The First World War cast an enormous shadow over the past century. It had a cataclysmic effect on all aspects of society, no one was left untouched by it – homes, families, schools, factories, businesses, and, of course, churches. There are many ways in which the centenary of the Great War is being marked and most churches are spending some time over the current period reflecting on the conflict, its impact and its legacy. Faith and Freedom is establishing a special section of its website to reflect upon the conflict from the point of view of the churches and other faith groups. The website will be developed in a number of different ways. It will contain scholarly and thoughtful articles on the Great War, particularly in relation to churches and their participation in the War. The first three articles to go online are Unitarian Attitudes to the First World War, by Alan Ruston, The Centenary of the First World War and the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, by David Steers; and ‘Their sister in both senses’. The memoirs of Emma Duffin V.A.D. nurse in the First World War by Trevor Parkhill. Trevor is editor of The First World War Diaries of Emma Duffin, Belfast Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2014) and his article gives an intensely moving account of the First World War experiences in hospitals at the front of Belfast-born Unitarian Emma Duffin (a direct descendant of William Drennan, the founder of the United Irishmen and a cousin of Thomas Andrews designer of the Titanic) who volunteered to serve as a nurse and spent three harrowing years tending the wounded.

Emma Duffin

The second section will contain accounts of commemorations and acts of remembrance made during the current centenary period and readers are very much encouraged to send in reports of their events. The first example is a thoughtful and intensely moving service held at Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the War. We are also seeking to record the names and details of church members who served in the First World War and we begin with a very full account of the contribution and service, with pictures, of members of the Great Meeting, Hinckley.

Private Stanley Jennings of Hinckley, of the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. Killed in France 3rd May 1917, aged 29
Private Stanley Jennings of Hinckley, of the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. Killed in France 3rd May 1917, aged 29

We also aim to build up a database of images of First World War memorials. Does your church have a memorial to its members who served in the First World War? If it does then please send a digital picture to go on the website. We are also actively seeking images and details of memorials that were placed in churches that are now closed, which may now be lost or which may have been put in a different location.

Memorial to Lieutenant R.L. Neill, Holywood co. Down.  Killed at the battle fo the Somme
Memorial to Lieutenant R.L. Neill, Holywood co. Down. Killed at the battle fo the Somme

We also hope to include material – including photographs, sermons, writings, printed ephemera etc that date from the time of the War which can then be studied on our site.

A postcard sent to members of Great George Street Congregational Chapel, Liverpool,  serving at the front. Featuring a picture of the minister and his wife and a written message. P.S.A. stands for Pleasant Sunday Afternoon, a popular form of church entertainment at the time
A postcard sent to members of Great George Street Congregational Chapel, Liverpool serving at the front. Featuring a picture of the minister and his wife and a written message. P.S.A. stands for Pleasant Sunday Afternoon, a popular form of church entertainment at the time

We might also eventually include complete Rolls of Honour – for individual congregations and denominations. The whereabouts of the Roll of Honour relating to the churches that are now part of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches has been a matter of some discussion recently. If we had the full list of names we could add it to the site. The Roll of Honour of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland also seems to have been begun but not completed. It would be good to see that completed and available online. With the co-operation of readers the site will be built up over time. If you would like to participate please contact the editor at editor@faithandfreedom.org.uk To view the website go to: http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/GWindex.htm

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