A Mission of Repentance in the time of this terrible war

The Church’s response to the war, in the form of the National Mission, was attracting interest in central/east Berkshire.

The National Mission

Meetings for instruction and devotion are being arranged in various centres of the Rural Deanery. Twyford is the Centre for the parishes of Hurst, Remenham, Ruscombe, Woodley and Wargrave.

It is proposed to hold a meeting on Wednesday, September 20th, beginning in the Parish Hall, Twyford, at 3.30pm. and ending, after tea, with a service in Church. The name of the speaker, and other particulars, will be announced later.

It is hoped that a second meeting will be arranged at the same hour on Saturday, September 23rd, for Teachers and all who have the charge of children.

The Witness of the Church

When we speak of the Message of God to the Nation in the time of this terrible war and of the Mission of Repentance, we naturally think of the great responsibility of the Church of England.

The Church is the witness to Truth and we must thank God that the Church of England has been faithful in her stewardship.

When we penitently recall the sins of selfishness, the pursuit of wealth, and the heedlessness of God, which are at the root of this war, we must remember that the Church of England has all along been bearing faithful witness against them both in life and doctrine.

Corporate Witness

In 1908 the Archbishops and Bishops of all the Dioceses in the Anglican Communion, (that is to say all which owe their origin to and are in full communion with the Church of England) met together at Lambeth Palace, in London, and wrote an open letter to us all.

There were 242 Archbishops and Bishops who wrote this letter “after offering prayer and praise in the Cathedral Church of Canterbury and receiving in Westminster Abbey the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood, and invoking the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

The central thought of that letter is “Service.” And this is the very centre of the Church’s character as declared by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. For He came “not to be ministered unto, but to minster.” Mow the power to witness to Christ depends on being like Him; so wherever men are living and need help, whether the need be conscious or unconscious, thither the Church of the Christ who took upon Him the form of a servant is beckoned by the opportunity of service.

The Bishops review the field of service and put it plainly before us.

Men are set to realise their life and faculties in relation to God and in relation to their fellow men. The Church may help and serve them in both these relations. So the Church bears her witness in both the religious and the social life of the people.

The Bishops bid us hold fast to the Apostles’ Creed as a sure anchor amid the drifting tendencies of modern thought. They bid us pray that the Lord will send forth labourers into the harvest and count it a privilege to dedicate our own sons to the work of the ministry. They warn us that secular systems of education are educationally as well as morally unsound and that it is our duty to bring up our children in the fear and nurture of the Lord. They warn us against a growing disregard of the sanctity of marriage, calling upon all right-thinking and clean-living men and women to defend the family life and the social order which rests upon the sanctity of the marriage tie. They remind us that if we have property it is a trust and its right use is a religious duty. They call attention to the grave perils arising from the disregard of the Christian Sunday.

They bid us regard the ideals of brotherhood, liberty, movement of the century: In these ideals they recognise and mutual justice and help which underlie the democratic the working of our Lord’s teaching as to the inestimable value of every human being in the sight of God, and His special thought for the weak and the oppressed. They remind us that these are practical truths proclaimed by the ancient Prophets and enforced by our Lord with all the perfectness of His teaching and His life: In so far as the democratic and industrial movement is animated by them and strives to procure for all, especially for the weaker, just treatment and a real opportunity of living a true human life they appeal to all Christians to co-operate actively with it. And they remind us that only so can we hope to commend to the movement the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is at once its true stimulus and its true executive.

They frankly acknowledge the moral gains sometimes won by war, but, as servants of the Prince of Peace, they welcome the efforts of the Hague conference and they record their conviction that conflicts arising from race, prejudice, from commercial rivalry, and from competing trade interests can be best brought to an end by a resolute use of arbitration and similar methods.

The Bishops tell us that their resolutions upon all the matters in which they bear their witness cannot be summarised; they must be studied. But even an incomplete summary gives an impression of faithful stewardship which is representative of the witness of the Church of England in our day and for which we must humbly and devoutly thank God.

And this illustration of the witness of the Church of England in her teaching is supported by the witness of her life. The Church has been faithful in the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The house of God has been a house of prayer in the land: The Gospel has been carried to the heathen and the kingdom of Christ has been wonderfully enlarged: The Church Schools have been maintained at great sacrifice: The sick and poor have been tended.

In all these ways of service and in very many others, we thank God for the splendid record of the Church of England. We should be ashamed to do otherwise, left we should be ungrateful to the mother that bare us and blind to the good had of our God upon us.

Individual Witness

But the Witness of the Church is not only expressed in the Encyclical letter of the Lambeth Conference, or in the Resolutions of its Representative Assemblies, or in the broad life movements of the Corporate body. The Witness of the Church is also expressed in the life and teaching of its individual members.

Each one of us, in his place and calling, is a representative of the Church and a steward of the Truth. “Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.”

Here then is cause for both Repentance and Hope. Everyone of us who thanks God for this splendid witness of the Church of England both in life and teaching must feel how unworthy his own life witness has been.

Everyone who is frank with himself must own up:-
My life has not been a consistent witness to what the Church holds sacred and right. And it is not through ignorance that I have fallen short, for the Church has proclaimed it in my ears. Nor have I fallen short through my weakness, for the Holy Spirit would at all times give me all the strength I need. Therefore it is my own fault. And when people have spoken of the failure of the Church perhaps it was my failure and inconsistency, as a member of the Church, which influenced them.

So this is the Mission of Repentance.

But in spite of past unfaithfulness everyone of us is a living member of the Church of which Christ is the Head and in which the Holy Spirit dwells. We are only asked to show in the witness of our lives the love which we feel for the Saviour who died for us. “If ye love me keep my commandments.” He will never command without giving strength to obey. So if we yield our wills to Him, perhaps even yet, men may take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus.

This is the Mission of Hope.

Wargrave parish magazine, September 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

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