There is a new spirit amongst our young people

An elderly nonconformist clergyman had hope for the post war world and the new generation.

The Gates of Youth, By Rev. Monro Gibson, M.A., LL.D.

I am now about as far away from the gates of Youth as any one in this world can well be, but the remarkable thing is that the father I go from them, the increasing distance, instead of making them look smaller, makes them seem larger and ever larger – so much so that in my old age I confess to a great and increasing longing to help my young friends to see what a glorious, magnificent life which is opening before them.

The adventure of life begins with the dawn of personal responsibility. In childhood we are in a garden, a Garden of Eden, let us say, sheltered, secluded, happy in its limitations; but sooner or later the gates of Eden open outwards, and the world is all before us with its continents and islands, its seas and oceans, its illimitable possibilities; its fearful risks on the one hand, its great reaches on the other.

Difference between Men and Animals

Herein lies the immense difference between the life of man and that of lower animals. They have each their limits imposed on them by nature. In every case there is growth along certain fixed lines, and up to certain fixed limits; but in no case is there any possibility of a development at all corresponding to that of the boy into a Shakespeare or a Newton, or the girl into a Florence Nightingale or a Catherine Booth; and that altogether irrespective of the infinities and eternities which lie beyond. On the other hand, there is no peril corresponding to that which may transform a noble youth into a Judas or a Kaiser or a sot.

These things being so, there is call for the most earnest thought in passing through these fateful Gates. It will not do simply to yield to the impulse of the moment as if it did not matter much how you set out or what you were aiming at. I do think, however, that there are some warnings which, though very much needed four years ago, are not called for now. For there is a new spirit amongst our young people. There has been a high summons to whole-souled devotion to a great cause, and to that summons there has been a noble response, so that I believe there are very few young men or young women either, who would be willing now to welcome a life of self-indulgence or pleasure-seeking or easy-going mediocracy; and those who would still prefer that kind of thing are too far down to be likely to be reached by any high appeal. The great majority now, I am sure, demand the strenuous life, the life of active service with something in it of adventure or peril, calling for courage, resourcefulness, sacrifice if need be. The cricket pitch and the golf course, the dance and the supper party may still find a corner in life but only a corner. Surely the feeling now is practically universal that to put one’s life into any such things as these is despicable in the last degree. How encouraging it is to find that when there is a call for volunteers to an enterprise which means almost certain death, like the attack ion Zeebrugge or the final Voyage of The Vindictive, every one is not only ready but is disappointed if he cannot be accepted.

A New World

You may say: It is the War that has done this, and we are all very glad that it has come to an end. Yes: but is there any reason why the spirit the War has called forth should come to an end with it? By no means. We are constantly reminded that it is a new world we are entering into, with greater opportunities, nobler prospects and more difficult problems that we have ever known; and there will be a new call for the exercise of all the noblest faculties the War has evoked, and for many others for which even its multiplied demands have not afforded scope and opportunity. Surely it is not without significance that a man who represents so large and in many respects so unpromising a constituency as H. G. Wells has done should even passionately urge the claims of the Kingdom of God upon the service of us all, and especially of our young people who will be the chief agents in the new developments before us. We have all along had before s the call to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” to make that the great ambition of our lives; but so far it has kindled the souls of only a very small minority. May it not now “catch on,” to use the common phrase, and gather itself the patriotism, the enthusiasm, the devotion, courage and self-sacrifice of the generation now coming on the scene.

Moreover, we are now apparently entering on a new era of democracy whose success will depend not on a small number of super-men or heroes of the Nietschean or Carlylean type to subdue the masses to their will; but on the people, each with his share of responsibility, every one with his full share of opportunity, with education that will open up fields of service to every variety of talent, and with institutions that will give full scope for its exercise. Even as things have been in the world, our young people have had much encouragement to put forth every effort in the beginning of life to train their powers for usefulness; but it is more worth while now than ever it was before. In the old Book of Proverbs it is written, “A man’s gift maketh room for him.” True now in a fuller sense than when the wise man wrote it down, it will still be more so in the days that are coming. Therefore I would congratulate our young people especially on the prospect before them, entering on life in times like these which are more full of portent and of promise than even those of which the poet Wordsworth wrote:

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven.”

