DCMS guest blogger The Very Revd. June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury, welcomes the opening of the First World War Centenary cathedral repair fund and discusses how communities around the UK will unite to commemorate the First World War.
It’s hard to find a local community in this country which doesn’t have some memorial to the First World War. They tell a poignant story of lives sacrificed, hearts broken, a world changed and they are themselves things of beauty and remembrance. Many of them were erected in churches or churchyards and thus the Church of England, alongside other faith groups, will be playing a large role in the commemoration of the centenary of that war.
Cathedrals are always at the forefront of people’s interest in the history and legacy of faith. Visitors from this country and overseas flock to these grand and beautiful structures which are confident, welcoming expressions of both our built and spiritual heritage. We are enormously grateful for the financial support offered by the Government as part of the funding of the anniversary which enables Cathedrals to offer to the widest possible range of audiences a multiplicity of events with national and local significance. For example, Norwich will be remembering Edith Cavell, Bradford the Battle of the Somme, Worcester the experience of conscientious objectors, Liverpool the Battle of Jutland, and so it goes on all round the different regions invoking local memories and marking the way communities were changed.
In particular all churches are being asked to open their doors for anyone to drop by during the course of Monday 4 August 2014. There will be opportunities for reflective prayer and more formal vigils of prayer such as the one being broadcast by the BBC from Westminster Abbey as part of the scheduled events during that day when the war began and we remember the fear that ‘the lamps are going out all over Europe’. Churches will make themselves available as the nation recalls the tragedies of a war with 37 million casualties and prays earnestly for the peace of Europe and beyond in our own day.
Individual faith communities will find their own ways to mark the significance of the war, remembering that many Allied troops came from the nations which now form the Commonwealth, some of whose successors are now living and worshipping as our neighbours within this land. Many of the Commonwealth leaders will also be present in Glasgow Cathedral for a national service of commemoration on that morning of the 4 August 2014.
Other initiatives continue to flourish, from Poppy growing to new monuments and educational and cultural events. These projects under the auspices of faith communities are offered on behalf of the wider community as an expression of respect and remembrance, but also to prayerfully build our shared sense of hope that such warfare should never again divide nations.
Whilst the centenary will see the flowering of many different commemorations, some small and some large, all will gather together for a final act of remembrance on Armistice Day in 2018 when churches will lead the nation in thanksgiving for the cessation of hostilities and the honouring of all that was given to achieve an end to the First World War.
Photo by Steve Cadman on Flickr. Some rights reserved