UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Honour veterans or promote peace?

Every year on Remembrance Sunday, the church where you minister holds a ceremony to honour the congregation’s veterans and to remember their fallen comrades. The congregation’s peace committee complains that the practice glorifies war and promotes nationalism. They’ve asked you to put a stop to it. How do you handle this?

By Connie denBok and Orville James



So, the peace committee is declaring war on the veterans’ remembrance? It comes as no surprise. The border skirmishes began three years ago with a resolution at the annual meeting. The committee’s motion was defeated, then reintroduced one year later with stronger language and identical results.

My predecessor, Rev. Chamberlain, proposed that the Board accede to the wishes of the committee. He predicted the members would live at peace with their neighbours henceforth. It worked for one year, until the veterans planted poppies in the church flowerbeds and insisted the dove hanging above the chancel be removed because it was taking sides.

The problem, unfortunately, has very little to do with theology or ethics. The issue is values, those slippery, emotional truisms we believe absolute because we feel them so strongly. An unexamined conviction will conjure enemies out of neutral bystanders because those who “don’t get it” are wrong. It will escalate to name calling, marginalization and harsh judgment. Conflict in the name of peace; exclusion of those who don’t buy our vision of inclusion — the ironic pairings are endless.

Churches are particularly susceptible when feelings become the criterion for what is true and right and just. Sometimes a peppering of Bible verses spices the discussion, but the book as a whole supports complexity, right relationships, humility and obedience to a higher power — none of which appeal to combatants.

Will I use my position to “put a stop to it”? Not on your life. We will have to sort it out while living together in community. I’m putting on my referee vest, ready to blow the whistle for slashing, high-sticking and dirty tricks while we master the art of church. God save us from being a people who know the words of Jesus but not his spirit.




Both sides have a point. The peace committee, noting this age of rising nationalism and super-patriotism, rightly wants no glorification of war.

But is that what the advocates of Remembrance Day ceremonies really want? I doubt it. Most veterans I’ve met rarely talk about their war years because war is hell. They carry memories of violence, loss, grief and fear. Few want to relive those experiences.

However, they also do not want to forget the justice that was sought, the sacrifices that were made and the peace that they believe was won. They want to remember and honour colleagues whose sacrifice was supreme.

This is a great opportunity to help people grow in their understanding of one another. Why not bring the groups together?

Using the model and tactics of a conflict-resolution mediator, I will coach a spokesperson from each group — separately and in advance — to describe their concerns, what they want and what they would be comfortable including in a Remembrance Day service. Then I will bring the groups together. I’ll start the meeting with a fervent prayer, that Jesus’ spirit fill the room, that ears will hear and hearts will respect the opinions of others. Then I’ll let the groups share their hopes, desires and concerns — and press both sides to listen and understand.

Once they understand each other, they can work together to shape a service that includes both prayers of commemoration for the past and prayers of peace for the future.

The end result may be a unified group, united in violent agreement.


Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Interviews

Courtesy of Pixabay

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Promotional Image

Editorials

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: It’s a long road toward full equality for women

by Jocelyn Bell

'It’s a wonder that we continue to see male ministers as normative and attach shame to female ministers’ biology and sexuality.'

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Faith

May 2018

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

by Vivien Fellegi

Faith

May 2018

This parent found no support for her autistic daughter — and decided to change that

by Kieran Delamont

Suzanne Allen talks about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum and bringing all autistic girls together

Faith

May 2018

Church retreat helps first responders with PTSD

by Joe Martelle

Interviews

May 2018

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Ethics

May 2018

Pregnant in the pulpit

by Trisha Elliott

Ministers who take a maternity leave still face discrimination in their own congregations

Interviews

May 2018

The two words Rev. Cheri DiNovo wants to hear from the United Church

by Alex Mlynek

The Toronto minister talks about her disappointment over the church’s silence when she officiated the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage 17 years ago – and why she wants an apology.

Promotional Image