I always find Armistice day and remembrance weekend hard. The hard thing is to try and articulate all of the thoughts and feelings that goes with this time of year culminated into two short minutes of silence. The question I have always asked myself is ‘How should I remember?’
I do feel a great sense of pride, thankfulness respect and honour for the men and women who have given their lives, not just in the Great Wars but also in conflicts all over the world. But then there are those who did not pay with their lives but continue to live with the scars that manifest themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Reflecting upon these issues I read an article in the Army Chaplain’s annual journal by Revd Tomas Woodhouse the vicar of Wootton Basset and his thoughts about the liturgy of repatriation. As I was reading I was reminded about the role the town of Wootton Basset played in bringing our fallen back home. The way the whole town stopped and turned to pay their respects to the solider’s and their families as the flag draped coffins travelled slowly down the high street. That as a community they came together to remember, to say thank you and show their respect. It was in this moment that it suddenly struck me that I had been asking the wrong question that my difficulty in articulating all the feelings and emotions I felt during the remembrance where because I was doing it alone, and this act of remembrance actually demanded much more.
You see this is not just something that is done when we feel like it but our silence happens collectively and that is because these men and women have given their lives not just for me but for our country. It is in that collective community that we find our identity, that we find our community and it is though that community that we can all say ‘we’ remember, ‘we’ thank you far more than when we say ‘I’ remember ‘I’ thank you. There is strength in a communal silence that doesn’t exist if that silence happens individually. I learnt that it is not about filling that silence with thoughts, but rather who we are sharing that silence with that makes it so much more significant.
This armistice day and remembrance weekend let us take the time to be still to remember the sacrifices of all those who have gone before us and given of themselves for our collective well-being, let us join our prayers together for the families left behind and for those who are serving now. Let is show that as a Church community we stand together behind our armed forces and say thank you.
I encourage you if you use twitter to use the hashtag #TyYorks to say thank you to our own Yorkshire Regiment and all other solider’s who come from Yorkshire who are serving at the moment.
Revd Ben Norton CF
Padre of 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment