Sunday 14 November
Newton 11.00 am
Act of remembrance at the war memorial immediately following Holy Communion at 10.00 am
Hauxton 2.00 pm
A service in St Edmund's Church followed by an act of remembrance at the war memorial.
Harston 3.00 pm
An act of remembrance at the War Memorial, followed by a service in All Saints' Church
An anthology in words and music in All Saints’ Church, Harston on Friday 12 November at 7.30pm.
John Keats’ poem To Autumn is best known for its opening line: ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. But in its final section he contrasts autumn with the early months of the year:
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue....
The poem’s tone is wistful and nostalgic, reminding us that there is no escaping the fact in October and November that summer has indeed come to an end. As for the spring which preceded it, we can now only look back, and Remember.
Autumn is also traditionally a time of Remembrance, marking the Armistice on 11 November 1918 which ended the so-called Great War: annual ceremonies at the Albert Hall, the Cenotaph, and local war memorials up and down the land. Then, a month later, 400+ million people of many faiths and none tune in to the Christmas Eve carol service from King’s College, Cambridge. Its famous introductory prayer asks us to Remember ‘the poor, the cold, the hungry, the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children (and) those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which no one can number...’ This final category has sadly grown through COVID.
Memory is something we all take for granted – until failing powers sometimes take it away, leaving dementia-sufferers with an air of confusion and loss. That loss reflects the fact that memory is also one of the most natural human desires. How else can one explain the explosion of demand to research our ancestors in family record centres and the popularity of TV programmes such as Who do you think you are? Yet none of us should wallow in the past until we see everything in terms of ‘the good old days’.
We can try to forget our past, or airbrush it away. We can dispute its details – as when three brothers born eight years apart reminisce about their childhood (as I did recently). We can reinvent it: as in the so-called ‘misery memoirs’ of those emphasising their difficult path to success, or in the Monty Python Sketch in which four Yorkshiremen cap each others’ stories of childhood deprivation with the catch-phrase ‘You were lucky...’. Yet we can only understand the present, and learn for the future, by reference to the past. In recent decades, as reinforcement - or maybe an antidote - to remembering, we have seen new initiatives in Reconciliation: how to help people in countries such as South Africa and Northern Ireland to live with memories without becoming trapped in them.
Much has been said and written on this interesting but complex topic – including the very moving core of literature known as ‘War Poetry’. A group of us will be presenting an anthology on this theme in words and music – some items humorous, some much less so – in Harston Church: 7.30pm on Friday 12 November. Please join us if you would like to.
Tickets: £10 (including refreshments) - please email firstname.lastname@example.org