This weekend I am amongst millions across the country remembering and honouring those who served and gave so much, even their lives, in armed conflict. Some, no longer able to leave home to be with others, will remember alone recalling someone dear to them. They and others may be in front of a television on Saturday evening. Others will be in the open air on Sunday morning, at the Cenotaph in London or at thousands of war memorials in villages and towns around the country. Still others will be in church as usual but the usual Sunday morning worship will have a special flavour of remembrance.
For some there are strong personal emotions much to the fore. There will be grief and painful memories sharpened about loved ones killed or maimed - scarred in mind and spirit as well as in body - a century ago or very much more recently. The enormity shocks us.
Here in Portsmouth it's the scale which moves me. On the seafront a vast imposing memorial records the names of thousands from the Navy who have died in conflict. The enormity is both shocking and moving. In St Albans where I previously lived and served, the Abbey parish does not have one war memorial but one for every street from which someone left for war and never returned. The tablet is sometimes on the very house in which the young man had grown up. And in a few streets the memorials have over the years been defaced or painted over, perhaps fearing that the reminder of war and death would detract from the sale value of the house.There the power is in the connection with home and place. In different ways this weekend is poignant.
Of course as the years pass since the First and Second World Wars, and the numbers of casualties in more recent conflicts has been smaller, the direct personal links are fewer. Which brings into sharp focus the importance of our collective remembrance this weekend. What we do is express our collective remembrance because it is a nation, society and community that we are grateful for all people who stand for peace, justice and truth. And the example of those who resist injustice when it is under fiercest attack is particularly significant. Their example is not only properly to be honoured, it also should be a stimulus for us. It's often those who have had the worst experience and suffered the harshest treatment, such as in the Holocaust, whose commitment to humanity is the strongest. Having seen and suffered the worst these people want to live the best of reconciliation.
My remembrance this weekend challenges me to recommit myself to pastoral (and sometimes political) engagement so that I act and speak for those who are victims of injustice or unfairness. That's something I can and must do in response to the destructiveness of war. It's an honouring of the commitment, love and service of those who served so bravely when freedom and justice were so blatantly set aside.
The passage that will be read in some churches this Sunday morning begins with Jesus' friend John the Baptist being arrested. Despite that cruel blow Jesus immediately encourages people to take the step of commitment and faith. For him an act of injustice and hatred was a stimulus, perhaps an inspiration for good. As I preach on those words this weekend in a parish in inner-city Portsmouth I shall pray with thanksgiving for the victims of oppression and hatred and for strength myself to speak and act for justice and good.
Christopher Foster is the Bishop of Portsmouth