FROM THE ARCHIVES
As we look to the future here at St Giles, it does us no harm to also reflect on the past, so here is another of our series of extracts from parish newsletters of the past. This letter was written in November 2000 by The Revd. Richard Haggis, Associate Rector.
Please to remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We know no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot
Bonfire Night falls on the first Sunday of the month, and these days I doubt whether very many of those who go to fireworks parties pause to think about the terrible damage done by religious conflict amongst our ancestors so long ago. What is principally remembered is that Guy Fawkes wanted to blow up Parliament, and I recall the astronomer Patrick Moore saying on Any Questions? on the radio once, “Where is Guy Fawkes now we need him?”
November for Christian people is a month for remembering. It begins with All Saints Day when we recall the witness and faith of our forebears in the faith, thinking especially of those giants whose teaching guided the church, and whose witness, sometimes even to death, was an example and encouragement in time of persecution. On the 2nd we keep All Souls’ Day, a lesser feast in which we are invited to remember with thanksgiving all the departed, especially those we have known and loved. Then we have Remembrance Sunday when we call to mind those who have lost their lives in war, and in the immense damage done to the lives of these left bereaved, wounded and mentally scarred.
Remembering is a vital aspect of being human. which is why the motto “forgive and forget” is such an insidious one. Forgive, yes, Jesus told us seventy times seven times, but never forget. We have a duty to lean from the past. Those who have lived through the horror of was have a duty to tell us about it, and we have a duty to understand what went wrong. In the same way, it would be a tragedy if those who have died are simply forgotten by those who loved them. To remember is to honour.
This remembering is not always easy. Sometimes it can be very hard for those who have suffered to dredge up memories which can still cause them pain, but it can often help to establish the truth, and the truth is what sets us free. This is one of the wise things about the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, which set about the immensely difficult task of trying to get the people to tell the truth about the past, so that the future could be built more honestly. Christian people are also called to tell the truth about themselves, principally to God, in the various forms of self-examination and confession. The awareness may make us remember our own failures and inadequacies, but it also makes still clearer the love and compassion in which God holds us. The remembering's of November can help us to understand that all things are in the hand of God, and whilst in the past, with its griefs and losses, cannot be changed, it can be redeemed.