Rector's Letter - November 2017
You will know the old rhyme about the 1605 plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament: ‘Remember, remember, the 5th of November, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot. We see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.’ The remembrance of that event has quite a history! From1606, the King and Parliament commissioned an annual sermon to remember the event: the Gunpowder Plot Sermons. Thankfully, Common Worship today does not require we preach on it and denounce popish practices, or celebrate torture and killing associated with the event! But society has kept the tradition of burning a guy on the bonfire, an effigy of Guy Fawkes: something that has become so far removed from the burning of an actual human being that we mostly do it without thinking too hard. This dates to 1605, when people in London lit bonfires to celebrate the survival of James 1 in the attack, and it soon became law, in the ‘Observance of 5th November Act’, an annual public day when thanksgiving was given for the plot’s failure.
Interestingly, after history turned again, and King Charles l was executed in 1649, the state tried to tone events down, but formal celebrations resumed on the accession of King Charles 11. After violent scenes in London in 1682, fireworks and the lighting of bonfires were banned, but in reaction, people lit candles in their windows, and soon the celebrations started up again. It was not until 1859 that the Observance of the 5th November Act was finally repealed, and the celebrations became what they are today.
Memory and remembrance and remembering things is a complex business! Atrocities, plots and terrorist attacks abound, and still today a completely understandable response is to remember in a way that allows anger to flare into hatred and then set hard into bitterness. Anyone who has been touched or affected by such an event personally needs much support to deal with reaction and response, and it is too easy for someone who hasn’t been affected to insist people have to ‘let go’ of how their remembrance of it has impacted them.
And yet… we know that at some point, the holding onto anger, hatred, bitterness, eats up the person who suffers it. Counselling, support, can help work through whatever suffering has been experienced, in a way that helps the person to begin to move on. It is not that memory fades, but the way in which these things are remembered can change: we hold them rather than letting them holding us. Such things do mark us, and it is right they are not forgotten. In the way a scar marks a wound, these things become part of us and change us, but they do not have to control us.
November is a month of remembrance in the church calendar in many different ways, but a very different kind of remembrance to the anger and violence which fuelled the bonfires of November the 5th.
At the beginning of November we keep ’All Saints and All Souls’, where we remember and celebrate the saints who have gone before us, and All Souls, when we commemorate the dead. We keep the latter of these in our Memorial Service on Sunday 5th November at 4.30pm. This year it is being held for all the benefice at Amberley Church. We look forward to welcoming you to this special service, where we remember our loved ones: see our notice about it in this edition of the magazine.
And Sunday 12th November is Remembrance Sunday, with special morning services at Amberley, Box and Minchinhampton. Another remembering – with gratitude for those who have given their life through conflict to save our own lives and bring peace.
Do come and join us for each of these special rememberings: you would be most welcome.
With best wishes,