01 August 2014
The day war broke out
One hundred years on...
This year the nation is remembering 100 years since the start of the First World War and events to mark the outbreak of the conflict are being held across Britain this weekend.
On 4 August 1914, following several days of other nations declaring war, the Germans invaded Belgium and the British government declared war.
Churches are being invited to help their communities mark the occasion. All Church of England parish churches are being asked to consider opening their doors on Monday, 4 August, to mark a vigil for peace and remembrance.
Taking a look into the Alliance archives we find evidence that the Church at that time was co-ordinating large prayer meetings and involved in supporting families, backing the war effort and interceding for soldiers at the front lines.
In 1914 the Evangelical Alliance gave the garden in the grounds of their building over to the War office. They used it as training ground for new army recruits from universities and public schools.
A Noon Watch appeal for daily prayer for soldiers was printed every month in our magazine, Evangelical Christendom, and the Alliance also printed colour postcards with the clock logo on them, encouraging people to pray at noon each day, selling the cards to churches, 50 cards for two shillings or 100 cards for three shillings and sixpence.
Over the four-year period, the Alliance organised large monthly prayer meetings and many days of prayer and intercession, including a large event that took place on 20 November 1914 at Queen's Hall, London. Lord Kinnaird, the Alliance chairman who had lost his son earlier that month in action on the battlefield at Flanders, led the ministry and gave an address.
A write-up in Evangelical Christendom, said: "When in days to come our children speak of the great war of 1914 it may be that they will tell of a memorable day during the war when thousands of Christians, representing different communions, yet recognising a common unity in the Lord Jesus Christ, gathered together in one of the largest concert halls unitedly to pour out their hearts in prayer and intercession for the nation."
When war broke out in 1914, every member of the British Armed Forces was given a Bible as an essential part of their kit.Rachel Rounds, head of media for the Bible Society, said: "We have been heartened to discover how much gratitude was shown for the gift of a Bible by the sick and wounded soldiers, by refugees, those held as prisoners of war and for the troops marching to the front. Over nine million Bibles were distributed through the war years –some pocket New Testaments, Gospels and Psalms."
The Bible Society are marking the centenary by uncovering just what those Bibles meant to young soldiers on the front line, to prisoners of war, conscientious objectors, chaplains and those at home.
HOPE's Greater Love project is helping churches across the country to support their communities in creative ways as the nation commemorates the centenary of World War One. The mission movement is working with Christian denominations, military chaplaincies and others to provide resources and ideas for churches to take a lead in communities, building bridges across generations for the commemorations.
In towns like Rugby, young people will be given an arm band with the name of a young soldier from the town who fought and died in WW1. Tens of thousands of copies of Active Service John's gospel, produced by SGM Lifewords, will be given to school children throughout the UK along with an encouragement for them to listen to stories from someone who lived through the war.
The government has committed £50 million to the national commemorations, the BBC has commissioned 2,500 hours of programming while two young people from every state secondary school will visit the battlefields in France and Belgium. Announcing the events to mark the centenary, David Cameron said it would be the foundations on which to build "an enduring cultural and educational legacy" and ensure "the sacrifice of 100 years ago is still remembered in 100 years' time".
HOPE executive director Roy Crowne said: "If the Church is not involved with it, we are missing out on engaging with something significant. As we remember those who lost their lives during the First World War, millions of people will observe two minutes of silence. At this poignant moment, many individuals and communities reach out for a spiritual dimension to life. My prayer is that the Church points to the 'Greater Love' Jesus has for us."
Jim Currin from Churches Together said: "War is a time when we think about the ultimate issues and the sacrifice of life. Let's make sure we show society how important it is that the Church honours those who served their country and paid the ultimate sacrifice."