Brother SEAMUS thought for the week

 

A special thought for the week

We will remember them.

Remembrance and reflections of our past.

In this nation we are made aware every year of our past by ‘Armistice day’, the 11.11.11th, better known as ‘poppy day’. Remembering Flanders Fields in Belgium and that famous battle where the poppies were in bloom.

But this year, not only do we, but most nations of the world will remember 100years since the beginning of the outbreak or what came to be known as the ‘great war’ or ‘the war to end all wars’. Because after such destruction of human life the nations would have to find a better way of solving international problems than going to war, for it was never expected that it would develop into an almost global war.

War brings out the best and the worst not only of the human spirit in individuals but also of the nations involved. We see acts of great courage displayed by ordinary men putting their own lives at risk for their fellow men; to the extent 35 VC we won in one week. This year we are remembering such battles as ‘the Somme, Flanders, Eypes, the Lardenelles where there were great British heroics, many VC won in one day.

This became known as the first industrial war with new equipment being used for the first time such as tanks, aeroplanes and chlorine gas. Up to that time battles were fought with infantry and cavalry regiments. Now its rapid fire machine guns and guns from the air meant this time the civilian population were involved as much by air raids as were the armed forces.

The nations involved were empires or colonial powers, many peoples of other nations and races were committed such as India, Africa, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada who lost 27,000 men at Vinney Ridge in France. Most of us are aware of the trenches and men going over the top, to my generation it was more relevant as we were never in time to the events.

There are two groups of people that displayed great courage as they were non-combatant, that is unarmed units. One was the chaplaincy corp, all volunteers made up of all denominations. Then we had the conscientious  objectors for many and varied reasons who were still conscripted into the forces and were mostly used as stretcher bearers in the medical corps or any position that did not need the bearing of arms. They were often in the front line and many thousands of them died, they have never been given official recognition as a group, they were brave men and men of great conscience .

Then there were a group of men I particularly respect, mostly quakers although there were a lot of Pentecostal believers among them who would not participate in the war in any way, not even as non-cons and they had a rough time when conscription was eventually brought in. They were looked upon as cowards and traitors even by their own fellow Christians.There was no city , town or parish that was not affected by the first world war, mostly because of the pals regiments therefore their deaths devastated whole communities.

In the early Pentecostal movement some believers joined up as a matter of duty but many did not, for they could not reconcile the baptism in the Holy Spirit and war. It caused a wide division in the early movement. The dedicated non-combatant suffered badly in prison. They were brave men even offered exemption if they were willing to be post men or bus conductors or accept any civilian occupation to release others to serve but they would not. One Pentecostal pioneer, I knew him personally, spent 18 months in prison, sometimes in solitary confinement for his beliefs.

After the war he founded many Pentecostal groups in the North East, there’s a brave man and I must respect his conscience. They should never have been put in prison in the first place, so let’s remember them.

The most decorated non-combatant of the conflict was an army padre (vicar), because of his bravery he won many awards such as DSO- MC and the VC, his name was Rev Theodore Hardy, his courage was unbelievable. Another famous chaplain was Rev Kennedy better known as ‘Woodbine Willey’, he also won the military cross. By the end of the war there were over 3500 chaplains in uniform wearing their collars.

There is one group you never hear of, but without their participation I doubt if we could have carried on the war, that was the horses. Over 650,000 were called up to duty and just like the soldiers their health was checked out and they were sent for training on Salisbury planes. After training they were shipped out of Southampton to the war zone. They transported the guns and ammunition to the front lines they even wore gas masks when necessary and like the men many thousands of them died.

We also had the vetinary corp, who cared for them when wounded just imagine the amount of fodder. Food and horse shoes needed, some soldiers even lost their lives in the mud caring for their horses. When we talk of  bravery let us extend it to the horses, some won awards.

Because Britain was an empire with many indigenous subjects we find many native peoples in the British Army fighting with distinction such as the Maori of New Zealand and the Aborigines of Australia. We had the Sieks who won many battle honours wearing their turbans, then the Sapoys from India, the Gurkas from Napal who won many VC’s, the Punjabs, all these served England, the Mother Country with honour and distinction. Of course the Irish as part of the empire won many honours and VC.

One special group who never got the recognition they deserve were the boy soldiers. In those days you left school at 14 years but many left at 13 and a half and joined up pretending they were 14. Some coming from army families so by the time they were 16 they were trained soldiers or sailors, many were even on the front line at 16. The army just turned a blind eye to their evident youth and many thousands were killed at a very young age. I have seen photos of very young lads in uniform it would not happen today. It was not unusual for some of them returning to the trenches suffering shell shock or dramatic stress and unable to go over the top again and after a mental breakdown just threw down their arms and walked away. When they were brought back they were court marshalled and tried as deserters or cowards and shot. They got a rough deal, even today, 100 years on, some of their families are seeking the government of the day to redress the injustice of their names not allowed on the local cenotaph.

