Remembrance Sunday, 9th Nov 2014
8 am – Ripon Cathedral

The stories we share

As they were growing up, my nephews and nieces all loved me telling them our family’s stories and taking them to visit the places where they happened. Through those stories the children learnt how the things that they and their families do were, in part, shaped by what their Mum or Dad and our family did. Each of them learnt to explore their family history and find their place within it. Learning that we share a common story and discovering how each generation has been shaped by that story.

It is our family histories that gives us our roots and a sense of identity.  We know who we are when we know our story.  Not just our personal story but the stories of our family, of our nation and of our world.

Sharing our national story

Remembrance Sunday is, in part, about telling our nation’s story.  Without this story, the nation and world within which I grew up would probably have been very different.  And in that we all owe a debt to those who experienced the devastation of two World Wars.

Like most of my generation I was touched only by the story – not by the direct experience.  My grandfather, lost a leg on the first day of the battle of the Somme but survived to join the RAF by whom he was decorated during WWII. My mother’s brother and all her male cousins were killed during that second war and my father saw service in N. Africa. These have been part of my family’s story and our photo albums and other memorabilia keep that story alive.

Yet mine is probably the last generation who will even have that much contact with those two world wars and keeping the story alive is important for what we might learn from it. For learn we must – or we truly are condemned to repeat our history.

Stories shared this year

This year there has, perhaps been a special poignancy to the sharing of that national story. A feeling perhaps best captured in what Dean John wrote about ‘The Pity of War’, the new installation in the Cathedral’s Chapel of Justice and Peace. The Dean writes

‘The ‘Pity of War’ invites us to acknowledge that war is always pitiful, resulting in sorrow and regret . . . at the same time, war for some people involves showing remarkable heroism and courage in countering evil.’

It’s a heroism and courage that we have seen on show again and again over recent weeks and months; in those now fighting the threat of IS; in those who competed in the Invictus Games; in the faces of the 600 children of service family who came here last month to celebrate their peer-support organisation, Her Majesty’s Schools Heroes, and whose standard, with so many others was paraded at the Royal Albert Hall last night; in the soldiers of 21 Royal Engineers who will gather at the War Memorial and then the Cathedral later today, most of whom have seen active service in Afghanistan and some of whose comrades are even now fighting Ebola in West Africa.

Conclusion

As we gather for this year’s Remembrance Services, as we honour the stories of the last century, let us never forget the hope for the whole of humanity of which the Dean also wrote: the hope of a crucified God who became part of the human story and whose resurrection assures us that God’s kingdom of justice and peace will come.

Then surely we will be able to remember with pride, to know our shared story but also to know that we have learned from it and that, with God’s help, we are building a better future for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.