It is indeed true as it always was, that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life”; but now that there is this new spirit in the land for enduring hardness, for concentration of energy, for ventures of faith and courage, and now that the life which is set before us, which and full as it has always been, promises to be richer and fuller than ever, we may hope that it will no longer be true that “few there be that find it,” but that multitudes of our young people, young men and young women, will press through the gates into the new life.

Newbury and Thatcham Congregational Magazine, May 1919 (D/N32/12/1/1/1)

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Red hot with enthusiasm and ideas for reconstruction

Soldiers wanted to change life at home.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Reconstruction is the word in everybody’s mouth today, and it is most essential that we of the Brotherhood should reconstruct our society.

To reconstruct is to rebuild. The foundation of our society is sound; it is the superstructure that requires rebuilding.

We have a large number of our members back from the front, red hot with enthusiasm and ideas, and we hope to harness and put into working order the lessons they have learnt “over there” – such as fellowship and mutual help.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, April 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Britain’s great army in “civies” again after their unforgettable experiences

Maidenhead men were coming home.

OUR SOLDIERS.

Britain’s great army, having gloriously accomplished its tremendous task, is being rapidly broken up, and already something like one-half of our men are demobilised. F.W. Harmer, R. R. Hill, J.H. Bolton, Harold Islip, Heorge Belcher, Cecil Meade, C.S. Vardy, C. Catliff, in addition to those who have been previously named, are in “civies” again, and others are shortly expecting their papers. Percy Lewis has been sent home from France, and is for the present doing duty at an Army Hospital in Camberwell. It is a great pleasure to welcome all these friends home again, after their unforgettable experiences.

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, March 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

A cordial “welcome home”

Reading soldiers were coming home.

We have been glad to see Lieutenant W. D. Hart, MC, once more in his old place in the choir, and we give him a cordial “welcome home”.

We also give cordial welcome to the other brethren restored to us during the past month by the demobilization. We have been glad to see once more in our midst:

Lieut. Wilfred Beer, Private G. S. Hampton, Sergeant E. C. Dracup, Lance-Corporal A. E. Hawkins, Corporal R. S. Woolley, Corporal A. Butt, Private F. W. Snell, Private E. R. Robertson, Gunner A. G. Walker, Private V. Mace, and Private A. W. Panting.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, March 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

We have passed through dark days, and darker still may be the days to come

The post-war picture was gloomy.

Visit of the Rev. Dr. Selbie.

When, owing to the Railway Strike, Dr. Selbie was unable to be present at the Pastor’s Recognition Service, he promised to come to us in the New Year. Thus it was, that on Sunday, March 16th, we had the great privilege of listening to him.

The sermon in the morning was based upon Haggai ii, 9- “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former.” It was, said the doctor, a sermon on Reconstruction. The Jews had returned from their long captivity to find Jerusalem a ruin, and their land in the hands of aliens. Under the leadership of Nehemiah and others, they set to work and first built the temple and restored the worship of Jehovah. The people had a mind to work and their first work was that of spiritual reconstruction.

We are living in tremendous times, far more so than most of us realised. We have passed through long years of terrible war and terrible loss. The work of reconstruction lay before us. Were we prepared to undertake the work? More important still, was the temple of God to be the first consideration? With 90 per cent of our population non-Christian, how could this be? We have passed through dark days, and darker still may be the days to come. But the Christian is essentially an optimist. God’s will must be done, if not by us then by some other hands. To us, as to the ancient Jews, comes the assurance that “the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the former.

There was a prophetic power in the doctor’s utterances. His picture of the present time was dark, his condemnation of much which passes for Christianity severe, but above all was the assurance of the love of God, and of the ultimate victory of righteousness over evil.

