The Dean's Parish Magazine Article - February 2018
The sad litany continues – as we move into 2018, we’re recalling the last year of the Great War and its influence in our country.
At Hereford Cathedral, there will be special observances:
Poppies: Weeping Window – the cascade of thousands of ceramic poppies by Paul Cummins, artist and Tom Piper, designer, originally at HM Tower of London in 2014. This dramatic installation will be a major feature of cathedral life 14 March – 29 April and we hope that many from the diocese will want to come and see it – and engage with it. Those who have seen the installation in other places peak of its power to move and challenge – and we hope you will find it so – a reminder of the many lives given in sacrifice for truth and justice and peace.
Later, in April, we will have the unveiling of a plaque commemorating 8 little girls who died in a fire at the Garrick Theatre, Hereford, in April 1916 – they had been performing to raise funds for the troops at the Front and, as the curtain fell, fire broke out, with devastating results. A reminder that the war effort took its toll not only on those on active service, but also on innocents on the Home Front.
In September, the cathedral will unveil a new plaque honouring soldier Allan Leonard Lewis, the only Herefordshire-born recipient of the Victoria Cross. Lewis was killed in September 1918, aged 23. The Victoria Cross was presented to his parents by H.M King George V at Buckingham Palace in April 1919. A reminder that, for all its horror, the War inspired huge acts of courage and valour.
By the end of the year, will we be exhausted by all these observances? Will the constant reminders of the horrors of the Great War numb us to its terrible reality? My hope and prayer is that it will not – quite the opposite – these last four years of remembrance will have alerted us to stories, facts, tragedy, heroism, sorrow – which will help in making us a more understanding society – determined all the more to work for all that is good and true.
One of the results of the Great War was a new willingness and indeed thirst, to pray for the souls of the departed. Till then, the Church of England had been rather muted in any suggestion that its members might actually pray for those who had died. The Great War, with its huge number of deaths, changed all that. People needed to pray for their departed loved ones – they needed to be able to make some response and to feel that lives, so cruelly cut short, were continuing in God’s presence. Today, we pray, quite naturally, for our departed loved ones – and how right that is. Heaven and Earth are so often very close and the gap that separates us, very thin.
Perhaps, from these four years of observance will come a new desire to pray and especially to realise afresh that, in our prayer, for the living and the departed, we are brought to the very thresholds of Heaven.