|The Boy Scouts Imperial
The Festival Service at
THE great Abbey of Westminster has been the scene of many an imposing service in the seven centuries of its existence, but never before can it have held within its ancient walls so many representatives of boyhood drawn from thirty different countries forming the Commonwealth of British Nations, as it did on the evening of Tuesday, July 29th on the occasion of the Festival Service for Boy Scouts of the British Empire.
All London was wet and dreary, as the result of a thunderstorm, but down towards the East end of Victoria Street marching troops of Scouts and charabanc loads of Oversea Scouts from Wembley’s rapidly growing Camp were radiating joy and good spirits as they arrived in Dean’s Yard. There they formed up before they entered the great west doors of their ancient Abbey (theirs because the beloved old abbey is the proud possession of the whole of the British Empire) for the great Festival Service which had been arranged by the Dean and Chapter, in conjunction with the Council of Imperial Headquarters, who were represented by Mr. Percy Armytage Assistant Commissioner in charge Headquarters, who had charge of all the arrangements for the Service, being assisted by the First Cranford Troop.
Big Ben outside had just struck six o’clock when the great organ of the Abbey sounded out the opening bars of the Voluntary, while the Clergy and the Choir, the Choristers of which, as members of the 30th Westminster Troop, were in Scout kit, made their way up the centre aisle and beneath the organ screen to their places in the chancel and the choir stalls.
The Service started with the well known hymn, "All People that on Earth do dwell," the voices of the choir sounding as only the Abbey Choir can , then followed the lesson, taken from 1 Peter II. 11-17, read by the Chief Scout, whose voice: was clearly heard in the furthest corner of that magnificent pile as he finished up with the words: "Honour all men, Love the Brotherhood, Fear God, Honour the King." After this came the hymn, "Praise, my Soul, the King of Heaven," and as the last sound of the organ died down, there came the solemn repetition of the Apostles’ Creed, followed by the prayer which ever reminds us of the universal Brotherhood of Man and Fatherhood of God: "The Lord’s Prayer "; then came a Collect for the Scout Movement, asking for strength to be true to our Promise to serve God and our fellow men.
A striking address of welcome by the Dean of Westminster (Bishop Ryle, D.D.), followed, in the course of which he said that he thought that the occasion was unique. Scouts had gathered from every part of the British Empire with their Chief at their head, and for the first time they were making their offering of worship and thanksgiving within the walls of the Empire’s ancient shrine. The stones of the Abbey spoke to them more eloquently than any words of the preacher; they spoke of those who had gone before, who had taught achievement and service to others, and whose noble memory ranked among the chief glories of our race. They. the Scouts, only had to look around to see memorials of Britain’s heroes and leaders, statesmen, warriors, philanthropists, explorers, poets, historians, judges, divines, architects and musicians. Indeed, one might indefinitely increase that list.
Let those present, said the Dean, think of what was denoted by even a few of the names 0f those whose graves were in the Abbey. There lay Edward III, Henry V, Queen Elizabeth, Wordsworth, Charles Kingsley, Chaucer, Dickens and Tennyson ; Chatham, Pitt and Fox; Gladstone and Salisbury; Isaac Newton, Lister and Darwin; Wilberforce and David Livingstone. Those present could look around with a thrill at the, spot where every Sovereign of this land had been crowned, from William the Conqueror to George V, every Sovereign except the little boy who was never allowed to reign and was put to death by Richard III.
Then they could go and stand by the grave where "rests the body of a British Warrior, unknown by name, or rank, brought from France, to lie among the most illustrious of the land."
Let them go to that tomb and in the sanctity of that spot, as pilgrims from the whole world, let them dedicate themselves afresh to the service of their fellow men. The cause of Truth and Honour and Freedom demanded the sacrifice of much that was momentarily pleasurable to young hearts. It asked for courage, perseverance, and pluck something more than sentimentality and beautiful words: action, sacrifice, discipline, conduct. God grant that the inspiration conveyed by the beloved Abbey might live in the hearts of all an enduring impression for the exaltation of ideals and for the ennoblement of character; for the honour of the King and Empire; for the service of Jesus Christ, and for the welfare and lasting good of mankind.
After the address, the hymn, "Abide with Me" was heartily joined in, during which a collection was taken for the Poor Troops Fund. The Service concluded with a procession, in the following order
Beadle, the Cross of the Abbey, borne by the Crossbearer, the Precentor,
Banner, Cross, 30th Westminster Troop of Boy Scouts (the Westminster Abbey
Choristers), the Choral Clerks and Lay Vicars, the Scout Flag, borne by
Troop Leader A. W. Hurt, followed by representatives of British Scout Troops
in Egypt, Panama and Switzerland, Flags of the Colonies:
Bahamas, Barbados, British
Guiana, Ceylon, Jamaica, Kenya, Malta, Palestine, Southern Rhodesia,
Trinidad, Uganda, and the Flags of the Dominions: India, Orange Free State,
Transvaal, Natal, Cape Protectorate, Union of South Africa, New Zealand,
Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria, New
South Wales, Commonwealth of Australia,
During the procession, the hymn, "Blessed City, heavenly Salem," was sung, and the sight of the representatives of the boyhood of the British Commonwealth of Nations of every colour and race, walking side by- side, carrying with pride the Flags of their States, Commonwealths and Countries, was one which will not easily be forgotten by those who were present. There they were, rendering praise and thanksgiving to the Universal Father as, by their presence in the old Abbey of Westminster their Abbey they wove the threads of friendship closer and closer.
The Procession returned to the High Altar, where a prayer was offered for the Empire, that its people might work for the good of others, and the Blessing was given by the Dean. And then, almost surpassing the Procession itself in its emotional intensity, the quietness of that huge building was broken by the roll of the drums of the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, from the organ-loft, as a prelude to the National Anthem. The Clergy, Choir and the Flag Bearers then passed out towards the west doors, and so this Service of Thanksgiving for Boy Scouts of the British Empire was over, and the second of the opening chapters of the Imperial jamboree was left to live on in the minds of those who had taken part.
Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1997