Recently I was privileged to be the invited padre at a couple of services to commemorate Vietnam War battles. These were held next to the old parade square in Adelaide.
I remember as a child in the 1970s hearing news of the war and here before me were people who tell the stories and carry the memories because they were there. As a song by a Vietnam Vet says 'the war goes on' for many of these Vietnam veterans. Although I was not living in Australia at the time I knew many of them returned to an Australia deeply ambivalent about the war and I feel that many were made the scapegoat - the bearers of a communal shadow.
I was pleased that the compilers of the service had allowed me to include an open and inclusive prayer which prayed for the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia today, for people of Vietnamese origin living in Australia and also for those who bear the scars of war. This had to be vetted by the committee and after the service I was deeply moved to receive thanks. The war goes on and we go on remembering.
What grips me at military occasions and also at occasions like the service last night to remember those who died while homeless is that we create at the heart of it all a pool of silence. The service for people who had died while homeless had a silence that permitted me to hear the freezing rain lashing the roof of Pilgrim Church, and the Vietnam service was preceded by the Last Post. Thoughtful and evocative words surround the pool of silence.
No where to go, nothing to be said, no meaning adequate to make sense ultimately of what we gather to remember. Silence here is a uniting factor and I call it a factor that amplifies. Perhaps only silence can call us to an authentic response?