The Diocesan Bishop for The Church of England in Lancashire, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, has issued a special video message to the people of Lancashire as we approach Remembrance Sunday.
The County will be marking the day very differently this year due to the pandemic.
Parish churches are only open for private prayer due to the latest lockdown guidance; but many of our clergy will be present where very small-scale commemorations are still taking place at local war memorials. And many resourceful parishes will also be marking Remembrance Sunday with online services.
Meanwhile, there is also a very special online service available for the whole Diocese, and the County, from Lancaster Priory led by Rev. Chris Newlands. The service, filmed and completed before lockdown, will be available to view from 9am on Sunday. Click here for more.
The year 2020 will go down as the year in which nothing was normal. Everything has been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic and that applies even to significant moments in the annual calendar.
Due to the national lockdown, Remembrance Day this year will be marked, but without the usual numbers in attendance, with masks and social distancing. It won't feel the same.
That is a great sadness, as Remembrance Day events are part of the cycle of moments each year that bring us together as a nation; teach the younger generation about the history of our nation; allow us to give thanks for the sacrifices which many have made for their country in the cause of freedom and justice and also encourage a desire in all our hearts for peace and reconciliation between nations and peoples.
That all needs to be marked this year but without the usual ceremonies and crowds, as a stepping stone towards a return in 2021.
We cannot afford to lose this annual reminder, not only of two devastating World Wars in the last century, but also the millions of lives lost in conflicts around the world since 1945. Even this week we have witnessed another terrorist attack in Austria, a bombing in Kabul and most probably other incidents that have not been reported in the news.
Our hope as Christians points us to the time when all this suffering will come to an end, tears and death will be no more, swords will be turned into ploughshares, the wolf will lie down with the lamb and the knowledge of God will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. The assurance of that hope lies in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has overcome all the forces of evil and wickedness and will return to judge the living and the dead. He will have the last word and it is a sure hope.
So in the midst of ongoing pain and anguish, struggles for power, land and ideology, oppression and injustice, we hold on in faith that God is sovereign, will fulfil His promises and will bring in his reign of peace. Yes, that might be challenging to believe, but it is only that hope which will give us courage and confidence to persevere and not give up in the present.
So at this very unusual season of Remembrance, please take the time to remember the past and pray for peace in the present and the future, whether you can attend a brief service at a local war memorial, or will watch something on YouTube.
In God's merciful purposes may a different kind of Remembrance moment have a new, a deeper and more significant impact on the way we think and choose to live our lives, and make the values of His Kingdom more visible and tangible for all to see.
Ronnie Semley, November 2020