that those who were in the Second World War longed that it should be the war to end all wars. As we remember let us honour their memory in our commitment to work by all means possible for that peace which they longed to pass on to future generations, a peace we pray for in a world that in so many places is still at war. In the words of the Prayer of St Francis, 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: 
where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
where there is injury, pardon; 
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, 
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, 
to be understood as to understand, 
to be loved as to love. 
For it is in giving that we receive, 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The service begins at 7' 38"

Welcome and Call to Worship

Hymn 161 O God, our help in ages past

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

Psalm 46: the Congregation

God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
   though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
   God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
   he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
   see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
   he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.

‘Be still, and know that I am God!
   I am exalted among the nations,
   I am exalted in the earth.’

The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Be still!

There is something very peaceful and calming about those words. They come into so many of our hymns and some of our favourites

Be still for the presence of the Lord, the holy one is here.

But is ‘be still’ quite the way to

The mountains shake, the waters roar and foam
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter

And then the commanding voice of God speaks

Be still


Is it a roar?

It’s captured in one of my favourite hymns for Christmas –
it came upon the midnight clear
that glorious song of old
Peace to the earth

But with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long
Beneath the angels’ hymn have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong
And warring humankind hears not
The love song which they sing
O hush the noise you men of strife
And hear the angels sing

Be still!


Hush the noise!

… is what Jesus said as the

It is the voice of Jesus who stills the raging sea

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them,
‘Let us go across to the other side.’
And leaving the crowd behind,
they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.
Other boats were with him.
A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat,
so that the boat was already being swamped.
But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion;
and they woke him up and said to him,
‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,
‘Peace! Be still!’
Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

That image is a picture of the long forgotten national war memorial, commissioned just after the 2nd world war and in Aldershot. The sculpture by Josefina de Vasconcellos depicts Christ in the middle of the storm of raging war saying,


Be Still!

Hush the noise you men of strife
And hear the angels’ sing

Remembering Friends

The story of Corder Catchpool and the Friends Ambulance Unit

A Hy-Spirit Song

An Act of Remembrance
In a moment or two we shall stand to remember those who have lost their lives in war, particularly the wars our country has engaged in during the last Century and this:  the First World War, the Second World War, Korea, the Suez War, the end of Empire Conflicts in Africa and elsewhere, the Falklands War, the Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, the terrorist atrocities of 9/11 7/7, the war in Libya, the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria.
We make a special remembrance of those who lost their lives from this church, most young men in their teens and in their twenties.
Those who were in that First World War longed that it should  be the war to end all wards.  Those who were in the Second World War longed that it should be the war to tend all wars … as we remember, let us honour their memory in our commitment to work by all means possible for that peace which they longed to pass on to future generations, a peace we pray for in a world that in so many places is still at war.
Will you please stand.
We remember all those who have lost their lives in war … particularly do we remember those connected with this fellowship, Highbury Congregational Church who lost their lives:

W.G. Bowles
DM Brown
G Clayton
C Coles
F Cooper

F Gill
K Gurney
HG Marshall
J Phillips
J Saunders

W Stephens
F Warren
CW Winterbottom
H Woodward
Text Box: And Paul Chadwick who lost his life in Iraq.

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

528 Make me a channel of your peace

Activities for all over 3

Words for when there are no words

It must have been a year ago that Richard Sharpe passed on to me a reflection on Remembrance by Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, a frequent contributor to Thought for the Day. He drew attention to a book published a couple of years before of readings, prayers, poems and reflections for Remembrance. It is called Hear My Cry It is, commented Nick Baines, a repeated and heartfelt wrenching of the spirit taken from the Psalms.

But what caught his attention more than anything else was the subtitle:

‘Words for when there are no words’.

There is a time for silence. I find it most moving to share in the two minutes silence on Remembrance Sunday.

Silence can be moving. But it can also be haunting. One of my abiding memories of talking to people who had been through the first world war was of their silence – they wouldn’t speak of it. The same can be said of the conversations I had with people who had been through the second world war. Silence – they couldn’t speak of what they had been through.

