Old favourites or new awkwardness?

The service I attended for today (Remembrance Sunday) made me think : when you have civic /special occasion services (Remembrance, Christmas, etc) that are likely to be attended by people who don't darken the doors of the church at any other times of the year, how much challenge/new stuff do you mix with giving them what they expect from the service?
How do you square getting the Christian message across with not making them so uncomfortable/embarrassed that they never come again?
My experience today :I am, by temperament and upbringing, a MOTR Anglican but the parish church I have attended for the last twenty years is much further down the candle, evangelical and increasingly non liturgical. It thrives with a growing congregation largely made up of former non-conformists (if I may use that as an umbrella term) and new (often via Alpha) Christians. However, as the parish church, we play host every year to the Remembrance Sunday parade service where the town brass band leads the uniformed organisations in marching through the town to the church, the brass band plays for the hymns during the service and then the last post at the war memorial in the churchyard. Usually unchanging from year to year. But this year the worship band led two songs in middle :an action one and a Hillsong thing. I don't think they aided the worship as the unchurched scouts etc wouldn't have known them anyway. I could only see the British Legion old boys who were resolutely motionless throughout. Personally I think it is perfectly legitimate for the sermon to be challenging but not to embarrass people with action songs (particularly in a service that is not primarily for kids). I accept that my antipathy to such songs is probably clouding my judgement, but what do you think?
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Comments

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Well I wouldn’t have done an action song. ISTM that is no more appropriate for a Remembrance Service than it would be for a funeral.
  • Is the Parade Service instead of the usual service or in addition?

    If instead of the usual service then maybe have one Hillsong if you absolutely must, but to achieve what?

    If the Parade service was in addition then it is not on for a decision to be made to bolt something else onto the act of civic, parish and community remembrance: no Hillsong thing, just leave things the way they always have been.

    Under no circumstances should there have been an action song.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    I just thank God what we RCs dont have to get involved with civic stuff.
  • @TheOrganist :the parade service was instead of the usual two morning services. Usually we have a 9.15am "traditional" service (organ and mainly an older demographic) and an 11am "contemporary" service (worship band and children's groups). Really I'd know I'd be happier at the 9.15 but my boys go to the kids groups so 11am it has to be for us. For Remembrance day those services are replaced by the 10am parade service, allowing us to get the wreath laying at the war memorial part at 11am.
    I quite agree about the misplaced action song - I am glad it isn't just me who thinks this way!
  • .. As to what the Hillsong song was supposed to achieve, I wonder if it was to make the usual congregation feel more comfortable. Normally our services are determinedly upbeat. Perhaps the more sombre tone of Remembrance would unsettle them and I am just odd among the congregation in preferring the usual service to be more sombre. I think one new song would have worked to make a change but not either of the ones they chose.
  • Action songs belong in Messy Church, where there could be all sorts of Remembrance / Poppy themed craft activities, etc. But not in the actual Remembrance Service, Remembrance Parade where the solemnity of the occasion should be clear to all. At the half hour service at our town Cenotaph today, children, adults and animals stood side by side in full respect. Those who didn't want to join in the hymns listened quietly and respectfully as others sang. It can be done and it can be done well.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    I would have played it safe and skipped both the action song, and the Hillsong number. It is a sort of Old Hundredth, Eternal Father, and traditional Lord's Prayer gig no matter what you would do otherwise.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    I would say if they can sing "God save the queen" and Once in Royal David's City for however many hundred years - why can't they do O God Our Help in Ages Past in the same way ...
  • ExclamationMarkExclamationMark Shipmate
    edited November 11
    We are a very informal church here but I led a very traditional service yesterday with "O God our help" The Lords Prayer; silence; last post. It was well received from the feedback given which includes ex military from several regiments incl Gurkhas and serving personnel.

    The only non traditional parts were some powerpoint slides around the silence (before 11 am they were set to Barber's Adagio to strings).

    We don't do God save the Queen as a) I don't believe in singling anyone out for God's blessing and b) the hymn is racist
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    We are a very informal church here but I led a very traditional service yesterday with "O God our help" The Lords Prayer; silence; last post. It was well received from the feedback given which includes ex military from several regiments incl Gurkhas and serving personnel.

    The only non traditional parts were some powerpoint slides around the silence (before 11 am they were set to Barber's Adagio to strings).

    We don't do God save the Queen as a) I don't believe in singling anyone out for God's blessing and b) the hymn is racist

    EM we don't agree on much theologically but I offer my thanks for leaving out GStQ. I always feel it says to people like me who have republican views "this isn't for you. Go away."
  • For many people getting into church at all takes a lot of courage. Therefore I think it is helpful to have familiar items they can get hold of. It's why I stick to the traditional form of the Lord's Prayer; there's a good chance that people will know it.

