The report on Ministerial Education was accepted, and reference ordered to a special committee.

On motion of Rev. J. Todd, D. D., of Massachusetts, it was Voted, That the thanks of this Council be presented to Rev. Dr. Sturtevant for his excellent sermon preached before the Council on Thursday morning last, and that a copy be requested for publication with the procedures of the Council.

Rev. J. E. Roy read the following report on Church Building at the West :


The first instance in this country of aid in building a meeting-house was that when the Pilgrim Church made its first contribution for any object outside of its own wants to assist the Second Congregational Church of America in erecting its house of worship. The example thus set has been followed in many individual cases since. But the enterprise, as a systematic policy, was inaugurated in 1852 by the Albany Convention. When, in that assembly, the brethren of the East perceived the grace that was given unto the churches of the West in the inheritance of the Faith and Order of the Apostles and Puritans, they gave unto them the right hands of fellowship; and, as a token of affection, animated by the magnificent proffer of the mover of the project, they resolved to put into those right hands the sum of fifty thousand dollars to aid those churches in the erection of sanctuaries. Upon the same sabbath day, under an impulse of love, as when of old the people brought more than enough for the service of the sanctuary, this offering of sympathy produced an overplus of eleven thousand eight hundred and ninety-one dollars. That fund aided two hundred and thirty missionary churches in building houses of worship.

So blessed were the results of that ministration of charity, and so great was the pressure for additional aid of this kind, that a second offering was called for on Forefathers' Day in 1856. It was a pious effort to build a monument in memory of the Pilgrims, not in a single pile of elaborate architecture, but in sanctuaries that should perpetuate their spirit and their principles. This effort resulted in a coliection of about ten thousand dollars, by which about forty feeble churches were helped to homes. Conviction was now confirmed of the need of some organic method in this business. Whereupon the Congregational Union, according to a provision in its constitution, - to wit, “To promote plans of coöperation in building meeting-houses and parsonages,".

assumed superintendence of the work, under the care of its Board of Trustees and of its Secretary, who has prosecuted this enterprise with such wisdom, tact, and zeal, as entitle him to the grateful confidence of the supporters of that institution, and to the affectionate esteem of its hundreds of beneficiary churches. Under these auspices, during the eight years past — and those the years of our financial revulsion and of our all-engrossing war — the “Union," while meeting the difficulties and the prejudices incident to its newness, has raised the sum of sixty-five thousand four hundred and seven dollars, and has aided therewith in building one hundred and fifty-seven churches, an average of twenty per year, while the “Union " is now pledged to thirty-two more, for which the money is in hand. Thus that which was originated in an impulse of fellowship has been transferred into an institution; the waters flowing from the smitten rock are still following our Christion Israel.

In the aggregate four hundred and twenty-seven meeting-houses have been built, an average of thirty-five per year, at an expense of one hundred and forty-nine thousand two hundred and ninety-eight dollars. But these sums total convey no adequate conception of the extent of good accomplished. To arrive at this, even approximately, we must gain an estimate from each church so aided - its necessities met, its hopes inspired, its influence and usefulness extended. Some of these results may be generalized, as follows:

