The Revd.

Matthew J Hughes

01689 856931

Associate Rector   

The Revd.
Stephen Broadie
 07722 428553

Assistant Priest  

The Revd.

Bill Mullenger

020 8462 9624


November Leader: 

In the week leading up to Christmas 1914, some five months into the First World War, reports began to be leaked in the British press of unofficial truces springing up along the Western Front. Letters were sent home and newspaper accounts given of French, German and British troops meeting in no-man’s land and exchanging food or cigarettes, joining together in carolsinging, and even playing football together. The events were widely reported in newspapers across England and the USA. As a letter that was sent home from the front described one such truce, ‘the men were all fraternizing in the middle and swapped cigarettes in the utmost good fellowship …. Not a shot was fired all night’.* The events that took place that year in no-man’s land have been told and retold many times, and immortalized in short stories, films and songs. The story serves as a reminder to us of the capacity of the human spirit to overcome the most difficult circumstances, and to find opportunities for kindness or joy in unforgiving surroundings. Historians seem to agree that the impromptu truces agreed along the Western Front in December 1914 enabled the soldiers who participated in them to feel they had some kind of control over their circumstances. For once they were not just blindly following orders. They were able to find some humanity in their own situation. For a short time they were able to feel more human themselves.

As we approach a season where many of our normal traditions and practices have been taken away from us, I wonder if we will be able to exercise the kind of creativity those soldiers in no-man’s land exercised? We are not, of course, in the middle of a World War. The hardships we have undergone this year are not to be compared with the hardships of soldiers in the trenches. Nevertheless, there is a sense that this year we have lost many of the things that make us human. We have lost the capacity to smile at each other (without a mask), to hug our friends or family, or to gather socially. As I write this I have just learned that there will be no public gathering around the Orpington War Memorial on Remembrance Day this year, due to the current COVID-19 restrictions. By the time this article goes to print, the rules and regulations may well have changed. The national situation almost certainly will have. As a nation we have been plunged this year into circumstances that are very much outside our own control. We are dealing with restrictions and rules that seem necessary for our own safety, but are not of our own choosing.

I wonder then whether we, like those soldiers who made truces, are able to be creative, to find the humanity in others despite our restrictions, to draw on our own resources of joy or compassion? How can we mark the different events that will take place in the coming months in new or different ways? As St Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14, Jesus himself ‘is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.’ We may not have physical barriers between us, but we are separated by face masks, by social distancing, by the threat of lockdown. Can we overcome those barriers through phone calls, through letters and cards, through gathering together online? Or are there other ways that we can exercise our creativity just as those soldiers from both sides did in 1914? My prayer is that as we do this we will know the one who ‘is our peace’, however challenging our circumstances may be.

Stephen Broadie