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Remembrance and respect

Chaplain Remembrance Day
University Chaplain Kate Johnson speaks to those who gathered at Grant Hall during last year’s Remembrance Day ceremony. (University Communications)


For University Chaplain Kate Johnson, the challenge of organizing this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony is clear. She wants to find a tone that is respectful but avoids glorifying or romanticizing conflict.

“I think that on every day we should honour the willingness of our service people to lay down their lives for our country,” she says. “But part of honouring their willingness is to make every effort at peacebuilding, ensuring that those sacrifices are not made unnecessarily.”

That attitude is especially important to Ms. Johnson, who is an avowed pacifist, because her husband is a retired military serviceperson.

“I have a lot of respect for my husband’s sense of vocation and he has a lot of respect for my pacifism,” she says. “As I’ve become more familiar with military culture it’s become increasingly important to me that we be very careful what we ask our service people to do.”

To find the tone of respectful remembrance, she’s enlisted the help of Reverend Doctor Peter Bartlett of Eastminster Church in Belleville. A Queen’s alumnus who received his Master’s of Divinity in 2007, Rev. Dr. Bartlett is also an army veteran of 25 years. Serving as an infantry officer and attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Rev. Dr. Bartlett retired in 2001 after tours of duty in Croatia, El Salvador, various countries in the Middle East, as well as training paratroopers in Trenton.  

“My previous experience in the military has had a very strong effect on my reflection and present ministry,” he says. “Having seen conflict firsthand and knowing many people still serving, I have experience in the toll that service can take. For the ceremony I want to offer a discussion of the contradiction that those called to fight in armed conflict do so in the service of peace.”

Like Chaplain Johnson, Rev. Dr. Bartlett wants his reflection to be respectful of the rigours of military service without glorifying it.

“People in service take on an immense and serious responsibility; I hope to honour those who make that difficult decision while keeping in mind the reality of war,” he says.

The Remembrance Day ceremony will be held Nov. 11 at 10:53 am in Grant Hall, with doors opening at 10:30 am. It will include reflections by University Rector Mike Young and Rev. Dr. Bartlett as well as a performance by the Queen’s Choral Ensemble.