From the Revd Leslie Lawrence
Sir, - A few weeks ago, the press had pictures of a phalanx of
police ringing Westminster Abbey to prevent protesters violating
the green adjacent to the building. What a contrast to the memorial
service shown on TV on 4 August, commemorating the beginning of the
First World War! No need here for the police to keep people away: I
fear the service may have done the job for them.
I found the Abbey service quite unsettling. It purported to
speak for the nation, at least in part, but I have to say that I
found it otherwise.
There were prelates and a cardinal, a former Chief of the
Defence Staff, a cabinet minister, and celebrities aplenty. A
baroness snuffed a candle, as did a Lord Lieutenant or some such.
We had the ministrations of the Chaplain-General of the Army, too.
All very worthy folk; but where were the "ordinary" people?
Where was the army chaplain back from his or her third tour of
duty in such places as Afghanistan? Where was the squaddie who had
seen his mates torn to pieces before his eyes? Where were the
nurses and therapists? In short, where were the "ordinary" people?
I am sure they were there somewhere, but well hidden.
The material used followed what I consider a similarly élitist
pattern. There was some wonderful poetry, but much of it would have
been all but incomprehensible to a great many in the cosmopolitan
Greater London town of Feltham where I worship and minister in
And the music: I found much of it wonderful, but again doubt
that many I minister to daily would have thought likewise. During a
long interregnum, I have conducted more than 150 funerals and
memorial services. By far the most popular music to speak to the
bereaved, and which they have chosen for themselves, would be that
sung by the late Eva Cassidy. Listen to her "Songbird" and "Over
the Rainbow", and you will see what I mean, and why they chose it.
Where was the music that spoke for the majority?
We are told that the general population is remote from our
politicians. As our churches empty, I fear the same thing may be
happening to us, if the Abbey memorial service is anything to go
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