God has led us into the paths of peace after a very dark and terrible period

A religious response to the new postwar world.

God has led us into the paths of peace after a very dark and terrible period, and it occurs to us that the best form our thanksgiving can take is to give Him our best service in the Church where He has placed us. And, secondly, the peace that has come must be made firm and deep by the Christianising yet more of the heart of man…

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

Deferred from the preceding Wednesday in favour of Children’s Peace Celebrations

Tilehurst children enjoyed a rare day out as far away as Streatley.

SUNDAY SCHOOL OUTING

About 200 joined the party which journeyed to Streatley Hill on Wednesday, July 30th, on the occasion of the Tilehurst Congregational Church Sunday School Treat. This number included a most encouraging proportion of grown-up relatives of our scholars.

The outing, deferred from the preceding Wednesday in favour of Children’s Peace Celebrations, was fortunately on a worthier scale than has been possible since the war broke out…

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

The children have been very patient during the war

Tilehurst Congregational Church hoped to expand its horizons now that we were at peace.

The Annual [Sunday School] Treat will take place on the following Wednesday [23 July] – full details later, except that we would like to take the children further than Kentwood Hill this year. They have been very patient during the war.

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

Peace celebrations keep youngsters up late

Peace celebrations kept children from other occasions.

The Sunday School Anniversary [20 July], 1919, will stand out in the memory of all our school workers for a very long while indeed (unless it be eclipsed!)…

It was unfortunate that the day followed that of the Peace Celebrations which had, no doubt, kept a lot of our youngsters up very late the night before. This thinned us in the morning, the number of scholars present being very disappointing…

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

“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)

“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)

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)

Terribly sad

One Tilehurst man survived the war only to fall victim to the terrible influenza epidemic.

CONDOLENCE

We also deeply deplore the loss of Private Norman Cane, son of our friends Mrs and Mrs Cane of 27 Brisbane Road. Norman Cane was a member of the Tilehurst Section of our church before the separation, and continued his Broad Street connection afterwards. Early in the war he volunteered for active service, and went out with the Royal Berks Regiment. He came safely through many dangers and finally reached home in February. Unfortunately he was almost immediately seized with influenza, and pneumonia supervening, he passed away. It is terribly sad, and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his parents and the members of his family in their very sore bereavement.

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

Poignant news

The tragic news had not yet stopped.

TILEHURST

Mr and Mrs Cane have lost their boy Norman, who after only 2 days at home following on his discharge entered on his last illness. Mrs Warner has received the news of her husband’s passing away at one of the hospitals in Cologne, news which has much poignancy in view of the expectancy of early release.

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

When the boys come home

One ex soldier was able to go back to his old job almost at once.

“WHEN THE BOYS COME HOME”

It has been splendid to welcome home half a dozen of our “boys” for their twelve days. … Will Ball’s “twelve days” have, we are delighted to know, been indefinitely extended. He has “come home” and we greet him warmly, and hope that in the coming happiness he may find an ample compensation for all that he has endured during his four years’ absence. The jobs he left in September 1914 are still open for him to re-enter.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, February 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)

Loss just as the whole nation is rejoicing at the dawn of peace

Deaths just before the end were perhaps the most poignant.

We regret also having to report the death at sea of one of our old Senior Boys – Bert Crocker – the news of whose decease reached us on November 6th. It is doubly hard for the parents and other relatives to bear this loss just as the whole nation is rejoicing at the dawn of peace, but Mr and Mrs Crocker have been much assured of the prayers and kindest thoughts of their fellow members. Bert was a typical sailor, more fond of the sea than of almost anything else in life. We have thought much of him during the last years, which he has spent in the Royal Navy. We shall always remember his genial open face, and thank God that he knew what it was to live in the spirit of his Godly home. We do not forget her to whom he was so lately married, and pray that she and the others may be fully upheld.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, December 1918 (D/N11/12/1/1)

Sincere good wishes

Some Tilehurst soldiers came home on leave.

WELCOME HOME

It was good to see three of our “boys” home on leave on August 11th and present at our services. We were disappointed that Harold Bunce’s leave was postponed from Communion Sunday weekend. They, and all the others, have our sincere good wishes.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Congregational Church magazine, September 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“What true Christian can think of the feebleness of organized religion in the face of the world’s great need, through these terrible years, without a sense of bitter shame!”

Nonconformist churches also commemorated the anniversary of the war.

