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A NOVEMBER LETTER FROM THE RECTOR
At Cradley School's Harvest Festival Service on 9 October, Mr. Greaves the Headteacher made the observation that what the school community was doing then was in direct continuity with what the Cradley community had been doing for at least the last 100 years: and that at the harvest celebrations of 1918, exactly a hundred years before, there would have been a marked absence of fathers and of elder brothers involved in the celebrations because of the effects by that stage of four years of World War One. It is difficult to see how we can consider November 2018 without registering that we have reached the centenary of the Armistice on November 11 1918. The many commemorations in the last four years have brought vividly to mind the events of a century earlier, and the current popularity of family history and the increasing number of those wishing to trace their forebears with the help of the internet have clearly contributed to an unprecedented surge of interest in the details of those events. It's sometimes seemed as though, in a remote kind of way, we have been re-living them, as they say, 'in real time.' One only has to look at the names on the War Memorials of our three parishes to see that here, as in most parishes in the land, more losses were sustained, proportionally, during World War One, than in the second war thirty years later. That's without even starting to take account of the number of families where the effects of the war, on those who were injured and traumatised and on those to whom they returned, went on for many more years to come.
For me, two major issues come to mind. First, the danger that as we engage with the events of a hundred years ago, and it may be, feel the weight and the tragedy of them, we may fail to register the very real tragedies of continuing conflict and loss in the world now, and in all the intervening years. Whilst many of us feel a sense of duty and of obligation when it come to honouring the sacrifices made by people from our own communities and more widely in the recent past, we shouldn't lose sight of a duty and moral obligation to be concerned for those who suffer now, and for the members of our armed forces and other organisations whose work or whose calling take them into difficult and dangerous situations.
Second, there's the setting of these commemorations, now as always, within the scope of a very much wider commemoration of all the living and the departed, caught up in a great sweep of commemoration, of worship, of penitence and praise: the great arc of the events in our calendar from All Saints Day on 1 November, through All Souls on 2nd (both marked here on Sunday 4th): past Remembrance Sunday on 11th, and on to the the keeping of Advent (from December 2nd, when Bishop Richard celebrates a Confirmation at Cradley), culminating in the celebration of Christmas. For 'human life is tragic', in the words of a scholarly priest I once knew , 'when people get stuck in the shame, and never see through to the glory beyond' (John de Satge, Christ and the Human Prospect', SPCK 1978, p. 21).