Some corner of a foreign field

The Faith and Freedom Great War project continues to expand and now contains around 75 separate items. One recent addition is the video made in 2014 by John Featherstone with input from Peter and Kath Faulkner, the then minister, the Rev Patrick Timperley, and members of the Old Meeting, Mansfield as a tribute to the memory of the war dead of their congregation in the First World War.

 

Some twenty-two chapel members are listed on the war memorial as having given their lives in the First World War. As other churches have done in this time of the centenary of the Great War the current congregation have researched the lives and circumstances of the men who were killed and tracked down the last resting place of each one of them. The Mansfield folk have also gone one step further and visited the grave of each soldier wherever that was possible. In 2014 a group of Mansfield members travelled to each grave or memorial of a chapel member and placed a poppy there while speaking the words:

 

We place this cross in thanks and in memory of….a brave son of Mansfield, whose name lives on, and is recorded on the wall of the chapel he attended.

 

The whole project was also recorded and can be seen on a beautifully put together video. As is so often the case with such research it is deeply poignant. Many of the soldiers were very young, their ages are given on the video along with their address and pre-war occupation – miners, colliery men, a pork butcher’s assistant, a hosiery hand, a farm labourer, and so on. Where there was no known grave the group from Mansfield visited the memorial – such as those at Thiepval and the Menin Gate – which bears the name of those killed in those battles and they placed their poppy there. They visited all the soldiers’ graves and memorials in France and Belgium. One soldier was killed in Iraq and his grave lies in the Baghdad North Gate War Cemetery, he was remembered by a poppy being placed on the Iraq Roll of Honour in the head office of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Maidenhead.

 

In carrying out this act of remembrance they followed in the footsteps of others from the chapel who had gone before. One mother whose young son was killed at Ypres visited the battle site with a party of bereaved mothers in 1920. She returned with a stone from the ruins of Ypres which was incorporated into the wall of the chapel as a memorial.

 

The circumstances of all the soldiers who were killed were traced, with the exception of one who proved elusive yet is still remembered, as the video says. The grave that is closest to home is in Nottingham Road Cemetery, Mansfield. Here was buried Ernest Davenport a private in the Notts and Derby regiment. Aged just 20 when he died, before the war he had worked in an iron foundry. He had been wounded in the Easter Rising in Dublin and had died of his wounds on 28th May 1916. It was at his grave, near the anniversary of the outbreak of the war one hundred years before, that the chapel members as a whole gathered for an act of remembrance of all those killed.

 

The video can be viewed here:

 

The Faith and Freedom Great War Project can be visited here:

http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/GWindex.htm

 

The detail at the top of this page is from the Cenotaph, Liverpool, designed by Lionel Budden and Herbert Tyson Smith.

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Blue Plaque for the Rev Henry Montgomery

A good number of people braved winter weather, heavy traffic and seasonal busy-ness to attend the unveiling of the Ulster History Circle Blue Plaque commemorating the Rev Henry Montgomery (1788-1865) on the walls of his old meeting house in Dunmurry on 18th December 2015. Appropriately enough the unveiling was done by the Very Rev William McMillan, Henry Montgomery’s successor for 45 years and undoubtedly the person most knowledgeable about his life and career.

 

People gather outside the meeting house in anticipation of the unveiling of the blue plaque
People gather outside the meeting house in anticipation of the unveiling of the blue plaque

 

The premises and grounds of Dunmurry have always been immaculately kept and the meeting house provided a very suitable space for the speeches immediately after the unveiling. This has been a year of commemoration marking the 150th anniversary of Henry Montgomery’s death and, as Ian Crozier observed in his speech, the Ulster Scots Agency had assisted in the republication of Bill McMillan’s booklet on Montgomery, A Profile in Courage, first published fifty years ago and still the most useful introduction to his life and work.

 

As was also pointed out in the speeches this is not the first blue plaque to a Rev Henry Montgomery (the other one being the founder of the Shankill Road Mission), and it is certainly not the first blue plaque for a Non-Subscribing Presbyterian, but I think it is the first blue plaque for a Non-Subscribing Presbyterian minister (although at least two sons of the manse have already made it onto a blue plaque).

 

Rev Mac unveils the plaque
Rev Mac unveils the plaque

 

In his speech the Rev Bill McMillan quoted comments made by the Banner of Ulster, a newspaper not sympathetic to Montgomery’s religious position. At the time of his death it said:

 

Never did his powers of eloquence shine out more conspicuously than when he was denouncing tyranny, in other lands or his own; or pleading for the rights of humanity. He contended that a man’s religion should never subject him to penalty or inconvenience and he claimed liberty alike for Protestant and Catholic, for Christian, Jew and Deist.

