“We shudder to think how thin seemed the partition between us and destruction!”

Maidenhead Congregational Church rejoiced.

PEACE!

The war is over! How difficult it was to believe at first! We could only slowly get our eyes accustomed to the sudden light. It seemed like passing out of a dark prison into the light of freedom again. Timidity was changed into a feeling of triumph. We can scarcely recognise the altered world, the change has been so sudden and startling. Everything seems new. The glow of victory and expectation is everywhere. As the enemy’s records slowly come to light, it is ever more plain how deliberate and wanton was Germany’s onslaught upon a world at peace, how deep her plots to get the nations under her heel, how tremendous her preparations, yes, and how nearly she succeeded! And now her huge strength has been destroyed. We open our daily newspapers now without a tremor. Nothing in the Peace celebrations seems more wonderful than the restraint and dignified calm of the people as a whole. There was no “mafficking” in the streets, there was no bombast anywhere. Perhaps it was because we had all suffered too deeply. Exultation of course there was, and it was abundantly justified. Dr. McLaren in one of his books asks the question, “Does Christianity forbid us to rejoice when some mighty system of wrong and oppression with its tools and accomplices, is cleared off from the face of the earth?” And the great preacher answers his own question with a text of scripture: “When the wicked perish there is shouting.”

It will be good for us to strive to make our gratitude to God more conscious and eager. We have been in tremendous peril! The Prime Minister said some year or two ago, “We shall win, but we shall only just win.” And it has been “only just.” We may well shudder to think how thin seemed the partition between us and destruction! Can we hope that a new sense of God will fall upon the nation? We need divine guidance and help as certainly in the reconstruction problems as in the peril of the war. Britain’s future depends upon the settlements of the coming year. The nation and the Churches too are at the cross roads! None of us, none of our sires or grandsires, have known a time when the call for earnest thinking and devoted service was to be compared with what it is to-day. Everyone of us must give answer unswervingly if we are not to let the hour pass and the opportunity slip away.

And now, among other things, we want our boys back again. We have felt their absence keenly, not only in our homes, but in the Church. There are nine of our own who will not return, and we will not forget them. But the others, may they come back firmer in fibre, more ready to serve Christ in His Church and in His Kingdom, more determined by His help to “build Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.” And may the lessons of our great trial and triumph make us all wise and strong while life lasts.”

CHRISTMAS.

We ought to be able to fill our Christmas this year with real and unaffected joy. The great shadow is taken off merry making. Not that all the problems of the world have been solved, but they are nearer solution, and there is a grand hope in our hearts. And the coming of the world’s great King may remind us that the first of all conditions of real peace and content is a child-like heart, a spirit of gentleness and meekness, and of trust in the guidance of the good Father above. Rivalries and frettings eat out our peace, as a moth a garment, as acid soft metal. When man is right with God, all the earth will be right with men. If we are to gain true peace and happiness in the future, either for ourselves or for the nations, it must be by utter submission to Him who was born a child at Bethlehem.

OUR SOLDIERS.

F. W. Harmer is in hospital in London, suffering from some internal trouble, and may have to undergo an operation. Ernest Bristow is much better, and will soon be ready for his artificial leg. He is back at the Maidenhead Red Cross Hospital. Hugh Lewis has been down with a severe and serious attack of “flu,” and is in hospital at Boulogne.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, December 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

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A wallet for the soldiers

The servicemen associated with Broad Street Church received a last Christmas gift.

Early in December a Christmas letter and a wallet were sent to each of the men connected with Church or Brotherhood who were serving with H M Forces. Many letters of grateful appreciation have already been received in reply. We should have liked to print some of them, but unfortunately we have not sufficient space.

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

God’s wonderful deliverance of our own nation and the world from the tyranny of lawless force

The first Sunday after the Armistice was the occasion for services of thanksgiving across Berkshire.

Newbury

Monday, November 11th, St Martin’s Day, will for ever be remembered in the history of our country as the day on which the greatest of all wars came to an end, and the strongest and most ferocious of military nations confessed itself beaten. It has been a tremendous triumph for right and justice, and we have endeavoured to express our thankfulness to Almighty God, who has so signally vindicated His mighty power and has so wonderfully blessed our arms and those of our Allies. May we now as a nation and Empire prove ourselves more worthy of His goodness to us, and endeavour to work together to make the world a better, and therefore happier, world.

