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Remembrance - a thought from Revd Paul Lanham

REMEMBRANCE

The Thiepval Memorial stands weeping amid the rolling country around the Somme. It has a strange starkness, almost unromantic in its austerity. On the gentle slope below it lie a large number of war graves, the grass immaculately kept as all the war graves are. The Memorial bears the names of over 72,000 Allied soldiers who died in the second half of 1916 but who have no known graves. The birds don't sing at Thiepval; they do not sing anywhere on the Western Front, so it is said. One summer afternoon eleven years ago I sat near that memorial meditating beneath a tree in the silence. I could have spent hours just sitting there, unable to grasp what it must have been like for those tens of thousands who fought amid the noise and the fear and the destruction. Alas,time was far too short; I could only remain there for twenty minutes before going on to mourn at other blood soaked places on that unforgettable four day tour.

A different war, a different war cemetery, a different continent, but the same sense of desolation. Just off a major road along the Egyptian coast road is the Allied cemetery at El Alamein, sixty miles from Alexandria. The terrain is different, with brown sandy soil instead of grass; instead of green rolling countryside there is desert stretching as far as the eye can see, still riddled with the detritus of war. Like other war cemeteries the graves are immaculately cared for in rows as though they were still on parade. 11,886 lie under the burning sun, to be grieved from afar for it is not easily reached except by special trips. Very different surroundings but the same sense of loss, the same sense of mourning.

A third very different cemetery, Hill 107 on the north Cretan coast above Maleme. The stones are flat and square and amid the profusion of low flowers the dead are buried in pairs. 4465 soldiers of the German forces lie there, the slope reaching out mutely towards the deep blue sea before them. The same silence, the same sense of loss, the same sense of mourning. Grief after all is grief because war is war and the young died before they reached their full potential. After all, I have yet to find one person from cemeteries where I have wept that was older than my two daughters; many were a third of my age or less. The inscription at the cemetery reads 'They gave their lives for their country. Their deaths should always be our obligation to keep the peace between nations'. A noble aspiration at a noble place, an unforgettable place to weep but also hope and reconcile. 

Three snapshorts of war. Each November we honour those who suffered and died all over the world (Judy's uncle for example was killed in Papua New Guinea in 1943). Remembrance is not about victory. It is not about celebrating. It is about remembering with sadness and with honour. Some may say that when the last veterans have died we should move on and no longer have acts of remembrance. But this is not the point. Remembering is also about the suffering of the world, not just those from our own nation and commonwealth. When I visited the German War Cemetery at Maleme all those years ago (while on holiday nearby) I felt the same sense of loss, the same need to honour those who lay there as I did at Thiepval or El Alamein and others that I have visited over the years. As we mark Remembrance Sunday this year we may remember those from other countries who fought and died, those civilians from other countries who suffered and died, those who were the victims of genocide. Mourn. In mourning use Remembrance to commit ourselves with others (who once were enemies but are now friends) to the cause of peace, healing – and reconciliation.

With love,

Paul

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A reflection from Revd Tricia

A NEW BEGINNING - L - PLATES AND MINISTRY

It’s been a roller coaster of a summer for me. 

God called me into ordained ministry over four years ago, and after eighteen months of supervised discernment and assessment, and a further two years of academic study, I was ordained as Deacon on 1st July 2023. 

After the years of study, the ordination day was extraordinarily special. Family and friends all joined me and other curates to be to pray for our future ministry as the bishop prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide us. The whole world receded in that moment! I have been utterly blessed to be given a curacy (trainee vicar placement) for the next three years or so under the care and leadership of Revd Ginni Dear who is incumbent for St Ippolyts, Little Wymondley and Great Wymondley churches. 

The congregations have been welcoming and encouraging for which I am so very grateful. Thank you! This placement is not without its challenges, but I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know some of the people in the local communities, and I look forward to meeting more of you and hearing about you, your faith, and your lives in this place. I look forward to serving you and these communities too!

As I am sure you are all aware, a church community is made up of people who are exploring or developing a relationship with Jesus. Christians are varied in age, culture, tradition, language, and background, but we all have one thing in common; we are loved by and forgiven by God, through his son, Jesus Christ. It brings us a sense of peace and often profound joy. Most churches have a building, and our local parishioners are caring for church buildings that are ancient, listed, and desperately impractical for contemporary life. An increasingly small number of volunteers look after the churchyards, the buildings inside and out, and try to keep on top of bats, cobwebs, and damp. 

I have been struck by and am in awe of the amount of time and effort given by so few to enable anyone within the parishes to worship, get married, baptise a child, or say goodbye to a loved one. We owe all those who love and care for our church buildings, who give generously to fund their upkeep, a huge debt of gratitude, for without them, there would be no church building!

Revd Tricia Reed

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Thought from Revd Paul Lanham

Dear Friends,

As a local historian, family trees have always interested me. I was occasionally asked as the vicar to help people investigate their ancestors and this involved a lot of detective work (being a priest involves more than taking services and being pious!) and I loved doing it. My own tree (such as it is) vanishes in the mists of time as farm labourers in East Anglia in the 18th century, albeit with the odd member being born on the wrong side of the blanket (I have never told the rest of the Lanhams so please keep this to yourself, they might not be as open minded about it as I am!). But it is a bit vague.

