By Jonathan McLeod
On Tuesday November 7, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church is presenting a public lecture featuring Tim Cook of the Canadian War Museum and Dominique Boulais of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Titled Honouring the Sacrifices of our Veterans and War Dead, the free event will examine how our nation has commemorated the veterans and war dead from the First World War.
Both the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Canadian War Museum work to preserve and commemorate the stories and lives of those lost to war.
The Commission is dedicated to marking and maintaining the graves of those who served in the armed forces of Commonwealth nations and who died in the two world wars. They build and maintain memorials, and maintain records and registers of the war dead.
The War Museum’s mission is to preserve and educate the public about understanding of Canada’s military history in its personal, national and international dimensions.
This presentation at St. Andrew’s Church will focus on how Canada commemorated those Canadians who fought and died in the First World War throughout the decades between the First and Second World War.
War can be a difficult subject for a church and a society desiring peace. Just as religions speak of seeking peace, so too does our nation. Canada has long since embraced the concept of peacekeeping as an elemental purpose of our military. We don’t seek war. We actively try to avoid it or suppress it. Going to war demonstrates a breakdown—a failure—in diplomacy.
Nonetheless, we must remember. We must commemorate those who died in war.
Remembrance of those who served and those who have died is an integral part of St. Andrew’s existence. Walking into the sanctuary, you will see illuminated plaques listing members of the church who fought and died in Canada’s major military endeavours.
The most striking feature of the sanctuary is the Memorial Window. The largest of all the church’s stained glass windows, it presides over the sanctuary, commemorating the lives of those who have fought and died in service of fellow people. It acknowledges the sacrifices of the past and points towards a hopeful future of the triumph of humanity.
Every November, St. Andrew’s offers a Service of Remembrance. On the Sunday prior to Remembrance Day, activities of remembrance honouring people who served (whether they came home or not) are incorporated into the regular Sunday service.
Children adorn a white cross with poppies. Prayers for peace and healing are offered. The music and the bible readings are chosen to underscore the solemnity of the service. Last Post, a moment of silence, Reveille—it is a powerful experience.
This continuing remembrance is what St. Andrew’s hopes to achieve and perpetuate with the upcoming public lecture.
Admission for Honouring the Sacrifices of our Veterans and War Dead is free, and the event begins at 7:00 PM. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is located at 82 Kent Street, at the corner of Wellington. Wheelchair access is available via the entrance at 84 Kent Street.