Thatcham Congregational Church section of Newbury and Thatcham Congregational Magazine, May 1919 (D/N32/12/1/1/1)

“We were very pleased that we spent those four terrible years in England”

The Van Hoof family, who had spent the war as refugees in Maidenhead, returned home.

OUR BELGIAN REFUGEE FRIENDS.

41, Kapelstraat, Boom,
Prov. (Anvers), Belgie,

March 8th.

Dear Mrs. Lewis,-

I am very sorry I have not been able to write before, but we have been so busy that we have not found time to do anything but arrange things at home. We spent nearly a week travelling before we were home. Before going on the boat we had to stay two days in London, which we spent in sight seeing.

We went on the boat about one o’clock on Friday, 28th, and started to sail about 4 o’clock the same day. The weather was glorious all through the sea journey, so that we arrived in Antwerp on Sunday morning about 12 o’clock. Before we were off the boat nearly an hour had passed. One of my uncles was there to meet us, so that it was quite 5 o’clock before we got home. You can imagine our relatives’ joy at meeting us again. We spent the whole of that day in talking, talking, talking.

Our home was quite alright, but the furniture and many other things that were in it have been stolen or else much damaged. The blankets you gave us have come in very useful, for they are things of the past here. The people have suffered very much, and the clothing has been so dear that they used to have all spare blankets dyed (for garments). The food is now much cheaper, about the same as in England, except the meat and bread. That is nearly twice the price as that in England.

We were very pleased that we spent those four terrible years in England, and by the help of the Committee we suffered nothing to complain of. Thanking you for your goodness towards us, and hoping to receive an answer from you,

I remain, yours faithfully,

J. VAN HOOF

Think of that from a little Belgian girl, who did not know a word of English when she came to Maidenhead!

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, April 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

The good work has been beyond all praise

It was no longer necessary to entertain soldiers.

MINISTER’S JOTTINGS

For a very long time our schoolrooms have been devoted to the almost exclusive use of the men and women in khaki in our midst. The need for this no longer exists, and so it has been decided to “close down”. The good work done in this way has been beyond all praise, and I should like to thank most heartily all those ladies and gentlemen who have carried it through so successfully.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, March 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

A happy memory of life in a strange land

Maidenhead’s Belgian refugees went home.

OUR BELGIAN GUESTS.

Mr. and Mrs. Van Hoof and their two daughters left Maidenhead for Belgium on Wednesday, February 26th. A free passage was given to them by the Government, and all arrangements were made by the Central Belgium Refugees’ Committee. So ends an interesting episode in our Church life, one upon which we may look back with satisfaction. Our relations with these refugees have been throughout of the pleasantest description, and they were uniformly grateful for our efforts to make their lot in a strange land happy.

When we first resolved to be responsible for the care of a Belgian family, we thought six would be about our measure, but when a company of ten, all closely related to each other, was offered us, we accepted the larger obligation. They settled down in Fairford Road, which we furnished with borrowed furniture, in November, 1914. Six took advantage of an opportunity to return to their own land in September 1915, and we have had no direct word of them since, though we have heard that one of them, Mrs. Asselberg, shortly afterwards died.

Towards the cost of meeting their needs we have raised in all about £265, including £9 11 s. 11d. from the Adult School, and £2 6s. 1d. from the P. M. E. Society. In May, 1916, we ceased making weekly payments to them, though still remaining responsible for rent, coal and gas. Since February, 1918, they have been entirely self-supporting. At the end the Treasurer has about £6 10s. 0d. in hand, part of which sum will be required for carting back the borrowed furniture and cleaning down the house prior to giving up the tenancy, the remainder being given to Mr. and Mrs. Van Hoof. We shall hope to hear soon that our friends are happily settled once more in their own land, and that the four years and a quarter spent in Maidenhead are a happy memory.

