We have seen a number of creative commemorations of the First World War in this Centenary Period and there are others planned during these remaining two years. St. Mary’s Church in Gravesend put on a Festival of Light at the end of January. It was particularly relevant for the season of Epiphany but it’s a great idea to be shared and adapted for other times of the year. The Vicar of St. Mary’s, Revd. Trudi Oliver, explains what it was all about.
WW1 was supposed to be that epiphany moment. The moment in history when we all said, ‘enough. This can’t happen again’ – but it did. At the end of this season of Epiphany we came together to hear readings and prayers, to remember the past, reflect on the present and look to the future with the hope and light of Christ in our eyes and our hearts.
Our evening started with the church in semi darkness. The idea was that by the end of the evening the church would be flooded with colour and light symbolising the light that Christ has brought to our fallen world.
The evening was divided into three parts. The first was an act of remembrance for all those who gave their lives in the First World War. We heard poems written by soldiers and their wives. This led onto a response of lighting candles shaped like poppies to bring the hope, light and peace into all war-torn areas of our world.
The second part was a focus on children, particularly those affected by war in Aleppo, Damascus and Gaza. Each poem read was written by a child from those areas and read by a young person from St Mary’s church. Again, we responded by lighting the word ‘empathy’ and writing our thoughts and prayers on hearts.
The third and final part was about the Magi, the Christ child and the word made flesh. It was about hope, peace, love and joy that only Christ can bring. We heard poems and prayers that reflected this and responded again by lighting candles and placing white flowers into a cross.
When we turned after this last station we could see how the church had changed from darkness to light.
We ended with a WW1 Lyons café experience in the church hall, where the wonderful ladies of St Mary’s had not only provided a fabulous feast, but had decorated the hall with bunting and dressed themselves as waitresses who worked in the J. Lyons Co tea shops and cafés in London, later to be known as ‘nippies’.
The event was held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of WW1 and to raise money for the Coventry Cross of nails community.
Thank you to the support of St Mary’s congregation and the surrounding churches.
We hope to repeat this festival of light next year with a different theme. Watch this space!