    As for the National Anthem, as we sung it yesterday I was accepting the idea that the Queen is a figurehead for the nation, and asking a blessing on all our leaders. The two verses we sang were not racist; the one that is, I've never heard used.
  • I' not for God Save the Queen in church either, because despite it's inclusion in hymn books, or the fact it addresses God, it does not function as a hymn but as the national anthem - an anthem which is to do with national pride, whatever the words.

    As for Hillsong or whatever in a Remembrance service, I should think that the person who made that choice was thinking something along the lines of "We need to show the visitors that church has moved on since they stopped coming and is now more relevant to today." Not sure it will actually do this, though.... And even that is no excuse for an action song!
  • Interesting points all, thank you.
    @Galilit : the vicar removed Once in Royal from last Xmas' Carols by Candlelight service so maybe it's all part of a similar drive to be contemporary. I'm not sure how that particular change went down, only that it was the plan.
    @Robert Armin : I agree about the Lord's Prayer and we had it twice in the course of the service : modern words during the intercessions while in church, traditional words when at the war memorial (ours in on the High Street edge of the churchyard and many people just attend the wreathlaying, not the whole service.
    As for GStQ : we just had one verse while at the war memorial which seemed about right to me.
    I might be entirely wrong in being offended on other people's behalf about this. Our church youth leader is also a scout leader (I didn't know that until yesterday) and it was her who led *those * songs. So perhaps she had told her scouting colleagues what she was going to do, or if not they will have opportunities to let her know how they felt it went down. As I said, I wasn't able to see any scouts from where I was sitting, but the singing was desultory and the BL certainly weren't joining in.
  • Cathscats wrote: »
    I'm not for God Save the Queen in church either, because despite it's inclusion in hymn books, or the fact it addresses God, it does not function as a hymn but as the national anthem - an anthem which is to do with national pride, whatever the words.
    Yes, I'd agree - especially as my sentiments are republican. Problem is that there is only a thin line between patriotism and nationalism. I won't sing "I vow to thee my country" either - I vow to the supranational God of an international church.

  • For many people getting into church at all takes a lot of courage. Therefore I think it is helpful to have familiar items they can get hold of. It's why I stick to the traditional form of the Lord's Prayer; there's a good chance that people will know it.

    As for the National Anthem, as we sung it yesterday I was accepting the idea that the Queen is a figurehead for the nation, and asking a blessing on all our leaders. The two verses we sang were not racist; the one that is, I've never heard used.
    She's not a figurehead for me or many others. She's a figurehead for a world long gone that should now be put to death.


  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    Glad to see that my feelings about God Save the Queen are not unusual. I have always thought that it is totally inappropriate within a church service. I would tolerate it at a stand-alone civic memorial service (for want of a better national anthem) but not within the eucharistic worship of the people of God which transcends nationality. I was slightly horrified yesterday at our inclusive liberal catholic church with a multi-national congregation, to find that the first verse of GSTQ was included, albeit balanced by a more inclusive verse (which I have not previously encountered).
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Why have this secular event, mainly attended by non believers in church?
  • Absolutely - and don't givce me, "Well, it's good to see them in church, even if it's just on this one Sunday each year". As it happens we - like most churches - do "do" Remembrance, and can at least put a Christian meaning on it - although there so much about it which discomfits me that I'd really prefer not to do it. (I can expand if you wish).

    But I'd much prefer Remembrance events, if we have them at all, to not even be multifaith but completely secular. Yet when I mentioned this to other local church leaders they were not so much aghast as entirely uncomprehending. I suppose it's at least partly to do with the "State Church" and "we are a Christian country" way of thinking.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    edited November 11
    Absolutely - and don't givce me, "Well, it's good to see them in church, even if it's just on this one Sunday each year". As it happens we - like most churches - do "do" Remembrance, and can at least put a Christian meaning on it - although there so much about it which discomfits me that I'd really prefer not to do it. (I can expand if you wish).

    But I'd much prefer Remembrance events, if we have them at all, to not even be multifaith but completely secular. Yet when I mentioned this to other local church leaders they were not so much aghast as entirely uncomprehending. I suppose it's at least partly to do with the "State Church" and "we are a Christian country" way of thinking.

