At the June Assembly in 1915, following the report of the Committee on Social Service, one of the resolutions unanimously adopted expressed the views of the Assembly on the matter of citizens joining up to serve their country. The resolution stated:
‘It having been reported that young men in rural districts are not joining the ranks in sufficient numbers, the Assembly directs ministers to make a special appeal from their pulpits setting forth the duty of citizens of suitable age to offer their services in this time of the country’s need, and requests the Moderator to issue a pastoral letter on the subject.’
Moderator’s Pastoral Letter
The Moderator, the Rt Rev Professor Hamill, D.D. then addressed a letter to the ministers of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland that was published in The Witness newspaper, 2 July 1915.
As we all know, there is a widespread and rapidly growing desire that in this great crisis of our country’s history every man and woman should hear the call, and be afforded opportunity to take share in National Service, and so hasten the day of victory.
In trying to fulfil the duty thus laid upon me, I venture to address this letter to you, and through you, to all the members of our Church. We all know that the British Empire is engaged in the greatest war of history, and that we are fighting for our very existence. It is on our part no war of aggression. It was forced on us and our Allies. When our strongest desire was for peace, in defence of national truth and honour and liberty, we were compelled to draw the sword. With unexampled unanimity and enthusiasm all the peoples owing allegiance to our king have thrown themselves into the conflict. From every part of the Empire the flower of its manhood is rallying round the Flag. Already the largest and finest army of volunteers ever enrolled is at the front, or training for the field. And there has been no more loyal or spontaneous response to the call than that given by the young men of our Irish Presbyterian Church.
Supreme Effort Demanded
But enough has not yet been done: for one thing the sacredness and imperativeness of the call for men seems to be not even yet fully realised. The crisis demands a supreme effort. From the trampled fields and ruined cities of Belgium and France, from the desolate homes and exiled people, from outraged womanhood and murdered childhood, come voices clear and loud, warning us as to what will surely be our doom should the brutal German aggressors set foot on our shores. By God’s help, they never will; but in order that they may not we are called on to exert all our might, and to be prepared for every sacrifice. It is, indeed, a supreme sacrifice for fathers and mothers and wives and sisters to send forth to battle the young men who are their pride and hope and joy. Yet, how can they hesitate when what should be dearer to us all when life itself is at stake – our homes, our Fatherland, our religion, the liberty of Europe and the world.
We are pleading with God that the war may speedily end, that its terrible ravages may cease, and victory crown our banners. But should we not also ask what He would have each man and woman of us to do to bring about this happy consummation? It is only when we, all of us, do our very best, keeping back nothing, not even our lives or the lives or our best beloved, that we can with humble confidence look to Him to give us victory, and to fill our hearts with gladness through the fulfilment to us of the promise given long ago to His people – ‘and the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and confidence for ever. And My people shall abide in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.’
Trusting, dear brethren, that you will bring this solemn and momentous matter before your people in whatever way you may each think best. I am, yours very sincerely,
THOMAS M. HAMILL
Moderator of Assembly