All Saints. Rotherby. Late Saxon early Norman. Victorian Restoration 1882.
The certainties of the nineteenth century were shattered by the events of 1914-18. The idea of ever-evolving human progress that had been the dominant world-view of Christian European
civilisation had been put to the sword. These events earned the appellation the Great War – not because there was anything ‘great’ in the war itself, but that in the context of the history of warfare within Western civilisation,
this had been a war like no other. It remains, in history, the unique cultural cataclysm that irrevocably fractured our civilisation. Subsequent wars of various magnitudes have served as bloody punctuation marks to the numerous crises, internal and external,
that have further challenged our culture.
Hearkening to the traditional Book of Common Prayer, it is therefore: “very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at
all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Almighty, Everlasting God” for all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our civilisation and to mark with reverence the cessation of the Great War on the
11th hour of the 11th Day of November.
The day is marked by remembrance services – national and communal – throughout the western world. Each is a reflection of deep community sadness
and each projects hope for a better world.
To this end, in these grim days of pandemic, I was this week much heartened by a photograph from my old and very dear school friend living in the rural heart of Covid-19
He lives in the tiny parish hamlet of Rotherby in the Wreake Valley, some ten miles north-west of Leicester, England. Although not quite its geographic centre, the county
of Leicestershire is part of England’s ‘heartland’. Over the centuries English history has rumbled and unfurled over its bounteous countryside. It is characterised by its Anglo Saxon stock and for having provided regular yeomanry support
for dukes, kings and country – sound and solid Englishmen.
How appropriate then, in the midst of the Covid lockdown, undeterred and proud, the parishioners of Rotherby determined their
own, distinctive act of reverence for Remembrance Day: they transformed their venerable parish church, All Saints, into a veritable ‘light to shine upon the darkness’ during the grim lockdown.
The result is truly evocative. The parish council have done the occasion proud, a reflection of the England its martyrs died for – an Eternal Memory. My friend advises me that it was the idea of the Church Warden and
that Rotherby became the talk of the Vale of Belvoir. Unsurprisingly, the parish has received many compliments.
In accordance with Virus restrictions the parishioners enjoyed
a Zoom service.
I confess to a personal connection to All Saints. Over a bitterly cold January weekend in 2002 my wife and I stayed with my friend and
his wife at their exquisite ‘Pump Cottage’. Our bedroom on the top floor looked directly over the churchyard and across to the church. The evening was gently punctuated by the bells of its clock.