We had a really extraordinary turnout in Itchen Valley Parish for our various events on Remembrance Sunday 2018 in which we commemorated the end of the First World War.
In the Valley we hold Acts of Remembrance at each of the village war memorials. The Royal British Legion, under the command of Rear Admiral John Lang, paraded at the Act of Remembrance at Martyr Worthy and we were fortunate to be joined by Andrew Salmon who kindly played the Last Post. We read out the names of our Fallen in each village. Some years ago we did a bit of digging about them and produced the following paper:
We then usually hold a Remembrance Service at one of the village churches, this year was Martyr Worthy’s turn. This year we also held a special Choral Evensong at St Mary’s Easton. We had over 100 attending each of these services.
Our bell ringers were out in force as well playing at St Mary’s Easton both at 1230 in common with churches all over the country and in advance of our Choral Evensong.
The Acts of Remembrance were better attended than I can remember and we found ourselves quickly running out of service sheets – probably over 50 people at Easton and a similar number at Martyr Worthy, and may be around 35 at Avington and Itchen Abbas.
The Remembrance Service at St Swithun’s Martyr Worthy had a number of features which were a bit different from usual years. Firstly, we included in the pews silhouettes representing the soldiers lost from our four villages in the two world wars. The aim was to remember them as individuals, people who could easily have sat in that church or the other churches in the parish every Sunday during their childhood and early adulthood….until they were lost. Adrian Bell played the organ beautifully including the traditional music for O Valiant Hearts which is difficult to find in any current hymnal…
The rows of worshippers listening the the lesson being read include the silhouette of one of the Fallen
Also it struck us that whilst we recognised the sacrifice that the WW1 generation made, we also needed to reflect upon where were are today in our relationship with our European neighbours, particularly Germany and France, recognising the enormous sacrifice which they too experienced in the First World War. Accordingly, we said the Lord’s Prayer sequentially in English, German and French, both at the morning service and at Evensong. It was felt important to have someone born as German and French nationals to read these in their native languages, and so thank you to Maximilian and Nora at the morning service and Ina and Muriel for the evening service for leading us so beautifully. Hearing our common prayer spoken in these languages of nations which are our allies and neighbours was very moving.
In the evening our new choir, the Itchen Valley Parish Choir, sang Evensong for the first time under the charismatic leadership of Maj. General Tim Tyler and the co-ordination of Olivia Tan. John Purver played the organ. It was simply stupendous – and many many thanks to him and to them. We had a number of tenors come out of the woodwork at the last moment and we were hugely blessed by the whole evening. It was so good that one or two people suggested that we should be selling tickets…but of course this is worship rather than performance – and worship is always free. The fact that it was so good is a credit to the amazing talent of singers in the Valley, Olivia’s enthusiasm and Tim’s really outstanding leadership. Thank you so much to all of them. I learned something during the evening, that one note that I have to sing during the evensong responses is actually called G…amazing! Sorry that you don’t have a musical Rector! And of course my poor voice sets off the sensational singing of the choir!
We also heard readings from John’s gospel by Vanessa Rosewell and two extracts of the writings of Revd Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy – known as Woodbine Willie read by Jane Anderson.
Thank you also to the beautiful flower arrangements in each of the churches – fantastically beautiful and poignant.
The writings of Woodbine Willie
(taken from Running into No-Mans Land by Jonathan Brand)
Still I see them coming
In their ragged broken line,
Walking wounded in the sunlight,
Clothed in majesty divine.
For the fairest of the lilies,
That God’s summer ever sees,
Ne’er was clothed in royal beauty
Such as decks the least of these.
Tattered, torn, and bloody khaki,
Gleams of white flesh in the sun,
Raiment worthy of their beauty
And the great things they have done.
Purple robes and snowy linen
Have for earthly kings sufficed,
But these bloody sweaty tatters
Were the robes of Jesus Christ
On June 7th, 1917, I was running to our lines half mad with fright, though running in the right direction, thank God, through what had been once a wooded copse, It was being heavily shelled.
As I ran, I stumbled and fell over something.
I stopped to see what it was.
It was an undersized, underfed German boy, with a wound in his stomach and a hole in his head.
I remember muttering, ‘You poor little devil, what had you got to do with it? Not much great blonde Prussian about you’.
Then there came light.
It may have been pure imagination, but that does not mean that it was not also reality, for what is called imagination is often the road
It seemed to me that the boy disappeared and in his place there lay
the Christ upon His Cross, and He cried “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my little ones you have done it to me’
From that moment on I never saw a battlefield as anything other than a Crucifix. I see the Cross set up in every vulgar slum, in every filthy overcrowded quarter, in every vulgar flaring street that speaks of luxury and waste of life. I see Him staring up at me from the pages of the newspaper that tells of a tortured, lost, bewildered world.
Ever and always I can see set up above this world of ours, a huge and towering cross with great arms stretched out from East to West, from the rising to the setting sun, and on that Cross my God still hangs and calls on all brave men and women to come out, and share his sorrow and help to save the World ’
‘But the vision of life in the Cross is not a vision of despair but of confidence and hope because behind it there is the empty tomb
and the figure with wounded hands outstretched to bless, ascending to glory. That completes the Word made flesh which reveals the meaning of life. Without that we would go mad…..
We must die to live and we can never do it except through the power of His Resurrection. It is the Risen and Ascended Christ that saves. The fourfold picture is one in truth. A new Birth without the Crucifixion is impossible, a Crucifixion without a Resurrection would drive any human being stark staring mad.To see the world as a Crucifix without an empty tomb would be a vision too terrible for any human being to look upon, it would drive him like Judas, shrieking with horror into the night to which there are no stars. We must have the whole faith. The meaning of life is Advent, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Day, Ascensiontide and Pentecost – for the Word became flesh and dwelt among us – and that was the manner of his dwelling.