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, March 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Reviving old organisations and starting new ones

Broad Street Chapel was getting back to normal.

From the various announcements that appear on this and other pages, our friends will see that we are busy reviving old organisations and starting new ones. In addition to those mentioned we are anxious to revive the Young People’s Union and the Boy Scouts, and we hope that before long both may be in full swing again.

Demobilization is now proceeding apace, and our men are beginning to return. We have been glad recently to see once more in our midst, and to welcome “home” Mr T. A. Green, Mr F. W. Warman, Mr J. H. Pitts, Mr Emmett and Mr J. P. Anger. Others are shortly expected, and we hope before long to have them all back.

For some time the operations of the Ladies’ Sewing Meeting have been suspended, but it has now been decided to make a fresh start. The inaugural meeting of a new session will be held in the Institute Room on Tuesday February 18th.

BROTHERHOOD

The Roll of Honour is being brought up to date, and later on we are going to have a permanent one to the memory of our brothers who have fallen in the Great War.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, February 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“He speaks well on the whole of his treatment in the prisoners’ camp”

Cigarettes were this year’s Christmas gift for Maidenhead soldiers.

OUR SOLDIERS.

A letter of Christmas greeting was again sent to each of our soldiers, and a packet of cigarettes to those who were overseas. We hope that in a very short time the majority of them will be back amongst us. Robert Bolton and Alfred Isaac have already been discharged. Reginald Hill was at home for Christmas leave, looking quite recovered after his long hospital experiences. Wallace Mattingley and George Ayres are in Germany.

We are glad to hear that 2nd Lieut Edgar Jones, son of Rev. G H. Jones, of Marlow, who, after a few days in France was taken prisoner about 17 months ago, returned home in time for Christmas. He speaks well on the whole of his treatment in the prisoners’ camp.

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, January 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

A good tea of quite pre-war quality and quantity

Things were beginning to get back to normal.

For four weeks, in common with the other schools in the town, our [Sunday] School was closed in consequence of the so called “Influenza” which has recently raged in our midst….

On the 15th inst. Our usual New Year Treat to the children (and it’s a real treat to the Officers and Teachers also) was held in the Schoolroom. At 5.30 the scholars sat down to a good tea of quite pre-war quality and quantity.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, February 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

There is an ugly temper brewing in some quarters, and if things show no signs of mending, there will be trouble

Peacetime offered new challenges for the country, especially with a newly democratic parliament.

THE NEW YEAR.

The old wish, “A Happy New Year,” seems out of place just now. There is too much strenuous work to be done, there are too many calls upon our best manhood and womanhood for any of us to be looking round for mere happiness. Happiness is for future years, when the social fabric of the nations has been put together again, and there is rest. In the new year we are expecting great things from the Parliament, which is charged with a duty weighty and solemn beyond all precedent. Too much in the past our statesmen have forgotten God and His righteousness in the fashioning of laws. If we want a strong nation, we must get it established upon the foundations of eternal justice and love. We have got to make our nation really Christian, for only in that way can it endure. The most cleverly constructed constitution in the world will rot and go to pieces if it be not in harmony with the teaching of the Gospels. On Christ, the solid rock, it must stand, all other ground is sinking sand. What an opportunity the country has to-day! Now is our chance to uplift the nation and the world into Christian ideals! Let us batter the gates of heaven with storms of prayer for it.

We are all hoping, too, for a higher level of social life in our country, that life may be made more tolerable for all classes. We must do something towards getting money dethroned, towards rooting out that vulgar error that wealth means money. True wealth is life and happiness and peace, work to do and love to bestow. Wealth means quality of life. It is to have capacity for noble joy and noble sorrow, it is to have a passion for love and beauty and truth. The vulgar craving for money, the race for wealth, has brought about the thrusting down of the poor and the workers, and conditions in our towns and villages that will not be longer tolerated. There is an ugly temper brewing in some quarters, and if things show no signs of mending, there will be trouble.

