North Wiltshire Methodist Circuit

We are a discipleship movement shaped for mission

Welcome to the
North Wiltshire Methodist Circuit


The first half of November is a season of remembering.  The first of the month is All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows, and Hallowe’en, on 31 October, is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve.  In pre-Christian times, it was a date which marked the passing from the time of growth and harvest to that of darkness and stillness in the earth, with the corresponding celebration of the coming spring and summer six months later, on May Day.  So this time of year naturally lent itself to remembering those who had died, and All Saints is a day when we remember all the saints of the Church, some celebrated and named, others unknown.  The following day is All Souls’ Day, when we remember all God’s faithful people who have died, reminding ourselves too that one day we also will die, and our hope and faith that we, with them, will be at peace in eternal life with God in heaven.

Then towards the middle of the month there is a more widely commemorated time of remembrance, with Armistice Day on 11 November, and Remembrance Sunday on the second Sunday of the month, when many millions of people will join together and spend a time of silence remembering those who have died in war, especially, but not only, in the two World Wars.  A few weeks ago, I had a holiday in Bruges, and one day we went by train to Ypres, mainly because I wanted to see the Menin Gate, on which are listed the names of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the battles around the town, and who have no known grave, in what are known as ‘Flanders Fields’ during the First World War.  Sometimes, with modern DNA techniques, remains can be identified and are then reburied in a marked grave, and the name removed from the memorial.  Unfortunately for us, the Gate is currently being restored, and so is covered in scaffolding and protective sheeting, which meant we were unable to view it properly, and I may return one day. 

I know that many people, as we fall silent on Armistice day or gather for services on Remembrance Sunday, will be thinking of and remembering not only those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars, but also others who have died in wars and other armed conflicts too.  And we will not only remember members of armed forces, those who had chosen or been sent to fight, but also civilians, who just happened to be in the wrong place and were caught up in the violence.  And particularly this year, the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza will be at the forefront of the thoughts of many of us.  We have seen the pictures following the appalling slaughter of some 1,400 people of all ages in Israel in the attack by Hamas fighters, and the subsequent scenes from Gaza, where many thousands more, men, women and children, have been killed in the Israeli reprisals.  To some, the Israeli attack on Gaza is entirely justified self-defence and a legitimate attempt to eliminate Hamas, to others it is a completely disproportionate response which cannot be justified under international law.  For most of us, we simply don’t know what to think, or who to believe, but we do know that we are horrified at the dreadful loss of life, and terrified by the prospect that the conflict may spread.  Sometimes all we can do is cry out to God in despair, like the psalmist in these verses from Psalm 88:

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
    and hide your face from me?

But in spite of God’s apparent absence, the psalmist continues to pray, believing that somehow, in ways that they might never understand, their prayers do make a difference.  That is where I find myself at the moment with the situation in Israel and Gaza, and other wars which rage on across the world.  So here is a prayer published by the Methodist Church:

How can we call a land “Holy” when a festival site becomes a killing ground

and a hospital becomes a grave?

Christ, have mercy upon the land of your birth and all who know it as home.

May the prophecy of Isaiah find fruition in this time and place:

No more shall infants live but a few days or the lives of older people be cut short.

No more shall weeping and distress echo across the plains.

No more shall children be borne for calamity.

Let houses be built and lived in.

Let vineyards be planted and enjoyed.

Let enemies come and eat together and the days of hurt and destruction be over.  

In Jesus’ name we pray


(Isaiah 65 v.17-25)