Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembrance Sunday

It was pretty tough getting up after a short night's sleep to celebrate the 8.00am Eucharist, but somehow I survived. Thankfully Chris, my student on placement was down to preach his first sermon at the 9.30am Eucharist, and made a very good job of it. Unfortunately his speaking voice did not project as well as it should. If I'd realised I would have turned up the sound amplification in advance so that he could be better heard. So many people complained, it at least indicated how keen they were to listen to him.

After the post-service refreshments we gathered in the War Memorial chapel, where Burma Star Veteran and Reader Emeritus Bill John read out the list of the departed from the two Great Wars, reminding us that many of those names were of people his generation grew up with and went to church with. It says something about our times that no names of post World War conflict victims have been added to the Roll of Honour in the past sixty years, because no young men living in the Parish are recorded as having served in the military and died. Very much a sign of the social changes that have taken place in the city.

We actually have one of the city's main military establishments just inside the north boundary of the old Victorian Parish - Maindy - where Lord Kitchener was quartered for a season during one of his famous recruitment campaigns, earning him a mention on our Parish Roll of Honour. Over sixty years, tens of thousands of men have passed through, or served there for a while. If any went on from their to their deaths on active service, they are commemorated, not by us, but in their home Parish, wherever that may be.

After Evensong, just as we were saying goodbye to each other, two visitors, seeing the lights on and the doors open popped into church to look around. One of them was instantly recognisable as ex-Guardsman, Simon Weston OBE, hideously injured in the bombing of the Sir Galahad during the Falklands campaign, but lived to tell the tale, to triumph over his suffering and then become a public speaker and media personality of renown.

He'd been in town for a re-union lunch following the National Service of Remembrance and parade at the end of the morning at the City Cenotaph in Alexandra Gardens. I'd managed to watch the parade on my way home after church.

Simon said it was the first time ever for him to visit St John's. How often we hear the same said by people who've lived most of their lives in the city. We're always glad to welcome newcomers, especially locals. It turned out that Percy, one of our stalwarts who'd worked in the Rhymney Valley as Medical Officer of Health, knew his mother, though he'd not met Simon before. How often this kind of co-incidence also happens.

At the end of this long tiring weekend that included Remembrance Sunday, such a special, timely encounter with a victorious warrior was refreshing to the spirit.

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