“Now that we are once again at peace we are glad to see this custom revived”

Park Place was actually in the Berkshire parish of Remenham.

CHOIR OUTING

Without any complaints, the members of our Choir have foregone their annual excursion during the years of war, and now that we are once again at peace we are glad to see this custom revived. On July 9th, at 9.30 am, a party, numbering 37, left the Tilehurst landing stage on board the steam-launch “Mystery”, bound for Park Place, Henley [sic].

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

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The King’s Birthday Honours

Two Maidenhead soldiers were recognised.

DECORATIONS FOR SOLDIERS.

In the King’s Birthday List of Honours, there appear the names of John H. Bolton, who has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, and Percy Lewis, who receives the Order of the British Empire (Military Divn.).

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

“It is, indeed, a great inspiration and joy to have a big proportion of our soldier and sailor “boys” home for good”

Men were flocking back to their old lives.

DEMOBILISATION

This long word, which stands for so much to so many, is standing for a great deal in our church these days. It is, indeed, a great inspiration and joy to have a big proportion of our soldier and sailor “boys” home for good, and to see that their enthusiasm for their old church and [Sunday] school is undiminished. Their presence is giving a splendid fillip to some branches of our church work, notably the Young People’s Union. The strength of the men’s section of that youthful branch is now so strong that the other sections of that Union were recently entertained entirely by the men-folk, even to the preparation of a “supper”.

Tilehurst section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“They will have the consciousness that they have had a part in a most magnificent and wonderful piece of service”

Life back home was difficult for some.

OUR SOLDIERS.

The majority of our soldiers have now been demobilized , a few only remaining in the Service, in Germany and elsewhere. It is a great joy to see the men home again. Some of them do not find it very easy to discover exactly the post in civil life which will give them the start they want, but we hope that in a very short time they will all be in a right place, and be full steam ahead for a prosperous and useful life. They will have the consciousness that they have had a part in a most magnificent and wonderful piece of service, for which may God forgive us if we ever cease to be grateful.

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

“Various brothers gave some of their experiences during the time they were on active service”

More men were welcomed home.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

On Saturday, June 21st, we held the “Welcome Home Tea” to our Brothers who have been on active service, and are now demobilised. They numbered about 30, and a most pleasant evening was spent.

A meat tea was generously given by our President (C Steward Smith, Esq., JP) and afterwards various brothers gave some of their experiences during the time they were on active service. Musical items were rendered, and during the latter part of the evening coffee and sandwiches were served. It was really one of the best and most enjoyable evenings held in connection with the Brotherhood for many a day.

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

“We are truly sorry to lose from our midst one from whom we expected much in coming days”

After all the dangers of war it was illness which felled one returning soldier.

CONDOLENCE

We much regret to have to record the death of Mr Frank W. Snell of 22 Eldon Road. Our friend had not long been demobilised. He was on active service for a considerable time in France, and was seriously wounded in the head and face. There can be no doubt whatever that the brief illness to which he succumbed was due to this cause. We are truly sorry to lose from our midst one from whom we expected much in coming days, and we tender our sincerest sympathy to his parents, and the other members of his family, in their sore bereavement.

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

A heartfelt “welcome back” to the men who had done and suffered so much for their country and for us

There was a warm welcome home for returning soldiers at Broad Street Chapel.

June

VARIOUS ANNOUNCEMENTS

It is proposed to give a “Welcome Home” to demobilised soldier and sailors connected with the church, in the Schoolroom, on Wednesday June 4th at 7 pm. A limited number of tickets for the tea and subsequent gathering will be sold to other friends at 1/6 each. Application for these tickets should be made to the Chapel-keeper or to any of the deacons.

July

“WELCOME HOME”

On Wednesday June 4th, members of the church and congregation assembled in the Schoolroom to give a cordial “Welcome Home” to men from the church and its various organisations who had been “demobilized”. About forty of these brethren attended, in response to the invitation which had been extended to them, and the whole proceedings were most enjoyable. At 7 o’clock the company sat down to a substantial tea which had been arranged by the wives of the deacons, and when the good things provided had been satisfactorily disposed of, the tables were cleared away for an informal meeting. Miss Vera Smith had very kindly arranged a capital programme of songs, recitations, etc, which were contributed by a number of her friends, and interspersed with the various items short speeches were delivered by several of the deacons.

The Minister was present, but owing to a relaxed throat, he was unable to speak. Mr Chas Steward Smith, JP, presided, and in fitting terms he gave a heartfelt “welcome back to Broad Street” to the men who had done and suffered so much for their country and for us. Other speakers in similar strain were Mr W. J. Brain, Mr Ernest Francis, Mr Swallow, and Mr Tibble. At the close, Mr W. J. Dance and Ex-Sergeant C. S. Stebbings voiced the gratitude of our guests for the welcome accorded them, and for the way in which the church had kept in touch with them by letters and parcels during their absence. The singing of “Auld Lang Syne” fittingly concluded a very happy gathering. Mr J Swallow was secretary, and Mr Tibble treasurer, of the committee which made arrangements for the function.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June and July 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Another opportunity of setting foot on English soil

A soldier celebrated Empire Day with his wedding to an old friend.

MARRIAGE

On Saturday, May 24th, two of our old Sunday Scholars were married in our Church by the Pastor. We refer to Mr R B (“Dick”) Wilkins and Miss Rosina Blake. The bridegroom has been for some years away from Tilehurst, having been in residence in Canada, but on the outbreak of war he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and in the course of his career as a soldier he gained another opportunity of setting foot on English soil.

By a curious coincidence it was “Empire Day” when he enlisted, “Empire Day” again when he first crossed to France, and yet again “Empire Day” when he entered upon married life. The wedding was quite a simple ceremony, marked by earnestness and sincerity, and the large congregation was ample evidence to the young couple of the good wishes which they were receiving from many friends.

We trust that the demands of military service will soon cease in Mr Wilkins’s case, and that he and his wife will be able to settle happily in their far off home across the seas. They know we all wish them the very best…

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

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)

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)