Directory: Churches and People

Reflecting on Holocaust Memorial Day 2017

06 February 2017


Mike Mason reflects on a recent service held in Lincoln for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017...

Some 110 people gathered at St John the Baptist Church (Ermine, Lincoln) to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2017 – an evening planned jointly by the church, the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) Lincoln and the Lincoln Independent Jewish Minyan. Members of these organisations were joined by Karl McCartney MP, the Deputy Mayor of Lincoln, the Bishop of Grimsby, members of the local muslim community and people from Lincoln Castle Academy School.

In compiling our programme, we were grateful for the very helpful material on the HMD Trust website. Anyone wanting more information about this material is encouraged to search their site.

We commenced with the lighting of the Auschwitz Memorial Candle (St John’s was one of 70 churches nationally to receive one of these two years ago) and the Shabbat candles. We then introduced the theme and noted two significant questions: In the midst of such horror and suffering, how do people survive? and Having survived, how do people rebuild their lives, carrying the trauma of their experiences?

We listened to the poem, How Can Life Go On? and reflected on it to music by Ilse Weber (herself a Holocaust victim) entitled Farewell comrade.

Accompanied by slides we thought further about How people survive’. Firstly, with stories about Auschwitz itself and Holocaust survivors Simon Winston and Rudi Oppenheimer (both of whom some of us have heard speak.) Secondly, we recalled the many victims of genocides since 1945 and the horrors we had so recently witnessed in Aleppo in Syria.

Again, we paused to reflect to part of the final song from Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth): Abschied (Farewell).

Again, accompanied by slides we thought about how people suffering inevitably from post-traumatic stress disorder can rebuild their lives. We heard about Hope Azeda from Rwanda, who has coped by forgiving and using her experiences to educate others, and Abdul Aziz Mustafa from Darfur, who has rebuilt his life in Britain after a perilous journey.

We moved on to think about our response, commencing with a reading of Psalm 142 – a desperate cry to God for deliverance. We heard how Prince Charles (on Thought for the Day) challenged us to resist the growing tide of racial and religious hatred. Lest we are overwhelmed by the challenge, we heard the Queen (in her Christmas broadcast) quote Mother Theresa: Not everyone can do great things but everyone can do small things with love’. She concluded, On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine’.

This time we reflected to Carl Davis’ Liberation and the song Al Shlosha D’Varim sung by local community choir, Ermine Voices. Our ‘act of remembrance’ commenced with A Catalogue of Man’s Inhumanity: Past and Present and Jewish memorial prayers.

The congregation was then invited to process to the front of the church and each light a candle and place it on the altar – at the end of which, the lights were dimmed and we meditated in silence before a litany was read. The service concluded with the Aaronic blessing in both Hebrew and English and the playing of Lewandowski’s Psalm 150.

Over light refreshments, a great time of fellowship was enjoyed. We are very grateful to everyone at St John’s for their hospitality and to everyone who took part in this solemn act of commemoration.

For more information about the event or the work of any of the organisations involved, please contact Mike Mason via email