Thanksgiving Services were held at the Parish Church: on Tuesday morning [12 November], a celebration of the Holy Communion, when there were 88 communicants; on Wednesday afternoon [13 November], when the church was full; and the following Sunday [17 November]. There was also a United Thanksgiving Service in the Corn Exchange, under the presidency of the Mayor, on Sunday afternoon, when there must have been 2,000 people present, and when several hundred failed to gain admittance. Mr Liddle had got together a splendid orchestra for the occasion. May this spirit of thanksgiving remain with us, and may we not forget the spiritual lessons of the war.

The streets presented a very gay appearance, and there were processions (authorised and unauthorised) much to the delight of the young. All the fireworks possible to be obtained were let off in the streets, and one unexploded bomb was found inside the Churchyard gates, and handed over to the police. It appeared afterwards that another member of the Police Force had put it there for safety. We were very glad to see the excellent and sober spirit of the merry-makers. It was indeed an occasion for rejoicing with great joy.


Speenhamland

It was with feelings of profound thankfulness that we heard the Armistice had been signed. Our feelings were deeply stirred at the thought that at last this terrible War, which has oppressed us for over four years, was over, and that there were good prospects of a peace being signed, which we trust will be a righteous and lasting one. Our rejoicings took various shapes during the week, and culminated in our services in Church. We were glad to see many at the Celebrations and at other services; and it was a happy thought to hold a joint service in the Corn Exchange, which was crowded with a devout and reverent congregation. We shall long remember the sight of that vast audience.

Earley

Sunday, November 17, being the first Sunday after the declaration of peace, naturally was observed as a day of thanksgiving. The families of those on our roll of honour responded quickly to the invitation to send flowers, which were massed on the window shelf and corner where the roll hangs. The black oak was relieved by a magnificent display of colour, by flags hanging from the rood loft on the west side.

Reading

Such tremendous things have happened since the last issue of the Magazine that it is almost impossible adequately to express all we should like to say. On S. Martin’s Day, November 11th, about 11.15, came the great news of the signing of the Armistice, and the cessation of hostilities. At 12 o’clock at S. Marys a short impromptu Service of Thanksgiving was held which was attended by quite a number of the faithful. None of us will ever forget the crowded Civic Service held at S. Mary’s, on Wednesday November 13th, when the Mayor and corporation came in state to render solemn thanks to Almighty God for His wonderful deliverance of our own nation and the world from the tyranny of lawless force. Sunday, November 17th was observed as the special Day of Thanksgiving. At the Eucharist at 11 and at evensong at 6.30 the Church was fuller than it has ever been of late years. This is an encouraging sign that our people in in times of joy, as well as in times of trouble and distress, turn instinctively to God.

At 3.30 on the same Sunday the Church Lads’ Brigade came in full strength to S. Mary’s for their parade service; several Officers and Lads were admitted, and the address was given by the Rev. Edgar Rogers, Chaplain at C.L.B. Headquarters in London, who also preached at Evensong. It should be mentioned among the special features of the service of this great Sunday that a large and handsome silk Union Jack was carried in the Procession and also two laurel wreaths to which were tied bows of patriotic colours.

“Deo gratias.”


Broad Street Brotherhood

The Brotherhood held a great mass meeting on Sunday, November 17th, to celebrate, and give thanks for, the Armistice recently concluded with Germany.

Principal Childs of the Reading College [later Reading University] delivered a most impressive address on “The Responsibilities of Victory”, which gave us much food for thought, and left with the members present a clear conception of the trying and serious times with which our country is faced. It was truly a great meeting, and our best thanks are due to the President for arranging it.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P89/28A/13); Speenhamland parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2); Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P192/28A/15); Reading St Mary parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P98/28A/13); Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, December 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Let us pray that peace may be arranged on such terms as shall make war impossible in future

The minister at Broad Street Chapel had a sober view of the end of the war.

MINISTER’S JOTTINGS

The great event of the past month has been the signing of the Armistice and the consequent cessation of hostilities. Monday, November 11th, will long be remembered as the day on which the war cloud lifted, and people began to breathe freely again. It was a day for which we had long prayed, and it brought relief to many a troubled heart. Our petitions were suddenly changed into great and glad thanksgivings.

There was great rejoicing in the streets – especially in Broad Street – and people gave themselves up to the excitement of the moment. But after four long years of repression, it was perhaps only natural that pent up feeling should find a vent in this way, and we may congratulate ourselves upon the fact that things were not carried to greater lengths than they were. The shorter hours for the opening of public houses proved a great blessing.

Many felt, however, that it was a time for thanksgiving to Almighty God rather than empty merry-making; and they flocked to the various churches in which Thanksgiving Services were hastily arranged. At Broad Street we held a special service of this kind on Thursday evening, November 14th, and in spite of the difficulty of making it known, it was largely attended. We were drawn together by a common desire to pour out our hearts in praise and thanksgiving.

