Last month in St. Jax (St. James) Anglican Church in Montreal, I stood in front of a plaque remembering Frederick Fisher, VC (Victoria Cross). (The Victoria Cross is the highest award for military bravery in the Commonwealth.) I have always felt wonder at the bravery of Victoria Cross recipients. I am also deeply saddened, because about half of Victoria Cross winners died exercising their bravery.
Frederick Fisher died three months short of his 21st birthday. (My son turns 21 this month.) Born in St. Catharines, Ont., Fisher went to McGill in 1913 to study engineering. At the start of his second year, the fall of 1914, he enlisted, serving with the 13th Battalion, 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders. On April 23, 1915, twice he held the line allowing Canadian soldiers behind him to retreat to safety. He was killed the second time he went forward to hold the line, his body was never found. He was the first Canadian-born soldier to receive a VC while serving in the Canadian Army.
As I stood in front of the plaque, I was caught in the mixture of emotions I feel every Remembrance Day: humbled by Fisher’s bravery and determination, and deeply angered by the cost of war. I am horrified by what Fisher did, killing human beings. I am thankful for what Fisher did, standing in the gap saving others. I want to honour the bravery, the courage, and the commitment of those who fought, gave their lives, were wounded. I want to rage at the horrors of war and demand why anyone might think war is an acceptable option. I remembered and I will remember.
God of peace, your Son declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.”
We confess that as human race we have not lived up to Jesus’ call, for we settle our differences by fighting and resort to violence and the threat of violence when confronted by enemies.
Your son wept over Jerusalem, saying “If only they had known the way to peace.” We do not know the way to peace. We desire peace, even as we arm people to fight for us. We recoil from the horrors of war, even as we ask people to prepare to go to war, putting themselves in harms’ way for us. We are a deeply conflicted people.
During this week of Remembrance Day, we remember those who fought and died for their country. We thank you for their bravery. We remember those who served and returned home; and those who served and returned home wounded physically and psychologically. We thank you for their willingness to serve. Grant to all those who have fought in war, your comfort and healing of body and mind.
We recognize that in Canada there are people who at one time fought against other people who now also live in this country. God of compassion, teach us to mourn all deaths and injuries caused by war, regardless of which side the losses were on. Help us in our families to teach the next generation to see in our neighbours, not people we once fought against, but instead people we are invited to befriend.
We pray all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Amen.
—The Rev. Peter Bush, Moderator of the 143rd General Assembly