Although as a born again believer I cannot agree with the whole concept of the first world war as it was basically about the dominance of colonial territory and the trade it brought. Most of the nations of the world were under the control of 2or 3 powerful countries, the British, the German, the Spanish and the Portuguese. Power is not easily relinquished, particularly sea power but I must respect the participators as they were brave men and believed they were serving God and country. So whatever our opinions and feelings about the First World War.

 

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

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CHANGING TIMES                             

 

We live in a changing world, changing standards, changing morals, changing values even among believers, because we are affected by the attitudes of the age we live in, whether we realise it or not. So we must always set the standards for others to follow.

I was brought up by parents who were old victoria types; they spent all their adult lives under the reign of Queen Victoria. The age was in some ways rather restricted and harsh and very disciplined compared to our day but it instilled certain standards that have stayed with me all my life. My mother Julia who was born in 1884 was a lady of that age and dressed in the manner of that day. My father Louis was born in 1871 was a retired army officer, when I was born Julia my mother taught me certain phrases that have stuck with me all my life. ‘Manners maketh the man’, show courtesy to ladies, always give up your seat to an elderly person. ‘Your word is your bond’, hold your head up high, carry yourself as a man,  loud speech is a form of ignorance, ‘Ignorance is bliss’ and ‘headgear marks the man’. 

These words may seem antique and out of place today but standards were set, not only for the individual but for society in general such as respect for parents, honour unto whom honour is due, especially the ministry, whether Chapel, Church or Meeting House. At that time you automatically gave help when needed even to strangers. You did not have to worry were you covered by law; there was no health and safety to worry about. We could move instinctively, no big brother watching you.

What’s happened to our freedom compared to Victorian times, we have a lot of freedom but have replaced one set of bonds for another set of bondage, so where does the believer stand in this modern age. In general we don’t have much leadership from the pulpit, it takes a courageous person to live and swim against the tide. As believers we live by faith and very often we walk alone.

We have lost out on an age of discipline both in the home and at school and our children grow up in an open and permissive society. So it’s beholding to us to teach our children politeness, courtesy and respect for others. As an example to their generation and to bring our children up in the admonition of the Lord

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                                                 Dedication                                                       

 

You would have either had to be dead or live on another planet not to know that the last few years have been the generation of leisure, pleasure and sport. We have had the lead up to the summer Olympic Games and the Para Olympic Games. Then this year we had the winter Olympics and Para Olympics in Russia with all the build-up and cash raising programmes and publicity. The contestants competing in the national and international heats and even if you were not interested in the Olympics or sports minded you could not avoid the world of sports or be affected by it with constant interviews on TV.

Most times I put on my TV to see my favourite programme ; it is either delayed or even cancelled because of some sporting event. It could be football, cricket, car racing, horse racing, snooker or darts. Of course the ladies also lose out on their soaps, the build up to all these occasions is phenomenal and the advertising revenues must be in billions of pounds. Some people are so committed to special sports or sporting occasions, they will even arrange their holidays to be free to watch, e.g. the Olympic Games (some priority).And then there is the vast sums of money spent on gambling in connection with sport, both online and lottery.

There is the dedication and total commitment not only of the players but also of the support workers such as trainers, managers, and fund raisers. There must be very little time for any other interest in life, all that to win an earthly crown and prize even if it is gold, then we have commitment of the fans who support a particular sport of contestant money seems to be no object in travelling expenses. This is all now part of my leisure industries including bingo and keep fit and amusement parlours then we have greyhound racing and casinos and on course betting and don’t forget your local lotteries and scratch cards in case you have any spare cash. We may not be a nation that produces much but we sure have time and money for leisure activities, this may be one reason why Church attendance especially in the evening has dropped so rapidly. The choice is Church or sport or their favourite TV programme. No wonder the scriptures say ‘in the last days men will be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.’ There are so many attractions to make claim on our time, it’s a wonder we have anytime for home life or even work. I am not surprised at the breakdown in family communications and even divorce, and then there is the night life at weekends. Our modern social life is all geared to financial big business especially in sport and leisure, if they don’t get your money one way they will get it another. They will find some new craze for you to indulge in such as tattoos or body piercing.When Paul was in Athens he could see the hold that philosophy and sport had on the everyday lives of the ordinary people. He must have watched some of the games at some time for the he compares them to our scriptures. Races and racing and winning a prize. So as committed Christians we must be careful not to get to involved in sporting or leisure activities for the most important race of our lives is the spiritual one looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

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History Memories

 

Remember, Remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.

