First World War Centenary

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th October 2018.

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Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart Conservative, Brentwood and Ongar 12:00 am, 18th October 2018

To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what plans the Church of England has to commemorate the centenary of the end of the first world war.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

This, I think, will be the last set of questions before we reach 11 November, which will be the culmination of four years of the Church of England marking the centenary of world war one. On that day, we will be encouraging parishes to ring their bells and commemorate bells and to commemorate every name on the war memorial. The Church has been distributing national resources to every parish with suggested liturgies, and also supporting the “Ringing Remembers” bell-ringing campaign. At an earlier Question Time, I mentioned that even hon. Members might like to consider becoming a bell ringer to mark such an auspicious occasion.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart Conservative, Brentwood and Ongar

I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. I grew up with my great grandmother, who lived through the first world war, and I knew some of her friends who were widowed in it and some of her friends who never married because of it. Will she ask the Church of England to remember the home front in its thanksgiving services?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The home front was a very important part of the great war and we should remember, as we do, not just the lives laid down in conflict but the sacrifices made by so many. May I use this opportunity to remind hon. Members present that the Parliament choir will be singing jointly with the choir of the German Parliament in the event to mark the centenary of the Armistice on the evening of Wednesday 31 October? As I understand it, every seat in Westminster Hall has now been sold, but there is always an opportunity for returns, if hon. Members have not thought to come to that event. I think and hope that it will be a very special occasion.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Soldiers of all faiths and of no faith came together to help us in the great war. What plans does the Church have to include all faiths in this commemoration, so that we can bring people together?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The resources I referred to on the Church website to assist parishes in preparing for the marking of the Armistice include a really interesting monologue entitled, “Steps towards Reconciliation”, which looks at ways to bring people of very different backgrounds together. The Archbishop of Canterbury supported the call by the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, that all faiths be represented at the Cenotaph to show, in an act of solidarity, that people of all faiths and of none will never forget the sacrifice that was made to keep us free.