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Archive for October, 2012

Sermon preached by The Revd.Dr.David Monkton-Chaplain,

City Division of Nottinghamshire Police,

on Sunday 23rd. of September

at the Police Memorial Day Service held in St. Peter’s Church, Nottingham

 

First of all let me say how much I appreciate being asked to give the address at this first national police Memorial Day service in Nottinghamshire. In view of the death of two women police officers in the greater Manchester area, it could not be a more poignant and moving time to be the preacher.

A few weeks ago, David Henson, our senior force chaplain, said that there had been a request that today there might be some reference to the motto of the Nottinghamshire police. It’s in Latin he told me, and perhaps I would find a translation of exactly what it meant.

I asked several people but no-one seemed to know. I searched Google, I even put a notice on twitter. From twitter there were two replies.

The first was from a Roman Catholic priest who said ‘may be the requestor was referring to the Latin motto for the city of Nottingham, which means ‘virtue lives on after death’. Then another twitter came from our police internal communications officer…… saying that perhaps it was the present Police logo that says ‘policing for you’ that was being referred to. As a result of this I was brought up to date with some fresh aspects of policing policies – showing how in our county the police are aiming to provide a public service that is tailored to the diverse needs of society for today.

In the end however I came back to David who said ‘the Latin motto you are looking for is ‘Salus Populi Nostra Merces. At one time it was on the collar badges of police offers, and still is the badge and motto of the Nottinghamshire police authority.’

It means. ‘The safety of the people is our reward.’

The two readings chosen for today are extremely appropriate for this service.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote the devotional reading ‘the gap’ was a leading figure in the German Protestant Confessional Churches. He was also a University Lecturer, who trained clergy students for their ministry. Like many German people he was deeply involved in the affairs of his nation and deeply worried and concerned about the way in which German nationalism under Adolf Hitler was rapidly moving into despotism and the destruction of all those who thought differently from themselves.

Bonhoeffer himself was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo, imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp and executed by hanging in April 1945 just 23 days before the German surrender and the end of the war.

The original form of this Bonhoeffer reading was written as WWII began. Some of his students were called up to fight in the German army. Over half of these future pastors and students were killed in battle, including a young pastor named Theodor Maass.

In a letter of condolence to the Maass’ family, Bonhoeffer wrote:

“He was a good brother, a quiet, faithful pastor of the Confessing Church, a man who lived from word and sacrament, whom God has also thought worthy to suffer for the Gospel. I am sure that he was prepared to go. Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words. They should remain open. Our only comfort is the God of the resurrection, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

We would do well to take to heart some central words in this reading. ‘Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words.’ These words have been adapted and used in many services since then and have brought comfort to many people.

 

Nothing can fill the gap when we are away from those we love, and it would be wrong to try and find anything. We must simply hold out and win through.

That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time, it is a great consolation, since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bonds between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap. He does not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with another maybe kept alive, even at the cost of pain.

 

These words speak very directly to families who have been bereaved. Sadness and loss must not be masked by words. Moments of remembrance are not to be avoided, but shared in. They keep alive our connections with those whom we mourn – even as we celebrate and give thanks for their lives.

 

The passage of Scripture from the New Testament also says something to us about our times of remembering those who have done things for the greater good – those who are concerned about the greater well-being of society-those whom we remember who have said and have implied in the way they have lived their lives what our police motto says ‘The safety of the people is our reward.’

In St. Matthew chapter five verse nine Jesus says “Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children”.

Peacemaking takes on many different forms.

Peacemaking is part and parcel of the will of God. Those who genuinely seek peace, and work for peace-whether it is globally, nationally, or in the local community-all these people are close to God’s heart, and his purposes for humankind. Here Jesus is also saying that those who work for the safety of the people are those who are working for peace and cohesiveness and a just and fair kind of society. This is what good policing is about: this is also what God intends for all human beings.

Because all peacemakers are concerned about these things, they are imitators of the God and Father of us all because these are his concern too. So says Jesus, ‘God will call them his children.’

This does not mean however that all human beings who serve others will be perfect in everything that they do. We are all human and we need forgiveness for the things we do wrong, but that having been said, policing for others does require deep commitment, and we remember those especially today those who have made great sacrifices and those who have given their lives. They have given service to the communities in which we live, through their policing.

Peacemaking at all levels of society does call for bravery, courage, persistence in difficult tasks and extremely generous and sacrificial support towards people in need.

Finally, however, let us return to the thoughts of Bonhoeffer, to see what he says of those who have moved on to be with God, ‘to be with the risen Christ.’ He states that there is a gap-an aching void, that must not be just filled with words in fact it cannot be filled, there is a numbness and an emptiness that must not be covered over. But there is consolation.

‘The gap’ can help us to gain a clearer understanding of God and his loving purposes. As we too reach out to protect the safety of others, we reach out towards the eternal good, which we know as the kingdom of God. It’s all part of us asking, as we do in the Lord’s prayer that ‘God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’

In Christ we are all invited to share in being peacemakers- and although there are gaps that cannot be filled, we too, in Him, may possess a peace which passes all human understanding. Amen

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October letter

Dear Everyone,

Last week I went to the biennial conference of the National Association of Chaplain’s to the Police.  It’s the first time that I’ve been although I have served as a police chaplain for thirteen years.

There were nearly a hundred of us there at this inspiring event from constabularies from all over England and Wales and Scotland. It was a very poignant time to meet so soon after the murder of two women police officers in the greater Manchester area. The funeral of one of them was taking place while we were there and the second one shortly after we left our conference at  Swanwick. We remembered these officers with our own two minutes of silence.

Although very few of us had met each other before it was amazing to find out how much we had in common. In every situation we have found our role increasingly important, especially with all the cutbacks that are taking place in policing. The chaplain is seen as someone with a caring but impartial role.

There was one area however of growing overall concern: the appointment of Police and Crime Commissioners for every police force in the country(PCCs). This will change policing tremendously. How important it will be for the right people to be chosen to fulfil these tasks.

As the president of our Police Chaplains Association reminded us, we should pray about this matter and encourage people to vote for those who are best equipped to do this extremely important work.

All good wishes,

David.

(PS. Thanks to all who gave their prayerful support for the Nottinghamshire County Police Memorial Day Service at St Peter’s in Nottingham. It was a very moving occasion. Hope all are keeping well. D)

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