The important purpose of Remembrance Sunday is to pass on to posterity the costly lessons of what led up to war, the causes, why they were fought, and how such terrible catastrophes may be avoided in the future.
Our memories must be used for good, never for evil.
That was the message to the congregation from the Rev Sue Armitage when she gave the sermon at Sunday’s civic service at St Mary’s, Marlborough, attended by the Mayor, Edwina Fogg, town councillors and Military Intelligence officers just back from Afghanistan.
A retired member of the Marlborough Ministry team, she stressed that our memories must be used for good, never for evil, pointing out: “And if we don’t share our memories of ‘why war was waged’ and ‘for what cause so many died’, who will?
“History is always far more interesting and meaningful when it comes from personal stories, family histories, and visual contact and experiences.”
“Some have said that wars are best forgotten and that to harp back to the past does nothing but keep open the wounds — they see little value in history and would close the book on the pain and suffering of past wars.”
“Peacetime they say is the time to heal for the killing is over.”
But while some held different opinions, she added: “Each age and generation has its special way of remembering.”
“In the years after the silencing of the guns in 1918 at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month complete silence was observed throughout the nation – everyone and everything stopped for two minutes and in many places it still does. “However some 90 years on Remembrance Day is now held on the Sunday nearest to the 11th, a holy day and memories have become even more sacred for being recalled on the day of worship.”
“Each of us has memories, which are special to us. All of us, ex-service men and women alike, have many brave deeds in our minds this day, and we each have our own way of commemorating the past.”
“Our memory is a God-given faculty, one that we are born with and which develops to a point in our lives and then sadly with age often begins to decline.”
“Of course the memory is a very complex faculty and how it works is often a reflection of our personality, the educational system in which we grew up and of course our age plays an enormous role in the process.”
“As with all our God given gifts, the memory can be used for good and for bad. We can use it to recall, to share, to heal, to restore and to make good.”
“But it can also be used to store up memories for revenge or reprisal, or for waiting for the opportunity to settle old scores.”
“If we are the optimistic kind of people who see life as a cup which is half full, (our memories of the past are more likely to reflect that), while we acknowledge the sad loss of those we knew, we share with others the positive side of the experience, the camaraderie, the community spirit, friends made and kept, sunny days which punctuated life and stories of great escape.”
“If we are the kind of pessimistic people who see life as a cup which is half empty, our memories of the past are more likely to reflect that.”
“While we acknowledge the camaraderie and community spirit, the stories that we are likely to share with others are those of hardship and sadness, the smell of the trenches, the devastation of town and city and decimation of peoples, that of grey days and incarceration.”
But, the Rev Armitage pointed out: “Both are equally valid, for they reflect not only who we are but also they enable a balanced story to be told, one that will ultimately reflect the whole.”
“However, we need to be sure that the God given gift of our remembering is used for good, and never for evil.”