his Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. I was at Boots opticians this morning (got there to find my appointment cancelled since the poor Optician was off sick), but, just as I was going out of the door the Maroon went off at the Police Station. I was so glad when the firing of the Maroon at 11am on the 11th of November was brought back a few years ago. It is utterly part of my childhood. We would be at home usually and would listen out for the bang. As soon as it was heard we would all stand upright with our hands at our sides in the living room of our house and wait the two minutes for the second firing.
It was very real to us since our grandfather who was then still alive, had fought in the First World War and had been taken prisoner of war. Our parents and my step father had all fought in the second world war as had all my aunts and uncles. My grandmother had run the mobile kitchen with the WVS that looked after the Canadian troops who were camped out nearby on Epsom Common. In that war my grandfather had been an ARP warden.
It was on visits to London that, as a schoolboy, you experienced that remembrance even more. Father worked at the Ministry of Defence in London and we would often go by bus down through Whitehall which meant passing the Cenotaph. As we did so, the men on the bus would momentarily raise their hats or caps, and we as schoolboys did the same. The Cenotaph had an abiding presence there, solitary, in the midst of Whitehall.
It is always difficult to allow oneself to be touched by an experience for which you have no human contact yourself. Younger people today are less likely to meet people who fought in WWII, or even who were children then, though it is not at all impossible. At the same time, younger people know much more about war than I did at their age, with all the media coverage that conflicts all over the world are given in our media here in the UK.
You see, nothing is the same as someone who “was there” telling you face to face in real time! And that, above all, is true of our Faith – it is when someone shares their faith with you that it becomes real, and through the Holy Spirit it is possible for that to happen. So, be open to listening, just like we are trying to do for the Synod, and who knows what gifts and experiences the spirit will give you.