View from the Vicarage - July/August 2014
To the people of St Andrew’s,
You will have seen the bookmarks in the pews at St Andrew’s and the information about “Celebrate 100” in The Fisherman and See Round, but now the event is almost upon us.
Please don’t miss out on this grand day out that the Bishop of St Albans has arranged for us! It is not often that the Diocese puts on a huge party and invites EVERYONE to come along and I am absolutely sure that there will be plenty to suit all tastes at the Keysoe Equestrian Centre on Bank Holiday Monday, 25 August from 10.00am-5.00pm.
My particular responsibility has been for the events on the Main Stage and our team has been working closely with Pam Rhodes (BBC Songs of Praise) who will be linking all the items together and interviewing modern-day “saints and pilgrims”.
The hugely entertaining J John will be on the Main Stage (and also our own Jeffery John in the Seminar Tent), along with Opera Singer Jonathan Veira, and children’s worship leader Duggie Dug-Dug (Doug Horley).
The day culminates with the Diocese gathering for a joyful Communion Service at 3.30pm at which the Bishop will preside and address a congregation of several thousand.
Elsewhere on the day there will be free fairground rides, an “It’s a knockout” competition to watch, a classic cars rally, a demonstration of “messy church”, a prayer walk, and circus entertainers. The Essex Dog Display team will show us how it is done and the Bishops will have a go at sheep herding (and possibly demonstrate how it might not be done).
Needless to say, entry is free and all - young, old, Christian and not - are welcome. Please pick up a leaflet and plan to come along - by car or in the parish coach.
It really will be a superb day out for the diocese and the Bishop is so keen that we all come and have fun! Leaflets are in church, in the Centre Office and details are on the Diocesan Website. See you there!
Celebrate 100 is an event to mark one hundred years of the Diocese of St Albans in its current form but another very different centenary is also being marked this August.
In the digital archive of the writing of the First World War poet, Wilfred Owen (www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections), you can view a facsimile of the preface to a book of poems that he was drafting a little before his death in action in November 1918.
The handwritten text, replete with crossings-out and second attempts, reads:
This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.
Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War.
Above all I am not concerned with Poetry.
My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity.
Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.
Reflecting as we do this year on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War our thoughts are recalled to those who, in the words of Owen’s most famous Anthem for Doomed Youth were fated to “die like cattle” in what was hoped to be the war to end war.
We will be commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of war at our services on Sunday 3 August (the eve of commencement) and a special town centre service will also be held at 6.30pm on that day at St Paul’s Church.
Back in the year 2000, Beryl and Stuart Blythe worked with Marian Land to produce biographies of each of the fifty-two from our parish who lost their lives in the Great War and whose names are recorded on the memorial in St Andrew’s Church.
More than just personnel, their stories become personal to us as we discover the details of their upbringing, education, home address (often in the Saints roads), deaths and burial places. The book will be on display in church over the summer and copies available to borrow.
Dr Christopher Dent, my predecessor, spoke of some whose lives are featured in the book in a sermon preached on Remembrance Sunday 2000.
With his permission, we reproduce this section here:
Denzil Heriz-Smith lived at St George’s Lodge on the corner of St Augustine’s Road. When war broke out he was due to go up to Queen’s College, Cambridge. He was twenty three when he died in 1917. His father was one of our churchwardens.
Major William Logan Ruthven from East Yorkshire married a Bedford girl in 1911 and they settled at 16 St Augustine’s Road. His widow and young daughter continued to live there after he was killed in December 1917.
This book contains many such poignant insights into the lives of men, women and children who lived in the streets in which some of us live and sat in the pews in which we still sit today. They were living ordinary lives, and carrying out their daily tasks when war broke out and changed everything.
As our nation pauses to mark the Centenary of the outbreak of war, we too shall pause and pray for a world where the only sword drawn is the sword of justice and the only strength known is the strength of love.
With my prayers and best wishes,