Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Remembrance Sunday 2015

The last conversation I had with the Revd David Gamble was when I was questioning him about his year as President and any advice that he could give me. As you can imagine, he had some great advice and was really helpful, but told me that the most memorable part of his year was the Remembrance Day Service at the Cenotaph, he said he found it incredibly moving - I can endorse that. My middle daughter Phoebe accompanied me and say on a balcony with wives of politicians and diplomats. I had to wear my robes which were kindly donated to me by Bishop Peter Stephens and proved to be very warm for standing outside in. I prepared myself
spiritually for this by spending time and remembering not only our sailors, soldiers and airmen but also the civilians who were killed. An aunt of mine was caught in a bombing raid in Manchester and survived, her friends were not so lucky. I also remembered preaching in the Bath Circuit where on the chapel wall was a plaque with names of men, women and children, when two streets were bombed just by the church. This day people all across the nation have some thoughts about God and I trusted that he would be the comforter on this day.
My eldest daughter, Lois, got herself to Whitehall for 7.30am, so she could have a good place in the crowd, and see me; alas soldiers in great coats came and lined up in front of her alas she saw very little. But it was a unique e
xperience anyway! I had to wait in the Locarno Room in the building in Whitehall with other dignitaries and military personnel, I love meeting people and talking about the Methodist Church. So I went around the room, I shook hands with David Cameron, our Prime Minister, and had a conversation with him. I took his photograph with one of the diplomats, who is a Methodist. I was then able to converse with Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition. He was followed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, posed with some of the ladies. It was a very interesting time, everybody had heard of Methodism and said complimentary things. As I always pray for our Queen and government, I was able to tell them all that I held them in my prayers and all were appreciative of this. Then we had to get into line, wreaths are collected and then we stood in a corridor for what seemed quite a long time. then very quickly we went down a red carpet staircase and out of the door, the band playing and wow - it was my David Gamble moment. My throat tightened and I quite forgot that this was the moment when for 5 seconds I was on national television. Standing in my place, I then participated in this national act of
remembrance. The chimes of Big Ben, the firing of the cannon, all made for a very intense moment. I have been involved in closures of local churches and questions asked about the war memorials, they are all over the connexion. When I recently visited St John's Methodist Church in Sunderland, they had a whole wall of memorials, their own and those from closed churches. All these names matter, everyone is precious in God's sight and the feeling of God's care and agony over our wars and fighting came very clear to me. After the service, there was a light lunch, the Bishop of London made his way over to me because my Bishop, Tim Thornton of Truro, had told him I would be there and we had a very warm conversation. This was a day that I shall never forget.

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