A large and reverent congregation assembled in St. Peter’s Church, Eltham road, Lee, on Saturday afternoon, May 15, 1920, to do honour to the memory of 28 men of the parish who gave their lives on service during the war. The bright rays of the sun shed a mellow radiance over all the church, and the interior, with its graceful arches of red brick, was warm and attractive. Prior to the actual dedication service, Mr. Ernest Connolly gave an organ recital which included the following noble works: Requiem Eternam (Basil Davies), Marche Funebre and Chant Seraphique (Guilmant).
As the choir left the vestry and proceeded slowly down the south aisle, the solemn and impressive strains of the “Dead March” in “Saul”’ thrilled out, and brought home to the reverent upstanding congregation the inner meaning of their presence— mourning for dear ones departed and thanksgiving for their having fought and won, and entered eternal rest. Following the choir came the Vicar of St. Peter’s (Canon H. T. Ottley), the Bishop of Woolwich (Dr. Rough), in cope and mitre; the Rev. Elphinstone Rivers (Vicar of Eltham), and the Rev. 3. K. Wheat, who had assisted at St. Peter’s.
The opening sentences of the Burial Service, read by the Vicar, were followed by Psalm xv., and the lesson, read by the Rev. Elphinstone Rivers, was taken from I. Corinthians xv., verse 35, to the end. A procession, headed by the choir and clergy, was formed, and during the singing of the hymn, “Brief life is here our portion,” walked to the Churchyard, where the Bishop took up his position before the tall, graceful column which has been erected. Versicles and reeponses preceded the dedication, which the Bishop made in the following words:—” To the glory of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, we bless, hallow, and consecrate this stone; to
be a perpetual memorial of those His servants who laid down their live. for King and Country, and whose names are written thereon.”
More prayers, then the words “Grant them, 0 Lord, eternal rest,” to which the congregation responded, “And l.t light perpetual shine upon them,” followed. Then Dr. Rough gave an address.
A Symbol of Sacrifice
The Bishop said:—” May I say a few words regarding the significance of this beautiful memorial you have placed here to the glory of God and in memory of those dear ones who laid down their lives for King and Country. It is a symbol, a sign of sacrifice, and it is for sacrifice we ask to-day. The world is in a troubled state, disaster seems to have come sweeping over the nation. What is the cause of the unrest, unsettlement, bitterness and suspicion—nay, the very hatred—that seems to obtain in the hearts of men, and is having its expression in deeds of horror? What is at the bottom of it all? I think we have been preparing for this for a long time; it did not come at all suddenly. As we have sown so have we reaped. We have been sowing for years the seeds of seliisbness and the love of gain. It has permeated nations and individuals. We look into the life of our own country; into our own hearts, and we are conscious that too often the one idea has been to gain success. We have taught it to our children; that the primary purpose of life is to get on and gain. It has been taught in country after country.
“The motive of gold is wrong, hopelessly wrong, and men and countries thinking of self, ignore God and oars little for other people. They start a system of oruel competition, of which the law is that the strong go up and the weak have to fall. That spirit has animated our civilisation for more than a century now, and It has found expression in this horrible war. That was an expression of rank selfishness, the seeking of gain by sheer aggression. Now we have peace, a poor kind of peace, still there is the same unsettlement, and we long for the time to come when there shall be a peace which shows itself in mutual love and kindness, and frank co-operation one with another. How may this be found? Only in this way—in no other way, there is no name under heaven whereby the world can be saved, but the name of Jesus.
The earlist Christians
“And this is the witness of Jesus Christ. He came into the world to show us how life ought to be lived. There is no desire of gain about Him. Though rich, for your sakes became poor—’ I am among you as He that serveth.’ He gave an exhibition of that wonderful love, perfect in every dimension ; the worship and the love of God, absolute self-control, loving and unselfish service towards other people. He set us an example that we should be witness for Him, and so He trained those who believed in Him, and simply sent them into the world without any money, without any power that you could see, without any great intelligence or education; a handful of simple poor folk went into the world, and not only preached Jesus Christ, they lived Him. They lived lives of simple self-sacrifice and unselfish service. They were mocked—they did not mind; they were abused—they gave back a blessing; many were killed—the rest went on their way singing a Te Deum. And in forty years they ‘turned the world upside down.
“Jesus is calling us to-day—we who call ourselves Christians—to witness to Him and to go out into the world to live as He lived; as His Disciples lived, and we shall turn the world upside down. Jesus did it. His disciples did it, and these dear men for whom we pray and for whom we thank God to-day. They set us an example; they showed us the power of service issuing in sacrifice. We do not regret them to-day, but we thank God for the sacrifice they offered and for the example they set us, and feel that England is richer for them and what they have done.
The message of the cross
“Now there stands this witness of what they have done. Every time you go into this Church, and see the cross, it preaches a message to you, rebukes selfishness and self-seeking… ~. The new world is going to be made, and if we Christians for one year lived on earth such a life as Jesus lived, we could convert the whole of England within that year. The chief hindrance is the inconsistency of us Christians. The many who watch, judge Christianity by the life of all Christians, and lots of them have a very poor estimate of what a Christian is. Can you wonder P Are we not conscious that our witness has been unworthy? Pray to God that, inspired by His Holy Spirit, taught by the example of His Son, taught by the example of those whom we commemorate to-day, we may lay this lesson to heart: to scrap the rule of self-seeking and to live a life of love and unselfish service.
After the address, and the hymn, “Let Saints on earth in concert sing,” the people returned to the church, singing as they went the Nunc Dimittis. And as they slowly filed away, bereaved relatives quietly moved forward and placed, on the base of the column, wreaths and floral tributes to the memory of those who died, and the brightly illumined shaft rose, as it were, from amid a riot of green foliage and lovely flowers. The service concluded with prayers and the hymn, “Jesus lives! No longer now can thy terrors, death, appal us?”
The memorial stands outside the west door. It cost £340 The Architects were Messrs. Hatchard, Smith, and Son, F.R.I.B.A., and it was executed by Messrs. Farmer and Brindley, Ltd.
In memory of the men of the congregation who fell, a three-manual and pedal organ (pneumatic action, electrically blown) was erected by Messrs. Noterman, of Shepherd’s Bush.
A Book of Remembrance contains, inscribed within it, the names and other records of the 28 men of St. Peter’s parish, who fell. It is a beautifully executed volume, and is preserved, for the present, in the parochial chest in the vestry. It is proposed, however, to place it in a specially constructed glass case.
The cover is red leather, and thereon is inscribed, in gilt lettering:
1914. Church of St. Peter, 1918. Lee.
Roll of Honour.
May they Rest in Peace.
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