“Promise of peace” theme to brighten WWI armistice centennial in Oswego

image above: The Rev. Richmond Gesner of Oswego kept in close contact with a number of men from Oswego as they fought in Europe in World War I. He was the rector of Christ Church, the westside Episcopal church in Oswego at the time. The city’s two Episcopal churches later consolidated as the Church of the Resurrection, which sits on the site of the original Christ Church.

By Julie Blissert, a member of the Church of the Resurrection (Episcopal) in Oswego, New York.

Corporal Arthur Ingram wrote the “promise of peace” letter that will inspire sermons in Oswego County on Sunday, Nov. 11th. Ingram is buried at St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Bredgar, England. The Rev. Alan Pinnegar, rector of the Benefice of Tunstall and Bredgar, in October placed an Oswego County WWI commemorative flag at Ingram’s headstone as part of the county’s commemoration.

A letter to an Episcopal priest in Oswego that was published in the Oswego Daily Times during World War I will provide the theme for sermons preached in more than a dozen churches around Oswego County on Sunday, Nov. 11th, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the Great War.

Corporal Arthur Ingram wrote the letter to the Rev. Richmond Gesner, rector of Christ Church in Oswego, and Gesner offered it to the newspaper. Ingram was one of “Gesner’s Boys,” servicemen from Oswego who found in the priest a cheering reminder of home as they fought in Europe.

“About half the time, I have been in the front line, sometimes not more than sixty yards from the enemy,” Ingram wrote from France. He lamented the “once beautiful wooded country” turned into “a shelled, broken-up, muddy mess.”

He continued, “Not a twig on any tree is alive, but the one link we have with nature is the birds. . . . the more intense the bombardment, the harder they seem to sing. They just sound great in contrast with the guns. When I hear them, it seems like a promise of peace.”

Ingram wrote the letter more than two years before the armistice. A native of England who had been living in Oswego as the war in Europe began, he enlisted in the Canadian Army. He was never to return to Oswego. Ingram was wounded in France and died in a hospital in England in 1917.

His grave site was recently decorated with an Oswego County World War I commemorative flag with the inscription “Honored and Remembered” as part of the Oswego County WWI Commemoration Project.

“By honoring World War I Veterans, we honor their yearning to fight for peace,” said the Rev. Anne Wichelns, rector of the Church of the Resurrection, the Episcopal church that now occupies the site of Gesner’s Christ Church, at the corner of West Fifth and Cayuga streets in Oswego.

The Rev. Jeff Knox will deliver the “Promise of Peace” sermon at the Church of the Resurrection during the 10 a.m. service on Nov. 11.

At 11 a.m. that day — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time when the armistice was signed in 1918 — Sunday school children will ring bells on the church lawn. Plans also call for tolling the church bell, if work on the bell tower makes it possible.

The plans are part of the Oswego County WWI Commemoration Project, coordinated by Dan Allen of Oswego. The project provides a means for local communities and organizations to join and participate in a variety of commemorative activities and programs centered on the 100th Anniversary of the ending of the Great War. More than 20 churches in the county of all denominations are expected to participate by ringing bells, preaching “Promise of Peace” sermons, or both.

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