St. Stephen's: Welcome Focus 2018
It is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 on the 11th November. As well as our Act of Remembrance at 11am around the war memorial, this armistice will be remembered in Hightown, over the weekend, with an exhibition in St Stephen’s Church Hall of WW1 items and Clive Harris’ exhibition of his biographical findings of each of the men whose names are on the memorial. This year as we hear the names being read out; we will know more about these men who were killed in this war. That’s a tribute to the men who gave their lives; they are no longer just names but are now people we know about.
There has been a lasting legacy of WW1. The attitude we have to war changed after World War 1. This change in attitude was brought about by the bitter awareness of the divide between the reality of the war being fought, particularly in the trenches, and the language and words used very often by people comfortably at home. Those returning from the trenches on leave found themselves almost incapable of talking about what they had seen and endured because the language used by politicians and the press in this country about the conflict was the language of glory, of chivalry and swords and knighthoods. This bore so little relation to what was actually happening. It was a gap which made many people think again about what real heroism might be. This almost legendary language of swords and chivalry took for granted that glory in war was a wonderful, straight forward, righteous matter. But those who fought in the trenches understood that glory and real heroism, had far more to do with endurance, loyalty, and the daily struggle to keep doing what’s right in the midst of unspeakably awful conditions. Glory needed to be redefined, had to become more ordinary – more to do with that daily giving up of a fantasy glory and more to do, as those now serving in our armed forces know, with trying to preserve humanity, loyalty, generosity and integrity in situations that place them under almost unbearable pressure.
Archbishop William Temple wrote in November 1939 that he was wholly committed to the decision taken to go to war. Yet he said, "We recognise that this is all to do with the sin in which we're all implicated so that the best thing we can do is still a bad thing". That recognition of a duty undertaken in the knowledge that it might be the best thing to do in an imperfect world, that refusal of high pressure, high temperature language about heroism and chivalry, was a change brought about after WW1. We now can no longer glory in the act of war but can just acknowledge in the words of this Archbishop "War in itself never produces a positive good, though it can restrain worse evils". Fighting is a duty, a solemn and sober duty, the least bad thing to be done.
And so, on November 11th at 11am we will assemble around our memorial and with sadness, without using language which glorifies some mythical war, acknowledge their greatness gift, the loss of their own lives.
- Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool