The last service to be given by the incumbent Dean of Derry, Very Rev Dr William Morton, will take place on September 18, in St Columb’s Cathedral.
It will follow on from the Service of Reflection at the Cathedral on Sunday, which marked the start of the Battle of the Somme, by marking the conclusion of the 141-day battle with a Service of Hope, during which a special cross will be dedicated.
“In light of the dreadful loss of life in The Battle of The Somme, and in the First World War, and The Second World War, and in conflicts since, the question, ‘Is there hope?’ has been asked time and time again over the generations,” Dean Morton said.
“I believe there most definitely is. It stands in those cemeteries where thousands lie buried, whether it be France, North Africa, or the Far East, a large, simple and elegant cross, the same Cross as stood upon a lonely hillside outside a city wall and on which our Saviour died.
“Jesus rose from the dead. This is the heart of the Gospel. Death was not, death is not, the end. Evil was not, is not, the last word. On the Cross, Christ showed His love for mankind. For the Christian, the Cross is the one, true, authentic symbol of the quality of love, the cost of love and the extent to which love must go, ‘the love that asks no question, the love that stands the test, that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best; the love that never falters, the love that pays the price, the love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice’.”
It is planned that, on Sunday 18 September at 11am in the Cathedral, a commemorative cross will be dedicated.
“This cross adorned the spire for about 160 years, and has now been redundant and in two pieces since 1980. Totally refurbished, the cross will occupy a prominent position in the Churchyard, beneath the East Window, and will serve as a memorial to all who died at the Somme.
“In a wonderful sense, the cross represents beauty emerging from the not so beautiful, the coming together of a fragmented community, peace merging from war, and reconciliation from conflict,” the Dean said.
“There is also a most interesting further dimension. On that day as well we are hoping to have a performance by the Cathedral Choir of an Anthem, ‘Wilt Not Thou, O God, Go Forth With Our Hosts?’ by the Irish Composer, Ina Boyle, and dedicated to the 36th(Ulster) Division in August 1915.
“Interestingly, and very poignantly, a note in the late Ina Boyle’s handwriting indicates that ‘the anthem was to have been sung by the Choir of Derry Cathedral in 1915’, over 100 years ago, but it had not been possible because so many of the gentlemen of the Choir had signed up for active service.
“Due to the fact that The Battle of The Somme lasted for 141 days, until 18 November, we at the Cathedral considered that it would be appropriate to dedicate the cross in September during the time when, 100 years previously, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette took place between September 15 and 22.”