Dear Friends in Christ
E te whanau a te Karaiti
One hundred years ago today the great powers of Europe were on the brink of the "Great War". Historical evidence suggests that following the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, whilst some conflict between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Serbia was likely, no one expected what was about to occur; a war on a global scale which would cost the lives of over 20 million people over almost four and half years of fighting. I have been following a BBC Radio 4 documentary called "1914 Day by Day", a series exploring the news headlines of the pre-war period. It is interesting to note that even just a few days before the outbreak of war, the headlines concerned mostly the issues of Irish Home Rule and the plight of the Suffragettes.
The First World War was a despicable conflict, destroying lives and families all over the world, leaving few places untouched and still, even one hundred years on, many of us have some very vivid stories to share concerning how that period of history touched our own particular family. So many suffered and articles in this week's Church Times consider how the church responded to such suffering, especially through the work of the front-line chaplains. In 1914 there were just under 100 chaplains; by 1918 that figure was over 3500. Three received the Victoria Cross with the first being awarded at Gallipoli, 185 chaplains were killed and 40 taken prisoner. In addition to this, priests, ministers, pastors and lay folk of all denominations ministered to their ever-increasing grief- stricken congregations and populations whilst often having to manage their own sense of grief and loss as well, as they too lost sons, brothers and fathers.
Tomorrow is August 4th, it is the day we note the commencement of the First World War. For the next four years we will hear, see and be reminded of many things: the wasteful loss of life, the absurd decisions of some civilian and military leaders as well as many great acts of heroism and courage both on the home front and on the many other fronts. Tragically it never was "the war to end all wars", and today thousands suffer in a myriad of different war zones across the planet. Peace seems elusive but let us continue to strive for it as disciples of the Prince of Peace. Let us pray. We will remember them.
Blessings in His service,