There is an aching silence in many of the Psalms which is broken with a gut-wrenching cry, Hear my Cry! Often poetry provides an outlet and finds words for when there are no words.

It was just such a poem written by her father that Helen discovered only very recently.

Helen spoke movingly of her father's war-time service and his commitment to bringing people together following the war.

My Father was a man of peace.

He was a teacher and lay preacher when war broke out in 1939 and struggled deeply with ‘going to war’, contemplating being a conscientious objector.  In the end though, he felt he had to fight and went to war when he was called up in 1940.

He was in the Royal Engineers and built Bailey bridges a lot, usually in the dark, it seems.  He was a natural leader and was selected for Officer Training just as his battalion was about to be shipped out, so he didn’t go with them.  They were practically wiped out in their first offensive. He felt a deep sorrow at the loss of his friends and comrades.

By 1945 he was a Sergeant Major and was shipped to Bombay to protect India if Japan invaded.  They never did, but Dad made great friends with his Indian Batman and his family, discovering authentic Indian cuisine for the first time when invited to his family home.  His fellow Officers found Dad’s behaviour – fraternising with the locals – frankly baffling. Dad didn’t care. They stayed in touch for the rest of their lives.  

His experiences in India, France and Belgium during the wae cemented in him a great love for his fellow man, of whatever colour or race, which never left him.

In 1951 he was invited to go to the International School of the United Nations in Geneva, with a view to becoming the Head of the School.  He went for a visit with my Mother and Sister and loved it!  But his sense of responsibility to his ageing Mother who lived with them and refused to leave England, meant that they stayed in Cheltenham and became Head of Naunton Park School.

Instead, we hosted many foreign exchange students from Switzerland, Austria and other European countries, many of whom became life-long friends.

He never spoke about the war to me, but after his death, we found a book of poems he had written during the war – mostly love poems to my Mother! But the last one I found deeply moving.  

My Mother told me he stopped writing poetry after this…

A visit to an injured comrade in hospital – January 1942
(By Bill Whiteman)

I came to see you, chat and smile
But her greeting frightened me - .

“A minute,” said the Nurse, “No more,”
And looked at me suspiciously.
She will not say you’re dying, but her look
Says so, - the way she says, “He’s not so well today.”
She let me come without a word last week.
You looked well then, and talked and smiled,
Your hand gripped mine, you said,
“Soon I’ll be back!” I went away lighthearted,
For I felt that such determination,
With your happy, plucky heart, would bring you through
In spite of injuries so terrible.
But now – you’re “Not so well today.”
And I walk down towards your bed
Sadly; with foreboding;
Trying to walk silently, in army boots.

The Nurse won’t let me come alone,
She’s here as well, and speaks to you,
“A visitor – know who it is?”
She steps aside and I see you –
Oh friend, how ill you look!
Must I be cheerful, smile, talk brightly,
While the heart cramps and tears are near?
You, whom I remember with your chubby face alight with smiles,
And wrinkles round bright shining eyes,
Now sunken-cheeked, and trembling lipped,
Breath coming quick and shallow,
Puffing from your blood-stained lips.
Your eyelids rise so slowly, as if the effort
Were too much.
My friend, your eyes!
Oh God! They’re dead man’s eyes!
Film-coated, slowly moving as you seek my face,
As though you see another world
But turn them back, and seek through mist,
To see again your friend,
Before the earth is blotted out.

My head close to your ear
“This won’t do lad, how is it now?”
(My voice a whisper, trembling too).
You speak to me between your panting,
“I’m – not so well – today.”
No, friend, I know you’re not, and what’s the comfort I can offer?
Talk lies about next time –
Smile with my face? Thank God
You cannot see my fearing eyes, nor know
My dreading heart.
I wish you well – “I hope that you’ll be better –
I fear that you’ll be dead.

[Driver John Rymer died 2 days later, Sunday 1st February 1942]

It is as much in prayer as in poetry that we find Words for When there are no Words – a worship group in a local church put these words together for Remembrance Sunday with the help of John Bell.

