It’s happened time and time again. Rushing into Woolies at the last minute, I feel conspicuous in my navy skirt, white shirt (complete with epaulettes and badges), and 80’s style cardigan. The crest of The Girls’ Brigade is emblazoned on my uniform, over my heart.
Making small talk, a curious checkout lady will ask what my uniform is for. “It’s my Girls’ Brigade uniform,” I reply with a smile. Then, inevitably, the blank stare and, “so is that like Girl Guides?”
Perhaps you are in the same boat as that checkout lady, never having heard of Girls’ Brigade. Perhaps you have heard something of it and suspect it is a militaristic organisation dedicated to teaching all girls everywhere how to march. Sadly, Girls’ Brigade is a great unknown for a lot of people. Allow me to enlighten you on a topic I am brimming with enthusiasm for.
A lengthy history
Three organisations were founded in the UK at the turn of the 19th century: the Girls’ Brigade, Girls Guildry, and the Girls’ Life Brigade. They were all keen to see the girls of their day learn about God as well as impart useful skills to the next generation of women. Their similar values and ethos saw them eventually combine to become the Girls’ Brigade that we have today.
Now, Girls’ Brigade is found all over the world, from the islands of the Caribbean to the African plains, from the mountains of Romania to the suburban jungle of Greater Sydney. School-aged girls everywhere meet to play games, acquire new skills, develop their leadership potential, and learn what it means to have life to the full in their generation.
The crucial difference between Girls’ Brigade and other similar organisations is that Girls’ Brigade is always done in partnership with a church. Anglican, Pentecostal, Methodist, it doesn’t matter. The key thing is that girls who come to Girls’ Brigade have a chance to hear about Jesus and learn what it means to love and serve Him.
Girls from the church will attend their Company, but so will girls from the wider community. In this way, the church is equipped with a fantastic way to outreach into their neighbours’ lives. They have the opportunity to teach girls who might never attend a Sunday School all about God.
Different in every nation
Another great thing about Girls’ Brigade is it is tailor-made for each country that it runs in. Girls in Singapore do different activities to girls in Zambia. Girls’ Brigade can fit into the culture, engaging with girls in their own backyard.
So what does that look like in Australia? We run programs and activities that your average Aussie girl would like to be a part of, yet we challenge girls to get outside their comfort zone and try new things too.
My small group of 8 to 11-year-olds absolutely love drama: acting out Bible stories, making up dances, and doing lots of shouting. All the while, I can share with them God’s story and how He loves them. We also do cooking, collages, colouring, word games, and singing. The possibilities are endless really.
As girls get older, they are encouraged to learn leadership skills that prepare them to serve in GB or anywhere God puts them. I have seen quiet, unassuming 14-year-olds blossom into confident young women as their GB leaders challenge them to take on leadership and encourage them in new and exciting endeavours.
United as One
A distinctive thing about Girls Brigade is the uniform we all wear. Nowadays, Australian Brigades have the option of a classic white shirt and blue skirt, or the more casual style polo top. Either way, our uniform stands out in a crowd, identifying us as a group. It brings us together, leaders and girls, as equals.
Girls also get to wear a sash on which they can sew all their badges. The badges are awarded at the end of the year for all the different activities they have done. Older girls can even achieve a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, or the highest international award for Brigade, the Queen's Award.
The uniform is different all over the world, depending on a country's climate, access to clothing companies, and tendency toward formal or casual clothing. However, there is one aspect that unites us all: the crest.
Our crest is on every Girls Brigade uniform the world over. It has a cross at the centre, to remind us that the cross is the centre of our lives. There is a lamp underneath as a reminder that we should let our light shine in the world, and a crown above symbolising Christ's kingship. Finally, a flame is behind it all as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
A worthy ministry
In the end, The Girls’ Brigade is a community of women from all ages and stages of life coming together to mentor the next generation in the ways of God, empowering them to make a difference in themselves and in the lives of others.
So now you know, and perhaps you can be on the lookout for a GB leader near you. She’s probably making a last minute dash to the supermarket before she spends an evening with a group of seniors (grade 6, 7, & 8), knowing that they’d love it if she brought a few treats to their discussion. Or maybe she’s out grabbing some takeaway after an exhilarating few hours with her gaggle of cadets (prep-2). Now you can walk up confidently, and say, “Hey, are you from Girls’ Brigade? I’ve heard of that!”
Lucinda is a wife, a mum, and a Girls’ Brigade leader. She loves baking delicious things and then foisting them on other people so she doesn’t eat them all by herself.
Lucinda Glover’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/lucinda-glover.html