A message delivered at Canmore and Exshaw Cenotaph services, Remembrance Day 2022 by Rev Greg Wooley
I’ve always found Remembrance Day to be meaningful, but the place where it really found a home deep within me, was in 1988, in the three small communities I served after ordination. In those towns and villages, particularly Wadena (population presently 1,300) there was a huge overlap between the Legion and the Church. Local merchants, teachers and farmers, first generation Canadians and those with much longer histories on that land, had gone to war four decades earlier, and values set in those days still shaped them, and the Church, and the town. A sizeable number of those folks were of Ukrainian ancestry, and have been particularly on my heart amidst the strife in their ancestral home.
In Wadena, there was an exceptionally high value placed on civic responsibility: doing things not just because they benefitted you and yours, but to serve a “greater common good”. So yes, you loved your family and yes, you had a special connection with farm families adjacent to you and yes, you had pride in your ethnic roots and your town and your Church. But it was clear that these things were always in a bigger container. So you raised funds for a care home to be built locally, even if your own parents had already retired to the city. You flipped pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, whether or not you were part of the Church sponsoring the event. And in the early 1940s, when your nation needed your service, you went, leading to a very large Legion in Wadena.
That approach to life – community service rather than self-service – was clearly embraced and understood there, and it among the things we hope and pray for here as we gather at the cenotaph. As we honour those who felt compelled to serve in the wars for the greater common good, we long for that day promised by God when weapons will fall silent. We remember all who have, by their words and actions, taught us about peace-making and community building, as we take up the responsibility for carrying those commitments forward. We recommit ourselves to a life built around selflessness, lifting up the needs of my neighbour even when that makes my own life a bit more challenging. We yearn for a world of peace and give thanks for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for peace, even as we pray for those in Ukraine and elsewhere who do not have peace in our day.
May all that we do here today and in the days that follow, honour those who have served and continue to serve, take up the cause of community service, and embody a desire for peace.
Friends, let us pray:
O God of the ages, we thank you for those valiant hearts, who at the call of Sovereign and country laid down their lives in the cause of freedom. We pray that we may uphold the torch entrusted to us so that their sacrifice may not have been in vain. Inspire us to service, and civility; unite the peace-loving people of all faiths and nations, in one holy purpose: let there be peace on earth, and let it begin here – with me, with us, with all. In the name of Christ, the prince of peace, we pray. Amen.