Bishop Geoff with the Lt. Governor and recipients of CLB Long-service Awards at Government House.
Carry On CLB
January 26, 2016
I was honored today to take part as Church Lads’ Brigade (CLB) Regimental Chaplain in the Change of Command Ceremony for the CLB at Government House in St. John’s. In the ceremony hosted by their honours, Frank and Patricia Fagan, the Lieutenant Governor, who is Honorary Patron of the CLB, shared in the Change of Command as the role of Commandant and Governor of the Brigade passed from Colonel Al Pelley to Colonel Keith Arns. This year, for the first time, there was a “passing of the gavel” as Colonel Pelley handed the gavel to me, I in turn handed it to the Lieutenant Governor, who then passed it to the new Governor and Commandant, Colonel Arns.
A series of Long-Service Awards were also given to members present and I noted that there are many active officers of the CLB with over 50 years of service to their credit. Lieutenant Governor Fagan commented on this and said it is a rare organization that celebrates service beyond 30 or 35 years but the CLB is one of those rare organizations. The afternoon ended with a reception with their Honours in which we celebrated together this 124-year-old group as it renewed itself once more and continued its great work into the future.
The Church Lads’ Brigade will celebrate 125 years of service in Newfoundland in 2017 and is the oldest and the largest Anglican youth organization in Canada today. It is also one of the most recognizable civic organizations in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, known nationally for its Regimental Band. There have been over 20,000 members in Newfoundland since 1892 with something around 12,000 still living. Approximately 700 members in 18 active companies are still on strength, including, at 101 years of age (!), the oldest active CLB member in the British Commonwealth, Major William G. Tilley.
I should tell you that the CLB has taken over a big part of my life since last spring when I was inspired to begin writing a book on this incredible organization. That book, tentatively entitled, The Church Lads’ Brigade in Newfoundland: A People’s Story, will be finished in time for the Anniversary Parade in October of this year and tells the story of the CLB since 1892. I have dug deeply into the archives of the CLB and also our own diocesan archives in my efforts to tell this story. I have also explored the life of the CLB today to understand its ongoing vitality.
You may be interested to know that around 100 years ago there were no less than five denominational youth brigades active in Newfoundland. In addition to the Church of England CLB, there were the Catholic Cadet Corps, the Methodist Guards Brigade, the Boys’ Brigade, and the Newfoundland Highlanders. By the 1920’s all the brigades were gone except for the CLB. I have been fascinated by this “Mystery of the Disappearing Brigades” for some time now and in my forthcoming book I will offer an answer. Yes, there really is a reason why the CLB has survived here so long now and why it shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon. Hint: it has something to do with the ecumenical nature of this Anglican Church organization and the incredible way it inspires loyalty among its members. There is a “code” at play among CLB members and I will tell you all about it this fall.
Today was one of those days when I was reminded of the incredible tapestry of my church woven over generations of faithful worship and service. In my address to the gathered officers today I told them that the CLB has always been our church at its finest. I told them I was proud of them. I sure am proud to be their Chaplain!
There’s an old saying that you can always recognize a CLB officer whether they are wearing the uniform or not. I can tell you that is true. The respect they show and command in return gives them away every time. All of us in public service in this province today can learn from their professionalism, dignity, and sense of duty.
I end with that old CLB prayer every young recruit learns and commend it to your use:
Grant, O God, that we may never be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and faithfully to fight under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue His faithful soldiers and Servants unto our life’s end; Through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen. With my every blessing, +Geoff