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As we move into November we begin a season of Remembrance. The centrepiece of the month is, of course, Remembrance Sunday, and I have said much about that on other occasions. This autumn has also had a Remembrance focus for me. Two events have been significant. First, I was invited (wearing my RAF hat) to dedicate a memorial in Spalding. In September 1953 Pilot Officer George Furniss, an Auxiliary Pilot with 616 Squadron was flying his Gloster Meteor near Spalding when it caught fire. He lost power but rather than ejecting and saving his own life he stayed with the aircraft gliding it away from the built up area of the town. It crashed in a field near Vernatt’s Drain and George Furniss did not survive. He left a wife and twin daughters who were only 12 months old. George’s daughters, who have been researching their father story, were present at the ceremony to unveil the new memorial to their father who sacrificed his live to save the lives of many. The second event was closer to home. Charles Penson had been a pupil at the William Alvey School. He had originally joined the Royal Navy but transferred to the RAF. He was part of the crew performing test flights on the R38 airship over the Humber in 1921 when the airship folded and collapsed, descending in ball of flames into the Humber. Charles Penson’s funeral service took place in our Parish Church, and he was buried in the town cemetery 100 years ago. Children from the Alvey School have been learning about his story in their history lessons and we held a memorial service in the church to mark the centenary of his death. Both of these deaths occurred in peace time and are not normally remembered on Remembrance Sunday when we tend to focus on those who died time of war, but these two stories have caused me to reflect on who we remember and why we remember.

Over the past 18 months many people from this church and town have died. Some of Covid, some with Covid, and others unrelated to Covid. In the early days of the pandemic I took many funerals with only one or two people present. Many had the hope that the pandemic would soon be over and they could have a memorial service for their loved one. But the months have rolled by and they are probably at a different place in the bereavement journey that they were at the time of death. The pandemic forced us to be creative in how we marked the loss of a loved one and how we remember them. That task is far from being completed as the pandemic is not yet over.

At every funeral I commend the soul of the person who has died to the love of God … that happens whether the church is full or whether it is just me and the undertakers … but the way remember is very personal and they way we do it can change over time. The stories of Charles Penson and George Furniss remind us that memories can be very long and that it is important to remember because our history is our story.

Fr Philip

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