World War I Commemoration

Marking the Centennial Anniversary of the Beginning of World War I

Resource for Worship on Sunday, July 27


The “Great War” began on July 28, 1914. This conflict led to dramatic and unforeseen changes in warfare, and altered Europe, the larger Western culture and the Middle East in ways that still impact us today. The “War to end all Wars” reshaped nations, changed the geopolitical landscape, and left 16 million dead and 20 million wounded in little over four years.

The World War I Commission, established by the United States Congress, invites faith communities to reflect on the suffering of the “Great War”, resolved that we might muster the will to end war and suffering for future generations. In order to facilitate this remembrance, the Commission invited Washington National Cathedral to create resources for worship on the weekend marking the beginning of the First World War.

The following resources were developed by the Rev. Canon Gina Gilland Campbell, canon precentor at the National Cathedral. They include collects, prayers suitable for a litany or shared reading which might be interspersed with singing, and homiletic reflections on Scripture suggested by the Revised Common Lectionary adapted for the day. The Cathedral and the Commission invite you to use these resources, in whole or in part, with freedom to modify them for use by your congregation.

For more information about the Cathedral, visit The World War I Commission helps citizens learn about World War I and the United States involvement in that war. For more information about the WWI Commission, visit

These resources are also available as a pdf: View now »

Opening Collect

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Proper 12, Collect for the day, The Book of Common Prayer)

Suggested Readings for the Day

1 Kings 3:5–12
Solomon prays for wisdom rather than wealth or the misfortune of his enemies

Psalm 119:129–136a
Those who trust in God’s commandments are satisfied

Romans 8:26–39
Paul proclaims that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus

Matthew 13:31–33; 44
Three parables of the possibilities of small things

(Revised Common Lectionary, Episcopal Edition, adapted)

Suggestions for Preaching

Even as we commemorate past events, we speak to the state of our world. We recognize that all political and military action changes the fabric of global community, for good and for ill. We call upon soldiers to take up the hard tasks of war on our behalf. We reflect on the needs of soldiers and veterans among us; who have served or continue to serve their country. Three themes present themselves in today’s readings: discerning wisdom, shame, and hope.

Discerning Wisdom: God respects Solomon’s choice to pursue wisdom, rather than wealth or the defeat of his enemies. What does wisdom look like in our time? Our well-meaning phrase “Thank you for your service” has a hollow ring for many soldiers and veteran soldiers. One military chaplain asks “Does it change anything in our thinking if were to say ‘Thank you for killing, so that we don’t have to.’”

We ask our sons and daughters, or the sons and daughters of others, to do terrible, unspeakable things. What does wisdom require? How do we speak appreciation and respect to our soldiers and veterans? How might we reinvigorate a conversation about just war? How does the church speak credibly to the power that nations will exercise?

Shame: Paul speaks eloquently of those realities in our lives that cannot separate us from God’s love. Thinking specifically about soldiers and veterans of contemporary wars, we might add shame to Paul’s expansive categories.

50% of all uniformed personnel are aged 25 or younger. Many lack an active connection to worshiping communities. At the same time, many experience significant, debilitating shame related to their service; a shame from which they can neither heal nor free themselves. What word of God’s love and grace might the church speak to those who, having a profound sense of having transgressed moral and spiritual boundaries, seek a return to wholeness? What wisdom can we bring to the healing of shame, to the care of our warriors?

Hope: The three parables of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel offer hope. In the smallest of things, in the leavening of experience, in hidden realities, one discovers the possibilities of great joy and profound hope.

Recent statistics tell us that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. How do we minister to those without hope? How do we stand with those searching for the smallest reason not to give in to hopelessness and despair? What account would we give for the hope that lies within us?

A Litany to Mark the Centennial of the Beginning of World War I

One hundred years ago, an assassin’s bullet plunges the nations of the world into violence unlike any the world has ever seen. Self-justification and self-righteousness divides your people; divides your world into opposing alliances; into enemies and friends. Forgive us!

For you, O God, seek to unify your people. Your word goes forth, calling us beyond self- centeredness and self-certainty into the ways of humility and understanding.

Holy God, Holy and mighty; Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.

The war to end all wars enlists 70 million people. 8 and a half million soldiers dead; 20 million soldiers severely wounded; 7 million civilians will also die; showing us the futility of our ways; the arrogance of our thoughts. How dare we imagine that by killing the sons and daughters of our enemies, we become friends! Forgive us!

For you, O God, create our hearts in love: hearts to love our neighbors; hearts to love our enemies; hearts to love ourselves. To share in your heart means to seek shalom, not swords: that your lovingkindness may prevail among the community of all your people.

Holy God, Holy and mighty; Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.

From the fields of Flanders to the forests of Verdun to the peninsula of Gallipoli, the dead cry out: life and love interrupted; hope and promise laid waste; war, war, and more war. Forgive us!

For you, O God, receive them into your presence. And raise them by your grace to life eternal, where sorrowing and sighing will be no more.

Holy God, Holy and mighty; Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.

Mounted cavalry meets withering machine gun fire; lye burns the skin; mustard gas causes the afflicted to drown on dry land. Our weapons of death exceed our moral preparation; squandering the gifts of your grace; careless with your creation, the work of your hands. Forgive us!

For your life, loving God, pulses through the universe; creating, redeeming, sustaining life. Your life: animating our very instinct for life; countering our tendency to choose death; quickening in us our every impulse to live.

Holy God, Holy and mighty; Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.

Trench rot, shellshock, battle fatigue: the consequences of war; cruel, prolonged, ill-conceived war. Our jealousies, our rivalries, our animosities prove costly. Your vision for us; a peaceable reign; grows dim. Forgive us!

For you, O God, desire shalom. We do not fool you when we cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace. You seek the day when all your people live whole and free; in hope and in safety.

Holy God, Holy and mighty; Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.

A League of Nations arises. Political hope for a peaceful future; nations committed to negotiation, arbitration and disarmament. This nation resists. Forgive us!

For you, O God, give counsel to the nations of the earth: courage and political will to risk the way of reconciliation and redemption. Your vision breaks through by your Spirit moving in our midst; your new heaven; your new earth; your global community made new.

Holy God, Holy and mighty; Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.

Closing Collect

Merciful God: You who breaks the bow and shatters the spear: we know what you require of us. You lead us to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with you. Give us discerning wisdom to choose the things that make for peace; the capacity to resist evil and support the common good; that we may never again stray from the ways of peace; neither shall we practice war anymore. Amen.