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Poppies & Remembrance Again

November 10, 2008

poppy_square1Some will know that the wearing of the poppy on Remembrance Sunday has been an issue that I have wrestled with for years and years (see here and here). Not having been brought up to the tradition, my earliest encounters with it were in the context of the sectarian divisions of NI. When I started worshipping at a Presbyterian Church, there were the added accretions of a national anthem, ex-servicemen and campaign medals.

I’ve been through the negative reaction when I stopped attending church on Remembrance entirely (but if I’m honest this ‘protest’ carried not a little of my own prejudices). Later, under the influence of my wife, I stayed away but watched the broadcast service from the cenotaph in London, but grew increasingly uncomfortable with the glorification of militarism. Then I started attending church again, but no poppy, until finally last year I wore the poppy for the first time in my life.

Finally coming round to attendance at church on Remembrance and the wearing of the poppy was my response to the growing realisation in the South of our own First World War history, though I still did it reluctantly, and I still strongly object to the singing of a national anthem in Church.whitepoppy2

Anyway, this year it came around again, its approach marked by the growing proliferation of poppy-wearing in East Belfast, and at last Sunday’s homecoming parade I was very conspicuous for not having a red splash of colour on my chest.

But this morning I wore a white poppy, whose story can be found here. It was scrabopower’s call for interest that finally persuaded me.

My wife wore the white alongside the red, quite independently from but for the same reasons as Virtual Methodist incidentally. My son wore one, my daughter carried one, and I wore mine.

And the good Lord has a sense of humour. For the first time in uncountable ages I was asked to help lift the offering, which involved having to walk up the central aisle of the church and, after the thanksgiving, leave the offering on a table. I had to walk up and stand beside one of the veterans, complete with campaign medals, who had led the Act of Remembrance.

More Later.

From → Reflection

  1. I thought it interesting that you mention disliking the singing of the national anthem in church. I too have a strong dislike for this. When I was young we were in a church program where we pledged allegiance to the American Flag and the Christian Flag and then the Bible. It was a really weird idea looking back on it.

  2. I have never been able to reconcile myself with the singing of the national anthem in church. In our church it’s deliberately after the benediction to seperate it from the worship, but that’s a very fine hair to split.

    While Remembrance is an important event and custom for our society, and while the Church should definitely be involved in that kind of common act and experience, I’m not a huge fan of how we do it.

    I thought about the white poppy this year, but am wary of the chance of causing offence – especially in our church where there are many serving and past soldiers (and many RUC and PSNI, also, which increases the fervour here), and a significant number of fallen who are remembered. I decided not to because it felt a little too close to protest, or could at least be understood as such, and yesterday morning wasn’t the time or place for that.

    I did wear a red poppy. It was pinned to my lapel before I got out of the car at church, and it was removed when I got back into the car after the service. My motivation was a mix of still wanting to mark the occasion – because it is important, whatever my feelings on the from of celebration – and just wanting to keep my head down.

    I didn’t think of wearing both. That’s a position that appeals to me.

  3. Greg permalink

    Powerful, thanks for sharing. We do not have a similar symbolism here. But, this many years after our Vietnam fiasco a friend of mine was still berated last year for wearing shoes with peace signs on them. Her Bible study group was appalled that she did not immediately recognize it as a symbol of the devil. Wicked stuff peace. I appreciate your honest searching for your own position of integrity. peace

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