O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home.
Isaac Watts (1674-1749)
My dear friends,
November marks the centenary of the end of the First World War – a conflict so terrible that as you know it became quickly known as the Great War. The human cost was so great that virtually no community within Europe will have been untouched, some with losses too terrible to imagine. Swathes of Belgium and France lay in utter ruin, monarchies fell, and civil war broke out in Germany, joining that in Russia. All was compounded by the influenza pandemic which broke out in the war’s final months.
I have recently been reading parish magazines covering the whole period of the war, which gives an insight into the way in which our Cuckfield community was affected. Month by month we see profound change. March 1915 saw the question of lowering the school leaving age for boys from 14 to 13 so that they could work as agricultural labourers, and in November the people of Cuckfield sent 6 cwt. of apples, potatoes and other produce for the men of the Grand Fleet. Later in the war, the children of the school were taken out of lessons to harvest blackberries for the war effort (being paid for each lb of fruit collected), ‘News of the War’ turns into a ‘Roll of Honour,’ and although the December 1918 magazine records the end of the war, the ongoing cost also continued to be written about. Who could have imagined that just over twenty years later, another terrible conflict would consume the world, leading to even greater loss to the world?
This month, we particularly remember those who gave their lives in the First World War. So too we honour those in the subsequent Second World War, and all other conflicts in which our armed services have been and continue to be involved in. This honouring is important, as is our Christian call to remind the world that Jesus Christ gave himself for broken humanity to know the fulness of God’s love for each human soul. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, and we must never flag from our responsibility to seek to draw the world to know that in him is found true freedom and true peace.