TO PURSUE forgiveness and reconciliation is to “salute” those who served and died in the Second World War, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a video message to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day last Friday.
The Archbishop said that there were “two great tributes” that should be paid to “the 1945 generation”.
“The first tribute is to remember reconciliation. From 1945 until this day, we have improved our relationship with our former enemies and they are now friends. . . And yet the horror of war persists. In these last weeks, the United Nations’ Secretary General has called for a global ceasefire and, to many people’s surprise, in many places, that has been followed.
“To establish forgiveness and reconciliation is a salute to those who by their hope-filled service made our today possible.”
He continued: “The second tribute is to hold on to hope. Hope kept courage alive from 1940 to 1945. Hope was expressed in the National Day of Prayer, hope shows in our determination to build a better, fairer, more Christ-like world and country — a country built in justice, peace, and generosity, as we are united before the threat of the virus and united by the courage of medical staff and carers as well as so many more essential workers. . .
“Today, we can honour the sacrifice that gave us victory in 1945 by deciding for reconciliation to deepen and widen, and by embracing hope to flow like a river, carrying us to a brighter future.”
Cathedrals, charities, and churches across the UK marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day in spite of the cancellation of the public gatherings, large and small, originally planned under the VE Day 75 umbrella for last weekend. They sounded various notes of celebration, reconciliation, remembrance, and repentance.
Participants in a virtual street party, The Big Picnic for Hope, shared food and pictures of themselves online and raised money for the foodbanks run by the Trussell Trust. More than 20 cathedrals supported the initiative (News, 1 May).
The exteriors of Lincoln and Guildford Cathedrals were illuminated in red, white, and blue.
Sheffield Cathedral joined in the Big Picnic For Hope to raise money for the Cathedral Archer Project, a homelessness charity in Sheffield.
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, preached at an online service put on by Ripon Cathedral last Friday.
“Any community, church, nation, that forgets its memory becomes senile,” Dr Sentamu said. “Memory, remembrance, binds us to all those who have gone before us and helps us to rely on the strength we have inherited from all who were tested with unimaginable hardships and still survived.”
On Sunday, the Bishop to the Forces, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, led a service in commemoration of VE Day service, broadcast on 39 BBC local radio stations.
In his sermon, Bishop Thornton said that the experience of living through the coronavirus pandemic was “surprisingly similar” to that of living through the Second World War. “VE Day did not bring about an instant end to war,” he said. “There is much work to be done as fighting ends to bring about reconciliation. We need to be strengthened to continue our fight now.”
In Coventry, which was twinned with Dresden after both cities and their cathedrals had been devastated during the war, an online reconciliation service was held at midday on Friday by the Dean, the Very Revd John Witcombe, joined by members of the Community of the Cross of Nails, a network of centres of reconciliation, around the world.
The Priest-in-Charge of St Mark’s, Pennington, in Hampshire, the Revd Rachel Noel, led a “Stay at Home Street Party” on YouTube that included singalongs, readings, and prayers involving children from neighbouring Church of England schools.
All Souls Orchestra, based at All Souls’, Langham Place, in central London, recorded a version of Psalm 46 to the tune of Eric Coates’s Dambusters March. Its broadcast online on Saturday was dedicated to veterans of the war, and to key workers who are helping in the battle against Covid-19.
Before VE Day, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) said that celebrations would glorify conflict, and that an emphasis on flags, bunting, and tea parties was an insult to the 60 million people who died in the war. The PPU observed the national two minutes’ silence at 11 a. m. last Friday, but said that it would also mark International Conscientious Objectors’ Day online at noon today.
Its Remembrance Project Manager, Geoff Tibbs, said: “Seventy-five years on, the anniversary of VE Day is a time for mourning and reflection rather than national celebration. The best way to honour the memory of the dead is to work to prevent war and the causes of war today. The global Covid-19 pandemic reminds us that people around the world have the same needs. We can only solve our problems by working together across borders.”