Minister’s Letter





As you read this, the month of November will be upon us, with its cold misty mornings, fallen leaves, and a sharpness in the air heralding Farewell to Autumn. Every month has something enduring about it, and November has its theme of REMEMBRANCE of course. I recall, from my boyhood in the West Riding of Yorkshire, how we would engage in CHUMPING at the beginning of November, which meant hordes of children collecting fallen branches from wherever and dragging them back home in preparation for the customary bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night. I remember also this little rhyme:


Remember, remember, the fifth of November,

gunpowder, treason and plot;

there is no reason

why gunpowder, treason,

should ever be forgot.


Growing older, though, I questioned that custom which seemed overly concerned with demonising a certain individual, on an annual basis, for holding political views which were out of kilter with the establishment way back in 1605.


Remembrance, this time round, is a huge national engagement, and here in Hoole we shall gather around the Memorial on Sunday 11th November, the centenary of the Armistice, to remember those local soldiers, sailors and aircrew who lost their lives. Hopefully we shall go on to reflect on the awful tragedy of war throughout the ages. Remembrance needs to be productive in human aspiration for peace, surely; it needs to be the spur to dreaming of a better world and working strenuously toward that vision. I am presently reading a biography of Clement Attlee in which, even as the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy (6 June 1944), a nagging dream was beginning to crystallize as to how to make the future different from the past. We could surely agree that Attlee led a government which made a fine start from 1945 until 1951.


They spoke in those days of “A land fit for heroes to live in”, and I wonder whether in 2018 we can take that aspiration a step further: “A world fit for sisters and brothers to live in”. Even his own home territory of Stepney, Attlee recognized, was by then home to some twenty-six nationalities, fourteen different languages, each evolving a Cockney twang no doubt. In every age the vision needs to evolve with circumstance, so to grow a kinder world for all-comers.


When I ministered in Penrith, the great hymn writer Fred Kaan was a great influence on me. Fred, being a Dutchman for whom English was one of several fluent second languages, liked to place hyphens within our words in order to discover their deep-down meaning. I remembering Fred coining the phrase for us, “Re-member forward to an age restored.” He set that offering to the tune VALIANT HEARTS, which desperately needed a leg up out of the swamps of sacrifice-glorification into the realm of what Clement Attlee might have described as “Commonwealth-building”.


Let us pray that, this centenary year, we can be people of hope and vision.


Your friend and minister, Peter