Certainly the 1914 - 18 war was and continues to be hugely significant. Its affects are still being felt for good and ill. We should remember and we'll be doing a lot of that over the next 4 years. I spent part of this morning watching the televised service from Glasgow Cathedral attended by representatives from all over the Commonwealth. It was emotionally moving. At the same time it felt like an escape - an escape from the latest news of dreadful conflicts happening now in Gaza and Israel, Syria, the Ukraine, Iraq and many other places. So I felt guilty at enjoying the music, the rituals, the readings, the stories that came through the TV from peaceful Glasgow. Even though it recalled harrowing scenes, there was the nostalgic comfort of 100 years distance. What's happening now is much more of an immediate challenge to complacency for those of us who live in peaceful places but who bear some collective responsibility for current injustices that lead to conflicts.
Tonight many people in the UK will join in a ritual of turning out the lights and lighting one candle instead for the hour up to 11 pm which was the time we entered WW1. It has captured the imagination of some. It hasn't really grabbed me, perhaps because lights out at 10 pm is not so unusual for me! And after all there is no real certainty that Sir Edward Grey ever did say on 3 August 1914,
"the lamps are going out all over Europe: we shall not see them lit again in our life-time".His friend remembered it but apparently Grey did not remember.
Andrew Brown writes of tonight's collective lights-out action as an example of post-Christian ritual. Communities need rituals to bind people together but there is a problem when the ritual points towards a significance that is confusing, not made explicit.
On the other hand, recalling a song we used to sing in the Girl Guides, may
"it's better to light just one little candle,than to stumble in the dark".The candles of peace carried by children at the end of this morning's service from Glasgow perhaps do carry a message of hope.
This has been a bit of a ramble. How to pray today? Lord, have mercy.
Photo: my own, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Flanders, Belgium