Commemoration of WWI Sermon

The Book, ‘The First World War by John Keegan’ is now widely regarded as the greatest historical text on the First World War. He describes the First World War as a European Tragedy. These are the opening lines of the book:

The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict. Unnecessary because the train of events that led to its outbreak might have been broken at any point during the five weeks of crisis that preceded the first clash of arms, had prudence or common goodwill found a voice; tragic because the consequences of the first clash ended the lives of ten million human beings, tortured the emotional lives of millions more, destroyed the benevolent and optimistic culture of the European continent and left, when the guns at last fell silent four years later, a legacy of political rancour and racial hatred so intense that no explanation of the causes of the Second World War can stand without reference to those roots. The Second World War, five times more destructive of human life and incalculably more costly in material terms, was the direct outcome of the First.

We are here today to remember. To remember the First World War. To remember the sixteen million people who died in the conflict and the twenty million people who were wounded and the countless people whose lives were torn apart by this devastation. Almost every town and village in the United Kingdom has a war memorial.  The long lists of names engraved there tell us that World War One caused a huge collective bereavement.  All around were the signs of absent friends, neighbours, brothers, sons, and sweet hearts.  Those who returned were scared by physical injury and mental trauma.

We are here today to remember. We know the truth of the George Santayana quote that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Just over a hundred years ago, on August 9th 1914, a special service for troops was held in Canterbury Cathedral.  The congregation was told “Prayer to God is incumbent upon us all at all times, but in a great war it is the most important of all duties and the most precious of privileges.  By declaring war against Germany we have more reason perhaps than at any other time in our history to fall before God’s footstool, and to implore him for his protection and blessing.”

In 1914, it seems, most people in this country believed in a God who protected the British Empire and who smiled upon the rightness of our cause. However, as the war progressed and the unimaginable horrors of the trenches just seemed to go on and on, people began to question what God was doing.

Siegfried Sassoon in his poem ‘They’ explores this:

The Bishop tells us: ‘When the boys come back

‘They will not be the same; for they’ll have fought

‘In a just cause: they lead the last attack

‘On Anti-Christ; their comrades’ blood has bought

‘New right to breed an honourable race,

‘They have challenged Death and dared him face to face.’

‘We’re none of us the same!’ the boys reply.

‘For George lost both his legs; and Bill’s stone blind;

‘Poor Jim’s shot through the lungs and like to die;

‘And Bert’s gone syphilitic: you’ll not find

‘A chap who’s served that hasn’t found some change.

‘And the Bishop said: ‘The ways of God are strange!’

Geoffrey Studdert – Kennedy was a charismatic army chaplain known affectionately as Woodbine Willie.  He tried to make sense of why the God who had protected nations and empires had seemingly turned his back.

One of his meditations is called God and Prayer.  It begins by evoking a scene in the trenches.  “I wish that chap would chuck his praying.  It turns me sick.  I’d much rather he swore like the sergeant.”

We ask today, as people understandably asked then, is prayer useless?  Is God useless, absent, or even real?  Woodbine Willie answers that prayer will not save us from suffering any more than it saved Christ from his cross.  However it is the only thing that makes us able to fight against evil in a way that can actually heal and transform the situation as Christ did, by selfless compassion, with all the risks that carries.

Woodbine Willie used sermons and poetry and meditations to argue against the idea of a God that is like Father Christmas or a fairy godmother.  He said that God is discovered in the heart of your own endurance and pain, the one who holds our deepest self and makes it possible to look upon the world without loathing or despair.  God is not on one side or another in a conflict, but present and real in the suffering of all.

This shocking new understanding of God that Woodbine Willie talked about was the direct result of his ministry in the trenches on the front line, and it was the only credible religious response to the daily nightmare of war.  Of course the other response to God after the nightmare of War was to stop believing in God and this was evident in the rise of Communism and Fascism.

When we see today children being bombed in Gaza, or shot out of the air over the Ukraine, not to mention the horrors of Iraq, we can begin to see why commemorating world war one is important to us.  Human beings are very good at forgetting the hard earned wisdom of the past.  By commemorating those who fought and suffered in World War One we recognise the evil of warfare, the cruelty endured by the innocent, and the iron dignity of many who returned determined to build a better world.

We commemorate so that we don’t forget that all are made in the image of God and are given life as a gift to be treasured and enjoyed.  The one lesson that rides above all others is that in Christ Jesus we find a God who knows what it is to suffer, but who responded to suffering with forgiveness, compassion and the promise and vision of new life.

May the word of Christ dwell in us richly that we who live now may walk in Christ’s light.  May we learn the lessons our parents and grandparents learned, and I pray that God saves us from learning them in the way they had to.


