Today St Mary’s transferred custodianship of the Colours of the 88th Regiment, which had been hanging in honour since their retirement in 1920. For over a century, they reminded us of an historical event: the formation of the 88th Regiment, and from it the 88th Battalion, at the onset of World War One. And in their continuity with the descendent unit, the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), they reminded us of the continuing service of those who, in our armed forces, face difficulty when our efforts at peace fail.
I was heartened by the turnout for today’s ceremony. The current and past leadership of the Canadian Scottish, the veterans, the representatives of the IODE (whose predecessors paid for the colours originally), our mayor—these I had expected. That so many others from the community should attend, filled the heart—and the chapel—to bursting. Some came in memory of ancestors who served in the 88th or other units during that war, some because they had worshipped under those Colours at St Mary’s for decades, some simply because they were part of the community and saw themselves in same story.
Below, I share the words with which I welcomed the gathering today, and the blessing I offered.
I am glad that today will not the be end of our custodianship of history. Our challenge will be to live as though history has made a difference in us. +
Hello. We gather today to remember, and to bear witness, as these sacred symbols of loyalty and service—the Colours of the 88th Regiment (the Victoria Fusiliers)—are moved from this place to another place, so that others may also remember.
And what is this place?
Well, to begin with, this place is on the land called Lekwungen. If we could see beyond the buildings to the North, we would see that this place overlooks a waterway called Thaywun in Lekwungen: “coho salmon stream”, which is also called Bowker Creek. From time immemorial this stream served as a nursery for salmon, a place of safety and nurture for the salmon, and by extension a place of nurture and provision for the people of this land. We acknowledge this land and this people, the Lekwungen, and we give thanks.
My name is Craig Hiebert. I am the Rector of St Mary’s, and I welcome you here today.
I am acutely aware of the need to provide places of safety and nurture for all.
This land came to nurture even more people who were born, raised, lived, served and worshipped in more recent generations. And they faced a global conflict. Paraphrasing the words of Archbishop Linda Nichols last November, ‘when diplomacy and negotiation had once again come to an end, when hatred and revenge rose strong, when respect for the other was again lost… humankind found itself again confronted with war.’ Men from this place, including my own far predecessor, The Rev’d George Hubert Andrews, chose to serve sovereign and country, to travel to a distant place under these sacred Colours of the 88th. Many never returned. So, again, today, we remember them and their ultimate sacrifice. [silence]
Eventually, men of the 88th returned, and when these Colours were retired, they came here to rest. In safety. To help us remember. To set our faces toward a peace that might endure.
Today we hand these Colours into the care of others. Why? Because as much as we might like to think that the conflict that called for their consecration had truly been the War to End all Wars, people are still being called to serve others in interventions that inevitably bring pain while striving for Peace. And so, we hope that by preserving these symbols and continuing to make them available to the public, young and old alike, we may remember. And past sacrifices might not, ultimately, be in vain.
In the name of the Creator, whose image is at the core of every human life, may it be so.
(with inspiration from ‘A Litany for the Armed Forces’, from the Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland)
For as much as people in all ages have made for themselves signs and emblems of their allegiance to their rulers, and their duty to uphold those laws and institutions which they are called to obey; we honour these Colours. May they continue to rest and to bring remembrance, healing and resolution to those who serve in these days.
May healing and wholeness come to people and nations: and may mercy rule all that we do.
May wisdom endure with leaders and commanders, that they may be a force for good on the earth.
May Comfort surround all worried families, whose loved ones are in danger: may they be surrounded with love, and protected from all harm.
And the blessing of the Creator
rest upon these Colours,
and upon us all,
now and forever.