Share this page

Tell your friends all about St Martin’s

Connect with us

Café in the Crypt

The Café in the Crypt is the ideal spot for affordable dining in central London.

→ Read more

The World War One Centenary

News St Martin – Talking Points

Sunday 2 February 2014

We are not long into 2014 and the massive range of programmes, publications and events to mark the centenary of the First World War is upon us. 

I have been part of the BBC’s planning for the season of programmes which will spread over 4 years.  The BBC was not going to be beaten to the start line for this one. However, I am already left wondering what the centenary is meant to mean.  The ‘war to end all wars’ did nothing of the kind and the world was never quite the same again.  As time passes it becomes more important to remember and learn the lessons of history.

At St Martin’s we have our own often repeated war story: It was to the destitute soldiers returning from the front that the then Vicar, Dick Sheppard opened the so called ever open church doors.  Meanwhile supporters of conscientious objectors were invited to preach at services.  Dick Sheppard’s response to the war embodies the paradoxes which we live with as Christians.  He helped the soldier (as a military chaplain in 1914)  and supported the conscientious objector.  He was the pacifist who established the annual festival of remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.  

Can we do likewise and stand up for what we think is right and embrace ‘the other’ in a true act of love?  Sheppard often said: ‘Not peace at any price but love at all costs.’  We revere the peacemakers. The people who take the brave step and embrace ‘the other’ like Mandela, Gandhi, Gorbachev.  They have a bit of Christ about them.  It was he who embraced the tax collector, the thief, the adulterer. There will be no World War One centenary programme about this but we are bound to ask ourselves:  who or what is ‘the other’ that we embrace?

Andrew Caspari