November 9 was a remembrance service at the church I work. It’s a service to remember Canadian soldiers who died in wars. It is held on the Sunday closest to the Remembrance Day, November 11.
I was busy preparing for this day, organ prelude, choir’s introit, anthem, postlude, and a soprano solo music. I played a chorale by J. S. Bach and a beautiful composition called “Live in Peace” by a Vancouver composer, Paul Ohannesian. The choir sang an Introit, a stunning piece called Kontakion by also a Vancouver composer Rupert Lang. The Anthem was Requiem by Eliza Gilkyson, a relatively new composition, simple but powerful music. Soprano Solo was from Faure’s Requiem “In Paradisum”, and I got the choir to sing “He Watching Over Israel” from Elijah by Mendelssohn for the Postlude. It was a very moving service. Music is powerful, really. It was a moment I really felt happy to be a music director.
There was a bit of disagreement around the subject of national anthem. The minister and I both thought we should not sing the Canadian anthem at the service. However, there were several people who strongly protested, and so we did sing. The remembrance service for me is remembering all the people who died in the war, not just Canadian soldiers. Not just soldiers, but also innocent civilians who had to die in the stupid fights between peoples and nations. Not just people who died but their surviving families who were and are devastated by the loss.
I was born only ten years after the World War II. I grew up hearing dreadful, sad, cruel stories from my parents and grandparents. I just cannot agree to glorify any wars. I don’t feel comfortable in participating anything that seems to be glorifying wars. Why do we have to repeat the tragedy and cruelty over and over? The Remembrance Day should be the day to pray for all who died in the war regardless of which side. It should be the day to pray for peace in the world, the day to remind us that we will never repeat ever again. I feel it’s a bit odd to sing National Anthem in the church remembrance service. We are human beings that God created in his image, but so are the people we have fought against. Before being a citizen of whichever nation, aren’t we a human being? God has created us with conscience and values. Do you kill another human being because you are ordered to do so by your nation? Is it right? Can you feel proud of that? Is it something you commemorate and glorify every year? …in church…before God? I don’t know what to think. It bothers me every year.
１１月９日の日曜日は私の働く教会でリメンバランス礼拝があった。日本語でいうと追悼礼拝かな。。。。？ つまりは戦死された兵隊さん達を追悼する礼拝で毎年１１月１１日のリメンバランスデーに一番近い日曜日に行われる。 この日のために私はオルガン前奏曲、聖歌隊のイントロイト、アンセム、ポストリュード、そして声楽ソロの曲と準備に大忙し。オルガンはバッハのコラールに私の友人Paul Ohannesianが作曲したLive in Peaceという美しい曲を弾き、聖歌隊のイントロイトはこれもバンクーバー在住の作曲家Rupert LangのKonntakionというすばらしい曲、アンセムはこれまた作曲されたばかりのEliza Gilkysonのレクイエム、シンプルだけど心に染み透るような美しい曲、ソプラノソロはフォーレのレクリエムからIn Paradisum、そしてポストリュードはメンデルスゾーンのElijahからHe Watching Over Israel 自分で言うのもなんだけど、感動的な礼拝だったと思う。音楽の力ってすごい。この仕事をやっててよかったと思えるひとときだった。
私は日本でまだ戦争の記憶の新しい戦後１０年目に生まれ、両親や祖父母から想像を絶するような悲しい話を聞かされながら育った。だからどうしても戦争を賛美するような式や歌、音楽には抵抗を感じる。人間ってどうしてこんな残酷で悲しいことを繰り返すのだろう。戦争を賛美したり国のために戦死した兵隊さんを賛美するのではなく、敵味方関係なく、亡くなられた全ての人達と平和への祈りを礼拝する日であってほしいと願うんだけど。。。 国歌を歌うのはなんとなく違う気がする。。。神の前では自分は XX 人である前に人間であるわけで、人間には神様から授けられた良心や価値観がある。。。国の命令で人を殺せと言われたら殺すのか。。。それでいいのか。。。そうしてそれを毎年、賛美するのか。。しかも教会で。。毎年考え込む難しい問題。
November 18, 2014 at 9:57 pm
Ah Haruyo, I agree with you. I left The Armistice Day tradition behind many years ago, as did Michael,a veteran of WW2 . I don’t attend parades or sing patriotic songs, but I do listen to Benjamin Brittain’s War Requium and gently weep at Wilfred Owen’s poetry- “You are the enemy I killed,my friend”—–.t
The music you chose sounds wonderful and so appropriate.
November 20, 2014 at 12:04 am
Thank you, Marlena. I’m glad you and Michael felt the same way.
November 19, 2014 at 11:47 pm
One of the things I believe about Christianity is that if you truly believe, then it frees you from the power of the state. You believe, and follow God’s law. When the laws of the state conflict with God’s expectations, you go with God. And I believe that if we truly believed in what Jesus came to teach, there would be no wars. Jesus came to teach us, amongst other things, how to accept others, treat them with kindness, and to be altruistic rather than self-interested.
When you sing the state’s national anthem in your Christian church, you are saying that the value of the state is somehow a priority over Jesus’ values; Christian values. But all the Christians in all the states that were at war hoped that God was on their side. And in their fear, all the soldiers in all the countries behaved badly in all the wars. In WW1 and WW2 the Germans behaved badly, as did the Japanese, and the British, Russians, Anericans, and no doubt the Canadians too. Somehow they felt exempted from their commitments to Jesus, and religious values in general, because it was war, and the others would do it to them if they didn’t do it first.
So what should we remember on Remembrance Day? Maybe we should remember the original sin that characterizes all of us as human beings. We abrogate our commitment to the values of God because of a war that is of our own creation. We sin, and we feel justified in doing so because of situations that we have had a hand in creating.
So I am not one who would be concerned if national anthems are not sung in churches on Remembrance Days. It is the state whose anthem is sung that justifies placing hunan aggression ahead of God’s expectations for altruism, peace, and mutual acceptance. The church is our only bulwark against war. We should remember on Remembrance Day that it is human hubris that makes war possible, and states that sanctify human intolerance of others different from themselves.
The state and its expectations about the use of power really have no place in churches. The latter stand for accepting those we would otherwise reject. The anthem is an instrument of the state, and not of God.
November 20, 2014 at 12:02 am
Thank you. That’s exactly what I wanted to say.