Did not God create us all equal?
Rev Canon Chris Terry's introduction in Parish News
as published in Great Yarmouth Parish Life
used with permission
Just recently I have been reading the 1914 Parish magazines. They give a fascinating insight of a bygone age. The life of the clergy was clearly different with most taking a month’s holiday in August. There were references to other daughter churches long since gone. There were concerns about the international situation. What however was most interesting was the sense even in July 1914 that the summer would be the same as in those of the past. One curate was to take up a new post and would travel overseas on the Trans-Siberian railway and news of a new curate to join them. The September magazine recorded that the new curate had accepted a commission in the army but was expected to join the parish soon!
That world was blown away in the carnage of the First World War. This August we will mark the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of that war. Should we be marking this destruction or looking back to an age half remembered? That War that destroyed the lives of so many, transformed landscapes and national boundaries. More especially it destroyed many of the key understandings of society. In that sense we need to pause and reflect so that we may learn the lessons
I wonder what the various participants really thought as the world descended into the chaos. Did they envisage the mud and serried ranks of graves, of the cost of loved ones who would not return? Every nation will have a national epic of why the war was fought. Or did they see only selfish jingoistic patriotism. Might is right?
As we look at our world today perhaps we need to ask the question could it happen today? Looking at the Middle East it would be very easy to say yes it could simply because human beings have a really sad ability to judge others and exaggerate difference
Elsewhere in the magazine are details of the two services on the 3rd and 4th August that we will hold to mark the anniversary. I think that it is important that we do so because there is still much we can learn from the vents then. The German Theologian Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) speaking of the events of another war reflecting on the failure of the German Church before the war wrote:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
As we mark the 100th anniversary as Christians we should perhaps ask the question did not God create us all equal. Are the differences that we impute or deplore in others so important? St Paul writing to the Galatians was quite sure ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28)