Last week we found my husband’s great-grandad. Well OK, we know where he was, but not where he had been remembered. We’d been looking in the wrong place. He wasn’t where the family always thought he should be, he was where he belonged. He was back where he was born!
It’s a long story, involving WWI, illness, death and burial on a Greek island just before Armistice Day, a family settled in Cornwall, and a story which suggested his name had never been included on a war memorial anywhere except in the Greek cemetery where he lies. But thanks to the skills of local historian Peter Tipton with whom I was working on material about Eversley and Darby Green and www.livesofthefirstworldwar.org, we now know he’s remembered in the place of his birth, Langport in Somerset, and that one of his brothers and some nephews we never knew existed also fought in and survived the war!
If you’re interested in the lives of those from Eversley who served in World War I, I can thoroughly recommend visiting the website and typing ‘Eversley’ into the search facility. You may also like to search for your own family members, and discover things about them you may never have known.
Knowing the history of our family and community can help us to find a sense of belonging. For some people, place is the most important thing: remaining connected to the place in which you were born or where you now live might be significant for some; I know it is for me. For others, family is vitally important to who we are, because it has shaped our character and interests more. Connections to people, and places, help us link ourselves to others. These connections remind us that we are here because of the actions of others. This (hopefully!) may elicit feelings of gratitude. More importantly it may challenge how we behave as individuals. In a tumultuous world, what things can we do to build peace and reconciliation between individuals and nations?
This year’s Remembrance Day ‘belongs’ at a certain time. It is very fitting that we will remember the loss of life in all conflicts exactly 100 years since the Armistice Day on 1918: at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. Those who have died in WWI and many conflicts since, belong in our memories and that of a nation which has survived in part thanks to their sacrifice. Our tribute to their loss belongs in the images of poppies that we will see and wear, in the ringing of church bells proclaiming peace, and in the silence which testifies to national, local and family tragedies that are beyond words.
As we remember those who belonged in our community and among our family, perhaps we will consider where we belong, and ponder how this sense of belonging may help a sense of us belonging to God. God did not create us to toil through dangerous battlefields, suffer unimaginable horrors, or sacrifice our lives for anything other than the freedom of others, and that rarely. Because God knows this, he made the ultimate sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ, on a cross, for our freedom; a freedom that includes the choice of whether or not we accept the love that lies behind that sacrifice. God’s love is offered freely, not imposed on us like some process of conscription; instead we continue to have the choice to belong to the one who came as the Prince of Peace and as the hope for a better future.
You are warmly invited to join us in this year’s Act of Remembrance at 10.50am on Sunday 11th November around Eversley’s War Memorial, at the foot of the cross that stands in St. Mary’s churchyard. The service will then continue in church afterwards. Perhaps in that place, in those people, or in the sacrifice of Jesus, you too may find where and how you belong to God.