The most impressive ceremony ever held in the Old Parish Church, Luton, was on Tuesday morning [November 12th, 1918] when the Mayor and Corporation attended in state, with representatives of every public body in the town, to render thanks for the victory of the Allied armies over the foes of human liberty.
A beautiful morning, the sun in the sky, a snap in the air and music in the heart, the largest civic procession ever seen in Luton journeyed from the Town Hall to the sacred old chapel of St Mary, passing between dense crowds of people until they came to the church doors, where they were received by the robed clergy and the sombre-garbed Nonconformist ministers.
The nave was wholly reserved for their use, but it was quite inadequate and they overflowed into the transept, aisle and side chapel, and from the moment the first hymn was announced the human charm of it all was gradually merged into a spiritual solemnity, and not one but felt it good to be there.
The first hymn was 'All People That On Earth Do Dwell,' and we really sang it, and from this opening paean to the last amen the singing was wonderful in its whole-heartedness. Then followed the silent prayer and the reading of H.M. The King's message to the Services, read by the Mayor in a loud, steady and clear voice from the chancel steps, where he was accompanied by the Town Clerk.
The prayers and responses were sung by the Rev H. Sutcliffe Hay with a resonance and feeling which reached every corner of the church. The Lessons were read by the Rev W. T. Healey (Mayor's Chaplain) and the Rev E. B. Mahon respectively, both of whom were robed, the first Lesson being the Song of Moses, commemorating the escape of the children of Israel from bondage (Exodus xv), and the latter from St Paul's Epistle to the Romans (viii, 14 onwards), expounding the good which comes of the Spirit and the infinite wisdom and omnipotence of God.
When the hymn, 'How Bright These Glorious Spirits Shine,' filled the church there were many faltering voices and bowed heads, the memory of the departed being held in sacred reverence.
The exultation of the Psalms 125 and 150 was pronounced, and the special thanksgiving prayer by Canon Coate was an experience to be remembered. There were breaks in his voice as he referred to the men who had made the supreme sacrifice, and one intuitively felt that his heart was still sore from the wounds of bereavement which he has felt.
There was also an earnestness in the general thanksgiving, and the height of faith and hope and gratitude was developed in 'O God, Our Help in Ages Past' and 'Alleluia! Sing to Jesus'.
A collection was taken on behalf of the St Dunstan's Hostel for the Blind [raising £40 3s 6d], and the service closed with the Benediction solemnly pronounced by the Vicar [the Rev A. E. Chapman], and the National Anthem.
The following was the order of procession from the Town Hall to the church: Special and regular police, 2nd Volunteer Brigade Bedfordshire Regiment, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, St John Ambulance, Friendly Societies, Station Masters, Tradesmen's Association, V.A.D., Discharged Sailors' and Soldiers' Association, Comrades of the Great War, Freemasons, Chamber of Commerce, Belgian Refugees Committee, War Savings Committee, Flag Day Workers, Food Committee, War Pensions Committee, Children's Welfare Committee, 'N.T.F.' representatives, Waste Pape Scheme representatives, War Prisoners Committee, National Service Representative, Tribunal and Advisory Committee, County Councillors, Board of Education, non-Council members of Education and Libraries Committees, Justices and Clerk, the officers of the Council, the Mayoress, the Deputy Mayoress, Mrs W. Smith, the Council and Fire Brigade.
The Red Cross Band was in attendance and played selections outside the Town Hall.
Alderman J. H. Staddon was confined to his room, much too ill to attend. Alderman A. Wilkinson risked influenza as he had a very severe cold.
Mr Fred Gostelow was fretting at home, deeply disappointed that he could not take his customary place at the organ, but Mr Punter, his deputy, did splendidly.