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Archbishops endorse Abbey's First World War vigil liturgy

Friday, 27th June 2014

Archbishops endorse Abbey's First World War vigil liturgy

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have endorsed Westminster Abbey’s liturgy for churches planning to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Drawing upon the British Foreign Secretary’s Sir Edward Grey’s famous remark that ‘the lamps are going out all over Europe’, the Abbey will hold a candlelit vigil at 10.00pm on Monday 4th August, which will be televised live on BBC2. The Abbey will move from light into darkness until one candle remains at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, which will be extinguished at 11.00pm marking the exact moment of the declaration of war.

It is hoped that churches, community groups and other faith communities will hold their own vigils and the Abbey has published advice and resources to assist with planning these services.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury said:

The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War raises a confusion of emotions and memories. I encourage you to use the resources which Westminster Abbey has prepared so thoughtfully to help you to pray, to lift both the beauty and the agony of that sacrifice to God. A vigil provides an opportunity to hold before God what we know and do not yet know, in a language we can borrow and share. Through these words we are joined with others across the country and down the years to honour those “who love the greater love // [who] lay down their life” (Wilfred Owen), as with Jesus the crucified one.

+Justin Cantuar

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York said:

The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War is both a solemn duty and an opportunity to reflect, one hundred years later, on the folly of war and the horrific human suffering it involves. Sadly our prayers will not just be those of distant remembrance – violent conflict is a brutal reality today. We must pledge ourselves afresh to seek peace and do all we can to prevent the bloodshed which so scars our humanity, and bruises the image of God in all his children. I commend these prayers and resources to parishes and indeed local churches of all denominations as they plan to mark this important time.

+Sentamu Eboracensis

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said:

The last months have seen a great many television programmes and books about the First World War and fresh thinking about the causes and conduct of the war. There will be time later in the centenary to ponder the impact of the war itself on the local communities that make up the United Kingdom, Europe and the world and on the sacrifice of so many young lives. The centenary of the outbreak of the war will be a time in humility and repentance to face up to the failure of the human spirit that prevented international differences being resolved diplomatically and led to the inexorable slide towards war. The texts for the Vigil in Westminster Abbey are freely available for every church and worshipping community to adopt or adapt. Alternatively they can assemble for worship and join the Abbey congregation via television. I pray that the Vigil will help us, as today we ponder the reasons for our failures to preserve peace.

The Shrine of St Edward the Confessor is one of the most powerful features of the Abbey. To stand in the presence of a man who is both a saint and a monarch is awe-inspiring.

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The Reverend Christopher Stoltz - Minor Canon

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