A month from today is 11/11 – Veteran’s Day in the USA, Remembrance Day in several other countries; originally Armistice Day, commemorating the end of the Great War (WW1) in 1918. This year is the centenary of the Armistice and the institution of this multi-national state holiday. And it falls on a Sunday!
Normally state holidays like this do not take precedence over the regular Sunday Propers (Collect & Lessons), though in England, I believe Remembrance Day is big enough to observe on Sunday. Given the special timing of this particular November 11th, however, it struck this small-church Vicar as an opportune moment to break the usual rules of precedence in our Calendar and plan to celebrate Armistice Day on Sunday 11/11. And yes, I got my Bishop’s permission to do this!
If you have veterans in your congregation, as I do, this could be a very special opportunity to honor and minister to them. That’s why this article is entitled a “special pastoral-liturgical opportunity.” How can you implement this in your church? Let us count the ways:
- Go all-out and use the Collect & Lessons for Remembrance/Veteran’s/Memorial Day (copied below).
- Reference poetry contemporary with the War such as Dulce et Decorum est or For the fallen.
- Reference the origin of Veteran’s Day in the USA.
- Include hymns such as the second stanza of I vow to thee my country, or Faith of our fathers! or God bless our native land or In Christ there is no East or West or O God of earth and altar or even Silent Night (referencing the Christmas Day Armistice of 1914, and providing a haunting double meaning to the phrase “sleep in heavenly peace”).
- Browse the Church of England’s vast collection of resources surrounding their observance of this day for other bits and bobs you might incorporate locally.
There are so many directions this observance can go: the noble call of patriotic service to one’s country, the devastating idolatry of nationalism run wild, commemorating the departed (not unlike All Soul’s Day back on November 2nd), praying for our current service-men and -women and veterans. For sure, do what makes sense for your congregation! But it strikes me as a very special opportunity to seize.
Collect and Lessons in Texts for Common Prayer
O King and Judge of the nations: We remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our armed forces, who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy; grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, now and forever. Amen.
Wisdom 3:1-9, Psalm 121, Revelation 7:9-17, John 11:21-27 or 15:12-17
NOTE: the reading from Revelation is also an option for All Saints’ Day, so if you go for this commemoration be aware that you might end up with the same Epistle lesson twice in a row unless you plan carefully.