Once again, the time between blogs has got away from me and now that I try and think back over the last week or two, I struggle to find something that is blog-worthy. Blogging, I find, is often ‘of the moment’. Something happens, or makes a big enough impact, to trigger an urge to get it down on paper (so to speak). It’s an opportunity to sort through and make sense of the challenging or the confusing or the annoying.
But I’m finding that life isn’t like that at the moment. There is much that is new, much that is challenging, much that is annoying, but all in a way that needs dealt with simply, not through rushing to make sense of it on a blog in a reactionary way. Perhaps it’s the ‘reality’ of what crops up now in probation. It all seems much more ‘real’ in a way that term-time placements don’t always feel. Perhaps it’s the detachment from the academic that begins to settle the theological reflection down into the ‘real’ rather than a mental exercise in drawing theory and practice together.
What is interesting though is that this past week or so has had ‘remembrance’ as its main theme. And that’ll be true over the week to come as well.
Last Sunday afternoon, the Sunday closest to ‘All saints/souls’, there was a service for those who had been bereaved – an opportunity to remember those who had passed away either recently or in the distant past. Time was not the issue. The issue was permission to remember; to acknowledge the reality of a present grief, however raw and hurting, or faded but still felt. It was an emotionally-charged and very ‘delicate’ service, but very powerful and, I would say, very much appreciated by the people there (of whom there were many more than anticipated).
This week we have the High School Remembrance Day assembly (and it’s Ian and me leading it this year) and next Sunday is Remembrance Sunday when I’ll be preaching. the initial thoughts of this blog entry come back to challenge at this point. If separation of only a week or two makes issues less blog-worthy, less noteworthy, what of events of almost a hundred years ago? Of course, war did not stop with the ‘war to end all wars’ and conflict is in the news still; and more recently than a week or so back.
The grief of a bereavement service is every bit a part of a Remembrance Day service. Separation in time of days, weeks, months or many years does not make it any less powerful. A bereavement service looks back, acknowledges the past; times which can never be recaptured. And yet it allows a space for moving on, not in the sense of leaving the past behind or of setting it aside as if it was of no consequence, but through allowing the present to be shaped by the past, acknowledging that is does indeed shape our present, whether we like it or not.
Remembrance Day also remembers a past which is difficult to acknowledge and which we recognise as never being left behind. War and conflict continue to haunt us, but in a similar way to bereavement, it must never debilitate us and render us utterly hopeless.
The High School assembly has an interesting mix of musical and performance pieces which have been chosen by the school. Any one of them might arguably be considered inappropriate for a Remembrance Service and yet, as a whole, they offer that tension of looking back and lamenting, acknowledging the good and bad in the present, and looking forward in hope. I wonder if this was in the mind of those who chose the pieces? Let’s be generous and say it was, but I wonder if they were aware of how much it captures the essence of a Christian approach to such things?
As a Christian, looking forward and looking back, whether on the mundane or the momentous, is a reminder of who we are and were, of all that we have done, the good and the bad and of the grace that allows us to look forward in hope. Not the rose-tinted version, but in the God-centred way that sees that love, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation need more than our own efforts, but the very presence of God, who knows all about reconciliation and hope.