Only Remembered: Armistice and Remembrance at St George’s Church 2017

Fading away like the stars in the morning,
Losing their light in the glorious sun.
Thus would we pass from this earth and its toiling,
Only remembered for what we have done.

My first experience of Armistice at St George’s church in 2017 was an occasion to remember in every sense of the word. Since my arrival everyone told me that I had never seen anything like Ypres at Armistice and they were right. The interest this service generates is amazing. Every week Ricky and I have received new email enquiries about tickets for Armistice from people all around the world.

Our new set of memorial bells were rung before the service using the measure “Passchendaele.” The Bells Trustees arranged for Revd James Power and the bellringers of Harrow School to come over to ring them for their first Armistice. They were a major sponsor of the bells project and the tenor bell is dedicated to those on the roll of honour of Harrow School. The Friends Trustees came over to take part in the service with Sir Edward Crofton giving the Exhortation and Dr Derek Gallagher reading the Bible text from Joel 1. Our guest preacher this year was the Revd Tim Jones, the Director of Ministry from Eds and Ips Diocese who gave us a dynamic sermon which held the congregation spellbound.

Our organist Ria provided the lovely musical accompaniment which made the services especially moving for all the guests and pilgrims who attended and Margaret and the members of the Dartford Choir offered their beautiful singing especially in the Anthem “Long Ago.” The buglers of the Last Post Association assembled at the back of the church to sound the Last Post in the service and a military piper played the famous lament “The Flowers of the Forest” as he processed along the central aisle. A splendid hospitality of the kitchen and the bar in the church hall was organised by Liz and Jon for the many visitors who came to join us in the afternoon and Mandy arranged a successful fund raising raffle for us. So the Armistice service was a collaboration of all the gifts and skills of the congregation and its friends and supporters.

The service was followed by the Poppy Parade up to the Menin Gate where Princess Anne was the guest of honour. I had the privilege of saying a special prayer for Armistice during the commemorations. And during the afternoon St George’s church received a visit from a delegation of MPs from the Flemish Parliament. They took part in a guided tour of the history and memorials of St George’s and went up the church tower to see the new Ringing Chamber.

The Armistice service is the highlight of the year at St George’s. And what place is there more appropriate for remembrance than this memorial church in Ypres ? It was built at the request of the regiments to have somewhere as a memorial to their comrades who fought here in the Great War. And it was designed so that the interior would serve as a memorial to the fallen. Everything inside this church has been dedicated as a memorial including the altar, the pulpit, the font and the organ, the stained glass windows, the banners and the kneelers and the new set of bells in the tower.

St George’s church still continues to fulfil its original purpose of consoling the living and remembering the dead. Even after a distance of 100 years relatives and descendants continue to come here on pilgrimages to remember their grandfathers and great-uncles who died in the Great War. Other churches celebrate Remembrance Day once a year but St George’s marks it every single day of the year. At Armistice we remember the sacrifices made by the generations of the past so that their courage is not forgotten and was not in vain. We remember so that there should never again be a world war in which so many fine young lives are sacrificed. And we remember so that we may make a greater effort to preserve the peace of the world in which we now live.

Only the truth that in life we have spoken,
Only the seed that in life we have sown.
These shall pass onwards when we are forgotten,
Only remembered for what we have done.