Camp Chaplains, Sabbath Observance and the Territorials

[2014 marks the beginning of the centennial of World War I, the Great War.  This is the second in a series of articles taken from Presbyterian publications for relating to the Great War.  Today Presbyterian Research is posting two articles from The Outlook.  The first comes from The Letter Bag, dated March 24, 1914.  The second is an article on Sabbath Observance and the Territorials, dated April 21, 1914.  Protecting the sanctity of the Lord’s Day was a issue for Presbyterians of this period.  It is surprising to think that while Sabbatarianism preoccupied the clergy in 1914 twelve months later some of those same Territorials would be landing on the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey.]

 Camp Chaplains


Sir, — Kindly insert following received today, as soon as possible: —


Re Extra Chaplains for Camp, 1914

The following copy of Headquarters No. D. 13/2/A.G., dated 5th March, 1914 is forwarded for information and necessary action: —

“At forthcoming Divisional Camps the following additional chaplains may be employed, if services are required: — Two extra Church of England chaplains, two extra Presbyterian chaplains, one extra Roman Catholic chaplain.

The pay and allowance of these extra chaplains will be as laid down in paragraphs 164, 165, Financial Instructions and Allowance Regulations, 1913.”

Will all chaplains please give matter attention at once.


Convener General Assembly Chaplains’ Committee, Wellington, March 12.

Rev. William Shirer P-A71-32-100
Rev. William Shirer

Sabbath Observance and the Territorials

Recent developments in connection with the administration of the Territorial defence scheme indicate the need for constant vigilance and prompt action on the part of those who are interested in the conservation of the Sabbath as a day for worship and rest. In Wellington last month orders were issued by the major of one of the companies for a field day at Makara, the company to parade at 9.30 on Sunday morning, and to spend the whole day at military operations. In the order it was stated that the parade, although not compulsory, would count as an equivalent for six ordinary parades, and another document stated that those who attended the Sunday parade would be exempt from fines for non-attendance at certain other parades.  As soon as the Rev. W. Shirer, the senior chaplain for the Wellington district, heard of this, he communicated with one of the superior officers, who informed him that he knew nothing of the parade, and would see that the order was cancelled. On Saturday notification was sent to the members of the company that there would be no parade. It may, however be safely assumed that had not such prompt action been taken, the parade would have been held on Sunday as proposed, and a further precedent established.

Another proposal of a much more serious character has come to light within the last fortnight. In connection with the big military camp at Takapau, Hawke’s Bay, it is proposed, according to printed information issued by the department, to convey 3076 men, with horses and equipment, to camp on Sunday, April 26, and to convey 6010 men on the return journey on Sunday, May 10. This means that a large proportion of the railway staff will be employed on two Sundays, and the magnitude of the work entailed may be judged by the fact, as stated by the general manager of railways, that in one district alone 57 locomotives will be employed. It means also that large numbers of the members of our churches and Bible Classes will be compelled to spend two Sundays travelling. What is stated above applied to the Wellington district particularly; but there is every reason to believe that similar arrangements are made for the other large camps in Auckland, Christchurch and Otago.

As soon as the Sabbath Observance Committee heard of this, it resolved to send a deputation to the Minister of Defence to make a strong protest against such disregard of the Christian conscience of the Dominion. This deputation, along with one from the Wellington Ministers’ Association and another from the Wellington Methodist Ministers’ Association, waited on the Hon. J. Allen on Wednesday, April 8. In his reply, the Minister stated that, while his own sympathies were with the deputation, and the department had been desirous to avoid Sunday travelling, the Railway Department had found it impossible to deal with this extra traffic and maintain the regular services without utilising Sundays. It is understood, however, that the Railway Department disclaims responsibility, as the dates were fixed for the camp without consultation with them, and they had to arrange the traffic accordingly. There the matter stands in the meantime; but the deputation intends to wait on the Minister of Railways on his return to Wellington.

These and other incidents show that determined and united efforts on the part of the churches are necessary to check such encroachments on the Lord’s Day. It should be made clear that there is a Christian conscience in the community, and that this will not tolerate the increasing violation of its convictions. Silence on these matters is often misunderstood.  Presbyteries and ministers individually will do well to take prompt and public action over such matters.  Even though protests may seem ineffective at the time, they tend to check further inroads. And so the Christian conscience will be aroused and a more healthy public opinion created.


Convener Sabbath Observance Committee

By Andrew

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