This year marks the Centenary of the appalling events in the latter years of the Great War, that led sisters Eglantyne and Dorothy Jebb to found the Charity, Save the Children. Children and Young People had suffered disproportionately among the Civilian casualties, but as the conflict came to an end first of all on the eastern Front, and subsequently, a year later, in the west, even the basic needs of children were often forgotten, as civilian populations struggled to feed themselves. Occupying British Soldiers shared their rations with German children to keep them alive, and Eglantyne and Dorothy managed to enlist both the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury in launching what turned out to be a very successful appeal. The Charity, still active today, was not the first in this field, as Barnardo’s, and the Church of England’s ‘Waifs and Strays Society’, (now known as the Children’s Society) were already busy, but it caught the imagination, and paved the way for great and significant appeals, such as Children in Need, in our own day.
Eglantyne Jebb is commemorated in the Church of England’s Kalendar on December 17th. Her sister, Dorothy, knew Elland well, as she was married to Charles Roden Buxton, MP for Elland from 1929 to 31. In honouring the sisters, we remember those who are prepared to move mountains for a cause that is right and just.
As this month of January begins, we are celebrating the latter days of Christmass, before adding new layers to our prayerful exploration of the Season with the Feasts of the Epiphany, and the Baptism of Christ. The Christ-child in the Stable, the inspiration for the godly humanism of such as Eglantyne Jebb in caring for Children in need, is the Christ whose life we share in Holy Baptism, and who, in his death and resurrection, will complete his ministry in opening up to all the riches of the Kingdom. We have looked for God’s coming amongst us as a child; may we be open to see his presence in all in need, and to respond with generosity and love, for our faith demands nothing less.