A talk given at a service to mark the handover of the stewardship of the Regimental chapel from the Suffolk Regiment to the Royal Anglians, 1st September 2009
Thank you Brigadier Calder for your words;
And a big thank you to the members of the Suffolk Regiment for the way that you have helped and supported us to maintain this chapel (especially in the last few months as we have reroofed the building. And I look forward to continue working with you and now with the Royal Anglians.
We have just said, ‘We will remember them’
And we say that because we want to say: you mattered and you still matter; what you did mattered; the sacrifice you made mattered.
And yet it is hard to remember. There are some memories we would love to remember, and we just can’t get them.
There are some memories that we would far rather forget. (Some of us will have watched Wuthering Heights last night: Heathcliffe could not forget Cathy, and as a result he ended up destroying other people and himself) There are times when we say, ‘We will remember’, and we forget. People sometimes say to me after they have been bereaved: ‘I didn’t think of them today, and I feel so guilty’.
And even if we do remember - with all the prompts that we have: the colours, the memorials, the grave stones, the names on chairs, the records, the photographs – death, tide and time will erode those memories, and they will be lost.
I remember hearing one person tell of how he found himself in a village on the South Coast. There was a memorial to some Norwegian commandos who had died in the First World War. The memorial said, ‘We will always remember what you have done’. Intrigued, he asked around, ‘What did they do?’ Nobody remembered.
And so it is good to have a place where we can bring memories – individual memories, collective memories - and place them. And that is one of the roles of this chapel: a bank for memories. We place our memories in one of the most permanent and stable buildings that we can think of.
But even these buildings will one day crumble and fall. (I trust not under my watch!)
But in choosing to place their memories in a chapel, our forefathers and mothers were not simply looking for a permanent building. They were also symbolically placing their memories in the hands of a person – the person on whom this building depends.
We are saying as we come here, not actually ‘We will remember them’, because that is both impossible and a burden that none of us could carry, but ‘He will remember them’.
Because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died and rose again; because he is the Son of God – he is bigger than time and bigger than death. And because he knows all things, and because he cares: ‘Not a sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge’, he can remember
He remembers them: they matter; who they were, what they did.
He remembers you: you matter and what you do
But it is more than entrusting their memory into his hands. Just as today is about a mini death and resurrection, and just as this building is established on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so our reading talks about the future resurrection: it talks about that day – which is beyond our imagination – of the death of the universe as we know it, and the establishing of a new universe, a new heaven and earth – when Jesus will bring with him all who in this world are prepared to trust in God, all who are prepared to love him and humble themselves before him and receive his love and forgiveness, who are God-dependent, who seek with his help to become good and noble and true and peace-loving, and to grow in love.
So thank you so much for your support and love and care of this building, but may I urge us all – Royal Anglians, Suffolks – to seek not only the welfare of a building, but to seek the one to whose glory this building was established – the one into whose hands we can ultimately entrust our memories, our loved ones and our own future and destiny.