Canon Scott Writes To Parishioners In 1915

Saturday, June 5, 1915

Rest billets, Oblenghem

The Battalion War Diarist wrote nothing for this day:  [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: Interesting Letter from Rector of St. Matthew’s Now at the Front

05 June 15“At the morning and evening services in St. Matthew’s Church yesterday, the following letter addressed to the parishioners from their beloved rector, Rev. Canon Scott, now at the front with the Twelfth Battalion as chaplain was read by Rev. A. R. Kelly, assistant priest, and the reading of the letter had a visible effect on all present:

‘France, June 5th, 1915.

To the parishioners of St. Matthew’s in Quebec.

My Dear Friends. By the time you get this letter, nearly a year will have elapsed since I left you for service with the troops. At present, the war seems no nearer its end than when I left, although one never knows what may happen perhaps quite suddenly to put an end to this hideous slaughter of human beings. But, still, there will be no peace until the power whose ….barbarism has astounded the nations of the world has been absolutely crushed.

At present I feel that for any rector to be away from his parish for so long a time, must be a great strain upon the energies of the parish, and yet it would be hard to leave our young men here at this time when they have to endure so much. The long list of casualties in the paper will tell you that life here is a serious matter, and that it skirts very closely the fringes of the other world. It is indeed a rich and wonderful privilege to be a chaplain with these brave, cheerful, single minded young fellows who so far from home and kindred are fighting and laying down their lives for liberty and civilization. Over here we dare not let our thoughts dwell on the dark side of things. We have to keep the cause before us shining out like a beacon light and must not look at the past but to the future.

It is impossible to say at present when I shall be able to return. We must all go on in faith. But I am sure God will never let our beloved church suffer because she took her share of the burden laid upon the Empire’s shoulders by this war.

As I write in this little French village, where we have been resting for a few days after some hard experiences, I picture myself the service in St. Matthew’s Church, when this letter is read out to you. And the scene recalls the faces of those Quebec boys who have so gladly laid down their lives for others.

The last time I saw them, for our Brigades are often far apart and hard to find, was at a celebration of Holy Communion held in the back yard of a little Estaminet or Inn at Bac St. Maur, near Armentieres. Nearly a hundred men were present and there was no room for them in the house. Never shall I forget the earnest faces of the fifty young fellows dressed in shabby khaki as they knelt on the stubbly ground and held out their strong hands for the Bread of Life.

The scene was a most solemn one and we all parted with very warm good wishes afterwards.

It was Stanley Marchant who met me the day before by accident and asked me if I could not arrange a celebration of Holy Communion for them, as there was no Church of England chaplain in the 1st Brigade. Colonel Watson gladly gave his permission, and so the service was held as I have described it.

Life out here is better than it is often at home, there is no fussing about trifles and less self-seeking. The constant presence of danger and duty lifts men into a higher plane of thought. I am sure that the world will be the better for this terrible trial, and I do not think or shall sink back into the careless ease and indifference about God which have made our public and private life unworthy during the last few years.

In the meantime, my dear friends, continue your prayers for the men at the front, and be constant and devout in your religious duties at home.

You have a great privilege in your church services. We who are deprived of them, appreciate that fact more than ever. Support your church. Let everyone work and pray. Help your clergy in their labors. And may God bless and keep you always, and soon bring this war to an end.

Ever your sincere friend, and Pastor,
F.G. Scott’” [2]

[1]  War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, June 5, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa
[2]  “Canon Scott Writes to Parishioners,” Quebec Telegraph, Quebec, Que., Monday, June 28, 1915, pg. 4, col 3.

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