If you’ve ever trained with me you may recall a story I sometimes tell about my mum and her
best friend. It’s the tale of something not much talked about and involved the mysterious and sudden disappearance from our church of the leader of the junior section of the Boys’ Brigade, then known as the Life Boys, almost 60 years ago. My inquiries of both my mum and her best friend elicited snorts of disapproval but nothing more. No details and no desire to share.
This summer our church started a history project to catalogue all our archives and begin to think about a small permanent display of a number of key objects or documents. Fascinating work, taking a couple of days to complete the first stage of getting everything out of musty cupboards and labelling it.
Hand written Quarterly Meeting and Sunday School staff meeting minute books told a fascinating 1950s story of an era of a four department, multiple class Sunday school and buoyant youth organisations. Of how the Girls Life Brigade, as it was known then, was preparing for a possible influx of girls from the Caribbean, and how the Boys’ Brigade band practice was causing neighbours to complain about the bugles. (Local colleagues may detect some current resonance here.)
So suddenly there it was in one minute book we looked through. In only four words, ‘Mr A has resigned’. No more information was supplied, no reasons provided, no vote of thanks for all his hard work. To be honest I don’t know if the person whose name was included in full was the person about whom there was a tale not to tell but the lack of detail perhaps spoke volumes when compared to more effusive entries elsewhere.
The Past Cases Review provided a focused opportunity to unearth more about what we thought we might know about something harmful, and to give a concrete shape to matters that in some ways were either a known part of the local church story or a folk myth that persisted over time. But that doesn’t stop us continuing now to make sense of our past to help protect people from abuse in the future. Your church archives might just be the place to start.