The Church Army of Christmas Past

As this legacy edition of Catalyst covers the festive season, we thought it only right to show what Church Army of Christmases past looked like through some of the Winter editions of The Church Army Review.
This particular article from December 1908 in many ways captures the spirit of Church Army at Christmas, as extra effort is made to make this time of year special, even for those who are enduring some of the worst circumstances.


Hallowed and gracious is the time, indeed; hallowed not only by the great event which we now commemorate, but by a thousand memories of love, kindness, forgiveness, reunion. The pity of it that the sweet influence of Yule should be marred by suffering and pain! No matter how brightly our own fire may blaze, no matter how plentifully our own board may be spread, no matter how closely we may draw our curtains to shut out the rain and snow and misery of the outer world, we cannot shut out the knowledge that, within a little distance, there are men, women, and small children who are suffering cold and hunger, with nothing to tell them of Christmas love and joy, human and divine.

The pity of it – yet on the other hand the happiness of being able to do something – no matter how small, if it is done in the Spirit of Him who was laid in the manger at Bethlehem – to cheer and comfort those who are suffering. “Give ye them to eat” is His command to His disciples in the rush of London’s grimy streets as of old in the sunshine by the Galilean lake. At this season, the Church Army always tries to bring some small special degree of gladness to hundreds of those who need it so sorely, by giving them Christmas cheer, entertainments, pleasures of various kinds. Christmas brings its own joy to most of us; joy of happy family gatherings, joy of meeting friends, joy of giving and receiving gifts. Shall we not all try to give some of our happiness and pleasure to dark lives and narrow surroundings? No matter if we are not rich ourselves, probably none of us is so poor as to be unable to give something.

Men’s Social Department

Our Men’s Social Department asks for contributions in money or kind towards Christmas dinners for about 2,400 men and youths in our Labour Homes throughout the country; for 500 homeless, starving single men at the King’s Labour Tents; and for 2,000 parcels containing materials for Christmas dinners (meat, groceries, materials for puddings, and so on), so that the married men working in the Queen’s and other Labour Relief Depots for married men may have wherewithal to make a merry Christmas at home with their families.

WoMen’s Social Department

Our Women’s Social Department wants toys, warm clothes, and useful presents for an entertainment for “unemployed” wives and widows and their children; also funds to provide tea, and helpers for the entertainment. Also a Christmas tree and 2,000 penny toys, and helpers to give them away, for the “Old Clo” mothers and little ones; Christmas presents and cards, together with any amount of Christmas cheer, for about 300 women and girls in our Homes.

Prisoners’ Wives & Families

Mrs. Hodder asks for materials for 600 Christmas dinners for prisoner’s wives and their families, also warm blankets and coals, parcels of tea and sugar, or money to buy any of these good things, for these poor sad woman and children suffering for the offences of others. Also for 1,000 Christmas dinners for poor starving families in parishes near Banner Street, who will have no dinner, perhaps no food of any sort, unless we help. Think of Christmas Day without dinner; perhaps without food! She also asks for dinners, tobacco, and fruit for over 200 men in the Banner Street and Warner Place Homes.

The Dispensary and Fresh Air Department

The Dispensary and Fresh Air Department will be most grateful for toys and garments for the Christmas party for the poor women and children attending the Dispensary; also funds and materials for the tea on that occasion and offers of an entertainment. Christmas fare is also especially asked for the Fresh Air Homes. The women and children in these Homes just now are, almost without exception, families of the unemployed, and until they came under our care were literally starving.

The Princess Club

The Princess Club would be most grateful for parcels of seasonable and useful groceries and fruit, to cheer the hearts of some of the poorest among their members – and some of them are very, very poor. There is plenty of variety among those on whose behalf we are making this humble request, but they are all poor and needy, and if we cannot provide food, many of them will have to go hungry on Christmas Day. Will each reader help us to prevent this?