The solution of all our problems is in making Christ the actual reigning King of life, national and personal. The Prime Minister spoke recently of a wave of materialism which he said always followed great wars. Was he right in saying “always?” When England had been saved from a great danger by the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588, was there not a sense of gratitude to God, and a great revival of religion? And was there not a similar revival at the close of the Napoleonic wars? If we Christians will put our hearts into it, with prayer and consecration, we can make much for Christ of this great opportunity. If we will fight unbelief and materialism, if we will wage warfare for the Kingdom of Christ, as our men fought on the banks of the Yser, and in the Valley of the Somme, our national life will be purer, and Christ will find place in many hearts.

So let us not wish each other this time “A Happy New Year,” but a guided and a useful and a blessed New Year.

T.F. LEWIS.

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, January 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

There is still a very stiff bit of road to be travelled before the desired end can be reached

Some now wanted to move forward instead of looking back at the war.

MINISTER’S JOTTINGS

Without the slightest misgiving I can most cordially wish every reader of these notes a very glad and happy New Year. It is a great joy to be able to do this once more. During the past four years of strife and bloodshed it has not been possible; but we are now at the dawning of a brighter and better day. We thank God for the answer to our many prayers, and we take courage. There is still a very stiff bit of road to be travelled before the desired end can be reached. But the future is bright with promise, and we shall earnestly pray that the terms of the peace, which we eagerly anticipate, may be such as shall make all war impossible in future.

Meantime, we must get to work to set our house in order. During the time of war we have been compelled to suspend several of our ordinary activities. The time has now come when we must begin to think about renewing them. Though our energies have been diverted from the usual channels they have not been wasted. Far from it. Excellent work has been done in providing hospitality for the men and women in khaki in our midst, and we cannot be too grateful to the splendid band of helpers who have carried the work through so successfully. But with the coming of peace the necessity for this service will be gone. Reconstruction is the word which is on all lips in these days. Let us seriously tackle our own problems of reconstruction, and thus help to ensure the happy future for which we pray.

BROTHERHOOD

Again we are at the beginning of a new year, and at this time there is a tendency to look backward, when we cannot help remembering the terrible tragedy of the last four years. But turning and looking forward, we see a brighter time coming for the whole world.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, January 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“Beginning again in the dark”

There was great sympathy for soldiers’ whose war wounds had left them blind.

FOR ST DUNSTAN’S

We have done a good many generous things as a church, but it is doubtful if we ever responded quite so well as when we helped the cause of the Blinded Soldiers and Sailors during the Christmas season. Starting in quite a modest way with the suggestion that our choir should provide a carol service in the evening of Christmas Sunday [28 December 1918], the plans gathered sympathy, until they included a United Carol Service in the Village Hall on the Sunday evening referred to, a collection at the Watch-night service, and a special gathering of personal donations from members of our church and congregation. By this means £10 3s. 4d. was raised for those “beginning again in the dark”. We recognise that this was a united effort, and do not take the credit to ourselves, but we do appreciate the kindly sympathy that our folks showed in both subscribing to and organising such a fund.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, February 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“The altered conditions will put us all in better mood for Christmas rejoicings”

There was one last effort to send Christmas gifts to servicemen.

We have decided to send a Christmas greeting once more to men of the Church and Brotherhood who are serving with HM Forces. We hope to send also a small parcel to each man, as in previous years. This will involve considerable expense, as we have about 150 men to provide for. Our friends are therefore asked to give their generous help. Mr C Dalgleish, Hollybush, Grosvenor Road, Caversham, has again kindly consented to act as Treasurer of the Fund, and he will be pleased to receive contributions. As this is likely to be the last occasion on which such an appeal will be made, we trust there may be a generous response.

On Christmas Day we shall hold a service as usual in the church at 11 am. It will last for about one hour. The altered conditions will put us all in better mood for Christmas rejoicings. So we shall hope for a large attendance.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, December 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)