Quiet Man posted an excellent insight into the poppy in light of the recent controversy around the Methodist clergywoman in Telford who refuses to wear one for the upcoming Remembrance Day service.
Instead of leaving a lengthy comment on his post, here are further thoughts on the story and the way in which it was reported.
She is not. She is a Methodist minister.
A vicar is a Church of England priest who is in charge not only of a parish church but is the head clergyman — ‘team leader’ in modern Anglican parlance — of the other C of E churches in that parish, even when each of those churches has its own priest-in-charge.
In the Lutheran Church, a vicar is an assistant minister, what Anglicans would call a curate.
Second, priorities are everything. Although a website does not seem to exist for Hadley Methodist Church, there is one for the nearby Leegomery Methodist Church, the minister for which is one Revd P J Jackson.
It is standard for pastors to fashion their websites to focus primarily on Christianity. Best practice in this area includes a statement of faith and mention of denominational affiliation.
This is what the Leegomery Methodist Church proclaims on its About page (emphases in the original).
The Mission of the Church is to be a “Hug for the Community” through Worship, Prayer, and being loving and caring.
Leegomery Methodist Church was built in 1878, with the Sunday School/Community Room being added in 1953. The Community Room was refurbished in 2010 and work was completed on the refurbishment of the Church in 2012. All facilities, which include fully fitted kitchen and toilets, comply with the Disability Act, Health & Safety, Fire Regulations and are Eco Friendly.
The Friends committee organise an Annual Community Family Fun Day, Bingo Evenings, Social Activities, Concerts, Religious Festivals and much more throughout the year. See Forthcoming Events for full details.
All Leaders of our Children and Young People’s Groups are CRB checked and the Church has a Safeguarding Policy for Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults.
Morning Worship is held every Sunday at 11am for which everyone is welcome.
A fun Sunday School for children & young people from 0 upwards also meets each week at 11am. This is nothing like day school, those attending take part in games, crafts, listen to stories and have lots of fun.
Being a ‘Hug for the Community’ is not a doctrinal, or a particularly Christian, statement.
Even worse, we don’t even find out what time the Sunday church service is until we’ve got past a mention of the toilets, Bingo Evenings and CRB checks.
Heaven knows what a ‘fun’ Sunday School must be like. Yes, it should be engaging for children, but I remember having to learn catechism in my day. My friends attending other churches studied the Bible. I guess I’m showing our age.
One wonders what sort of Gospel is being preached in a church that places a primary focus on facilities, social gatherings and government certification.
Third, one wonders if Ms Jackson is new to England. It just seems odd that anyone who has been here for a time, especially a clergyperson, would be so obstinate in wearing a white poppy — or none at all — if (s)he were about to lead a Remembrance Day service.
Any visitor or newcomer to these shores cannot miss the red poppies that men and women wear at this time of year, including nearly everyone appearing on television news broadcasts. It’s abundantly clear that Remembrance Day is — quite rightly — an important day to the British.
Fourth, poppies are no longer a tradition in the United States. It used to be that, at this time of year, American veterans collected donations for the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) or the American Legion, giving the donor a poppy. Those who served in Europe handed out red poppies. Those who served in the Pacific Theater handed out light blue ones. I checked with my friends Stateside in the 1990s to find out if this collection was still done; according to them, it hasn’t been for some time. This means that poppies vanished from the American consciousness sometime during Ms Jackson’s youth.
Fifth, semiotics of colour relating to war are lost on Americans. I doubt many Americans under 50 understand what four white feathers mean anymore. For a start, the film is rarely shown on television, if at all. Also, Americans no longer look to the British traditions and history which informed their own heritage for over two centuries. Americans look inward for revisionism or to developing world countries for a new cultural history.
Sixth, American seminaries are hotbeds of feminism and leftist politics. They outdo The Guardian in their adoption of ‘peace and justice’ as well as identity politics. For them, Scripture is but a footnote and none of it is history but rather liberation allegory. I know someone relatively conservative who went through the system over 20 years ago, when female seminarians began holding church services with prayers addressed to ‘God, our Mother’. Even now, having served in churches for a few decades, she gets more radical by the year. It sounds as if Ms Jackson might have experienced something similar.
Finally, I agree with the old soldier quoted in the Shropshire Star:
David Moore, president of the Hadley and Leegomery Royal British Legion, said: “From the military members who attend the service, and there are a lot, we were very shocked.
“If someone decides they don’t want to wear a poppy, that is down to the individual, but if they are officiating a remembrance service, just for an hour, an hour and a half, it’s not going to cut anyone’s throat to wear one.”
If I were Ms Jackson, I would take the time to talk with Mr Moore, councillors and members of the congregation to find out what Remembrance Day and the red poppy mean to the British.
She still has time to change her mind. I hope she does.