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 Commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of WW1

Commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of WW1
The Right Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham Took part in a Drumhead service and commemoration at the Metrocentre, Gateshead  yesterday to mark 100 years since the outbreak of hostilities in WW1. The service lead by Metrocentre Chaplain Revd Lyn Jamieson with a sermon from Bishop Paul was attended by staff and shoppers at the regions largest shopping centre on the day that marked the centenary of the start of WW1. The themes’s from Bishop Paul’s sermon included: What are we doing today as we commemorate the outbreak of what was seen as The War to End All Wars – the Great War – yet what became within only just over 20 years ‘The First World War’? Well we know that on this day no one thought they had 4 ½ years of war ahead of them. No one realised the horrors that lay ahead, or the size of number of those who would be killed or maimed for life. No one realised how deeply it would change our social fabric. On this day everyone thought it would be over by Christmas. On this day people were even excited at the prospect. Take W N Hodgson:

‘Sons of mine I hear you thrilling To the trumpet call of war; Gird ye then I give you freely As I give your sires before, All the noblest of the children I in love and anguish bore’

Or Rupert Brooke

‘Now God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour, And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping…’

  How very different years later when Wilfred Owen wrote:

‘What passing bells for those who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns’

  Or Siegfried Sassoon’s:

‘Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear, They leave their trenches, going over the top, While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists, And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists, Flounders in mud. O Jesus make it stop!’


 Bishop Paul with Revd Lyn by the poppy chandelier in the Metrocentre

Bishop Paul with Revd Lyn by the poppy chandelier in the Metrocentre
So what are we doing in commemorating the outbreak of this horrific war? REMEMBERING

  • 16 million killed
  • 21 million wounded
  • 37 million total casualties

Remembering what happened – and why 888,246 British dead millions injured and bereaved. My memory of Grandad Butler – trench digger – mustard gas – silence. We remember – lest we forget – for if we do we never learn. RESPECTING

  • Those who gave their lives
  • Those who were scarred for ever
  • Those who served at home – miners, shipbuilders, women in factories and other jobs, children as defence volunteers.


  • On humanities capacity for evil
  • On humanities capacity for sacrifice
  • On learning from the sleepwalking into conflict
  • On God on the midst of anguish
  • On commitments to being peacemakers

Peace-making takes work. Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’

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