    "We are a christian Country" ........ hahahahahahaha
    The only Christian response to the carnage of war is utter repentance and a complete change of heart.
  • The only response? Is it not possible to give thanks for those who risked their lives for others, to pray for victims of war, and to commit ourselves to working for peace?
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    The only response? Is it not possible to give thanks for those who risked their lives for others, to pray for victims of war, and to commit ourselves to working for peace?

    Those who risked their lives for others rarely had any option - conscription. Agree with the other two though.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited November 11
    Which is why I so dislike the talk of "sacrifice" and "laying down their lives". That is of course true for some, including those who have showed outstanding bravery in the service of their comrades, well beyond the bounds of normal duty. But so many "were sacrificed" and "had their lives taken from them" - note the use of the passive mood. And that's before we even start thinking of civilians.

    By the way I also dislike the euphemism of "the fallen". They were killed, sometimes within seconds of starting an action, so for God's sake let's say so.
  • TubbsTubbs Admin
    edited November 11
    The churches in the village - Baptists, CofE and Free Evangelical - take it in turns to lead the service at the war memorial which the Parish Council organise.

    The service there includes a parade, reading the names of the fallen, laying the poppies a short talk by whichever clergy is doing it that year (5 minutes tops), prayers and 2 traditional hymns plus GStQ. (And many prayers for good weather the night before!). There is always a good turn out.

    Our church does the 2 minutes silence in the traditional way - by switching the radio on to go live to the Cenotaph - then switching it back off again. We also have prayers and references in the sermon.

    We do not do action songs at all because the vicar hates them. ( :mrgreen: ) I can't imagine any circumstances where he'd agree to singing GStQ during a service either. The service is usually attended by the usual congregation. Everyone else goes to the memorial.

    @Alan29, out of interest, why do Catholics not do civic stuff? I get why they didn't used to, but now?!
  • Tubbs wrote: »
    The churches in the village - Baptists, CofE and Free Evangelical - take it in turns to lead the service at the war memorial which the Parish Council organise.
    But why does it have to be a Christian - or religious - service at all? Apart from the fact that it always has been, and started at a time when Christianity was (for better or for worse) far more ingrained in our national consciousness and identity.

  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Tubbs wrote: »
    The churches in the village - Baptists, CofE and Free Evangelical - take it in turns to lead the service at the war memorial which the Parish Council organise.

    The service there includes a parade, reading the names of the fallen, laying the poppies a short talk by whichever clergy is doing it that year (5 minutes tops), prayers and 2 traditional hymns plus GStQ. (And many prayers for good weather the night before!). There is always a good turn out.

    Our church does the 2 minutes silence in the traditional way - by switching the radio on to go live to the Cenotaph - then switching it back off again. We also have prayers and references in the sermon.

    We do not do action songs at all because the vicar hates them. ( :mrgreen: ) I can't imagine any circumstances where he'd agree to singing GStQ during a service either. The service is usually attended by the usual congregation. Everyone else goes to the memorial.

    @Alan29, out of interest, why do Catholics not do civic stuff? I get why they didn't used to, but now?!

    We prefer to leave it to others who maybe feel more at home with that sort of thing. And we don't do non-eucharistic services. Having said that, the annual Lord Mayors civic service alternates between the CE and RC cathedrals. Awkwardness at communion time.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Tubbs wrote: »
    The churches in the village - Baptists, CofE and Free Evangelical - take it in turns to lead the service at the war memorial which the Parish Council organise.
    But why does it have to be a Christian - or religious - service at all? Apart from the fact that it always has been, and started at a time when Christianity was (for better or for worse) far more ingrained in our national consciousness and identity.

    My feeling precisely.
  • But no-one else seems to see things this way!
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    But no-one else seems to see things this way!

    I find it distinctly odd.
  • I think a lot of country churches (quite a few I've visited bell ringing, and my own childhood parish, which was a substantial village), have the local memorial inside them (probably a bit cheaper and if you've got a dozen names or less there's less need for a free-standing monument outdoors if you've already got a nice tablet, unless you are covering several denominations.) Therefore the focus of remembrance services becomes the parish church.

    I suspect the most rural place I've lived the lord of the manor probably paid most of the cost of the memorial in the middle of the village - they had a short act of remembrance there before a service in the church, and I know some people went to the first and not the second (myself included but I had to rush off to parade with Guides in the local town.)

    At St Quacks we have external and internal memorials-the list of names is inside, but we just mark it in church as anyone who wants a 'civic parade' can just go 5 minutes down the road to the city's main memorial.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited November 11
    As for the National Anthem, as we sung it yesterday I was accepting the idea that the Queen is a figurehead for the nation, and asking a blessing on all our leaders. The two verses we sang were not racist; the one that is, I've never heard used.

