We’re everywhere and in almost every church that is older than 50 or 60 years old. We are framed, sometimes dusted, other times not. We line your walls as silent witness to the many years that have passed. Memories, vibrant still, yet often dormant.
We are dated, often 1914-18 and 1939-45. In some places, we commemorate other events, such as the Boer War or Spanish Civil War. The older the date, the less likely women are named. As time moves forward, plaques begin to bear men and women’s names in such conflicts as the Korean War or honour those who have worn Blue Berets and have felt called to respond to duty because of 9/11.
We are soundless sentinels, each reflecting time now passed and likely, should you ask, revealing understandings different than yours. Whether we saw the advent of artillery and weapons that made obsolete animals in war or flew in fortresses that were scoured with flak or stood stalwart in the face of armoured machines that carry nuclear dread, our names are etched upon our – your – walls.
You may not agree with our choices; you may think we did too little or too much. In the places from which we never returned to a mother’s tear, a lover’s embrace, a friend’s mirth or a father’s quivering lip, we remember. We remember that the choices that drove us were for the opportunity for you to move forward – to move on without us, unfettered to listen to the Spirit and follow her through uncertainty and doubt, question and certitude.
We know we would not understand much of the way you hold Holy Scripture now. Whether about same sex marriage, our role as Settler or Colonisers. Ideas about consumerism and climate change might leave us scratching our heads – uncertain how that connects with the ministry you have continued since we left.
But we want to be clear, we want you to hear this, that we do not understand does not make you wrong, it does not mean we judge. If anything, that we do not understand, stands as testament as to our choice to do the unspeakable.
In many cases, in fact maybe all (if we might be so bold), none of us wanted to die, need alone take another sacred life that was shaped and formed by God. Though we may have wrestled, even wept with choices and tensions that had no resolution, we did so because we wanted you be safe and have the liberty to think new thoughts, do new things, to awaken to wisdom. Whenever we left, when the world seemed to be going crazy, we decided we had to go to places from which we might not return, places where in trenches dark and long, wet and festering, we might do things of which we never thought we were capable.
Wisdom: it grows.
- We pray in the freedom you have, it allows you to imagine ways to ensure no more lives might be dishonoured by violence and war.
- We sincerely hope that our unspoken places in your sanctuaries and hall nurture you to address the wrongs you have realised we have made and to embrace the blessings you have bestowed.
- We stand, ever watching, and yearn for you to know, not in just your thinking, but in your very feeling, your very being, that you are not alone in the healing of Creation.
- We are grateful to offer our testament to the paradox of the joy and tears that arise for each generation that struggles and embraces sharing the Good News.
The generations will come and go and change shall be your constant companion. As we witness silently to your unfolding, Creator abides …