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Litany to celebrate the centenary of the end of World War One

Elaine Halls offers resources to mark the signing of the Armistice in 1918.

(See also Andrew Pratt's A hymn for the commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War One)

 

Litany of Remembrance

The inspiration for this litany came from weaving a blanket, as the writer, Elaine Halls, explains:

‘I was weaving a blanket and thought of the warp and the weft. The warp is the thread that is static and secure and runs throughout the length of the blanket. The weft is the thread that is woven in and out, is moveable, changeable and can be different on every row. You can demonstrate this by inviting everyone to do some hand weaving:

 

1. Give everyone seven pieces of yarn (30cm long), each of a different colour.

     
 

2. Tie the strands together to make one long strand.

 
 

3. Hold up your non-dominant hand, palm facing you with fingers spread out – this is the warp.

4. With your other hand, weave the length of yarn – this is the weft – in and out of your fingers, and watch how it changes when a new colour starts.

5. Now imagine God as the warp (consistent and secure) and us as the weft (moveable and changeable). Every person and every action across the world makes a difference to how the world looks and will always look.



The litany is offered in two versions: one for adult and all-ages, and one suitable for children and young people. But you could adjust either, adding or removing sections to suit your context. 

A litany for adults and all-ages together

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
Weave us into the fabric of history, warp and weft.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
From the beginning of time, creation’s gift, you have been.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
Always, for ever, everywhere, eternally.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
You are the warp of our being, of our lives, of our existence.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
We are the weft you have woven into the history of time, the fabric of existence, the vision of the future.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
With you, this day, we remember, recall, replay, re-imagine and reflect on the horrors and terrors and tortures of war.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
With you, we mark the day 100 years ago, 36,525 days ago, when wefts were woven to offer peace, when swords were beaten into ploughshares.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
We are revolted, repelled, repulsed that so much death, destruction, damage, devastation, destitution and darkness enveloped, engulfed, encroached upon so many lives. Lives woven as weft into you warp.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
One hundred years, each one adding its own weft: its own colours and sounds; its own tastes and smells; its own peace and war; its own hopes and fears; its own death and life; its own love and sorrow.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
The generations that are to come will look back, too, to the lives of those woven into the fabric of history and into the fabric of today. As the sun rises/rose on this new day/week of commemoration, it will add forever to the weft and pattern of life.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
As the sun sets on this day/week of commemoration, as darkness wipes away the light, seemingly engulfing the living, it too will add its weft to the pattern of our living.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
We see the faces, know the names, acknowledge the sacrifices, hear the cries and feel the tears of lives and living lost a hundred years ago and more and sadly less. For peace so often flutters its fragile wings and is battered by the savageness of war, by delusions of grandeur, by egocentric leaders and tragic figures of despair.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
May these lives and these scars that today/this week disturb us not be in vain, may their place in history make for us and those to come, a better life of loving, living, peace, hope and joy.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:

you are ours and we are yours,
this and every day, now and for eternity.

Amen.

 

A litany for children and young people

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
Weave us into the fabric of history, warp and weft.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
We are the weft that you have woven into all the years that have gone by.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
With you, this day, we remember all the stories and pictures of war we have heard and seen.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
With you, we remember that 100 years ago today/this week, peace and the end of the First World War was woven into history.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
We are upset that so many people have been hurt and killed in so many wars. All of them have left their mark on history.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:
We are sad that wars still go on. Help us to live our lives for peace.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity that binds us:

you are ours and we are yours,
this and every day, now and for eternity.

Amen.

 

Creation and conflict

Create a collage using newspaper (to link then with today), paint, coloured paper and card to symbolise the beauty of creation, the horror of war and death, and the new life that grew out of it. In advance, paint a wash of colour roughly over sheets of newspaper so that you can still see the newsprint underneath. Use a variety of colours:

 

  Use sheets of this colour as the backdrop for the collage. You could use whole sheets for a group, or cut them down to A4 size for an individual to use
     
    This will represent soil/earth. When the paper is dry, tear it into randomly shaped small pieces.
     
    This will represent blood spilt/lives lost. When the paper is dry, tear into randomly shaped small pieces – smaller than the brown above!
     
    This will represent rain drops. When the paper is dry, tear into very small pieces.
     
    This will represent the sun’s rays, glinting on the rain drops. When the paper is dry, tear into very small pieces.

 

You will need: sheets of newspaper prepared as above, sheets of bright green and red card or paper – or you could use a box of remembrance poppies – scissors, and glue sticks.

Give out the prepared backdrops to groups or individuals, as appropriate. Invite people to create a collage scene – instructions below:

1. Stick brown pieces at the bottom of the blue backdrop sheet as soil, making an uneven skyline.

2. Add bits of the remaining colours, all intermingled to represent the horrors of war (blood and death), the rain that fell and still falls on the earth, and the warmth of the sun and the growth that it will bring.

3. Cut poppy flowers, leaves and stems from the red and green card/paper – or dismantle remembrance poppies and use the components – and add poppies to the scene as symbols of new life.

 

As the collages are being assembled, you could talk about the soldiers who were injured and who died in the cold wet earth, of the rain that came and washed all this into the soil below, and how from death came life as red poppies grew in the war-torn earth – and still grow today. From death comes resurrection.

 

You could link this activity with the explanation of the weaving in the Litany of remembrance by using coloured wools that match the colours used in the collage.

 

Marking time

If your act of remembrance isn’t at 11am on 11 November, use a slow hand clap or foot stamp instead of a two minutes’ silence to mark the passing of 100 years since 1918. Someone can lead a steady beat and keep count. They could gradually increase the volume and speed as you get nearer to 100. Alternatively, use the clap/stomp to build up to the two-minutes’ silence.

 

The Revd Elaine Halls is a Methodist Minister on the island of Jersey.

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