    A quibble, but is it not the Royal Anthem, and that the UK has no national anthem? We sing the National Anthem on Australia Day, just before the dismissal. So it is within the service but only just. I suppose that we will sing GStK when HM dies, but only the once, and with a bit of luck we'll become a republic very soon after.

    On Sunday, we had the usual APBA Eucharist, but instead of the first Great Thanksgiving/Consecration used the fifth (could have been the third, the service was on a printed sheet). Just before the dismissal, we had part of Binyon's Ode starting with "They Went with songs to the battle" and ending with "We will remember them" , Last Post, Silence and Reveille, nothing more.
  • I find the idea that we shouldn't respect the deaths of soldiers who were conscripted distinctly odd.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    I watched the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph on TV this year, and found myself wondering just how many more years it will incorporate the specifically Christian bit, with the Bishop of London and Choir of the Chapel Royal.
  • Puzzler wrote: »
    I watched the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph on TV this year, and found myself wondering just how many more years it will incorporate the specifically Christian bit, with the Bishop of London and Choir of the Chapel Royal.

    I suspect, like establishment, and the monarchy, any attempt to change the ceremony much will be resisted as it risks people asking: "hasn't the time come to stop this performative display entirely?"
  • I find the idea that we shouldn't respect the deaths of soldiers who were conscripted distinctly odd.
    That's not what I said. What I'm talking about is the language used: i.e. that they "made the supreme sacrifice". No, they didn't - simply because that phrase implies that they had a choice, that they made a voluntary decision to join up, to go into combat or to do a valiant deed. But conscripts - some of whom may undoubtedly have been brave - were ordered into battles by others and were killed. Sometimes their deaths were part of a wider victory; sometimes - tragically - they died in a lost cause. Yes, of course we remember conscripts, and also civilians, and the folk "in between" such as in the Merchant Navy or the Fire Service.

  • I think it will change over the next decade or so anyway: all WWII veterans are now at least in their nineties, Korea was nearly 70 years ago, and the more recent wars haven't had the same numbers serving, so the veterans' pool is shrinking. I don't know what Prince Charles' views on it are, especially as Prince Harry has seen active service, but it might well get reassessed after the Queen dies.
  • Puzzler wrote: »
    I watched the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph on TV this year, and found myself wondering just how many more years it will incorporate the specifically Christian bit, with the Bishop of London and Choir of the Chapel Royal.

    I suspect, like establishment, and the monarchy, any attempt to change the ceremony much will be resisted as it risks people asking: "hasn't the time come to stop this performative display entirely?"
    But for how long will we continue to mark it? And does it serve as a moment of healing or a stimulus to work for peace; or does it reopen old wounds and animosities or give too positive a focus on the armed forces?


  • Pendragon wrote: »
    I think it will change over the next decade or so anyway: all WWII veterans are now at least in their nineties, Korea was nearly 70 years ago, and the more recent wars haven't had the same numbers serving, so the veterans' pool is shrinking. I don't know what Prince Charles' views on it are, especially as Prince Harry has seen active service, but it might well get reassessed after the Queen dies.

    Maybe, maybe not. It is politically convenient for the right, especially the press, to fetishise the armed forces, declaring them all heroes (much easier with the dead ones, the alive ones tend to do awkward things like ask for mental healthcare and somewhere to live) and denouncing anyone who doesn't honour them as the press demands as unpatriotic. With real memory, real pain, fading for the vast bulk of the population Remembrance becomes more and more a political, performative act.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    I find the idea that we shouldn't respect the deaths of soldiers who were conscripted distinctly odd.

    I'm not sure how you got that from anything posted here.
  • Pendragon wrote: »
    I think it will change over the next decade or so anyway: all WWII veterans are now at least in their nineties, Korea was nearly 70 years ago, and the more recent wars haven't had the same numbers serving, so the veterans' pool is shrinking. I don't know what Prince Charles' views on it are, especially as Prince Harry has seen active service, but it might well get reassessed after the Queen dies.

    After a period when the number of former troops who saw active service shrank the trend has been in the opposite direction since 2001. And its not just the headline-grabbing conflicts where people are serving but also in other places, many of them members of the Commonwealth, experiencing insurgencies such as Kenya, Nigeria, etc, and fighting the activities of groups such as Boko Haram who fund their murderous campaigns through wildlife poaching, illegal logging and mining, etc. British troops are being injured and killed at the moment in actions like this.
  • TubbsTubbs Admin
    edited November 12
    Tubbs wrote: »
    The churches in the village - Baptists, CofE and Free Evangelical - take it in turns to lead the service at the war memorial which the Parish Council organise.
    But why does it have to be a Christian - or religious - service at all? Apart from the fact that it always has been, and started at a time when Christianity was (for better or for worse) far more ingrained in our national consciousness and identity.