1. This enterprise has secured the erection of many houses of worship which would not otherwise have been built. It is astonishing how much of stimulus is furnished by that sure amount of cash. It often starts the work. Frequently the hope of aid is the first thing presented to inspire courage to rise up and build. It furnishes the money for the necessary articles of purchase, while much of the material and labor are subscribed in kind. It sustains during the tedious progress of the work; it stimulates to the last grind effort of hope against hope to cover the final gap between present possibility, already twice or thrice exhausted, and the condition of freedom from debt. It often saves a church that would otherwise die out. At Lincoln, the county seat of Logan county, III., a town of three thousand five hundred population, and named for our late beloved President, a Congregational Church had lived four years in a small and unpleasant hall. Making no progress, the brethren began to be discouraged, and to talk of disbanding. “No," said the missionary, “we must build.“Impossible,” said they. Meeting called ; disheartenment complete. The “Union” proffers five hundred dollars. Hope is rallied. The house is built, at a cost of two thousand dollars. Since the dedication, one year ago, the membership and the congregation have been doubled and the Sabbath school trebled. A revival has brought in twenty hopeful converts. And the pastor writes me: “We owe our continued existence and prosperity to-day to the encouragement the Congregational Union gave us in our hour of need." This is but a specimen, and no uncommon case. Of the twelve Congregational meeting-houses built in Northern Illinois during the last fifteen months, all of which but one had aid from the “Union," eight were incited to build by the proffered help; - the remainder could not have built alone without incurring the incubus of debt. The agent of the American Home Missionary Society for Minnesota says: “ I can think of thirteen churches, which now hare houses of worship, that in the first instance were undoubtedly stimulated to build by the proffer of aid. Without it, building in each case would have been delayed longer than it was, and in several cases it would not have been accomplished at all.” The agent for Kansas says: “ But for such help, nine of these sixteen churches, built with aid from the Union, would now be incomplete, probably not begun; four would have been put off for months, perhaps for years; and but three at the utmost would have been built without aid.” And these sixteen are all the Congregational meeting-houses there are in that martyr State. The agent for North-western Wisconsin says: “I am sure the prosperity, if not the continued existence, of several of our more useful churches is largely due to the fact that houses of worship were secured soon after their organization ; while several churches within my field, in villages of considerable importance, are now threatened with extinction because they are not provided with places of worship wholly their own." From many years of observation, and after consultation with other persons well informed upon these matters, I am confident that of the four hundred and twenty-seven churches aided, one half would now be without houses of worship, and one quarter would yet be burdened with debt or with unfinished enterprises, had it not been for such assistance.

II. Church-building has been an efficient auxiliary of Home Missions. The Home Missionary Societies and the Congregational Union have to deal with the same churches, the young and the feeble. One is the Commissary department; the other, the Quartermaster's. All that can be said of the influence of the sanctuary anywhere may be said of the missionary church, while to it are thereby secured peculiar advantages. In the East, churches could get along better without houses than at the West. Here the people are assimilated; there they are heterogeneous, and society lacks the attraction of cohesion. This want the church edifice largely helps to meet. In the rude community, it becomes a visible representative of the gospel. It is a garner of generated religious influences. So important to the children of Israel during their period of training was the sanctuary, that, through divine wisdom, they were furnished with the travelling tabernacle. Many persons going West make it an excuse for absenting themselves from the temporary places of worship because there is no Church edifice. When a house has been secured, such in large numbers have been brought under the influence of the gospel. A meeting-house ordinarily doubles the congregation, the pecuniary resources, and the power of the missionary Church. It lessens the amount of aid needed; it cuts short the period of dependence; and often, at once, lifts it into self-support. Three such churches in Illinois, aided by the “Union” in building, have just dedicated their houses of worship, the slips of which were at once rented for an amount to cover increased salaries and incidental expenses, thus relieving the treasury of Home Missions, while the excess over the former income came mainly from those who had been non-supporters. We find that in Illinois thirteen missionary churches, thus helped to sanctuaries, soon after dedication became self-supporting ; in Wisconsin, twelve ; in Michigan, five ; in Minnesota, three ; in Northern Iowa, four ; in Kansas, three. The secretary of the “Union " reports that to five churches the sumn of one thousand five hundred and fifty dollars was appropriated to pay “ last bills" on houses of worship, and that each of these at once became an independent and a giving Church ; thus saving to the treasury of Home Missions the annual appropriation of one thousand seven hundred dollars for the support of preaching there. A pastor, now in the East, formerly in the West, writes to the same secretary: “I consider your cause as one of the most important, as it increases immensely the efficiency of the Home Missionary enterprise." In the June number of the Home Missionary, a minister in Iowa, reporting the dedication of a house of worship after three years of tugging and lifting, and referring to the three hundred dollars secured from the “Union,” calls it “ the truest helper to the Home Missionary that could possibly be invented.” The actuaries of the American Home Missionary Society, whose function it is, on their respective fields, to explore destitutions, to organize and to nurse the young and feeble churches, who are brought into pastoral sympathy with the weakest flocks, and under whose eye all applications for aid in Church-building pass, are unanimous and enthusiastic in their appreciation of this enterprise as the right-hand helper of Home Missions. Their last resort, some times, in efforts to save a Church, is to propose to build, while the first incentive they use is the prospect of aid. They understand that by thus securing Church edifices they are doing the most efficient Home Missionary work, knowing that, in many such cases, not to build is to die. The Secretary of the Old-School Presbyterian Board of Church Extension writes : “We find that the completion of a sanctuary, free from debt, almost uniformly adds largely to the congregation, at least; on an average, doubles it; that revivals of religion are very frequent in such churches; that ministerial support is largely increased, and the period of self-sustentation greatly hastened, by securing an unincumbered church."