With the coming of peace we shall have to face grave new problems, both in the national life and in our church life. Let us earnestly pray for Divine wisdom and strength, so that we may be able to tackle them with brave hearts and undaunted spirits. Let us also pray that peace may be arranged on such terms as shall make war impossible in future.

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

Heavy demands on women’s leisure time

This would be one of the shortest hiatuses in civilian life of the war.

WOMEN’S OWN

The committee of the Women’s Own have very reluctantly come to the conclusion that it will be best to suspend the Wednesday afternoon meetings till after the war. So many of the members are doing extra work of various kinds that the numbers we are able to welcome seem hardly sufficient to justify the cost of heating the room in these days of rationing. We hope the women will soon be released from these heavy demands upon their leisure, and be in a position to rejoin us.

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

There is no British heart that will not swell with gratitude

Maidenhead Congregational Church anticipated the end of the war.

THE WAR.

Since the last issue of our Magazine things have moved on with astonishing rapidity, and at the moment of writing it looks as though the end were fast approaching, and that it will prove a complete victory for the Allies. There is no British heart that will not swell with gratitude. Looking back across the past four years it has been a perilous and tragic time. And now there will be the almost equally important future of reconstruction to face. Did any body of men, since the world began, ever have entrusted to them a graver and grander task than that which is now, in the providence of God, being allotted to the Peace Conference?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has addressed a letter to the “Times,” in which he says,

“Upon all whom my words may reach I would urge the duty of being instant in prayer. Remember before God the statesmen on either side the sea, upon whom rests a burden of responsibility greater perhaps than ever before. The issues may speedily become critical beyond all words. On their firm handling of these issues may depend under God the future of the world. Pray, then, that they may be endued with a large vision of what is just and right, and may act worthily to the trust, we hold for the generations yet unborn.”

There is surely no fitter subject upon which Christians of every name should concentrate just now in prayer.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We regret to say that the wife of T. W. Mulford has applied for leave to return from Egypt to make arrangements about his children, and is probably on the way home at the present time. Ernest Bristow has had another slight operation to his leg, and is again at Cliveden Hospital. Hugh Lewis is at home on leave, in excellent health. Herbert Brand has been wounded, and is in hospital in England.

THE CHURCHES AND COAL ECONOMY.

The Fuel Controller does not seem to have taken counsel with wisdom in asking Churches to abandon evening services to save coal and light. He did not pause to reflect that if a building is heated for morning and afternoon services, it does not require any further fuel for the evening, and that considerably less light is consumed in Church than would be used by the people if they all remained in their own homes. In the interests of national economy, perhaps it would be well to issue an order that everyone should attend public worship every Sunday evening during the winter!


Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, November 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“The world become more cheerless as we think we must go on to the end without them”

Three more bright young men had made the supreme sacrifice.

Memorial Service

Captain F.S. Brain.
Lieut. H.E. Aust.
Charles D. Freeman.

Three more of those brave spirits to whose return into Church life and usefulness some of us were looking, have heard the call of God and have joined the throngs invading Heaven. Three more have cheerfully and bravely given their lives to make earth clean again, and keep it safe from those who regard honour among the highest and love peace. It is easy to write these words, but behind them our hearts ache with grief and yet rejoice with noble pride.

What then is their loss to those who loved them best? Ah! Theirs is a sorrow beyond human comfort. May the only True Comforter console and sustain all such!

Captain Francis Brain was well known to most of us. Although his College career prevented his active participation in our Church life, his interest in Trinity was very real and true. A quiet, unassuming manner hid intellectual powers of no mean order, and his future was bright with possibility when, at the call of duty all was laid aside. On February 26th, 1915, he obtained his commission in the Royal Berks, being later attached to the 1st Batt. Royal Dorset Regt. He saw much service in France, and had quite recently been promoted Captain. His military record is most fittingly recorded in a beautiful appreciation from which we quote:-

“He was of the type of ‘the happy warrior that every man in arms would wish to be.’ His sterling worth drew men to him in a remarkable degree. He was greatly beloved by the men of his Company and a great favourite with every single Officer. In the trenches he was splendid, absolutely fearless, and with never a thought of self. He has been tried to the uttermost and found worthy.”

Warm tributes of affection and high regard have been received.

His Major writes: – “His death has been a great blow to all who knew him. He was loved and esteemed by all ranks of the Battalion, particularly the men of his own company.”

A fellow Officer says: – “I served for a considerable time with your son, and I was very sincerely attached to him. We all loved him- his cheeriness and good fellowship – always ready with a bit of a song to cheer one up in the most cheerless circumstances; but above all the absolute honesty and straightforwardness of his character.”

