CESSAC (Church of England Soldiers’, Sailors’ & Airmen's Clubs)
The Charity and its aims
CESSAC is a Registered Charity (No.226684) and a Limited Company (No.34118 - registered in England and Wales), grateful for the continuing Patronage of Her Majesty The Queen. Its principal objectives are to operate amenity centres in military stations and other places at home and abroad and to manage rented housing for elderly ex-HM Forces personnel and their families. It is a member of Cobseo (the Confederation of Service Charities) and a founder member of the Council of Voluntary Welfare Work (CVWW). Membership of the latter enables CESSAC to operate in military bases under CVWW's charter with the Ministry of Defence. It is a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant and has a bronze award from the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.
The original Institute (as they were then called), pictured above in Aldershot, inspired similar facilities to be provided in Colchester, Gosport and Woolwich. These all came together under a single ‘umbrella’ organisation in 1891 that was eventually called CESSAC. By 1917 the number of Institutes reached a highpoint when there were 105 worldwide. Numbers naturally dwindled between the wars, then swelled before decreasing again. When financial and other difficulties were being experienced by the whole organisation in the mid twentieth century, for a number of reasons the Aldershot Institute ‘returned to its roots’ and left CESSAC, although the latter continues to provide 3 of its Trustees. The building was sold in 1971 and the Aldershot CofE Services Trust (ACEST) has since used the resulting funds to provide welfare and support to serving personnel within its designated area of benefit in the South of England.
That if the Church of England is in any way, as she claims to be, the Church of the Nation, then she ought to provide for the Nation’s soldiers, places where they can resort and find rest and healthy recreation and where they can associate on terms of friendly intercourse not only with one another but with chaplains, officers and others who are willing to make their acquaintance. That with this object, the Church, holding in respect the convictions and opinions of those who cannot conscientiously accept her creeds and formulae and anxiously desiring to include all and exclude none, throws open the doors of these clubs freely to all soldiers without enquiry as to their religious denomination, and in order this feeling of freedom may be practical, she not only asks for no religious profession from those who use them, but insists that there should be no solicitation or interference whatever on religious matters.