Remembrance Sunday is held throughout the British Commonwealth on the Sunday closest to Armistice Day, which commemorates the cessation of hostilities at the end of the First World War at 11:00 AM on November 11, 1918. Remembrance Day services will be held around the globe on Sunday, November 13th this year. A typical service includes two minutes of silence at 11:00 AM, the reading of John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Field, a bagpipe playing the lament, Flowers of the Forest, and the laying of wreathes at memorials. Participants usually wear red poppies, recalling the poppies that grew in the battlefields of northern Europe.
Shortly after the end of World War One, a group of British expats formed the British Officers’ Club of New England to cater to the social and ceremonial needs of former British Officers. The Club prospered in the Roaring Twenties, and became more service focused during the Great Depression. During the Second World War the British Officers Club entertained and supported the many British sailors who transited through the port of Boston as part of the Lend-Lease program and then as members of the Royal Navy. The Club also raised funds for war relief Britain.
The British Officers’ Club of New England is the official sponsor of the annual Remembrance Sunday service in Boston. For the past fifty years, this service has been held at the Old North Church. Now, you might think it rather ironic that the church best known for starting a revolution against Great Britain, has become a gathering place for British expats. Here at Old North, we like to think of this service as an example of how bitter enemies can reconcile and become good friends. We joyfully wear red poppies, sing God Save the Queen, and lay wreathes at the Iraq-Afghanistan Memorial.
Given the divisiveness of our current election, the Old North Church invites all our neighbors to join us this Remembrance Sunday at 11:00 AM to salute the patriots who have given their lives for our freedoms, to renew our commitment to our nation, and to testify to the power of reconciliation. Two hundred and forty one years ago, British guns stationed here in the North End were shelling American troops on Breeds Hill in Charlestown. Now we are the closest of allies. Let us hope that our own political leaders can find a way to follow that example.