 

Very much a pioneer and champion of what today would be called human rights it seems fitting that he should be remembered. Henry Cooke, his old opponent, after all has a prominent statue, Henry Montgomery certainly deserves his plaque.

 

Rev Henry Montgomery (1788-1865) . Minister, teacher, reformer
Rev Henry Montgomery (1788-1865) . Minister, teacher, reformer

Faith and Freedom, a journal of progressive religion

This latest issue of Faith and Freedom has a special cover. Taken from the above photograph by Márkó László it shows a scene from a Thanksgiving celebration at the Unitarian congregation in Oklánd, Hargita county, in Transylvania. This is a first for Faith and Freedom and ties in with a number of reviews in the Autumn and Winter 2015 issue which deal with the faith and practice of the Hungarian-speaking Unitarian churches in Romania. Márkó László’s photographs very effectively capture something of the cultural identity of the Unitarian folk there as well as their deeply held faith. There are more of his pictures in the 2016 Calendar.

The cover of the Autumn and Winter 2015 issue of 'Faith and Freedom', Vol. 68 Part 2, Number 181
The cover of the Autumn and Winter 2015 issue of ‘Faith and Freedom’, Vol. 68 Part 2, Number 181

 

Once again Faith and Freedom itself contains illustrations this time with a portrait of founding editor Eric Shirvell Price found inside and a photograph of the Rev Percival Godding, whose account of his time as a prisoner of war during the First World War also features.

An annual subscription costs £15 per annum (US $30 in the United States and Canada) and you can pay by post or online via PayPal. All details can be found on our website at:

http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/

The cover of the 2016 'Faith and Freedom' Calendar - 'Faith in the World'
The cover of the 2016 ‘Faith and Freedom’ Calendar – ‘Faith in the World’

 

If you are an individual subscriber you will also receive a copy of our 2016 Calendar. These are also being sold in aid of the Send a Child to Hucklow Fund. A £5 donation will have one wing its way to you. Again information about the Calendar (and a preview) can be found on our website.

 

Service of Thanksgiving, Oklánd church, Transylvania (Photo: Márkó László)
Service of Thanksgiving, Oklánd church, Transylvania (Photo: Márkó László)

 

Faith and Freedom latest issue and Calendar

FAITH AND FREEDOM, Autumn and Winter issue, (Volume 68, Part 2, Number 181) will be on its way to subscribers very soon. In it you will find:

Finding God in Strangers

John Navone

On Reading the Gospel of Mark with Two Eyes

George Kimmich Beach

Grace and Disgrace: a Social Pilgrimage

Yvonne Joan Craig

The Unitarians of the West and the Brahmo Samajees of the East

at Manchester College, Oxford 1896 –1948 Part II

Victor Lal

Six Months in a Prisoner of War Camp

David Steers

Manchester College, Oxford during the First World War

Evelyn Taylor

A Bible for Neo-Liberals

Barrie Needham

Bridging the Years in Marriage

Sue Norton

As well as reviews by Pat Frankish, Ernest Baker, Peter B. Godfrey, Lena Cockroft and the editor, and a review article by Graham Murphy on Sarah Shaw, The Spirit of Buddhist Meditation, The Sacred Literature Series, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2014.

Other books reviewed include

Charles Marsh, Strange Glory: a Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, SPCK, London, 2014.

Sam Harris, Waking Up: Searching for spirituality without religion, Bantam Press, London, 2014.

Mária Pap, Hungarian Unitarians in Transylvania, 2015.

Zoltán Fülöp, Emőd Farkas (eds.), Humble in Front of God, Words for Worship from Transylvanian Unitarians, International Council of Unitarians and Universalists/Hungarian Unitarian Ministers’ Association, Kolozsvár 2014

Emma Percy,”What Clergy Do”: especially when it looks like nothing, SPCK, London, 2014.

Marcus Braybrooke, Peace in Our Hearts Peace in Our World a meditation for everyday, Braybrooke Press, 2015.

John Pritchard, The Second Intercessions Handbook, SPCK, London, 2015.

Individual subscribers will also receive a copy of our Faith and Freedom 2016 Calendar. These are free to personal subscribers but extra copies can be ordered at a cost of £5 each, all of which goes to the charity the Send a Child to Hucklow Fund.

If you would like a sneak preview of the Calendar it can be downloaded on the Faith and Freedom website.

If you haven’t taken out a subscription and would like to do so you can also do that from the Faith and Freedom website:

http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/

The photograph at the top of this page is a picture by Transylvanian photographer Márkó László who has kindly contributed a number of pictures to the 2016 Calendar.