ESG Lectures 2017 – 15th March – “Welsh Baptists and the Great War”

Friday 3 March, 2017

We invite you to join us for this year’s Edwin Stephen Griffiths’ Lectures at the South Wales Baptist College.

This year our guest lecturer is Dr Gethin Matthews, Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol Lecturer in History at Swansea University, whose theme will be: Welsh Baptists and the Great War

1:30pm Lecture 1 – Principles, Politics and Recruitment

This lecture will focus upon the attitudes and actions of Welsh Baptist congregations during the first 18 months of the First World War. When the war broke out so unexpectedly in August 1914, all elements of British society faced difficult choices, but given their previous rhetoric of peace, the Nonconformists of Wales had more of a challenge than most to reconcile their beliefs with the demands of wartime. Yet within a short space of time the general reaction of the Baptists and the other denominations was to support the British cause whole-heartedly. The ‘language of 1914’ – of duty, patriotism and honour – was prevalent, even to the point of ‘rejoicing’ in the number of volunteers that went to the Armed Services from the chapels. Part of the explanation for this can be found in the political situation of 1914; allied to this was the spirit of rivalry engendered when all the different elements within society were vying to be seen to ‘do their bit’.

3:30pm Lecture 2 – Resistance, Disillusionment and Commemoration

The support of the Baptist churches of Wales for the war effort was never total and unconditional, and even in the early months of the war there were voices expressing unease at the headlong rush towards militarism. Initially a minor current, opposition to the war became more open as conscription loomed and then became a reality: the debate also became more complex as there were those who supported the British war effort but deplored the abandonment of the voluntary principle. Yet the language used by many of the Baptists’ leading lights even in the war’s final phases shows that the prevailing mood was still that Britain’s cause was just: wholescale disillusionment was a post-war phenomenon. As the Baptist chapels of Wales commemorated those who served, the ‘language of 1914’ still had force.

The Edwin Stephen Griffiths’ Lectures will be held on Wednesday 15th March 2017 in the main Lecture Hall at the South Wales Baptist College, 54 Richmond Road, Cardiff. CF24 3UR. As car parking space at the college is very limited please use public transport where possible.

Admission is free – and we hope that you will be able to join us for these lectures which reflect on issues of continuing importance.