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Martial imagery and the church

I’ve never been a big fan of martial imagery in the songs and hymns of the church.  It can all too easily confuse the spiritual battle with a physical one, and can introduce a kind of territorial instinct into the work of the church.  There are times, for instance, when I have sung the song above thinking all the while that the church may be “terrible”, but that this is not necessarily something to celebrate in a song! All of this unease means that when I was invited to attend a Regimental Dinner at the 160 Transport Regiment RLC this weekend I did so with some degree of trepidation. In the event, it was a delightful evening, and gave me cause to reflect on a number of aspects of church life:

Courtesy – as a civilian guest I was treated with the utmost warmth and courtesy. Furthermore, not the slightest eyebrow was raised at my ignorance of all things military and my failure to understand the importance of the various ranks in attendance. How’s your church welcome for the uninitiated?

Medals – the first part of the evening consisted of awarding medals to those whose service overseas had brought credit to the individuals concerned and honour to the Regiment.  This was not a cursory affair as it often is when we thank people in church – each was honoured for their specific contributions and the way in which they had been offered.

Common cup – at a certain point during the proceedings an enormous silver rose bowl of champagne was passed around the table and everybody drank from it.  Each guest, regardless of rank, seniority, age or experience shared the same cup  and drunk as much or as little from it as they wished. Does this sound at all familiar?

A moment of prayer – toasts offered around the table were  fairly predictable, and followed a well-rehearsed pattern of toasting the Queen, the Regiment’s Colonel and the guests.  However, the solemn moment when a request was made that a toast should be drunk to ‘the fallen’ in such a context was one I shall not quickly forget.


Plant a virtual poppy


For those who work in a church context, with its rituals and traditions (both outward and inward) it can be a profoundly good thing to enter another world steeped in tradition. My own experience was that it made me reflect on ‘my’ world differently. Not only that – but as I make my annual attempt to set the right tone for Remembrance Sunday it will still be in my my mind.

Richard Littledale

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