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Remembrance Sunday

Field of poppies

Sunday 12 November
Year A: 3rd Sunday before Advent
Liturgical Colour:  Red or Green


  • Amos 5:18-24
  • Psalm 70:1-5
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • Matthew 25:1-13

Please note the readings above are for the Principal Sunday Service.


Remembrance Sunday can be one of the most challenging times of the year for those who are responsible for making sure it all goes well; especially since we often have extra visitors who are not otherwise usually with us. Fortunately, if we want to follow it, there is very comprehensive guidance and a Common Worship liturgy available. This has been prepared by a group from Churches Together, working in partnership with the Royal British Legion and has been approved by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for use under Canon B 4. The guidance and service can be found here.

It is also one of those occasions where there is likely to be a lot of locally observed tradition that has built up over the years. This is particularly true if you are fortunate enough to be welcoming groups such as Girl Guides and Scouts, Royal British Legion (RBL) or members of the armed services. Good preparation, communication and flexibility are key!


I can’t recall a Remembrance Sunday when the world has felt so warlike. Advances in communication have brought conflicts around the world right into our living rooms and the phones in our hands. The wide availability of communications outside of ‘official channels’ also gives us a fuller and yet less clear picture of what is happening. Disinformation and prejudice abound on all sides. What is undeniable is that innocent lives have been and continue to be lost before our very eyes.

At the same time, we are remembering with great thanksgiving ‘the service and sacrifice of all those who have defended our freedoms and protected our way of life’ (RBL).

The Christian church as a whole is not pacifist, although some parts of it like the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) oppose war in all circumstances. Nor does it have a good record. We have been responsible for some terrible wars, persecutions and atrocities. Yet today we are faced with leading others in a Christlike way through some very difficult ethical issues, not to mention high emotions.

Of course, we are not the first to grapple with the rights and wrongs of war.

Building on Greek and Roman philosophy, Just War Theory was first developed by theologians like St Augustine and  St Thomas Aquinas who tried to set out the conditions for when a war might be waged (jus ad bellum – when war is just) how it should be fought (jus in bello – justice in waging war) and what happens afterwards (jus post bellum – justice after war). The theory includes:

  • War must have a just cause and not be waged to acquire wealth or power
  • It must be declared and controlled by a proper authority i.e. a recognised state
  • It must have the aim of restoring peace and justice
  • It must be a last resort when all other solutions and negotiations have failed
  • It must be fought with proportionality i.e. with just enough force, no more

Further fundamental principles and rules about war, e.g. attacks may only be directed against combatants and never civilians, are now enshrined in international humanitarian law, especially the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols. This Red Cross page, which includes a brief explanatory video, provides an excellent short summary of what is and is not acceptable in conflict.

So what?

Today we remember those whose names are written on our war memorials alongside other casualties and victims of war. We grieve their loss and we are thankful for their courage and kindness in sacrificing their lives for ours. We recommit ourselves to living lives worthy of them, thinking of those who will come after us and holding fast to all that is true and good. And we pray for a just peace in our world.

Let us also be determined to live our lives and settle our disagreements in a just way.