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Novel ways of remembrance

14 March 2014

ON THE eve of the commemoration of the death of Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, the military chaplain better known as "Woodbine Willie", the Church of England's Liturgical Commission has published resources to help churches mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Music, art, and literature, in addition to prayers and readings, make up the package, which includes material for use in a requiem eucharist, and an outline for a service beside a war memorial.

Among the novels and poetry suggested as sources for extracts are Pat Barker's Regeneration triology, and works by D. H. Lawrence, Sebastian Faulks, and Siegfried Sassoon.

Jerusalem and "I vow to thee, my country" are included in the list of suggested hymns. The Commission has also compiled a selection of music written during the First World War or deemed evocative of that period. It highlights poems from A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman, set to music.

Artists listed include Paul Nash, Jacob Epstein, and Stanley Spencer, whose creations for the Sandham Memorial Chapel were recently exhibited at Somerset House (Reviews, 17 January) and are now at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester until 15 June.

Prayers remember "those whose stories were unspoken and untold. . . those whose minds were darkened and disturbed by memories of war . . . those who suffered in silence, and those bodies were disfigured by injury and pain."

The chairman of the Commission, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, suggested that the Church of England had an "essential role" to play in commemorating the Great War: "Whether people like it or not . . . it was the Church of England, still very much in an older sense the Established Church, that was the holder of the national conscience at that point. But we still retain a crucial role as the Church for all English people."

National services are also planned, including a vigil service at Westminster Abbey on the evening of Monday 4 August, marking the 100th anniversary of Germany's declaration of war against Russia.

Woodbine Willie is remembered in the Anglican calendar on 8 March each year. He was a priest and poet who distributed cigarettes and spiritual succour to injured and dying soldiers during the First World War. In 1917, he was awarded the Military Cross after entering No Man's Land to help the wounded. His citation noted: "His cheerfulness and endurance had a splendid effect upon all ranks."

The resource pack is available at http://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/latest-updates/world-war-one-liturgy.aspx 

Woodbine Willie's grandson, Andrew Studdert Kennedy, is in conversation at the Church Times Bloxham Festival on 31 May. Tickets and information: www.bloxhamfaithandliterature.co.uk

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