A cenotaph erected in Murrayville, B.C. in 1921 was the site of a formal service of remembrance this November 11—the first in the site’s 96-year history. Grace Muller, a member of Willoughby Christian Reformed Church, was one of three people who worked to organize the service, possibly the start of a tradition for future generations.
“Remembrance Day is very important to me,” said Muller, who is also a member of the Langley Heritage Society. “We need to remember those who sacrificed for the freedom and peace we enjoy and often take for granted. I also believe we need to connect with the people in our community and [to] serve.”
Muller arranged for Jenna Rodermond, a young adult member at Willoughby CRC, to lead the a capella opening singing of “O Canada” as well as “Amazing Grace” as a solo during the service. “Jenna’s singing of ‘Amazing Grace’ was the most moving part for me, and others expressed the same,” Muller said. She added that “the service had many ‘God moments,’ in a time when God is culturally unacceptable. For example it took a few discussions at the committee level before it was agreed to include a prayer. In the end I wrote an ‘acceptable one’.”
In addition to the prayer, songs, arranging for a portable sound system, and other details, the planning committee invited and arranged to have a detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police present at the service—a representation which is part of all local Remembrance Day gatherings. Organizers expected perhaps 50 to 100 people to come, but more than 400 women, men, and children attended the service. They hope this gathering will become an annual event.
The cenotaph and a twin monument in nearby Fort Langley were erected to honor local soldiers who had lost their lives in World War I. A service has never been held at the Murrayville cenotaph, which is in a cemetery tucked away in the trees of a rural residential area.
The Fort Langley service, which was initiated by grassroots organizers in 1999 with fewer than 30 in attendance, now draws 3,000 people each year. Its service is decidedly ecumenical in participation and liturgy. Walt Brouwer, a retired CRC pastor, gave the benediction at the close of that service.
Remembrance Day services are held across Canada with two minutes of silence being observed at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, followed by the laying of down of wreaths and poppies. The date is a recognition of Armistice Day, the official end of the hostilities of World War I.