III. The Church-building enterprise has proven itself one of true economy in benerolence. Its economy in saving the funds of Home Missions we have already noticed. Then by its appropriations usually seven times as much is developed by the applicant churches. It was found that the sixty-one thousand eight hundred and ninety-one dollars of the first fund stimulated the raising of three hundred and thirty-seven thousand seren hundred and four dollars. At the same average, the aid granted to the four hundred and twenty-seven churches in all must have called forth six hundred and twenty-six thousand eight hundred and sixty-three dollars from the beneficiaries. Then, again, this method has saved much over the old mode of self-appointed agencies for particular churches. It was truly said in the Albany Convention, that such agents ordinarily received but little more than enough to pay their salaries and travelling expenses. The present plan obviates that waste. It saves the annoyance of such random calls. It saves pastors the trouble of investigating each case. It secures, by the agents and committees on the ground, a more rigid scrutiny into the merits of each application, and so saves unworthy appropriations. And then, as managed by a Central Board of Trust, the almoner of a sacred charity, confidence is inspired. The economy of this work appears also from the fact that the churches thus helped to homes and so to self-support become givers. In their state of dependence they are trained to systematic contributions by the American Home Missionary Society and the “ Union,” a collection every year for these respective causes being the condition on which aid is granted; so that this habit of remembering other feeble churches will be likely to abide, and so too will every good cause be made the gainer by the increase of the number of giving churches. One Church in Chicago, that was aided by the Fifty Thousand Dollar Fund, gave, the last year, besides a generous support of the gospel, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-nine dollars to objects of benevolence, and paid five thousand six hundred and fifty-two dollars on a subscription of thirty thousand dollars for its permanent edifice. Of the thirty-two churches that contributed to the Congregational Union in the quarter next to the last, seven had been aided from the same treasury. The District Secretary of the Baptist Home Mission Society for New England, after a three months' reconnoissance at the West, said, “It is my profound conviction, that; rather than sustain two missionaries in two towns for five years, it were much better to sustain only one, and build for him a good house of worship.” One, who is acquainted with the Western churches, is greatly surprised, in reading over the list of those aided in building, to find how many that are now prosperous and generous were so recently recipients of this Christian charity. Only to read in this place the roll call of the churches thus helped out of weakness into strength, would be at once a testimony and an argument in favor of the economy of this policy.

IV. A precious result of aid in building sanctuaries is its influence in promoting in them revivals of religion. The entrance upon such a house has often been a signal for the manifestation of the Spirit; and such seasons of revival following upon the dedication services have not been few. At the consecration of the first church aided in Illinois by the Albany Fund, the incense offered was that of the first love of several new-born souls, and this was followed in a few months by a work of grace that added some ninety persons to the company of believers. Of the six churches aided in Southern Ohio by that same Fund, all received a baptism of the Spirit soon after dedication. Of those aided in Illinois up to the present time, twelve have enjoyed revivals soon after entering their new houses of worship; in Wisconsin, seven ; in Minnesota, five ; in Iowa, fifteen. Complete returns would show that very many of these new church edifices have become at once places of spiritual nativity. It is also noticeable that meeting-houses have frequently been built immediately after seasons of spiritual refreshing.

