Reflections on a special year of celebration and commemoration
What’s the difference between… is a good way to start a joke. My personal favourite is: What’s the difference between a RAF Regt Gunner and a soldier? Answer: You can’t dip a RAF Regt Gunner in a boiled egg!
So, imagine my reaction when one of my children asked me, “Dad what’s the difference between celebration and commemoration?”
Obviously, I responded “I don’t know. What is the difference between a celebration and commemoration?”
Only to be met with a confused look and the words, “I don’t know Dad. . . that’s why I am asking YOU!”
When I shared this story of my own dullness with a couple of other people they too ended up asking the same question. So I thought it might be worthwhile wrestling with that question for a while. To me, the difference is that a celebration remembers something joyful whereas a commemoration marks events from which we can learn lessons whilst recognising that it wasn’t a good or necessarily desirable situation to be in. In the military, many of these revolve around honouring those who gave their time, effort and lives in those events.
The church at Coningsby (The Church of the Holy Spirit) held a celebration this year as we marked the church’s 25th Anniversary. Padre Andrew Turner who had served here more than 20 years ago and Padre’s assistant, Sandy Gall, came to share in the day along with past and current members of the congregation.
But our nation has also been involved with numerous commemorations throughout this year. This summer we have commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-day and also held ceremonies to mark the commencement of the First World War both here and in Lithuania. We have also shared in a commemoration on VJ Day during which we remembered with thanks those who served in Japan during the Second World War.
The Battle of Britain was marked along with our traditional garden of Remembrance in the build up to Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day. So, as we engage this year in many events that are both celebrations and commemorations, let us be both grateful for the past and ready to learn lessons in the future.