Yesterday was the hundredth anniversary of the very first ceremony of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in London, and while we have long since lost all direct connection to the Great War, we still need to take the time to stop and think about what we’ve learned, and failed to learn, from one of the most catastrophic episodes in human history.
Today for the first time in many years, the Scottish Government’s ceremony of Remembrance happened on Armistice Day itself, so at the invitation of Leslie Evans, the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, we all gathered in the Media Centre of St. Andrew’s House to share some thoughts before the two minute silence fell as it always does, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
It was the third time I’ve been asked to contribute, and I was in good company. I was joined by my former colleague at the University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy Centre, Rabbi David Rose of the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, along with Ameed Versace of the The Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society and The Reverend Jenny Wright of the Christ Church Morningside.
Reverend Tom Gordon, formerly the chaplain to the Marie Curie Edinburgh Hospice, was the only person other than the Permanent Secretary to speak twice, and with good reason.
Tom has probably conducted more Remembrance Day ceremonies than anyone over the years, and he told us about how their character has changed for the better, to be more representative and inclusive.
Today was his 63rd Remembrance Day and he looked back on his first, when as a seven-year old Lifeboy in Fort William, he saw his father shed an uncharacteristic tear.
He also spoke a blessing at the end, which I thought very moving, and I reproduce it below with his permission.
Go now, guided by your faith and your principles, and work for peace.
Go now, guided by your compassion and service, and care for all humanity.
Go now, with your words and your witness, and work for justice for all.
Go now, and be blessed in your peacemaking, and be blessed in your compassion, and be blessed in your common humanity, for the good of our communities, our nation and our world.
PS I spoke to our piper, Hugh, and he confirmed that yes, that is an eagle’s feather in his Glengarry bonnet.
Apparently the good folk at the Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre collect the wing feathers when the birds are moulting, and donate them to the pipers of the Royal Regiment of Scotland to wear with their Number One dress uniforms, so no birds are harmed in the process…
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