There has been some confusion this year over when to celebrate St George’s Day, much to the joy of political and theological commentators. 23 April is the normal date, but (as far as the Church of England is concerned) when a feast day falls during Easter Week, as St George’s Day did this year, it is postponed until the Monday following the First Sunday after Easter, i.e. 29 April. In Colchester, St George’s Day was celebrated this year on 28 April; that is to say, it was the day of the Civic Service for St George’s Day, and the Colchester Scouts’ St George’s Day Parade. Mercifully, as the Civic Service involved a procession from the Town Hall to St Peter’s Church, and the parade was (obviously) outside, the April showers did not do their stuff at the crucial moments, although I fear the scouts will not have escaped entirely. It was good to see so many of them marching past, in what seemed to the uninitiated a bewildering variety of uniforms.
After all that excitement, Lucy and I made our way to the Synagogue off Priory Street, where the Colchester & District Jewish Community had invited us to attend their Yom H’Shoah (Holocaust Commemoration Day) service. This was a completely new experience for us, and one that was both moving and delightful. Proceedings started with the lighting of six candles, each candle representing one million Jews lost, before the regular afternoon service, conducted mostly in Hebrew, partly sung, but with some sections in English, perhaps for the benefit of visitors like ourselves. There was then a selection of reflections and readings (in English) specifically for Yom H’Shoah. I was honoured to be asked to give one of the readings; Will Quince M.P. gave another, Celia Edey, deputising for the Lord-Lieutenant, another. There was something very simple and elegant about the service, both in the way it was conducted and in the words themselves, that added greatly to its poignancy and power. On top of that, we could not have been made to feel more welcome. This may be a small community, but it is a very vibrant one. For tea and cakes afterwards we were joined by the two Police Community Support Officers who had been assigned to keep a watchful eye over us, a reminder that the events we were commemorating have very real contemporary resonance.