By Rev Robert Barthram, Nov 9 2014 07:14PM
In March I shared some excerpts from letters written in 1914 for Broad Street Church’s newsletter. The letters had come to light as part of Radio Berkshire’s broadcasts on the First World War and were written immediately after the outbreak of war. I’d been impressed by the minister’s words, which showed his horror of war whilst advocating a response based on faith, prayer and action. As we approach Remembrance Sunday 2014 I thought I’d revisit these letters sharing excerpts from the October and November issues to see what we can learn from these words of a 100 years ago which were written during what he described as, ‘this calamitous war’ and through which faith shines through.
Realising how fortunate he and others were here in England the Rev. W Morton Rawlings writes:
“And surely we have much to be thankful for even at a time when our nation is engaged in war. We have sufficient cause for gratitude in the fact that our lot is cast in England and not in poor distracted Belgium, and that we are the happy possessors of a great and glorious gospel . . .
The very issues now at stake as we see them – those of the sacredness of human rights as such, even when they stand in the way of a great nation’s worldly policy – seem to us to enforce the lesson that only the Gospel of God in Christ is sufficient safeguard for what is right between man and man. The Cross or self are the final alternatives. Further, the way in which Englishmen have been ready for any self-sacrifice for the defence of their country in a good cause, should be a challenge to us as Christians and Churches to be ready this winter for some real sacrifices for the Kingdom of God.”
It would be hard to sum up thing better than his word, ‘the cross or self are the final alternatives.’ There also must be practical action as is very evident in all the efforts to raise money to help Belgium refugees and in this excerpt:
“In the early days of the recruiting for Lord Kitchener’s Army there was such a tremendous inrush of men that the authorities were quite unable to provide for their comfort, and we hear strange tales of the lack of food, sleeping out in the open without even a blanket for covering and other discomforts. Under the circumstances it seemed imperative that something should be done to relieve the situation, and so our schools were thrown open for the use of our soldier friends from 5.30 to 10 p.m. each evening. Arrangements were made for a “wash and brush up”, for shaving, writing, reading, games (including billiards, bagatelle, etc.), a smoke and sing-song – all free of expense – and for the provision of refreshments at a moderate charge.
That the provision made had met a felt need was quickly demonstrated by the numbers who came to partake of our hospitality. The rooms were crowded almost from the first, and they continue so. . . . The men are at a loose end in the evening. They have nowhere to go and nothing to do. We are trying, therefore, to give them an opportunity for social intercourse, and to provide a counter attraction to the public house and other undesirable places, and the fact that we have so largely succeeded has greatly cheered those who are responsible for the arrangements”.
Some of the phrases are not what we use today but the meaning is clear, as are the modern equivalent of drink and drugs and our response of street pastors. A final excerpt:
“If you are weighed down with anxiety for those in peril, or with sorrow for those who have fallen, there is a great comfort at the Cross. Christ can bear the sorrows, as He bears the sins, of those who come to Him.”
In His Name,