His servant Wrote: – “It is impossible to tell you in words how awfully sorry everyone in my Company feels at having lost such a good Officer. I myself know that it will be impossible to get another such Officer to be a servant for.”

Lieutenant Harry Aust was equally well known. He was a member of the Institute and had been a willing worker in all its activities. In the School at Spencers Wood his work will belong remembered, and his memory cherished. He too answered duty’s call at the outbreak of war, and, on joining, at once received a commission. On one occasion he was gassed, and later was so severely wounded that he spent eleven months in hospital. But such was his indomitable spirit and high courage that, contrary to expectations, he forced his recovery and returned to France to make the supreme sacrifice that England might live.

Charlie Freeman had been abroad for the last five years in the service of the Eastern Telegraph Company. Yet many of us knew him well, having watched him grow up, and we loved his bright happy nature. He came home this summer on leave and spent a gloriously time joy which had its consummation in his marriage. It was on his way back to his duties that the vessel was torpedoed, and he lost his life in the service of his country equally with those who fall in battle.

So one by one the war takes toll of Trinity’s best, and the world become more cheerless as we think we must go on to the end without them.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, November 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

A year of real pleasure, and a great boon to the men

The hospitality offered at Broad Street Church to the wounded and soliders in training continued.

SOLDIERS’ WELFARE

A meeting of the Soldiers’ Welfare Committee was held in the Institute Room on Monday, October 21st, when a large number of the workers attended. The President (Rev. W. M. Rawlinson) occupied the chair, and in a short speech expressed his feeling of profound indebtedness to all the helpers for their loyal and devoted service throughout the year just ended. He made special reference to the untiring and self-denying labours of the Hon. Secretary (Mr W A Woolley), and his remarks in this connection were cordially endorsed by all present.

The secretary read his report of work done, and the Hon. Treasurer (Mr W J Brain) submitted a financial statement which showed that after paying the ordinary expenses, there was a balance in hand to meet certain other outstanding liabilities. The report and financial statement were both adopted, and attention was then given to a number of suggestions for the better working of our Khaki Club.

We give below a few extracts from the secretary’s report:

“We opened the rooms on October 15th, 1917, and they have been open every day since, except on three occasions: Good Friday, Easter Monday and the day of the Garden Sale. Very few of us thought, when we opened, that we should keep open so long; but the need has been great, and as far as I can see, it will be a long time yet before we can think of closing it down. The large numbers of men and women using the rooms prove, without doubt, that they appreciate being able to come in every day.

Our first week’s takings amounted to £13.13s, and gradually the figures increased until we reached the very satisfactory sum of £41.12.2d. That was one week in January last. Then in February the new regulations were put into force by the Military, and our takings went down immediately to £18, and for one week in May we only took £8.11s.10d.

This went on until August. Since then we have been allowing the men to buy a little more food, and we are now taking £23 to £25 per week.

The wounded especially attend in large numbers during the afternoons, and steps must be now be taken to increase the number of helpers during that time. There is always plenty of work for 4 or 5 helpers every afternoon.

It will interest you to know that we have bought and distributed free, no less than 17,000 envelopes and 14,000 sheets of paper. This has cost us £14.10s. We have also sold over the counter postage stamps to the value of £51.2s.7 ½ d, which, of course, is without profit, but a great convenience to the men and women, especially after the Post Office is closed. The matches have been a great boon to the men, and we have sold over 14,200 boxes during the year.

In February last we received the splendid donation from our Church Choir of £25.9s.1d, which enabled us to pay a cheque to the church funds for coal, gas, etc, of £25.10s…

Every Sunday evening during last winter Khaki Socials were held, arranged by Mrs Dracup and Miss Green, and they were very well attended. We shall have to decide tonight whether we shall have the Khaki Socials again, or carry on as we are now doing…

I should like to express my personal thanks to all the Superintendents and helpers, who have put such whole-heartedness into the work, and by so doing obtained such a splendid result.

It has been a year of real pleasure to me to work with such a willing, capable and pleasant staff, everybody (not forgetting Mr Brain, Mr Rawlinson and the Caretakers) doing their very best for the common good of all.

The figures for the year include the following:

Sales £1,054.13s.0d
Donations £42.9s.1d
Total receipts £1.097.2s.1d

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

There are splendid times to come

Maidenhead Congregationalists were cautious but optimistic.

THE WAR.

