Remembrance Sunday is, for me, a paradox. Today we are reminded of the very best and the very worst of our human nature: the horrors of war and our human instinct for violence; and also our capacity for breathtaking acts of courage and self-sacrifice.
Every year I’m struck by how many people attend our Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving. Along with our Christingle Service and Crib Service it is one of the three acts of worship that are most popular with those who don’t regularly come to church. I wonder why that is? I have a few ideas, but I’d be interested to hear what you think.
This time last year we were forced to close the church for a second time. For me, that was the moment that confirmed what I had already begun to fear – Covid was going to be around for a long time to come. And here we are, a year later, wondering if this autumn might see another period of sterner restrictions on our economic, social and spiritual freedoms.
Last week I announced that I have been appointed to the role of Warden of the College of St Hugh. This weekend I want to use the opportunity of this column to explain a little more of what that means and what I am going to be doing.
Human life is often compared to a journey. Various large and small decisions are seen as taking a particular path or travelling down a different road. Many have found it helpful to speak of the Christian life in these terms too, as, for example, in the popular hymn ‘One more step along the world I go’.
There is a story (I’m not sure whether it’s true or not) about the former Archbishop Michael Ramsey. He was, so the story goes, heckled by someone asking him if he could explain the Christian doctrine of creation. Ramsey was not known for his pithy soundbites but he did his best. ‘It means,’ he said, ‘that my being is entirely contingent.’
Since June I have, for the first time in my life as an ordained person, been the Incumbent of two parishes. One unanticipated result of this is that I will be celebrating Harvest Festival twice this year. This weekend I will celebrate Harvest at St Mary’s (and I’m grateful for Fr Alan Moses for presiding and preaching at St Nick’s this weekend while I’m there) and next weekend I will do so at St Nick’s.
The Jones household suffered a reminder this week that Covid is not the only viral illness! As people mingle more, and take fewer precautions, the normal sharing of coughs and colds will resume, and against a backdrop of reduced immunity due to a year and a half of anti-Covid precautions.
Twenty years ago this weekend the world changed. Many, perhaps most, readers of this column will remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they first became aware of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC on 11th September 2001. Doubtless we will all be sharing some of those memories in our conversations this weekend.
For me, however, the memory that has stuck even harder is that of flying into Charleston, South Carolina the following January. As the aeroplane – or is it an airplane when it’s over US soil? – began its descent and the ground became visible through the cabin windows, an impromptu chorus of ‘America the Beautiful’ began.