It’s November and the night is dark. Searching in all the cupboards for batteries for the lamps on our bikes - we only seem to use them once a year! Before Martin and I moved up to Derbyshire this had become a regular feature of village life in the 3B’s (Betchworth Buckland and Brockham in Surrey) - because it’s the night of the huge annual Brockham Bonfire. Once the batteries have been replaced in the lamps and the tyres blown up, with creaks (from the bikes and our limbs) we wobble down the lane a mile or so and pass the snaking collection of all ages carrying flamed torches in the annual Bonfire procession. Over the river bridge into the throng that already covers the Village Green. In pride of place stood the 60-foot high circular bonfire that had been built up around a central pole over the last couple of months.
The folks are already buying their hotdogs, hog roast and cups of beer as we try to wind our way to the other end of the green where we eventually meet up with the previous shift of volunteers who are shaking their - gradually getting heavier – red buckets. We swap florescent jackets and they hand over the walkie talkie and we are left for a few hours to try and collect as many donations as possible for our church (the charities are various across the site).
The stats are amazing: 20,000 people gather round the village green, over 4 tonnes of fireworks are burnt (£20,000 worth) and around £20,000 is given away each year in donations on the night.
November is the month of Remembrance, and this year we might well be remembering that once we were part of Europe! But our church calendar gives us All Saints on the 1st November, remember All Souls on the 2nd, Guy Fawkes on the 5th and then those on our War Memorials on Remembrance Sunday on 10th and Armistice on 11th November.
Towards the end of the month we celebrate Christ the King, when we are reminded that Jesus came into this world as God’s Son, was anointed but crowned with thorns to offer his life as a sacrifice for us on the cross, so that a kingdom could be born of Truth, Life, Justice, Love and Peace. Our world today so desperately needs this kingdom, where our world leaders talk truth, and where people of all faith and cultures can live in peace. Our bonfire traditions hearken back to an age where that was not so and yet how much have we moved on I wonder and what can our part be in shaping the future for our children and our children’s children?
As Christians it is through our prayers, and a living relationship with God that can make the difference. How we live our lives giving time to God and showing love for our neighbour. For us still remembering and living our lives in the earthly kingdom, our comfort must be in allowing God to surround us with love and open our hearts to receive this love in our lives. God will always be with us, through all our remembering, our times of sorrow and joy if we only make the time.
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
The Venerable Carol Coslett
Archdeacon of Chesterfield