St Paul’s Church, Sketty is in the middle of WW1…

November 11, 2014

We saw a purpose in looking back one hundred years to the start of World War One. It wasn’t to say that war is a good thing, or to encourage young people to think that violence should be chosen as a solution to conflict. We wanted to reflect on it and inspire them creatively to a different future. A team of people were involved in preparing a story experience and we invited students from years 6 and 7 of local schools to come to the church for a story experience. We began with a presentation about World War 1, and a living history story of a soldier at the trenches (courtesy of the Bible Society ) with Clive dressed in trench coat and helmet reading the letter which the soldier sent to his mother. Some poems (In Flanders Fields, War Girls, Reconciliation) reflecting on WW1 experience through different viewpoints were read. In St Paul’s we have a memorial to a number of local soldiers. “Sid” Ivor Berry was one. He served as a Royal Marine Gunner on board HMS Good Hope. At the time his mother lived in Sketty. He was killed in action with all the rest of the crew on 1st November 1914 when the ship exploded during the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile. Arthur J Whitehouse was another soldier who served in the Royal Artillery and for whom there is a War Grave in the graveyard although he died in 1920. Students followed instructions to navigate their own way to the grave, to look for clues about his story (did he return home wounded? His dad must have already died and his mum had suffered great loss though he must have had brothers.) They returned to the church to find his first name on the memorial.
Christians believe that as we journey between life and death, we are safe in the hands of God, who in Jesus was prepared to die in love for all humankind, who was prepared to enter every struggle of our life with us and who deeply understands the choices we have made.We are free to weep for all who were lost, to hold all people in our human frailty, empowered to live life to the full and make a difference…and to affirm the hope of human existence. May God be our company as we do…
There was only a short time to look at the exhibition of different items from those years, a gramophone, a telephone with a dial, a mechanical typewriter, a replica newspaper, photos, letters, books among them. A timeline of the years 1910 to 1920, with photos of world events and well known people, set the war in context and helped to show the impact of the war. A taste of ‘trench cake’ (made without egg) was enjoyed by some (and not by others) as we explored the way the war affected food and daily life for those at the front and those at home. The students were invited to imagine what conscription would have meant for young men, and to ‘sign up’ and receive a replica edition of the Active Service John’s Gospel, re-issued for the 100th anniversary of the First World War by the Bible Society. We took time for a reflective response. A moment or two of silence to think (and perhaps to pray) about the consequences of war and the loss of life, the value of life itself and what it means. Students were invited to place a poppy in a pile of sand in response and in resolution. They were ‘dispatched’ with handouts of creative writing suggestions and word searches as a follow up activity. Twenty minutes later the next group arrived… …and we have two more schools visiting after half term. Busy and rewarding, it has been a good way to bring community and church together. The team have enjoyed the experience, and it seemed from the enthusiasm and engagement of the young people so did they. Next stop, the story of Christmas.