Life, Healing, and Remembrance: 2 November

No posting last week either. This is becoming a fortnightly blog – unless you round up a few more readers.

Having written about tall Dutch women, a Bilston woman told me she had just grown taller. We had prayed together a couple of weeks previously following a trauma she had been through. She cried lots and felt Jesus touching her lovingly on her shoulder. After a couple of days she felt hugely lighter. ‘What’s happened to you?’ asked her friends at work. ‘You look like you’ve just won the lottery!’ She explained that she doesn’t usually believe tales of miraculous healing – as she recounted all the areas of her life, all the relationships which had changed for the better since that one time of prayer. She then stood up and pointed to the hem at the bottom of her trousers. ‘When I bought these a couple of months ago they were on the floor. Now they’re a good inch above it.’ Talk about weight lifting off people…

I have started wearing my white poppy alongside a new red one. Robing in Lichfield Cathedral on Sunday I saw fellow Clergy and Readers with red poppies on their preaching scarves. Should I join the public poppying? I mused with a Reader friend and pinned on my pair. Another Reader immediately greeted my red and white combination with delight. I think this was the only white poppy in the Cathedral for the Installation of the new Archdeacon of Walsall and the Reception of the new Bishop of Shrewsbury. One man asked where I was from, probably curious about the read and white. The Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, who stopped to talk with the Canon I was catching up with, clearly noticed the poppies but wisely chose to say nothing.

White poppies are produced by the Peace Pledge Union www.ppu.org.uk  The PPU began in 1936 out of the work of Dick Sheppard, famous Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. It was the pacifist Sheppard who, ironically, was responsible for the annual Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall:

‘On Armistice Day in 1923 Dick organised a mass meeting in Trafalgar Square as a National Call to Righteousness, which, although without official sanction, was broadcast. In 1925 he famously wrote to The Times in protest against a Victory Ball in the Albert Hall planned for the evening of Armistice Day: “A fancy dress ball on a vast scale as a tribute to the Great Deliverance which followed on the unspeakable agony of 1914-1918 seems to me not so much irreligious as indecent”. Such a stir was created that the Ball was postponed for a day and Dick was asked in its stead to lead a simple service, In Memory, at the Hall, in the presence of the King, the Prime Minister and other national figures. Later he scribbled on his own copy of the programme, “Of course Pacifism must be written into this”. That is the origin of the Festival of Remembrance now held on the evening before Remembrance Sunday but, with its drills and displays, it regrettably seems to have more of militarism than pacifism written into it.’ http://www.ppu.org.uk/ppu/dick.html

White poppies maintain the 1918 cry ‘Never again!’ Red poppies say ‘We will remember them.’ For me the two go very well together. The red poppy on its own says ‘We will remember them – and we are ready to do it all again.’ Again in Iraq. Again in Afghanistan. A majority of Britons want our soldiers out of Afghanistan. Order your white poppies now from the Peace Pledge Union http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/outlets.html

Roger Harper

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