Thought for the Month (July 2014)

This year, 2014, sees the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, or the Great War as it is often called, and if you have been watching the news regularly you will have seen items retelling stories from that conflict what it was like at the front and also what it was like for those left behind at home.

I recently learnt about a memorial service which is held every year on 1st July at the Lochnagar Mine Crater (pictured right). This crater is to be found on the 1916 Somme battlefields and is the largest man-made mine crater created in World War One on the Western Front. The mine was laid by the British Army underneath a German strongpoint and exploded at 7.28am on the 1st July at the launch of the British offensive against the German lines.

Many men German, French and British died in this battle and many of their bodies remain there to this day, undiscovered, in the ground. The crater itself is now in private hands and the man who owns it a Richard Dunning has worked hard to make it a Garden of Remembrance where people can go to reflect and to commemorate the men and women of all nations whose lives were affected by the Great War of 1914-1918.

I also learnt recently that, under a 5 million Government scheme, schoolchildren are being taken to World War One battlefields to learn about the battles and how they related to them personally, as in relatives who fought and died there, or how they relate to their own community. These youngsters will then return home and pass on what they learn to their classmates.

Every year, on November 11th, we hold our Remembrance Services, we wear our poppies and are silent for two minutes in memory of all those who have died in conflict and we say "We will remember them".

Three quite different attempts to make sure we don't forget one by an individual, one by our present government and one an event which is part of our national psyche. At the moment there are people around with the will to make sure we don't forget and, one hopes, there always will be.

War, any war, is a terrible thing and in the end it comes down to two sides, each certain they are right, willing to go to any lengths to prove it and unwilling to listen to another's point of view. When the two sides are nations, or alliances of nations, the outcomes can be truly horrendous as we see on the news pretty much every day in places like Syria and Iraq.

As individuals we are all capable of harbouring the same attitudes and whilst they will not lead to all out slaughter they can do untold damage, to ourselves, as well as to others.

One of the sad things about World War One is that, after a while, the initial reasons for being involved in the war became less important and the powers just battled on to see who would be the last one standing!!

Romans 12:18 and Hebrews 12:14 both tell us to make every effort to live in peace with everyone and for that we need to make sure we don't harbour grudges, or refuse to listen to another's point of view, or respect their right to that viewpoint. In Isaiah 9:6 the title "Prince of Peace" is used of the coming Messiah and in Ephesians 2:14 Paul says "for He himself is our peace," when he speaks of Jesus. Jesus came to destroy barriers and walls of hostility first of all between God and man, and then between all people. And if we go by the name of Christian we are at peace with God through what Jesus did for us, and we should be making every effort to be peacemakers in our own lives and community.

Memory is a wonderful gift and we need it for so many things we do every day, (and it also comes in handy for quiz nights!), but let's not use it to hang on to grudges and get ourselves into the situation where we want to be "the last man standing". In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God" so, in a world that is full of conflict, let us the children of God live in peace with those around us. He asks it of us and we owe it to the men and women who died so that we can experience all the many freedoms we enjoy today.

NB There are a number of websites where you can find out more about the Lochnagar Mine Crater: and are just two of them.

Jacqui Ferdinando (Elder and Magazine Correspondent, Rusthall URC)

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church