Our Remembrance Day Service will reflect the fact that 11th November this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the ending of what we now refer to as the First World War, but which had then been referred to as the Great War or the War To End All Wars. Perhaps the Armistice seems remote to some now. Indeed two of the churches in our group had not been founded when the First World War ended. However the other two were affected and one, the then Avenue Congregational Church, had found itself at the centre of activities during that war, by providing a canteen for soldiers passing through and stationed on Southampton Common. It is worth remembering that Southampton was a major departure point for soldiers heading to fight on the continent and The Common accommodated many of them as they awaited the journey to France – tragically a one way trip for many young men.

However Remembrance is not just about the First World War. In the Second World War, Avenue Church again played a role in feeding troops in the run up to D-Day, as did our own Church (the James Hall was opened for some time as a canteen for troops assembling not just on The Common but in our streets as well).

The physical effects of that Second Conflict (in so many ways the result of the unsatisfactory peace created after the First World War) also had a direct impact on the churches that formed our group. One (ours) was seriously damaged by land mine blasts such that it was not possible to use the present Church Hall for a time until it had been repaired. Two were destroyed: that at Freemantle (subsequently rebuilt on a new site – the original site at the Shirley Rd/ Roberts Rd junction now accommodates flats); and that at Above Bar (the site of today’s Primark store), setting in train a series of amalgamations leading to the formation of Avenue St Andrews in 1986, as well as releasing funds for the completion of our own building in 1960.

Remembrance is a poignant time when we remember incredible sacrifice, loss, and the need for peace; when we remember the role of the many individuals within this and how our lives today, and even our own churches, have been shaped by the events of the past.