November in the Year of our Lord 2016

Pastoral Letter – November 2016

Dear All,

This Remembrance Sunday will be the first that I’ve been in my own parish for some six years. In Brighton for the last five, I have trailed around with the Mayor of Brighton and Hove as their Chaplain, starting at 8.00am with the Royal Sussex Regimental Monument in Regency Square, then, after a welcome break for bacon sandwiches, there were the big events at 11.00am at the Steine Memorial and later at the Hove Memorial, followed by a big service in All Saints’ Hove then finally a service in the Reformed Synagogue in Hove’s Portland Road. It was all quite exhausting but hugely moving. Every year my most spine-tingling moment was the gun going off for the beginning of the silence at the Steine, with a great crowd of traumatised seagulls circling in the air and screaming their complaint.

It will be good to be with one of my home communities at 10.00am in the morning this year, with the Civic Service at Holy Cross at 3.00pm in the afternoon.

It is fascinating how Remembrance Sunday has,  although it feels outwardly the same,  morphed into something very different from how it used to be. When I was a child, in my home village of Walberton near Chichester, it was very much a time for all the old Colonels (it was that sort of village) to parade in church with their World War I medals: they are (bless them!) all long gone, and now the veterans of World War II (like my father) are fast leaving us too.

Yet Remembrance Sunday is growing in popularity: in Brighton and Hove, although the commemorations are led by British Legion Veterans, most of those attending are quite young, and the audience is growing.

Maybe it’s because with modern media, war is no longer a distant event, but a present “in your face” happening in which we feel complicit. Maybe there is a growing realisation and appreciation of the self-sacrificial dedication of our military personnel in war zones: whatever it is, on Remembrance Sunday this year (which will take place in the morning in the Holy Cross “Open Doors” celebration) we will be looking to the future, thinking of our young people now who will carry on the flame of Remembering for generations to come.

                      Love,  Fr. John