    I believe the answer now is "because it just does". It's seen by the churches here as part of their service to the wider community, relationship building etc.

    The same applies if you're the church that hosts the service each year as well. It's one of the few services where the focus is less on those who attend regularly and more about those specifically come to remember. Those once a year visitors will, rightly or wrongly, have expectations about what's included in the service and tone. A well-chosen chorus is okay. But an action song?! Wow ... Even if you like them, there's a time and place.
  • Tubbs wrote: »
    It's one of the few services where the focus is less on those who attend regularly and more about those specifically come to remember. Those once a year visitors will, rightly or wrongly, have expectations about what's included in the service and tone.
    Yes. I will recall a row years ago when a new Vicar (not in the slightest bit "trendy") arrived in a local Parish and asked that the British Legion planned the Remembrance Sunday service in his church jointly with him. All hell broke loose as the previous Vicar(s) had basically let them do their own thing and they were incensed at the new chap's "interference" - even though the church only had the one service on a Sunday. The Vicar was caught completely unawares and got extremely upset about the whole thing.

  • KarlLB wrote: »
    I find the idea that we shouldn't respect the deaths of soldiers who were conscripted distinctly odd.

    I'm not sure how you got that from anything posted here.

    Okay, maybe I have overstated my case. But the quibble over the word "sacrifice" because many soldiers were conscripted still sounds odd to me. Sacrifices were originally of animals. Do you think they formed a tidy line, and offered themselves to the priests?
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    I find the idea that we shouldn't respect the deaths of soldiers who were conscripted distinctly odd.

    I'm not sure how you got that from anything posted here.

    Okay, maybe I have overstated my case. But the quibble over the word "sacrifice" because many soldiers were conscripted still sounds odd to me. Sacrifices were originally of animals. Do you think they formed a tidy line, and offered themselves to the priests?

    But in that instance is it not the priest doing the sacrificing?
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited November 12
    Precisely my point: the animals are not offering themselves, they are victims with no choice in the matter.
  • Members of my family have fought in war, having been conscripted. They did not enjoy the process, they never glorified war, but they did their duty willingly and to the best of their ability. Those who died were, in a sense, victims but they had accepted the risks and went ahead bravely.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    I was pleased to read that this year the British Legion was extending remembrance to those civilians who were killed through acts of war, though I did not see this especially reflected at the Cenotaph.
  • The civilian services - fire, police, ambulance, transport - have always been represented at the Cenotaph: what was new this year was their inclusion in the BL's Festival of Remembrance at the RAH.
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    I just thank God what we RCs dont have to get involved with civic stuff.

    Maybe there, but here (Canada), it's not the case, and if the senior Order of Precedence cleric is RC, they lead the event. In several places, the Remembrance Day services are held out of RC churches, and in most places, the local reserve unit's RC chaplain is present and will often say a prayer. There is a standard Remembrance Day service for RC schools in Ontario.
  • angloid wrote: »
    Glad to see that my feelings about God Save the Queen are not unusual. I have always thought that it is totally inappropriate within a church service. I would tolerate it at a stand-alone civic memorial service (for want of a better national anthem) but not within the eucharistic worship of the people of God which transcends nationality. I was slightly horrified yesterday at our inclusive liberal catholic church with a multi-national congregation, to find that the first verse of GSTQ was included, albeit balanced by a more inclusive verse (which I have not previously encountered).

    The Queen isn't the only one in the UK who is "gracious" and "noble." I know plenty of people who are both and who live without complaint on the leftovers of people like the Queen and from food banks.
  • ExclamationMarkExclamationMark Shipmate
    edited November 14
    angloid wrote: »
    Glad to see that my feelings about God Save the Queen are not unusual. I have always thought that it is totally inappropriate within a church service. I would tolerate it at a stand-alone civic memorial service (for want of a better national anthem) but not within the eucharistic worship of the people of God which transcends nationality. I was slightly horrified yesterday at our inclusive liberal catholic church with a multi-national congregation, to find that the first verse of GSTQ was included, albeit balanced by a more inclusive verse (which I have not previously encountered).

    The Queen isn't the only one in the UK who is "gracious" and "noble." I know plenty of people who are both and who live without complaint on the leftovers of people like the Queen and from food banks.

    Time to ditch the song and the institution. Why keep them?

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