An oasis of peace and goodwill in Reading

One of the most influential contributions of Broad Street Congregational Church to the wider life of Reading before the war was the Broad Street Brotherhood, a semi-religious social club for local working men which was part of the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon movement. Its members included many of those targetted by recruiters for the army, and it was greatly affected by the war, as this entry in the church magazine makes clear.

There is one matter which I do not intend to dwell upon this month and that is the war. Every newspaper, every magazine is full of it, and it will be impossible to add anything to what has already been written, but there is one item I must put on record, and that is, that we as a Brotherhood are very proud of our members who have volunteered and are now serving our King and Country, and we say to them from the bottom of our hearts, “God be with you till we meet again”.

Many of our Brothers and the writer have been looking forward each Sunday afternoon during the past month for one hour on one day of the week free from hearing of this awful war in which we are now engaged, but alas, it has been war news, war songs, and war addresses, and it seems impossible to get a moment’s quietude. How we should appreciate a Sunday afternoon with two minutes of silent prayer for peace, and then one hour’s restful service together.

Last Sunday, our postponed prize distribution took place, and a very fine lot of books was taken away by our brothers, numerically not so many as on previous occasions, not because the books were not earned, but because many of our brothers have given the whole of their book money either to the National Brotherhood Campaign, or to the Prince of Wales’ War Fund, a most generous and well merited act on their part.

Our Brotherhood choir again tendered valuable services in making the concert at the Palace Theatre [in Reading] on behalf of the Prince of Wales’ Fund, such a stupendous success. …

The autumn session is now started and we are hoping to make our PSA an oasis of peace and good will during the tumultuous times we are now living in.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, September 1914 (D/N11/12/1/14)

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