Standing on Whitehall during the silence of the Remembrance Sunday service is an experience that Moderators of General Assembly are privileged to share. The silence that falls across Central London and embraces the thousands of people watching and participating is tangible and real. Members of the Royal Family, senior members of the Armed Forces, Prime Ministers past and present, High Commissioners and representatives of the faith communities acknowledge the sacrifice of others. For a brief moment differences are set aside as the dead call out and plead for peace and the building of a fairer and more just world.
In my early years in ministry Remembrance Sunday began to fade in popularity. I still had veterans of World War 1 in the congregation that I swerved as well as those from World War 2, they were unanimous in supporting the emphasis on peace. Remember not to glorify, they said, but so that another generation might not suffer as theirs had. For me it was the Falklands War and the embedded TV reporters that began the change. War came into our homes in a way that we had not previously experienced. There followed a surge in attendance at Remembrance Sunday services and the re-introduction of the two minute silence on Armistice Day.
There is a delicate balancing act to be achieved between remembering in order to be touched by the horror and the waste of young lives while not being trapped by nostalgia. To know why we do things is as important, if not more so, than doing them. I understand the view that Remembrance Sunday is about showing our support for those who serve now as well as in the past. I want to do that and honour their commitment and self -sacrifice even though I profoundly disagree with some of the wars that we as a country have been engaged in. But it is the building of a better world that matters most. Let’s not forget why we remember.