BRF's War stories - Part three
Welcome to part three of our BRF War stories, as told by our founder Leslie Mannering and General Secretary Margery Sykes.
Meanwhile in Europe…
Several translations of BRF Bible Notes were, of necessity, suspended during the war years, including the Japanese one, and many of our keenest members in Occupied countries were unable to receive their Notes. But even this didn’t daunt some of them. Here is part of a letter written by a member in Haarlem soon after the release of Holland, recorded by Margery Sykes:
‘When in May 1940 the Germans took possession of this country, a small group of members of the Church of England at Haarlem – mostly British wives of Dutch husbands – were left here without a padre, a Church or anything, and by the end of the month those of us who were of the B.R.F., some six or seven, realized that no more leaflets would be coming either. We set to work and had a meeting every fortnight in turns at our houses, and put together all the old B.R.F. Notes we had (one of us even had them from 1933), and made a sort of ‘circulating library’, using the months of bygone years for our meetings and at home, e.g. my family always read them at Family Prayers. So we kept going, and thank God the Germans never discovered our meetings. By 1945 we were very much at the end of this circulating library, and when at the liberation the first Canadian Army Chaplain gave us a handful of the green ‘For Those on Service’ leaflets, we were very pleased, and now we can join again since January. Last year we still depended on friends getting them for us because we couldn’t pay for them. So when you are together presently to give thanks for the many blessings of B.R.F., our thanksgivings will be with you in spirit, for a fellowship which meant so much in the hard time we had.’
It seemed nothing short of a miracle to us and to our distant branches in Australia, Africa and India, that during the whole of the war the number of parcels that failed to reach their destination abroad totalled under ten.
An ending, and a beginning…
As BRF emerged from its war years the task changed, but the vision remained, as Founder Leslie Mannering records:
‘In our own country we are being warned that the pulse of the nation’s life has run dangerously low. Many are planning and striving to find the remedy. But national recovery depends on spiritual recovery; and spiritual recovery in its turn, depends on the rediscovery of the Bible. The scriptures are not out of date, but man is out of tune. He must turn to them afresh, he must understand them anew; for there are depths of meaning in the Bible that man has not fathomed yet. The Bible is ahead of the times.
‘What, then, does the Lord require of us? Out of the distant past a voice speaks to us, bidding us ‘walk humbly with our God’. And we know that the prophet Micah is right. All the more is it required of us because God has so signally blessed our Fellowship. We must be ready to learn, and unlearn, and relearn; pressing forward to the fulfilment of Christ’s promise: ‘the Spirit of truth shall guide into all truth’.
For the next two years the focus was the 25th Anniversary Service which would be attended by Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Today, as we begin to focus on the new post-lockdown world we turn our attention to BRF’s Centenary celebrations in 2022. Our founder Leslie Mannering’s words are as relevant now as the day he wrote them:
‘We must be ready to learn, and unlearn, and relearn; pressing forward to the fulfilment of Christ’s promise: ‘the Spirit of truth shall guide into all truth’. Please join us on that journey.