AT 10 p.m. on Monday 4 August, the lights in Westminster Abbey
will begin to be turned off. Gradually, the building will fall into
darkness, until just one candle remains, burning by the grave of
the Unknown Warrior.
At 11 p.m., that light will be snuffed out. It will then be
exactly 100 years since Britain joined the First World War.
This candlelit vigil at the Abbey is the centrepiece of national
commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the
conflict (Faith, 4 July).
Across the UK, local authorities, public buildings, and national
institutions will follow by turning off all their lights, except a
single candle, between 10 and 11 p.m. The commemoration, called
"Lights Out", is inspired by a remark attributed to the then
Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, shortly before Britain declared
war: "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see
them lit again in our lifetime."
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have approved a liturgy
published by the Abbey for churches to use when commemorating the
First World War. Archbishop Welby said: "The centenary of the
outbreak of the First World War raises a confusion of emotions and
memories. I encourage you to use the resources which Westminster
Abbey has prepared . . . to lift both the beautyand the agony of
that sacrifice to God."
The Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, said that the
centenary was a time to acknowledge and repent for the "failure of
the human spirit" which could not prevent the conflict through
diplomatic means. "The texts for the vigil in Westminster Abbey are
freely available for every church and worshipping community to
adopt or adapt," he said. "Alternatively, they can assemble for
worship and join the Abbey congregation via television."
The official cultural programme for the First World War
centenary commemorations, 14-18 NOW, has also commissioned four
pieces of public art as part of Lights Out. Each work begins with
the extinguishing of electric lights and the lighting of
Many other institutions and organisations, including the British
Library, the Football Association, the Imperial War Museum, and
Westminster Cathedral, have indicated that they will join the
commemorations next month.