St Bride's: News - Sermons of Two Cities

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St Bride's: News

Sermons of Two Cities

Sermons of Two Cities

Seven wreaths were laid on the altar steps by representatives of the following: Christopher Betterton, Rector & Churchwardens; Vyvyan Harmsworth (pictured), Associated Newspapers; Master David Allen, Worshipful Company of Stationers & Newspaper Makers; Master Richard Christou, Worshipful Company of Marketors; Terence Smith, Guild of Saint Bride; Rachel Corp, Members of the Media; a representative of the Royal Naval Association.

Death is inevitably sad, but remembering need not be so. For a Christian community, such as ours, it can be life enhancing, reaffirming our belief in humanitarian principles imbued with the spirit of Christianity.

In this light it is all the more potent that, uniquely, our church celebrated Remembrance Day with a pulpit exchange with the Protestant Evangelical Church of St Paul's in Lichterfelde, Berlin. While our Rector, the Rev'd Dr Canon Alison Joyce, preached in German at St Paul's, Pastor Barbara Neubert of St Paul's preached in English at St Bride's.

Barbara Neubert studied theology in Hamburg, where she was born, and Buenos Aires. She was ordained in 1999. Her parents used to speak English to each other when they did not want Barbara to understand what they were saying. She determined to learn English in order to understand this "secret language".

remembrance20_IanB.jpgIn her sermon, Pastor Neubert explained that there is no nationwide event in Germany to mark the end of the First World War. What was a celebratory end of the war for France and Great Britain was a humiliating event for Germany, for whom it marked the beginning of a harrowing era for Germany.

The First World War has been cast in the shadows by the Second World War, which Germans do remember deeply for its destruction, the number of lives lost and the horror of the Holocaust. (There is, however, a national day of mourning in Germany - Volkstrauertag. It commemorates victims of oppression and all those who have died in armed conflicts. It occurs two Sundays before the first day of Advent. )

Pastor Neubert elaborated her belief that we should embrace our differences; they should never be a barrier to living and working cohesively together. In tandem, in the interest of peace, we should "plant gardens, start families", seek prosperity.

"Peace breeds peace," she proclaimed. "Peace in the city," is her 'motto', inspired by passages from our first reading from Jeremiah: "Seek the welfare of any city to which I have exiled you... On its welfare your welfare will depend". The city is a metaphor for the world, one could suggest.

Also reflecting upon the first reading, Alison's sermon raised a most challenging and painful issue. Could we follow Jesus and fight violence without the sword, even if it is our loved ones who are the victims of warfare? For inspiration, she cites Jesus's declaration that " 'those who live by the sword, perish by the sword'." Can we wear the tyrannical down with our refusal to retaliate? she asks. Hopefully, Alison prays, acts of remembrance will move us to create a future in which brutality cannot prevail.

For Alison, the exchange was more than a symbol of 'hands reaching across the sea'. She remembers her grandfather who survived the trenches and her father who was held as a Prisoner of War in Germany for much of the Second World War. Read sermon→

remembrance24_IanB.jpgThe Orchestra of St Bride's accompanied the church choir in a stunning evocation of Duruflé's Requiem Mass. The music was inspired by chants from the Gregorian Masses for the Dead. It premiered in a memorial concert broadcast on French radio on All Souls' Day, 2 November 1947.

Duruflé dedicated the work to his father who had died in February of that year. Our ceremony included The Last Post, Reveille; and the laying of the wreaths. While Nina Bennet sang the Pie Jesu, there were few dry eyes in the pews.

Our verger, David Bolton, was proud to report that there were 240 adults in the congregation and 13 children under 16 years old, including Barbara's daughter, Anna; 140 people took communion. Many people stayed for refreshments afterwards. There was quite a queue waiting to welcome the Neuberts. 

Lest we forget that on Remembrance Sunday, in honour of our historic association with the printing industry and journalists, we also remembered in our prayers the nearly 240 journalists working for the Associated Press, The Times, The Telegraph and the News of the World who perished in the line of duty during both world wars. Words were their weapons.

remembrance56_IanB.jpgFor me, Remembrance Day was particularly meaningful. I grew up in New York City but I have lived all my adult life in London. On London's welfare my welfare depends. I am a journalist. My son, Patrick, lives in Berlin. He, too, is a journalist, one who has worked in war torn zones.

On Sunday, Patrick and Eliza, his girlfriend, were in the pews of St Paul's listening to Alison preach. "The fact that she was here today," Patrick told me, "is a testament to hope and to peace."

Photos courtesy of Ian Bozic

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