For God and empire: war sermons and voluntary enlistment among New Brunswick's Anglicans in the Great War, 1914 through 1917

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University of New Brunswick


When the Great War erupted in 1914, Canadian society was more religious than it is today, which endowed clergymen with prestige and considerable influence. Their influence went into the service of Canada’s war effort, including the recruitment of men for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. This thesis examines the role of the Anglican Church as a leading voice during the years of voluntary enlistment, 1914 to 1917. Using sermons, speeches and letters printed in the secular press, it follows how the province’s Anglican Church leaders revealed the war’s meaning and grafted this onto patriotism to rally enlistment. While a definitive connection between these activities and enlistments is difficult to establish, the religious composition of several provincial battalions suggests that the efforts of the Anglican clergy were largely successful. Indeed, the evidence reveals that Anglican New Brunswickers enlisted in numbers twice their relative share of the provincial population, significantly more than other denominations.