By contrast there is Judy's much bigger one and I was recently given a copy of it. Like my own tree hers begins in the 18th century, in this case in Central Wales (Davis is after all a Welsh name!). Two won the Victoria Cross, in the Crimean and Boer Wars. There are a large number of military officers as it runs in the family (my father-in-law was a colonel, as my nephew in law is - not a vicar in sight!). There was an Admiral (who incidentally attended our wedding and whose son is a good friend of mine). And for many years a genuine Hollywood Oscar was kept in (of all places) the downstairs toilet of the family home until it was kept in a safer place. It was awarded to the legendary actress Dame Margaret Rutherford who married into the family - I used to hold it with awe. And so on, just a few of the many hundreds of members of them. I can read about these figures and see the fading pictures, and they come alive. Local history is fascinating if you are made that way, and investigating ancient records and fading grave stones throw new light on who we are and where we came from.

At the end of October we look ahead to All Saints and All Souls Day, on November 1 and 2 respectively. Family trees remind us of our roots, and these two festivals remind us that we are linked to more than just our present and past relatives. They set us in the context of humanity. All Saints Day speaks of our being part of God's people, past present and future. In the Book of Revelation we read of 'that whole multitude which no man could number' worshipping before the throne of God; I find this both inspiring and comforting. As members of our local church, as members of our family we become united in spirit as one. Then on All Souls Day we especially remember loved ones and people who have especially touched our lives - and we commend them to God's care and keeping. Here on these two days the present and the past meet and we are enriched by them. Perhaps as we think of them we may also think of ourselves as part of all humanity, widening our thoughts still further, for God reaches out to the world, not just to those who believe in Him in the accepted sense but as something or someone cosmic. 

We mark one other day this month. On October 10 there is the (secular) World Mental Health Day. Regular readers of Pax will know of my total commitment to this cause, as a campaigner and a former sufferer. Mental health is becoming more and more recognised for what it is and how important it is but so much more is needed, both in terms of improved treatment but also in removing stigma associated with it. May I commend it to your thoughts and prayers, not only on this day but at other times as well?

With my love,

Paul

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A thought from Revd Paul Lanham.

Dear Friends,

While clearing out a filing cabinet during August I discovered my school reports that my parents had given to me before they died. The earliest was (mind bogglingly) 71 years ago where the matron noted that I was four stone nine pounds wringing wet (a third of what I am now). The Headmaster commented quaintly of me in 1955 that 'he is a most acceptable member of the school'. One year I am recorded as being a first class shot. This was rather surprising as I was short sighted and had not yet begun to wear spectacles; when the relevant test took place I remember that I was blazing away at a blur and amazingly hit the target several times (more appropriately I once shattered a bottle with my first shot using my brother's air pistol, only to discover that I had aimed with my left eye and fired with my right hand). But the most memorable remark came from my history master. He was a retired colonel of ferocious mien, and if my memory is right he had a faint physical resemblance to the Gestapo supremo Heinrich Himmler. I can still hear his slightly stuttering voice in my head as he wrote of me 'He s-s-seems teachable'. Since my university degree is in ancient and modern history (and theology) he must have succeeded - unlike the master who told me I would never learn Greek, only for me to pass a university exam six years later. 

From this you can grasp that in spite of the belief that school days are the happiest ones of your life, mine weren't. In a school (which I shall not name) that had its fair share of high achievers my only success was as scorer for the First, Second and Colts school cricket teams. For the rest it was a case of being a total nonentity, except that being in a deeply Christian school I ended as a priest. But it was fascinating to look back at these reports, seeing what I was like and how I developed as I am now. Lanham R, (as opposed to my younger brother Lanham P), is rightly forgotten as a former pupil. 

Thank heavens that Jesus did not choose the twelve disciples on the basis of worldly merit and status but looked for something more than that. At school I feel I would have been more comfortable with Andrew than the others; he would have hovered quietly in the background than the more gifted in the school. Or perhaps Thomas who was always asking questions and being honest without being a prize winner. Both would have been very 'acceptable members of the school' rather than anything special. I love the ordinariness of the Twelve. Not an intellectual, nobody of high rank, just twelve highly idealistic young men who were prepared with Jesus to turn the world upside down and believed in Him so much that they were prepared to die for Him. I love their vulnerability, their confusion, their innocence and their courage. Jesus could have chosen almost anyone to be His closest circle but He chose them. A reassurance that God calls all of us, in all our ordinariness to serve Him as we are, not to be special. My thought for the month!

A personal note. I have been unable to minister in the parish since my stroke last year and then losing Judy. I have missed you all very much but my voice needs to be strengthened before I can resume, while life has had to be reassessed. However, we have been helped enormously by your thoughts and prayers, with special thanks to Ginni (not least for being Ginni!). Hopefully I will be back soon; you can't get rid of me that easily! 

With my love,

Paul

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St Hippolytus - A Sermon by the late and very much missed Howell Davies

Howell Davies, our late and very much missed reader and friend preached a sermon about St Hippolytus on 15th August 2021. As it ius now the festival of our patron saint it is appropriate we remember Howell's sermon.image.jpeg

230813 H Davies Sermon re St Ippolyts 2nd page

230813 H Davies Sermon re St Ippolyts 3rd page230813 H Davies Sermon re St Ippolyts 4th page

 

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