Cenotaph vigil to be held again in Chatham

A group stands guard outside the Chatham Cenotaph Friday morning, taking their turn during the second annual Remembrance Day vigil. November 9, 2018. (Photo by Greg Higgins)

A Chatham church is preparing to hold its annual multiday Remembrance Day vigil at the cenotaph in honour of those who served the country in war.

Christ Church started the vigil in 2017 by having people stand at the cenotaph in downtown Chatham for a total of 150 hours to coincide with Canada’s milestone birthday.  The tradition continued in 2018 with a 64-hour vigil.

Those who take part in the vigil are a mix of church members, Royal Canadian Legion Members and community members. Rev. John Maroney, a pastor at Christ Church, said the original idea behind the vigil was to do something different to bring attention to Remembrance Day and veterans. He said he believes that the importance of honouring veterans is diminishing with the newer generation.

“So often now it’s being forgotten. Almost every veteran… from the First World War is now passed away. The ones from the Second World War are slowly but surely all passing away. So it’s a way of keeping a tradition alive… what a better platform than to stand at the cenotaph and just stand solemnly as a sign of respect,” said Maroney. “I wouldn’t call it a theatrical way but it’s a tactical way of letting the community come together.”

Maroney said he’s noticed over the last few years how many young people don’t realize what a cenotaph is and don’t recognize what it symbolizes. He said he’s also seen the monument disrespected by vandalism.

“They were beginning to put graffiti on the cenotaph and that really bothered us, the fact that somebody was disrespectful enough to put graffiti. So it’s just our way of trying to bring together, inform the community and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

In 2018, two teenagers were charged after the assault of a 66-year-old man who was standing vigil. Maroney said the incident has resulted in them making some changes to how they do the vigil in 2019.

“What we’ve done is we’re not going through the night [and] we’re not having vigils in the wee hours of the morning,” he explained.

The vigil will take place daily from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. starting November 7 and running until November 11. If you wish to get involved and stand vigil, Maroney asks that you call the church at 519-352-1640. Shifts are done in two-hour intervals and food will be provided afterwards.