No apologies that this post is a couple of weeks after 11th November. If it’s worth remembering, it’s worth remembering on any day of the year.
A couple of weeks ago, my district took part in our town’s Remembrance Sunday parade and church service. The local uniformed organisations and the silver band meet at the civic hall and march round the corner to the church. We stand outside by the war memorial and listen to the bells striking 11am, then representatives from the organisation raise and lower flags, and other representatives lay poppy wreaths on the memorial. We go into the church and have a service. We come out, re-form the parade, and march around the market square and back to the civic hall, finishing shortly after noon.
Every year it is the same, and I love that. Many things in life have changed in the almost 20 years since I was first in the parade, but this is one thing that has remained constant. Well, almost the same: of course, the people in it have got older and come and gone, and some of the hymns in the church service have been replaced (the old ones were better).
Of course, continuity isn’t always a good thing. A prime example is that the sermon in the service is consistently poor quality. The parish priest has a good clear speaking voice, so he sounds convincing, but his sermons are too long, unstructured, lacking a theme to bring it the whole thing together, and pitched at the wrong level for the congregation, or rather pitched at too many levels, as they’re full of references to scholarly theological texts and programmes that were on television last night most people probably haven’t watched. And this is on what must be one of his most crowded Sundays of the year, and what is for many one of the only times in the year when they go to church. What a missed opportunity.
I should add that I don’t hear many sermons, so sometimes I doubt myself and think, “Maybe this is actually good, but I’m not capable of appreciating it.” But another leader, who hears lots of sermons delivered by lots of different people, assures me that they can be much better. Hear endeth the rant.
A great benefit of the almost-unchanging format of the parade and ceremony is that it gives me something to focus my thoughts on during all the moments when there is opportunity for thought. I am very fortunate not to have been personally affected by war, so it can be hard to reflect on it without feeling detached, theoretical, hypocritical, helpless, and all sorts of other things. Instead, I remember remembrance days gone by, here and elsewhere, and what my community and I were like then. Another interesting reflection is to mentally dress everyone around me in period costume and imagine that we are doing this in, say, the 1990s, or the 1970s, or the 1950s. Or, heaven help us, in wartime. And with that it becomes much easier, and terrifying, to imagine the effects it would have on my beloved community.
All told, we had about 40 Rangers, Young Leaders, Guides Brownies, and their leaders marching. I wonder, in 20 years’ time, which ones will be leaders like me, still Guiding in our town, and remembering Remembrance Sunday 2014.