War through the eyes of a church pastor

Christopher Shorten and the Rev Michael Newman with the completed booklet. (d231a449)
Christopher Shorten and the Rev Michael Newman with the completed booklet. (d231a449)

A church has compiled an account of World War One through the eyes of a pastor who recorded the effect it had on his area.

Gomersal Moravian Church member Christopher Shorten has put together a booklet from the diaries of Walter Gilbert Stooke who came to the chapel in 1913 and preached for six years.

Mr Shorten said: “Initially Rev Stooke described the conflict as a bolt from the blue. It was not something they expected.”

As the diaries continued throughout the war years the attitude and concerns of Rev Stooke began to change.

Mr Shorten said: “He was concerned because the men are not with the church and it becomes short of teachers. He put out a call to say the church needed more help.”

And as time went on the severity of the conflict and the effect on Gomersal’s youth became more clear.

Mr Shorten said: “They did not get that growing up period.

“People thought a lot about why so many people were going out to die. I think he was struggling with how to answer the big questions.”

Mr Shorten spent six months working on the book as part of a wider project on the centenary of World War One.

His interest was not just in the conflict itself but how the war affected the way that everyone lived at home – from men disappearing from their communities to the effect rationing had on Moravian love feasts.

“When Rev Stooke arrived in 1913 he came with thoughts on how he wanted to do things but then the war changed everything.”

Rev Stooke died in May 1919 after he contracted influenza.

Free copies of the book will be available at Gomersal Moravian Church’s Christmas fair at the church in Quarry Road on Saturday, 10am-noon.

An online version and further detail to accompany the booklet can be found at www.tinyurl.com/visitgmc.