Rev Christopher Collins, Trustee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, shares his thoughts, dis-ease, and prayers for VE Day 75
If I’m honest, the upcoming VE Day commemorations had largely slipped me by, buried under Covid-19 life and ministry. Lockdown means it will feel like any other day. This changed when someone asked me what the church was doing to celebrate VE Day. My dis-ease of doing anything was greeted with shock. “We should do something” I was counselled, “because that’s where the zeitgeist is.”. Buoyed by the prospect of homemade bunting and socially distanced street parties, it seems to be the implied that it will keep our spirits up as lockdown continues.
I’m not comfortable with the idea of “celebrating” because I am not convinced we are sure about what it is we are celebrating. If it’s a moment in history then is it because we vanquished our enemy? If so we should remember that history is written by the victor, therefore it feels insensitive to the memories of the millions who were killed in the conflict no matter which uniform – or non – they wore. If we celebrate our military prowess in battle, it suggests that invasion and combat are always the ways we should settle our international disputes. We parade our troops and hardware but where do we celebrate our non-violent reconcilers who bring conflicts to an end? It’s only been a few weeks since the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday agreement in 2018 largely passed us all by, without its own bank holiday to mark that creation of peace.
If we are honest with ourselves, do we live differently because of VE Day? Or is our human nature still drawn into the ways of living that rake the seed bed of conflict: our distrust of other nations (perhaps even more so now because of Covid-19), our covetousness of what other people have, greed which exploits, our indifference to refugees and homeless and our pride which leads us trust in ourselves.
For me, stepping back from sepia toned celebrations and, instead, turning to prayer is a more appropriate way of marking VE Day. I am going to pray for peace. My go to prayer for peace is Coventry Cathedral’s “Litany of Reconciliation”. This prayer, formed in the ashes of a cathedral flattened by bombing, puts the seedbed rake in our hands. It does not ask God to forgive “them”, but to forgive us all because we are all complicit at some level. It reminds me, in the litany of prongs to the rake, that the way I can attend to peace-making is to take care of the hatred, covetousness, greed, envy, indifference, lust and pride which builds in me. Only then can we challenge the world around us and build real and lasting peace.
So, today, I will be pausing and leading others in praying the litany recognising our continuing need for peace 75 years after VE Day.
Coventry Cathedral Litany of Reconciliation:
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you