Plans to develop the grounds at St Mark’s

As many of you will have heard, there are plans in place to develop the grounds at St Mark’s. This has been made possible following the kind financial support of a grant from the Farnham Institute Charity. Advice on establishing an orchard has been provided by a local expert who has drawn up plans for the orchard, which we will be planting in the large area of grass to the west of St Mark’s church. The orchard will be planted around November this year and will contain approximately 10 trees including cooking and dessert apple, pear and cherry trees. We plan to have individual trees adopted and maintained by various groups in the community.

We also plan to establish two areas of wildflowers inter-planted with the grass in the churchyard. One area of wildflowers will be where the orchard is and the other area of wildflowers will be under the horse chestnut trees that border Upper Hale Road. To prepare for establishing the wildflowers we will first need to lower the fertility of the soil. This will be done by cutting and raking off the long grass several times between now and late spring. We will also cut back competing plants such as ivy and bramble, especially where they are growing along the ground.

The wildflowers will be planted as plug plants in late spring with the soil surrounding each removed in order to reduce competition from the grass and help the flowers to establish. Advice on this aspect of the project has been provided by Surrey Wildlife Trust who visited the grounds to talk to us about how to prepare and manage the area. They also identified some valuable plants that already flower in the grounds that we will be preserving and suggested other plants to attract and support wildlife around the Church.

In the orchard area we will plant a mix of wildflowers such as Autumn Hawkbit, Bladder Campion, Centaury, Common Mallow, Crow Garlic, Hoary Cinquefoil, Hounds Tongue, Oxeye Daisy, Sheep’s Sorrel, Slender Birds Foot Trefoil, Vervain, and Wild Carrot. Once established, this area will be managed as a summer meadow with the grass cut once a year in late summer, August/September. The cut grass will be cleared off and used to mulch around the orchard trees. Paths will be mown through the grass throughout the season.
The other area of wildflowers will be under the horse chestnut trees. The lower branches under these will be trimmed to allow more light in and the area planted with earlier flowering wild flowers such as Red and White Campion, Greater Stichwort, Foxgloves, Violets, native Bluebell, Sweet Woodruff, Red and White Deadnettle and Hedge Woundwort. Once established, this area will be managed as a spring meadow with the grass cut in July after flowering and seed has set.

In addition, to the wildflower areas we will be planting the ‘poppy bed’ near the Upper Hale Road entrance to St Mark’s with spring flowering bulbs and annual summer flowers such as ‘Love-In-A-Mist’, Cornflowers and, of course, Poppies. We were very pleased with the poppy bed this year, a sterling job clearly done by the Adventurers Folly Hill Infants School and those members of the congregation who kindly contributed to sowing the thousands of minute seeds that eventually came to such a glorious display. There were a few anxious moments when some of us thought we might need to sneak some plastic ones in for the special commemorative service but we should of course have had more faith!

Getting involved
We believe gardening is a healthy, fun activity requiring enthusiasm and energy more than anything else. Gardening is about a process not an end point, so this is about sharing the experience of creating something beautiful and functional for our community. We invite you to join us in making this project happen and learning with us about preparing for, planting and caring for the orchard, wild flower areas and other important aspects of the grounds.

You, or a group to which you belong, may wish to adopt a tree. This would mean digging a big hole, planting your tree and tending it over the coming years through watering, mulching with manure (we have sourced a free supply!) and pruning it. Expertise can be acquired on the job as we work together to look after the trees throughout the seasons and of course share the spoils!

A big job needing a lot of support is going to be planting the plug plants. We will need to lift off a slice of turf for each, turn it over and plant the plug in the centre. My back is aching at the mere thought! We are talking hundreds of plants if it’s going to look good and many hands will make light work. HELP!!!!

On an easier note, you may wish to help plant bulbs into the poppy bed. The Adventurers have kindly offered to do the bulk of the work here but anyone who wants to add a few bulbs is very welcome. We are going to plant bulbs that will flower at Easter so if you want to join in let us know, we will supply the bulbs and you can join one of the Brown Bin Club sessions or just dig them in after a service.

We are going to be organising some dates soon and will let everyone know. If you can get involved but not on the chosen days, just let one of us know. We can allocate you a project to get on with in your own time if this is easier.

Brown Bin Club (the St Mark’s Gardening Club) is gradually acquiring members, for which we are hugely grateful and we hope these exciting projects will encourage more people to get stuck in. We have money for plants so there is no financial cost, just muscle power please!

