Honouring the Somme sacrifice in church

The Thiepval Memorial.
The Thiepval Memorial.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has produced a number of resources for its congregations to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

At this month’s General Assembly a resolution was passed encouraging congregations to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who fought and died at the Battle of the Somme, and to support congregations the Church’s Forces Chaplaincy Panel has produced a number of worship resources, including a prayer, liturgy, and suggested hymns and scripture readings.

The hymns, along with Psalms 23, 91, 93, 103 and 121 were used by chaplains or soldiers before going into battle, especially Psalm 91 as it is sometimes known as the ‘Soldiers’ Psalm’.

The resources are available for anyone to download at www.presbyterianireland.org/resources.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Roll of Honour for the First World War records the names of 24,000 men and boys who left to fight.

This figure equated to around the same number of Northern Ireland fans who travelled to France earlier this month for the start of the European Football Championships, or the combined populations of Enniskillen and Strabane.

By the close of the opening day of the Battle, on July 1, 1916, the 36th (Ulster) Division experienced over 5,000 casualties, more than 2,000 of whom had been killed. The names of 75 per cent of the Division’s fatalities have no known graves and are recorded on the Thiepval Memorial and Ulster Memorial Tower in Northern France.

Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr Frank Sellar, will attend the principal centenary commemorations in France. Other senior Presbyterians will represent the Church at commemorative events in Dublin and Belfast.

“It is difficult to imagine the scale of the loss of life and the impact which that would have had on communities back home,” he said.

“While we take the time to remember the sacrifice of those a century ago, it is also an opportunity to acknowledge the mission and ministry of our Chaplains to today’s armed services. Equally, in the same pews where 100 years ago families remembered their loved ones, many families today have family members who are either serving overseas, or have served, with many having lost their lives to more recent conflict and wars.

“While times change, the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ remain unchanged, for those who mourn, ‘they will be comforted’ and for those who seek peace, ‘they will be called sons of God’.”