123 years of mission amongst girls!
The story Girls’ Brigade’s development 1893 – 2016 is truly inspirational.
It focuses around pioneering women in countries all across the world, joined by a shared sense of God’s call to empower girls to discover God’s transforming love and power in their lives. And in response, to live as people of mission in his world
Ever since GB began we have been on the move, joining in with God’s mission in His world
The founding years – 1893 – 1902
As a result of Margaret Lyttle’s pioneering, The Girls’ Brigade of Ireland began in Victorian Britain in 1893. She founded the first ever group for girls at Sandymount Presbyterian Church in Dublin. Helping girls to discover personal Christian faith was at the heart of this innovative mission.
This was expressed through a ‘motto’; ‘The establishment of Christ’s Kingdom amongst girls’. It’s exciting to see how the relevance of GB Ireland’s approach to mission amongst girls resonates loudly in today’s world – The 2 pillars of early GB were enabling girls to experience personal (physical) health and spiritual health.
Just imagine the impact of GB at this time in history. Girls and women were being encouraged and equipped to take a lead at home, in church and in their community, long before women were fully enjoying the freedoms of public education or a public voice and vote.
A God-movement amongst girls had begun!
The need for a dynamic, welcoming and skills building church mission for girls was also being felt in Scotland. And with this stirring came God’s prompt on women in Glasgow to establish The Girls’ Guidry in 1900.
Christian discipleship was a key heartbeat of this Scottish mission. That’s why their aim was stated as being; ‘helping girls to become mature Christian women’.
Girls’ Guildry also began to spread to England but in fact it wasn’t long before God seemed to be prompting women in England and Wales to reach out amongst girls through another, kindred, route.
As a result, in 1902, Girls’ Life Brigade church mission groups began to emerge. GLB was spurred on by an English church initiative amongst children, ‘the Sunday School movement’. However, GLB went beyond a focus on solely teaching the Bible, and moved beyond Sunday as the only key time in a week set aside by church for girls to discover how God fits in to their lives.
Like GB of Ireland and Girls’ Guildry, GLB met during the week, offering girls the opportunity to develop in their whole lives, based on the discovery of what it meant for God to love them and gift them in unique ways.
This holistic mission engaged girls into all kinds of activity and opportunity, with God at the centre. Christian leadership and service were hallmarks of GLB, and girls were soon learning that, whatever their age, they have unique gifts, purpose and hope. Centred around discovering what it meant to be loved by God, and to love others in the same way, GLB aimed to help girls become responsible, self reliant Christian women
During the founding years of GB’s mission work the social, political and economic background of Britain was beginning to change for women. And as women began to gain a voice and a new place of contribution and influence in their world GB was making a Godly contribution to shaping the lives of many of these emerging women!
The first years of new horizons 1923 – 64
Just as the identity and contribution of women in public life began to grow in Britain in the early 1900′s, so did the more global calling of Girls’ Brigade
By 1964 the three parts (GB Ireland, Girls’ Guildry and GLB) of what would soon become one mission organisation were being used by God as effective mission in well over 50 countries. The first ‘international’ groups began in Jamaica in 1923, and were soon followed in 1925 by women pioneering work in Capetown South Africa and Latvia
Singapore and Australia soon followed in the ’20′s and so the movement spread across what are now known as the five GB Fellowships (Africa, Asia, Caribbean Americas, Europe and Pacific).
Women had grown in confidence and contribution in Britain during the world-war years. The absence of men ‘at home’ meant that they were leading more in their families, in church, in industry and in various professions. The right of women to vote and stand for Parliament had emerged in many countries. The landscape for women was changing and the horizon expanding. And in these changing times, through GB, thousands of teenage girls and young women around the world were being supported, equipped and inspired to take their place as Godly contributors and leaders in their local and national communities.
By the 1960’s the lives of hundreds of thousands of girls’ were being transformed, and God’s world was being enriched through the Christian ministry of these 3 mission groups.
1964 – 68 Pioneering new ways
So, when discussions about the similarity of vision and approach shared by the founding mission groups came to a head in 1964, brave women from the leadership of the three mission groups took the decision to birth yet another era in the life of the movement – through amalgamation into one, now world-wide, Christian mission organisation.
The Girls’ Brigade (GB) was formed!
Can you imagine the discussions and debates? What a lesson in submission and pioneering, for the sake of God’s-mission!
Papers were signed in 1965, and preparations made to launch the inaugural conference, on the 10th June 1968, of the now international Mission Organisation “The Girls’ Brigade”.
Throughout history, in some form or another, every movement (whether Christian or not) seems to move from a period of visionary birth to a place of organizational development and structuring. And GB is no different.
Following the amalgamation Miss Joan Chenhalls, MBE, helped consolidate the newly organized Girls’ Brigade, and was elected the first International President of this mission organization. In 1968 she headed up the first ever meeting of the Girls’ Brigade International Council (GBIC)
A mission for the future
2018 will be GB’s 125th year in Christian mission around the world!
It seems unlikely that the pioneering founders of GB ever imagined they were birthing what would become a 125 year old mission amongst (primarily) girls, BUT is we approach 2018 leaders in GB around the world are excited to see how God continues to call us, shape us and use us in this seventh generation of Christian mission!
Christian outreach, discipleship, service and leadership is central to all that GB is doing around the world. Girls and women (primarily) are empowered to get involved in activities, projects and learning that is relevant and appropriate in their country and local situation.
Everywhere GB is in action it is led by local church women who offer girls hope through providing opportunities to discover and live life to the full.
Today in Girls’ Brigade
GB is working alongside churches, community leaders and governments in over 51 countries at present to deliver holistic mission that transforms girls lives and enriches that part of God’s world.
GB’s long established week by week activity groups underpin our mission work in so many countries. Currently through these local community groups thousands of girls enjoy fun, friendship and faith discovery every week in diverse parts of the world.
Since the 1990′s GB has developed in Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Romania and Kosova.
Alongside our established style of work, new and varied projects are also emerging as in response to our transformational vision. Schools work, health education and care, social enterprise, varied styles of children’s work, leadership academies, internships, cross cultural mission action teams, youth gatherings, web communities.… the list is growing!
The leadership teams in each country and fellowship discern for themselves how God is leading them, in response to our worldwide vision and aims. This ensures that GB remains focused on our purpose as a Christian mission, and culturally and contextually sensitive to the local area.
The International Leadership team (Presidents Committee) meets annually to hear about, steer and respond to the challenges and growth of GB’s mission work in God’s world.
Right now in GB throughout the world there is a very real sense that – there is more for us to do.
That’s why in 2014 at the most recent International conference of GB (Perth, Australia) leaders from around the world gathered to discuss how we move forward in this generation to:
‘Grasp the Vision: Live the Mission’
courageous, expectant and empowered
Together, they agreed to take on the challenge of exploring this theme year by year leading upto our 2018 celebrations
In 2015 GB focused on the challenge to Be expectant
In 2016 GB around the world is called to Be Courageous
In 2017 GB will explore what it means for girls and women to Be Empowered
And in 2018 we will gather again as a world movement committed to raising hope amongst girls – to celebrate 125 years of mission and to continue encouraging one another to move forward, in all our forms, in order to see Girls’ lives transformed: God’s world enriched!