The Revd J. J. KEY: LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Cheshire.
St Paul’s Vicarage, Walsall.
20th July 1916.
My Dear Bertie,
A partially written reply to your last letter had been on my desk for a long time and you must think me a bad correspondent. Still never a day passes when you and the other men we know and love are not in my thoughts and mentioned in my prayers.
We have all thought you should have had some leave long, long ago – I suppose real or imaginary difficulties have arisen. Now you are back in the homeland, bearing marks of the unthinkable experiences you have passed through. We hope your wound is slight and that you have not much pain.
No words can describe the pride we have in you all and the gratitude we feel for all you have so splendidly achieved. Your father goes on bravely & cheerily with his heavy work (1) and your mother has been simply wonderful in the midst of her anxieties.
Things go on happily at the Churches in spite of the absence of so many men. Tonight we have a meeting of a few still here to put into shape our parochial branch of the C.E.M.S.(2) and develop our plans for the National Mission (3). It is a great opportunity and I pray God will guide us to use it aright for His Glory. Sunday Schools go on well and the Open Air Meetings are very encouraging this year. (4)
Mrs Key and I look forward to hearing news of you and Sydney soon and the pleasure of welcoming you home.
With our kind remembrances & good wishes for a speedy recovery.
Ever yours, very sincerely,
J. J. Key.
News that Serjeant Sydney Hibbett was Missing on 1st July, presumed Killed in Action, was obviously not yet widely known. The family was waiting for official confirmation from the War Office. See Menu Page: ‘In Search of the Missing’.
(1) Arthur Hibbett was Chief Education Officer for the Borough of Walsall. See Menu Page: ‘Walsall Education Office 1900-1921. Arthur Hibbett Press Cuttings’.
(2) C.E.M.S. Church of England’s Men’s Society. Formed 1899 by Archbishop Frederick Temple.
(3) A National Mission of Repentance & Hope, Oct.1916: launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson & the Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang.
‘We are to repent not because we believe we are guilty of provoking this war but because we, together with other nations that profess to be Christian, have failed to learn how to live together as a Christian family, how to set forth Christ to the peoples who do not know Him. Because it is clear that the Spirit of love does not rule our relations with one another at home, anymore than it rules the relations between nations’.
‘We look forward to a new England & a new world’. As well as repentance ‘the Mission projected a much needed message of hope during the grave time of war’. The nation was invited ‘to reflect their attitudes, weaknesses & passions & repent in hope of a better world’. The Archbishops recognised that many (like my father & his brother) conscripted in hope to fight to save not only their country but also the world. A Monument of Fame: The Lambeth Palace Library blog: 13th March, 2016.
The Bishop of London, Arthur Winnington Ingram: ‘The Mission is to be like the coming of Spring – a drawing out of sweet influences & powers inherent but dormant in the Church & Nation.’ ‘Its effect was not to be produced primarily by big drums or the oratory of mission preachers’ -‘each diocese is to revive itself in its own way, believing that under the breath of the Spirit “a desert may rejoice & blossom as the rose”. Church Times, March, 1916.
(4) St Paul’s Sunday School: my father had passed his Sunday School Teacher’s Examination, ‘First Class’ in April, 1914.
NEXT POST: 30th July 1916.