Last February, a service was held in St. Mary’s Parish Church, Woodbridge, attended by members of 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) prior to their departure to Afghanistan for a six month deployment. Since then, prayers have been said for their safety, and for loved ones left at home wondering, praying and loving.
On the evening of Tuesday, 18th November, every seat was again taken in St. Mary’s by these brave, young, uniformed men and women at a service of thanksgiving for the safe return of each and every one of the Regiment. The Woodbridge community, of which they have become such a welcome part, was represented by the Mayor and other civic dignitaries.
A very joyful and moving service was led by the church choir under the leadership of Mr. Bob Pegnall and accompanied by organist Mr. Malcolm Russell. Well known and much loved hymns, including ‘Guide me, O thou great Redeemer’, Parry’s‘Jerusalem’ and ‘The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended’, together with the 23rd. Psalm, rang out and took on new meaning at such a thought provoking occasion. A member of the Regiment and an army wife read the lessons, and the prayers were spoken by the Padre, The Revd. Stephen Hancock CF. The service was led by the Assistant Curate at St. Mary’s, the Revd. Paul Hambling and, once again, as he had in February, the address by the Rector, The Revd. Kevan McCormack, touched the hearts and minds of all present. Taking ‘Time’ as his theme, Kevan talked about the importance of respect for the past, the future and the present, referring to all the experiences which make each of us the person we are.
This evening together gave us all the opportunity to thank God for His care and protection of these young people. And for them to thank each other for the care and protection they offered their comrades whilst in the theatre of war. The dead and injured from other regiments were remembered, making the beautiful arrangements of red poppies even more poignant. The service ended with a blessing and the choir sang the most moving Vesper, ‘The Lord bless you and keep you’.
Whatever your views on war, and the current presence of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Rector reminded us that, without them and previous generations like them, we would not enjoy the freedom we experience today.
The folk of St. Mary’s and the town of Woodbridge wish them all a joyous and peaceful Christmas.
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