A vicar has banned the rousing ‘Onward-Christian-Soldiers’ hymn from a Remembrance Sunday service causing an up-roar amongst some of the congregation who are planning to boycott the service at St Peter’s Church in Oadby, Leicestershire. Participants traditionally march into the church to the hymn at the end of the service every year.
Reverend Steve Bailey agreed the matter with the leaders of the Royal British Legion to respect the wide range of cultural backgrounds attending the parade.
He said: “We agreed the change in hymn with the Oadby Royal British Legion who run this major civic event because members of the community from a wide range of cultural backgrounds attend this parade, service and laying of wreaths at the war memorial.”
“It is because the legion’s committee recognised that people from different faiths served in the Armed Forces that we will be singing All People That On Earth Do Dwell instead of Onwards Christian Soldiers”.
“This year for the first time Oadby Multicultural Group will be laying a wreath at the War Memorial as well as the one I will lay on behalf of the parish and we do want people of all faiths who are paying respect to those from their own faiths and cultures who served and gave their lives, to feel welcome in the service”
So you would think that the thoughtful thinking of a modern civic leader would be met with understanding and respect. But instead the decision to cut the hymn has been met with hostility.
Pete Green, chairman of the Oadby Royal British Legion club, (which is a separate body from the Royal British Legion branch) said: “It is absolutely unbelievable. I have been going to Remembrance Services in Oadby since 1967, and Onward, Christian Soldiers has been sung ever year apart from one”.
“That was a few years ago, when another vicar tried to ban it. There was uproar then, and there is uproar now.”
“I’m disgusted, to be honest. As a result of the vicar’s decision I’m refusing to enter the church. I’m just going to lay a wreath”.
But others are supporting the decision of their Vicar and labelling those that do not enter as ‘pathetic’. Betty Adams, 92 from Stoughton said: “I don’t know what all the fuss is about? We are here to remember and honour those that died for our country, including a lot of my friends, and silly people are making it all about them. I think those that choose not to walk into the church are being pathetic.”
“I served in WWII and although Christian myself I had plenty of colleagues who weren’t – I think this is all very silly”.
Ian Thorpe, 61, vice-chairman of the Oadby RBL club, said: “I am not aware of a single complaint ever being made about the hymn being sung. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“If we went to a mosque we would not expect them to change their service to suit us, we would respect their traditions.”
“The parade has people from all nationalities and backgrounds, from Sikhs to Hindus, and bikers, and each one of them is proud to stand there and sing this hymn”.
The Oadby parade on the afternoon of Sunday, November 12 will involve hundreds of people including standard bearers from various soldiers groups around the county.