V. As a result of the Church-erection scheme, it has contributed to an increased prevalence of the principles and polity of the Puritans. Since the Albany Convention, the number of Congregational churches in the West, including Ohio, has increased from five hundred and seventy-three to one thousand and eighty-four, and their membership from twenty-eight thousand two hundred and ninety-nine to fifty-nine thousand nine hundred and sixty-eight. If we make the increase of the last year, not yet reported, the same as the year before, then these churches will have more than doubled in number and in membership since the initiation of this enterprise. Various causes have contributed to this growth. One was the natural force of this free and simple polity; one was the anti-slavery position of these churches ; another was the arousing, in some degree, of the people of this faith to the duty of disseminating the wisdom of the New Testament in regard to the Church constitution ; and not the least of these causes was the policy of Church-build

[blocks in formation]

ing. It is more than a coincidence that this era of the increase of churches corresponds with the era of systematic aid in erecting meeting-houses. Churches that would naturally take on the form of autonomy have, by this help in securing their houses, been saved from yielding to solicitation to assume an uncongenial polity in order to gain the needed aid in building. Not a few churches have been organized in places where a house seemed to be a prime necessity, and where the Congregational Union by its help has secured the organization of as many churches in important positions. Take an instance. At Kokomo, Ind., a thrifty railroad town, a county seat, with a fine academy, with a population of two thousand, where was only a Methodist church and a Campbellite, each with a feeble administration, another church was seen to be needed, one that should embody the small Calvinistic element of four different denominations. And though there was but one Congregational family in the place, and though some who proposed to come into the organization had never seen a Congregational minister before, yet it was found that this mixed material could be most readily affiliated under the polity of the brotherhood. But a house of worship was seen to be a sine quâ non, inasmuch as two other efforts by other denominations had miscarried, through a failure in Church-building. And so the proffer of aid from the American Home Missionary Society was accompanied with an assurance of help for a house. Upon that, a church of seventeen members was organized, a minister secured, and now the sanctuary is drawing toward completion, while the membership has been doubled, and a rare position of influence and usefulness attained. Without such aid, that church, which has just now entertained the General Association of the State, and whose pastor is a member of this Council, would not have been brought into life.

VI. Our Church-building enterprise has imparted a stimulus in the same direction to all the other denominations. Taking the idea from the Albany Convention, the New-School Presbyterians, in 1853, raised a Church-Erection Fund, which now amounts to one hundred and twenty-three thousand eight hundred and forty-six dollars, and has aided two hundred and twenty-eight churches. In 1854 the Baptist Home Mission Society undertook to raise a fund of one hundred thousand dollars, but has as yet secured only thirty-five thousand dollars of it. In 1855 the Old-School Presbyterians, instead of their committee of the Board of Domestic Missions, set up a Church-Extension Board, which calls for annual collections, and has thus far aided five hundred and sixty-six churches, besides the three hundred and eighty-two assisted by the old committee; while their receipts, the last year, have been thirty-eight thousand seven hundred and ninety-six dollars and ninety-eight cents, and the aggregate of collections for this object have been three hundred and twenty thousand nine hundred and ten dollars and ninety-three cents. The Methodists have just set up a Church-Extension Board for the same purpose. Thus the denomination, nine-tenths of whose charities have been given for undenominational purposes, and not a little of that to build up another sect, imparts to all the others a stimulus in the idea and the plan of church-erection. Not a little of the good done by the building of these eleven or twelve hundred Church edifices in other communions is due to the Albany scheme. Such, then, not to speak of the binding of the East and the West together by this enterprise, not to speak of its relation to patriotism illustrated by the passage, " He loveth our nation, and hath built us a synagogue," such are some of the precious fruits of this undertaking. It has helped hundreds of churches to houses ; it has been an auxiliary to Home Missions ; it has increased economy in benevolence; it has promoted revivals of religion ; it has disseminated Puritan ideas; it has led other branches of the church into a like work. How vast the amount of good accomplished by the outlay of so small an amount as one hundred and forty-nine thousand dollars! Such results become in themselves a sufficient argument for the prosecution of this enterprise, if indeed there be anything more to be done in that direction.

« VorigeDoorgaan »