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From the Brigade President

Wednesday 7th March 2018

My dear friends,

It’s a number of years now since I read a novel in three volumes called Regeneration. The author was Pat Baker and her books won several prizes. Why am I re-reading these novels now? Because they recount events that occurred over the autumn and spring of 1917/1918 towards the end of the First World War. It’s a harrowing read but I felt drawn to make the effort as we reach the exact centenary of the events recorded in them.

Why is it important to remember the ghastly stories of that ‘war to end all wars’? The first and most obvious reason is simple. So that we don’t forget the calamity and the chaos that are inevitably part of a war. The scars of conflict run deep and affect generations to come. As a young minister I used to visit the geriatric wards in our local hospital. The men there had all seen service in World War I and the very sight of a clergyman provoked them to shout their abuse as they saw me entering the ward. They had suffered unspeakable miseries in the mud of the trenches and the slaughter of the war and those experiences had driven all thoughts of God out of their heads. With my clerical collar, I had quite simply stirred up some old feelings that lurked deep within them. We should never forget how a whole generation of young men was so devastatingly wiped out in the horrors of that struggle.

But that’s not the only reason for re-reading those books now. 2018 will be marked by continuing debate about our relationship with the European Union. No doubt readers of this article will fall into both Leave and Remain camps. For all that, I must express my worry that the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union might just reveal the historical ‘fault lines’ on our continent and open up old enmities all over again. The European Union was created in order to ensure that such conflict never occurred again. So we must watch this space and pray very carefully for the future wellbeing of the nations of Europe.

This is a somewhat serious contribution to this number of the Gazette. Yet it has its appropriateness. So many of the young men who volunteered or were conscripted for that war a hundred years ago would, if circumstances had been different, been attending the Company Section of their local Boys’ Brigade. The number of teenagers who died is truly horrendous to contemplate. So the young people who will read these lines are the beneficiaries of all the self-sacrifice that led to those untimely deaths a century ago. And we must seize the opportunities we have been given as well as making the most of the lives that we live to advance Christ’s kingdom on earth. We must be as valiant in our struggle to see good prevail over evil as young people of the early twentieth century were in their own day. We honour their memory and salute their courage.

So I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. For you and your loved ones, for your comrades and fellow members of the BB, I wish you a peaceful and fulfilling year.

The Lord bless you and bless you kindly,

Leslie Griffiths
President of The Boys’ Brigade

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