712 What shall we pray?

1          What shall we pray for those who died,
            those on whose death our lives relied?
            Silenced by war but not denied,
            God give them peace.

2          What shall we pray for those who mourn
            friendships and love, their fruit unborn?
            Though years have passed, hearts still are torn;
            God give them peace.

3          What shall we pray for those who live
            tied to the past they can't forgive,
            haunted by terrors they relive?
            God give them peace.

4          What shall we pray for those who know
            nothing of war, and cannot show
            grief or regret for friend or foe?
            God give them peace.

5          What shall we pray for those who fear
            war, in some guise, may reappear
            looking attractive and sincere?
            God give them peace.

6          God give us peace and, more than this
            show us the path where justice is;
            and let us never be remiss
            working for peace that lasts.

Carnwardric Parish Church (Glasgow) Worship Group
© Carnwadrick Parish Church and Wild Goose Resource Group
I will not cease from mental fight

There are times when in our words we are called to be outspoken. As the Napoleonic wars raged William Blake was one who was outspoken about the ills of the world around him. He put together a collection of what he called Prophetic Books. Among them was an epic poem called Milton. In the preface he quoted the Book of Numbers  chapter 11: Would to God that all the Lord’s People were prophets.

And as part of that preface he wrote a poem which for a hundred years was hardly noticed. And then in 1916 Robert Bridges published it in an anthology that was published as morale was on the decline, patriotic fervor needed to be stirred up and conscription introduced. It was just the time when Corder Catchpool were increasingly disillusioned.

Robert Bridges then went on to commission Sir Hubert Parry to put it to music for a Fight for Right Campaign meeting in the Queen’s Hall London. It was a hundred years ago this year, however, that Sir Hubert Parry himself became very uneasy with the way the war was unfolding. In May 1917 he withdrew his support for the Fight for Right campaign. That year Jersualem was taken up by the Suffragettes and in 1918 one of their leaders, Milicent Fawcett asked Sir Hubert Parry to orchestrate it for a Suffragette rally.

The words of this poem set to music so powerfully are not so much a patriotic call to arms: they are rather a passionate call to change things for the better – would to God that all the Lord’s People were prophets.

The key to understanding the poem is in realizing that the expected answer to each of the questions posed in the first half is no, of course not.

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green: - no, of course not
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen! – no of course not

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills? – no of course not
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills? – no of course not.

Would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets – it is for us to find a prophetic voice and make a difference …

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

Would to God that all the Lord’s People were prophets

The composer of those words, like the author of the words a century before had a passion to see society change in the wake of war. So it was that he gave the copyright for the music to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

By the time women got the vote finally on an equal footing in 1928 Sir Hubert Parry had died. His family looked for another campaigning women’s movement to give the copyright for the music to. The copyright was given to the Women’s Institute. Each year Women’s Institute meetings up and down the country vote on a cause to support nationally. At their annual meeting in 2017 the National Federation of Women’s Institutes voted to “call upon the Government to stop the accumulation of microplastic fibres in our oceans and to take steps in communities to alleviate loneliness.

To honour those who lost their lives in war we need to re-capture the passion they had to build a peace that would make a world of difference.

Would to God that all the Lord’s People were prophets.

Before we sing the hymn, let’s have in our mind’s eye what the new Jerusalem would look like.

There is no better place to turn than Isaiah 65.

   in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
   and its people as a delight.
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
   or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
   an infant that lives but a few days,
   or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
   they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
   the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
   but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain,

says the Lord.

To build the new Jerusalem we need to be passionate in the cause of
Alleviating distress
Caring for children and older people
Providing housing and employment
And working for reconciliation

Weren’t those the things that those who returned from the Second World war were passionate about – education for all, health for all, justice for all – coupled with a coming together of the nations who had been at war in the United Nations and in the beginnings of a very different kind of Europe.

To honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in war would to God that all the Lord’s People were prophets.

CP 754 Jerusalem

Prayers of Concern

706 For the healing of the nations

Words of Blessing

Retiring Collection

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