New Zealand Methodist Church OnLine History
 Go to Index

             Order the Book 

New Zealand Methodist Chaplains at War - The First World War Through their Eyes
by Allan K. Davidson
            WHS Publication #101 - 2016

Eighteen Methodist ministers served overseas as chaplains during the First World War; four of them were soldiers before becoming chaplains. More than thirty ministers, home missionaries and theological students served in the ranks or with the Young Men's Christian Association.
Chaplains were non-combatants, whose primary duties were to lead services and bury the dead. They took on many other roles, acting as social workers, counsellors, censors of mail, organisers of sports and recreation. They wrote hundreds of letters to families of those killed or injured. Chaplains were embedded in the army, suffering the demands of war and military life, including injury and death.
Very little has been written about New Zealand chaplains and the First World War. This book provides an account of Methodist chaplains, their work and attitudes. Fifty-three of their letters, published during the war in the church's newspaper, are reprinted here. While these letters strongly support the war, they also open a window into the experiences chaplains faced in ministering under the dangers and difficulties of Gallipoli and the Western Front, the challenges of the long sea voyage to Europe and the temptations of Egypt. Other sources, including chaplains' diaries, letters and newspaper correspondence reveal inter-denominational conflict as well as cooperation. These sources point to the differences between the chaplains' public and private views about the war. The book concludes by raising questions about the chaplains' effectiveness and the challenges facing the church and its ministers in the post-war society.