Tilehurst

The celebration of the Fourth Anniversary of the Declaration of War was the occasion of further united Free Church effort in Tilehurst.
We met for United Prayer at 8 a.m. in the Congregational Church, and spent a very memorable three quarters of an hour around the Throne of Grace. Some twenty six friends from the three churches met for this service, and the atmosphere was very intense.

The Wesleyan Church was crowded in the evening at 6.30 for the United Preaching Service, the Congregational Church being closed.

Representatives from the three churches took part in the conducting of the service. Mr Beckley for the Wesleyans, Mr Sleep for the Armour Hall, and our Pastor [Revd E. J. Perry] for our church. Mr Perry was appointed to preach the sermon, and he chose for his text the familiar words which close the Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver us from evil, for Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory for ever”. The preacher sought to show the fact of the Sovereignty of God. People had often said, “Why doesn’t God do something?”, but is there after all anything left for God to do? …

The service was marked by great solemnity and earnestness, everyone feeling that we were bearing the burden of a common shame and sorrow. Suitable hymns were specially selected, and the singing of them was led by a strong united choir.

Members of our church returned to their own place of prayer to meet around the Lord’s Table for the Sacrament.

We all devoutly trust that August 4th, 1919 may be spent in very much happier circumstances, our many loved ones restored to our home circles. Meanwhile, let us ease one another’s burden all we can, and live in a way that is worthy of the great sacrifices of our “boys”.

(more…)

Merry as a marriage bell – despite the unbidden guest

Church choirs typically had an annual jolly day out. The choir at Broad Street Church in Reading invited along a group of wounded soldiers in 1918.

July

RIVER TRIP

Arrangements are being made by the Church Choir for a river trip in the afternoon of Saturday, July 20th, when they hope to entertain a party of wounded soldiers. Goring and Hartslock Woods will most likely be the places visited. In addition to the members of the choir and their wounded friends, there will be accommodation for about thirty visitors. Full details have not yet been arranged, but particulars may be obtained from members of the choir after July 1st. It is very desirable, however, that early application should be made for tickets by those who wish to join the party.

August

CHOIR TRIP

On Saturday, July 20th, the annual choir trip took place, the destination this time being Goring and Hartlock Woods. A party of twenty-five wounded soldiers from the military hospitals had been invited as guests of the choir, so there was accommodation for only about forty other friends.

In the forenoon the weather outlook seemed very uncertain, but as 1.30 pm drew near it assumed a more promising aspect. Immediately after the arrival of “the men in blue” the steam-launch “River Queen” was started, and the party of 105 proceeded upstream at a steady pace. The choir discoursed sweet music as we journeyed and “all went merry as a marriage bell”.

We reached Goring without mishap at 4.15 pm, and there we disembarked for about twenty-five minutes, to permit of a hasty look round. Setting off on the return journey at 4.45 pm, we reached Hartslock Woods at 5 o’clock, and took a short walk whilst arrangements were being made for tea.

At 5.15 we sat down to do full justice to the good things provided. The sun was now shining with unwonted brilliance, and was even considered by some to be too powerful. After tea, Mr F. W. Harvey read a letter from the Rev. W. Morton Rawlinson (who unfortunately, through indisposition, was unable to join the party) and in an appropriate speech gave welcome to our guests. To this welcome, the officer who accompanied the wounded soldiers fittingly replied, and expressed the gratitude of those for whom he spoke.

The company now dispersed in various directions. Some rambled along the banks of the river; others explored the beautiful woods; and still others climbed the high hill from which an uninterrupted view could be gained of “Father Thames”, stretching away into the distance on either side.

As our soldier friends had been granted an extension of time it was not proposed to start for home until 8.15. but unhappily the fickle sun, which had promised so well at tea-time, was hidden from view by a heavy thunder-cloud, which speedily began to give us a taste of its contents. Everyone made for the boat, and at 7.30, as there seemed to be no prospect of a change in the weather, it was decided to return.

The rain continued most of the way home, but the choir again delighted us with various musical selections, and made it impossible for us to feel depressed or even dull. Their efforts to beguile the time, from Tilehurst onwards, were supplemented by those of three youngsters on the lookout for stray pence, who, on the river bank, kept pace with the boat and provided a varied exhibition.

Altogether, although the rain was an unbidden guest, the trip was most thoroughly enjoyed, and great praise is due to the choir for the entertainment given to their wounded guests and to the whole party. We should like to thank Mr Harvey, too, and the members of the Choir Committee, for the excellent arrangements made for the comfort of all.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July and August 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)