Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A Service of the Word for a commemoration
of the First World War in a local church

A simple war memorial in Saint Michan’s Church, Church Street, Dublin … the Liturgical Advisory Committee has produced ‘A Service of the Word for a commemoration of the First World War in a Local Church’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

The Church of Ireland Notes’ in The Irish Times last Saturday [25 October 2014] said:

“This year, as remembrance tide approaches there will be a particular emphasis on the events of World War I and the Church of Ireland is seeking to relate to this in a number of ways. In many parishes there has been much local research, centred on parish war memorials on those who fought and those who died and they will be a particular focus for remembrance.

“The Liturgical Advisory Committee has produced ‘A Service of the Word for a commemoration of the First World War in a Local Church.’ It has been posted on the Church of Ireland Worship page http://ireland.anglican.org/worship from where it can be downloaded and reproduced locally. The LAC hopes that this will prove beneficial to those parishes wishing to commemorate the centenary of the start of World War I on Remembrance Sunday, or at some other appropriate time.”

My introduction to this resource says:

A Service of the Word
for a commemoration of the
First World War
in a Local Church

Remembering World War I:


The number of events to commemorate multiplies for the years 2014-2018. Understandably, much of the attention is going to focus on the centenary of the landings at Suvla Bay and the Gallipoli Campaign, between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916, and on the Battle of the Somme, which was fought 1 July and 18 November 1916.

A conservative estimate says nearly 4,000 Irish troops died in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, but the figure is probably much higher.

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the 5,500 casualties of the 36th Ulster Division on 1 July were men drawn almost entirely from one community in Ulster. Nearly 2,000 soldiers from cities, towns, villages and townlands in Northern Ireland were killed in the first few hours of fighting.

In a continuation of the same battle, the 16th Irish Division had 4,330 casualties in September, of whom 1,200 were killed. These came mainly from the other three provinces.

In addition, many more Irish soldiers fought in other divisions of the regular army or in the newly-raised battalions. The total number of Irish casualties cannot be calculated with certainty but they affected every part of the island and continue to influence the evolution of Irish politics.

The Battle of the Somme is an important but often politicised commemoration in Northern Ireland, yet in both campaigns men from both parts of the island and from both traditions fought side-by-side suffered together, and sustained, encouraged and cared for each other.

Many of the stories from both campaigns remain untold. The majority of the Irish regiments, not all based on this island, have been disbanded, and the loss of continuity means the loss of story-telling. In addition, the changing political climate in Southern Ireland meant former soldiers and families felt they were forced into silence. Those who had gone out in bravery and thought they were returning home as heroes, now found their stories could not be told, and feared being marginalised as ‘traitors.’ Heroism and bravery were forgotten, and those who suffered, both former soldiers and their families, often suffered in silence.

In the new Irish Free State, even the promise of secure jobs for returning soldiers often disappeared.

In giving voice to the silenced generation, the Church must give voice to their suffering, their untold stories, their bravery and heroism. Perhaps they answered the call from Redmond to fight for the freedom of small nations; perhaps they hoped their decision would bring financial security and employment for their family and for future generations.

How we design and structure our commemorations can restore these hopes and give new hope for the security they sought for future generations.

Confession and thanksgiving, in the proper proportions and in creative tension and balance, can help achieve this.

Patrick Comerford

The service and additional full resources can be downloaded here.

The pulpit in Saint Iberius’s Church, Wexford, serves as a World War I memorial (Photograph: Patrick Comerford,2014)

Saint Simon and Saint Jude: they
just about make it onto the first XI

Saint Simon and Saint Jude … not ‘celebrity saints’ but worth remembering

Patrick Comerford

Saint Simon and Saint Jude: 28 October 2014:

Readings:
Isaiah 28: 14-16; Psalm 119: 89-96; Ephesians 2: 19-22; John 15: 17-27.

May I speak to you in the name of God + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This morning we celebrate Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles.

How wonderful to have Simon reads the Gospel on this day. But in Dublin today, if you asked who Saint Simon is, apart from Simon here, you might be told Saint Simon cares for the homeless and the misfits.

If you asked who Jude is, you might be told he is “Obscure” – or the Patron of Lost Causes.

They are little known as apostles, without fame.

In an age obsessed with reality television, the X-Factor and celebrities who are celebrities – just because they are – Simon and Jude appear like a pair of misfits: we know little about their lives or how they lived them, they are hardly famous among the disciples, and they certainly are not celebrity apostles.

Simon and Jude are way down the list of the Twelve Apostles, and their names are often confused or forgotten. In the New Testament lists of the Twelve (Matthew 10: 2-4; Mark 3: 16-19; Luke 6: 14-16; Acts 1: 13), they come in near the end, in tenth and eleventh places. Well, with Judas in twelfth place, they just about make it onto the “first eleven.”

The ninth name on the lists is James, the James who was remembered here last Thursday. Judas or Jude is often referred to as “the brother of James” and this in turn leads to him being identified with the “brothers of the Lord.” So, on this day, we celebrate Simon the Zealot, one of the original Twelve; and Jude or Judas of James, also one of the Twelve and author of the Epistle of Jude.

But poor Simon is not mentioned by name in the New Testament except on these lists – after all, there is a better-known Simon than this Simon: there is Simon Peter. As for Jude, his name is so close to Judas – in fact, their names are the same (Ιούδας) – is it any wonder that he became known as the patron saint of lost causes? Trying to remember him might have been a lost cause.

After the Last Supper, Jude asked Christ why he chose to reveal himself only to the disciples, and received the reply: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14: 22-23).

In his brief Epistle, Jude says he planned to write a different letter, but then heard of the misleading views of some false teachers. He makes a passionate plea to his readers to preserve the purity of the Christian faith and their good reputation.

The Epistle includes a memorable exhortation to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3), and ends with that wonderful closing: “Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

But after that, surprisingly, we know very little about the later apostolic missions of Simon and Jude, where they were missionaries or whether they were martyred.

In truth, we know very little about these two saints, bundled together at the end of a list, like two hopeless causes. There was no danger of them being servants who might want to be greater than their master (John 15: 20). All we can presume is that they laboured on, perhaps anonymously, in building up the Church.

But then the Church does not celebrate celebrities who are famous and public; we honour the saints who labour and whose labours are often hidden.

In our Gospel reading, the Apostles are warned about suffering the hatred of “the world.” Later as the Gospel was spread around the Mediterranean, isolated Christians may not have realised how quickly the Church was growing; in their persecutions and martyrdom, they may have felt forlorn and that Christianity was in danger of being a lost cause.

But in our Gospel reading, Christ encourages a beleaguered Church to see its afflictions and wounds as his own.

No matter how much we suffer in our ministry and mission, no matter how others may forget us, no matter how obscure we become, no matter how many people forget our names, no matter how often our labouring in the Gospel appear to others to be a lost cause, we can be assured that we are no longer strangers and aliens, that we are citizens with the saints, that we are building up the household of God upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ himself as the cornerstone, and that we are being built together spiritually into the dwelling place of God (Ephesians 2: 19-22).

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Collect:

Almighty God, who built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone: So join us together in unity of spirit by their doctrine that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord God, the source of truth and love: Keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, united in prayer and the breaking of the bread, and one in joy and simplicity of heart, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This reflection was shared at the Eucharist on the Feast Day of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, 28 October 2014.