Things seem to be moving rapidly just now. It is too much to say that the end is in sight, but we feel we are at last heading straight for the end we desire. The changes during the last week or two have been almost miraculous, but it is safest not to make predictions. The enemy has more than one move in hand by which the final victory may long be staved off. But recent events must be trying terribly the morale of his troops and of the nation. We must still work hard and pray hard. It has been a tremendous test of endurance for the Churches as well as for the business and social life of the land. Thank God that He has enabled us so far to endure, and to keep up heart. May we be more efficient as servants of the Kingdom. If we have learned our lessons well, there are splendid times to come.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, October 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Magnificently maintaining the British tradition through dangers and hardships

News of Reading men:

PERSONAL

We desire to offer our hearty congratulations to Lieut. W. D. Hart of the Royal Marine Artillery, who has been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in the field. Lieutenant Hart, MC, joined the RMA in August 1915, and obtained his commission in October 1916. Before the war he attended the Young men’s Bible Class, and was a valued member of our Church Choir.

Our friend Private F. Snell is once more in the No. 1 War Hospital, Reading, for treatment. We trust the operation which he must undergo may be successful, and that we may ere long have the pleasure of welcoming him back into our midst.

Private Hedley Wyles has been in hospital in Dublin. We are glad to know that he is now better, and able to resume his duties with the Royal Wiltshire Regiment.

Private Duncan Frame has gone to France with the Hants Regiment. Our thoughts and prayers go with him and the many other Broad Street “boys”, who are so magnificently maintaining the British tradition.

We were glad to have Lieutenant Oswald Francis, MC, worshipping with us once more when he was recently home on furlough, and to know that he has come safely through his many dangers and hardships.

Private E. G. Emmett is at the RAF Armament School at Uxbridge, hoping to qualify as an Instructor in Machine Gunnery. It was a pleasure to see him looking so well when he was on furlough a few days ago.

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

“We are particularly wishful to carry on the good work being done for our soldiers and sailors”

Fuel shortages were hitting home.

MINISTER’S JOTTINGS

We are likely to have considerable difficulty this winter with regard to our heating and lighting. We are not yet informed as to what our ration of coal, gas and electricity will be, but we are most anxious to prevent, by the strictest economy, any curtailment of our work, and we are particularly wishful to carry on the good work being done for our soldiers and sailors if it can possibly be managed. When we know what our allowance for heating and lighting is to be, we shall have to go more thoroughly into the matter. In the meantime will those responsible for the various meetings please see that no more gas or electricity is used than is absolutely necessary.

We are hoping to resume the Khaki Socials after worship on Sunday evenings at an early date. It is not easy to ensure a sufficient number of artistes to carry on this much appreciated work, but we trust it may be successfully accomplished once more this winter. We are indebted to Mrs Dracup and Miss Green for the splendid service they have rendered in this connection in past years.

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

Lively services for soldiers

Religious services for soldiers were simpler and livelier than those they attended at home.

The soldiers in France who attend the voluntary services arranged by the Y.M.C.A. rightly expect that the service shall be a ‘live’ one. The man who would win and hold a congregation must be a man of conviction, of sincerity and of force of character. When he speaks he must have a case and must know how the present it to those who are listening to him. Mr Evans was probably the most attractive preacher in the Calais area in my time and I have no hesitation saying that he had a very sure place in the respect and affection of the men stationed in the district.

Abingdon Church Congregational Monthly Leaflet, October 1918 (D/N1/12/1/1)

Fruit, vegetables and eggs for wounded soldiers

Once more, harvest gifts were donated to wounded soldiers.

HARVEST FESTIVAL

On Sunday, September 29th, we held our Harvest Thanksgiving Services…. The church was once more tastefully decorated for the occasion, a plentiful supply of vegetables, fruit, flowers, eggs, etc, having been provided…

On the following day the fruit, vegetables and eggs were sent to the Royal Berkshire Hospital for our wounded soldiers, and the secretary of that institution has sent a letter in which he expressed gratitude for the gift.

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

Churches are to be rationed

Churches feared a chilly winter to come.

THE COAL SHORTAGE.

The shortage of coal may possibly be a serious matter for places of worship this winter. We are distinctly told that Churches are to be rationed, though the method has not yet been made public. Several months ago the deacons appointed a sub-committee to consider the question of our fuel supply and economy, and certain alterations in the method of heating our premises are recommended. When our Church was first erected no provision for heating was made; apparently in those days all places of worship were left at the mercy of the seasons, our fathers being content, it would seem, with an extra coat! But in these days a cold Church would be left empty. Hugh Bourne, one of the Primitive Methodist founders, on a freezing morning when then the chapel stove refused to draw, observed, “I never knew a sinner yet who was converted with cold feet.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, September 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Trinity roll of honour

Trinity Roll of Honour
Robert Howard Freeman, Signal section, R.N.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, September 1918 (D/EX1237/1)