Thank you!
Paul and Michelle Sowden for queries or offers of help

Parish more than doubles youth and launches season of invitation

A parish which has more than doubled youth attendance and increased regular congregations by a third is looking forward to welcoming more newcomers over coming months as it embraces the ‘Season of Invitation’ initiative.

The parish of Badshot Lea and Hale in Farnham is continuing its efforts to engage more people with the Christian faith by launching a scheme to invite friends, acquaintances, or even strangers to church on five occasions: Harvest, Remembrance, the Crib Service, the Carol Service, and the Christingle Service.

In 2011, the congregation at St John’s, St George’s and St Mark’s reached its lowest level after a year in vacancy. Across the three churches there were on average 96 people attending on a Sunday, of which only nine were children.
Priest in the parish, Revd Lesley Crawley explained the methods the churches took to encourage newcomers.

“Towards the end of 2011 a monthly Sunday School started both at St George’s and at St John’s, and in 2012 a Family Band started in the parish, with musicians of all ages playing at the services,” she said.

“The liturgy and songs at St Mark’s Church are as accessible for all as we can make them whilst remaining within the rules for a Communion Service. The bread we use is brioche and unconsecrated brioche is available with a blessing for those who are too young to receive Communion.

“We also started a group called ‘Questioning Faith’. Anyone who would like to know more about the Christian faith can come along and ask any questions they like. This has greatly increased the numbers of adult confirmations.”

On average, the parish now has 19 children attending a Sunday Morning service, and a total attendance of 138 people.

Seeking to build on the success of previous initiatives, the parish is now launching a season of invitation, which started with Harvest on 28 September.
Lesley said: “We feel that we are welcoming but not inviting congregations and we would like to change that.

“On 7 September we all prayed and asked God to help us think of someone who we could invite to church. We then wrote their initials on some paper sunflower petals and made flowers out of them. We will display these flowers across the season of invitation.
“We will do the inviting and leave the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to God.”

Parish Teen Group

Are you a young Christian aged 14-18 who would like to discuss your faith with others your own age?

Come and join our Teen Group topics include:


Influences: Who are you listening to?

Lifestyle: Does it matter how you live your life?

Moving on: What are you looking forward to?

Romance: Why would you date someone?

Technology: How do you live in the virtual world?

World issues: Is there a “right” and a “wrong”?


We meet at 15 Rushden Way, 7:45-9:00pm on Tuesdays, the Autumn Term dates are:


Tue 14 Oct

Tue 28 Oct

Tue 18 Nov

Tue 2 Dec

Tue 16 Dec


Call Lesley on 01252 820537 or email to find out more

A Community Orchard in Upper Hale?

St Mark’s to create a Community Orchard on church land

You are invited to a Public Meeting to discuss a new Community Orchard on 7th October 2014 at 7:30pm at St Mark’s Church, Upper Hale.

The Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale have been granted the permission and the funding to create a Community Orchard on the land in between Tesco and St Mark’s Church.

John Ely, who lives in the parish and is an expert in orchards and fruit trees, has put together a plan for the orchard and the trees will be planted this autumn. There will be a public meeting to discuss this at St Mark’s, Alma Lane, Upper Hale on 7th October at 7:30pm. Everyone in the community is invited to discuss the plan.

Parish Priest The Revd. Lesley Crawley said:
“We are hoping that this will be a community initiative, involving the local schools, uniformed organisations and youth as well as those of us who are longer in the tooth.”

Lesley added:
“After a few years, when the trees have started fruiting, we could host Apple Days at St Mark’s, bring a juicer to the church and all of us could bring our own apples to create juice, as well as pick the ones in the church. Apple Days can become good community events with Morris Dancers, cheese tasting, cider tasting and worship too.”

Commemorating the start of World War One

Join Farnham Town Crier, Jonathan Jones, and Farnham Brass Band for a special service to mark the start of the First World War at St John’s Church, Hale, Farnham.

Everyone from across the community is warmly invited to take part at the evening service, starting at 6pm on Saturday 13th September at St John’s Church in Hale Road.

The service, which will be attended by Mayor of Farnham, Cllr Jeremy Ricketts, will include war poetry read by Jonathan Jones, music by the brass band and popular hymns.

The Revd Lesley Crawley said: “The commemorations are drawing together people from right across the community – from schoolchildren who planted poppy seeds in our churchyard to the Mayor. Our hope is that this service will offer an opportunity for everyone to come together to remember the sacrifice made by people from this community and across the world a century ago.

“With so much conflict taking place across the world right now it is also a timely opportunity to pray for peace and all those who seek to achieve it.

“Everyone is welcome to take part, to pay their respects and to give thanks.”