You don’t hear much about Guy Fawkes Night now, and the place it has in our history it seems to have been replaced by Halloween. I remember when we were first married all the local children spent weeks going around collecting all your old furniture and mattresses for putting on the bonfire. Burning them on waste ground with a homemade guy who had been used for collecting money for the fireworks and even having the bonfire in the middle of the street with no vandalism, the old men supervising it. Could you imagine health and safety allowing it today, of course there was more of a community spirit in those days.

No central heating, no TV, many people did not have a radio until the 1940’s, if they did it was a large cabinet with 2 wet batteries and one large dry battery always called an ever ready. When we were first married we hired a radio from radio rentals for 2 shillings and sixpence per week (22p). Very few people had a car or a telephone. Lighting was a gas lamp with a mantle in the main living room, our cooker was a black one you put old pennies in the gas meter and you got your rebate every 3 months from all the pennies stacked up on your table, that’s how we paid for fuel in those days

Our heating was an open coal fire with a set of tools at the side (coal shovel, a pair of tongues and poker), and of course a coal scuttle with a surround called a fender with a seat at each side. If you had young children like we had you had a large fire guard around the fire for safety. In the winter the weekly wash was hung around it to dry or you could have a ceiling clothes line on a pulley made of thin wooden slats and when you came down in the morning your clothes were bone dry. We had no washing machine in those days, we had a wash tub and a poser with a scrubbing board using green or red soap, you used a lot of elbow grease on wash days. We boiled the water in a gas boiler, with us having no bathroom, we had a tin bath and you boiled the water on your fire for bath night, usually on a Saturday. Ironing was with a flat iron heated in the fire in the hot coals, they were called Aintree irons. When you came down early in the morning, there was a lovely smell as you came into the living room, from the heat left in the fire from the night before. When I made a cup of tea and restarted the fire, I made my toast in the fire with a long toasting fork, the rooms soon became warm, the bricks seemed to keep in the heat. There was always a sense of warmth and comfort that you don’t get from central heating, with the roofs made of slate they kept in the heat better than tiles.                                                                                                

We rarely used the front room called the parlour that was the best room kept for visitors and special occasions such as weddings etc. We had our wedding breakfast in my mother in laws front room; there was always a sense of warmth and comfort in those 2 up and 2 down houses.

As I said we had no radio or TV, no fridge just a cold slab for your dairy products and a kitchen cabinet for your food. Neighbours were always there for you in your time of need especially when you had a new baby who would always be born at home in those days. The midwife coming on her bicycle with her black bag. When anyone died at home everyone gathered around with sheets for the laying out and food for the reception afterwards and the whole street closed their curtains as a mark of respect, then the neighbours would have a collection for the family.

 

Monday was always Pawn shop day, not your luxuries but your necessities such as your best clothes and shoes to be redeemed back on Friday which was pay day to wear again on Sunday.

 

The main take away in those days was fish and chips (7d or 3p), wrapped in paper, pudding & peas or faggots & peas.  There was one little shop where you took your own plate and bought your dinner, either shepherd’s pie or cottage pie and there was one little shop that opened at dinner time and only sold hot puddings and pies all homemade. We had shops on both sides of this long street selling everything you needed including a number of pubs and off licences. We also had 3 old fashion barbers using the cut throat razor.

The main social life for people in those days was either the club or the pictures or the church. People in general and Christians in particular were simpler in their faith, open hearted, honest and generous, especially the poor in their giving. When the Salvation Army came round the streets playing every Sunday morning lots of children would follow them into the citadel, if the Salvation Army was preaching they would set up the big bass drum in the middle and people would drop their pennies on the drum as an offering. There were lots of jumble sales in Cannon Street on a Saturday, all the Churches seemed to be more welcoming places in those days, everybody was rather poor and a lot of our self-help groups were formed at that time. Christianity or the display of your faith was a ‘more in your face’ kind of thing, people were not ashamed or embarrassed to display their faith, everybody knew when you, ‘as they said in those day’ had got religion, you lived by it.                                                                                                                 

People were willing to open their homes to the needy and lots of believers after the evening service had singing sessions in their homes around the piano and would invite neighbours in. The street we lived in Cannon Street was so famous a history of it was written before it was demolished, it’s now a by-pass called Cannon Way. I have strolled down Memory Lane remembering the good and the not so good old days. I must be getting old but that street was part of my life and ministry, as a newlywed, they were very happy days, money was very short but people knew how to budget, money wasn’t wasted, never heard of frozen ready meals, all home cooking, made from fresh veg. No supermarkets, just the corner shop, often called ‘the tick shop’.

I enjoy my ‘mod cons’ but I do miss the simplicity of those days. Less complications, they were the blessings of the past, now I am enjoying the blessings of TODAY.