It has been a beautiful, sunny, peaceful day.
Mary and I are about to take a break. When we return, Advent will be almost upon us. Before we go, I want to share an afterthought, prompted by this year’s Remembrance weekend.
It is 11 years, almost to the day, since I retired from the RAF after nearly 33 years’ service. If you visit the Rectory you will see the occasional souvenir from those years, but with a new calling to a new community, I have had little contact with the Service since I retired. Largely this has been deliberate; it is difficult to move on when constantly looking back. This weekend I have been prompted to look back.
If any moment in the calendar is designed to take me back to my RAF service, it is Remembrance weekend. Normally though, Remembrance Sunday morning is a busy time, with little opportunity to dwell on my own past. This year’s enforced break in proceedings gave me time to sit and watch both Saturday’s Festival of Remembrance and proceedings at the Cenotaph the following day. Listening to the reflections both of veterans and grieving families, I heard afresh the importance of Remembrance. I realised as well, just how much a part of me those 33 years still are, but how detached I have become.
This may be a two-edged sword for many of us, but for better and for worse, our present is a product of our past. Understanding that has much to teach us about the person we are today. Listening to the triumphs and tragedies of others, and how these two had shaped their lives, I felt encouraged to draw afresh on my own past. We can’t live in the past, but we do live with it.
As an ex-serviceman, Remembrance Sunday may be an obvious point of re-connection with my past. There are many others. As we enter into our second period of enforced mass quarantine, it is easy to focus on broken connections; the people we can’t meet, things we can’t do, places we can’t go. Yet let go of that, if only for a moment, and perhaps we will find fresh connections, or old and fractured ones remade.
Rev. Philip Payne
The Pew Sheet for 15th November can be found in Downloads