Bishop uses Remembrance Service to praise the sacrifices made by NHS staff

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, has compared the sacrifice of NHS staff who have put their lives “on the line” to protect people in the pandemic to the soldiers and police officers who gave their lives in two world wars and during the Troubles to protect people’s freedom.

Bishop Andrew was preaching at a Remembrance Sunday service in St Canice’s Church, Eglinton, during which three news stained glass windows in a side chapel were dedicated to the glory of God.

The congregation at the service was restricted to 50 people in line with public health advice. All those present in church followed hand hygiene procedures, wore face coverings and had their temperature recorded on the way into the building. There was no live music – again because of government guidance – and the congregation listened, instead, to hymns broadcast on a large screen.

In a deeply personal sermon – during which he recalled his grandfather, Roger, who was injured after seeing action at the Somme, and his uncle who had a 30 year career in the RUC, and died last May after contracting COVID-19 – Bishop Andrew also remembered NHS workers and those who lost loved ones during the pandemic.

“I think today of nurses and National Health staff,” he said, “who have put their lives on the line during this year. I think of the pressure today, right now, that they are experiencing in Altnagelvin Hospital. Today, I think of those who have had to bury loved ones in very different circumstances from what they would have hoped, who haven’t been able to mourn in the tried and tested ways that help us mourn in our community, and today we say, ‘We will remember them’.

“Perhaps 2020 has caused us to value all the more those who fought and died for the freedoms that we now realise are so precious, and those freedoms have had to be taken away from us because of the pandemic. We realise all the more how important it was for so many who left our shores to fight for freedom’s cause. We think all the more of those who, in our own communities – whenever we were at the edge of the abyss – were prepared to leave the safety of home and the comfort of fireside to make sure that we were able to be safe in our beds during the terrible times of our Troubles. We will remember them.

“I wonder who you are remembering today, from the World Wars, from more recent conflicts? And today – whether it is a distant name from the distant past, or from more recent history – we pause to remember and then to honour their memory. In thankfulness and in humility, we will remember them.

“In both times of remembrance, like today, and in times of crisis, just like we’re living in now, we’ve got to turn to God to find strength. I think all of us see that and understand that. That’s why we’re here today.

“I think of the words of the psalmist in Psalm 91. It says words to us that speak down the years to us in crisis and in fear and in uncertainty: ‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”’”

Bishop Andrew told the congregation in St Canice’s that war and violence represented failure. “Today, what we do – together with those right across our nation – is that we don’t glory in war, but we remember and we give thanks, and that is actually our solemn duty. And maybe because of the strange factors of life today, remembrance this year seems all the more poignant.”

During Sunday’s service, parishioners applauded their Rector, Rev Canon Paul Hoey, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours, recently, for his services to Eglinton during the pandemic.

Canon Hoey invited the Bishop to dedicate three new stained-glass windows which have been installed in the church’s former vestry. The room has been turned into a side chapel, and is now a place for worship and prayer.

The Rector thanked those whose generosity had enabled the installation of the new windows. “I’m very grateful to the Honourable the Irish Society for a donation of one of the windows;” Canon Hoey said, “to an anonymous parishioner for another one; and to Mr and Mrs Caldwell Moore, whose gift is given in memory of their son John. Bishop, I present these windows and ask you to dedicate them as an offering to the glory of God.”

The Rector thanked those whose generosity had enabled the installation of the new windows. “I’m very grateful to the Honourable the Irish Society for a donation of one of the windows;” Canon Hoey said, “to an anonymous parishioner for another one; and to Mr and Mrs Caldwell Moore, whose gift is given in memory of their son John. Bishop, I present these windows and ask you to dedicate them as an offering to the glory of God.”