BUILDING FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE
The thesis that the church should provide building and equipment for conservation of the social and recreational life of the church introduces standards and objectives that do not find expression in the great majority of church buildings now erected, nor even in the majority of plans sent out by religious agencies or architectural concerns bidding for contracts for church planning and building.
The traditional village and open country church was a one-room structure erected for the sole purpose of providing a place for worship. This amply met the needs of a pioneer time when social activities were largely carried on in the homes. In a very large number of communities this is still the only type of church building to be found. As the idea of providing for Sunday school began to prevail gradually side rooms were added to provide for extra Sunday school classes. In the course of time the needs of a wider program for the church began to be recognized, and then basements were added with an occasional kitchen. Thus the entertainments for adults and of the young people old enough to enjoy banquets and like amusement were provided for. But the needs of the young people under sixteen years of age and many other community needs were still uncared for.
The new program demands a building or buildings that will provide for the threefold program of worship, religious education, and community service. In view of the lack of standards for rural church building, the present discussion is offered in the hope that it may contain some practical suggestions in terms of the program demanded of the modern open country and village church.
It is believed that the type of building suitable for an open country community will be somewhat different from that needed in a village center. The number of rooms will be less. Usually, two main rooms, one for worship and the other for recreational purposes, with such side rooms for kitchen and special clubs and classes as the community can afford, will be sufficient. The recreation room should have stage, lantern slide, and moving picture equipment, and a very simple provision for games. Problems of plumbing and heating must be worked out in accordance with local conditions.
In the larger centers, in addition to the facilities mentioned above, other rooms may be added as a careful study of village equipment and needs, present and probable future, indicate. Rooms for library, committees, clubs, offices, shower baths, lockers, art center, and similar interests should be provided for if other agencies have not done so.
In building for community service the community should not make the mistake of economizing because it imagines it cannot afford the best. No community should build less than the best. If it does so, it handicaps the community for a generation or more; and this is too serious a matter to be lightly permitted. At the present time religious organizations have national agencies which are serving to an ever larger degree as a reserve resource for the purpose of aiding local groups to build adequately. Thus the general organization aids each year the limited number of local groups that find it necessary to rebuild and renders unnecessary the maintenance of a replacement fund by the local church for an indefinite period.
If it is impossible to build an entire building at one time it is better to build by units, so that in the course of time a structure of which the community may be proud will be completed. It should be remembered that a community's solidarity and spirit are gauged largely by the type of buildings it erects, and the church and community building, representing as it does the deepest interests of man, should be a living monument to community loyalty. Such a building becomes a lasting inspiration to both old and young, pointing the way to the highest and best in human life.
The building should be strategically located. As has been suggested, people like to come to the center of the village for their social and recreational life. The owner of a poolroom or a picture show that would place his building a half mile in the country would not have a large and enthusiastic patronage. The main street, near the center of the village, is the place to be selected for the principal building of the city, the community center.
Sometimes a well-meaning citizen will offer to a church a plot of land far out on the edge of a village free of charge, provided the church will accept it for the erection of the new structure. Sometimes the Board of Trustees, thinking they will save a few hundred dollars, gratefully accept the gift, thus violating the principle expressed in the preceding paragraph. When a business man plans to put up an expensive building he does not seek the cheapest land but the best location regardless of the cost of the land. For illustration, a lot on the edge of a village may cost but five hundred dollars, while a lot in the center of the village may cost five thousand dollars. If the proposed building to be erected is to cost fifty thousand dollars, even the larger land cost is but ten per cent of the total; and the value of the building to the community after erection on the more valuable lot far more than justifies the extra expenditure.
Sometimes architects are inclined to sacrifice utility to beauty. They are inclined to make the recreation room too short because a proper length would not harmonize with other lines in the building. The good architect accepts the beautification of a useful building as a challenge and does not sacrifice utility because a useful structure does not embody some feature of Gothic or Old English parish church architecture. This tendency should be carefully guarded against.
Details as to the slope of ground best adapted to church building, heating, plumbing, and other features can best be learned by consultation with a trained architect. Care should be taken to see that the recreation room is sufficiently large to carry on the simpler games, such as basketball, when the community so desires. The limits recommended are fourteen feet high by forty feet wide by sixty feet long. Many communities, however, are getting along with rooms considerably shorter and narrower than this. The ceiling should be supported by steel beams instead of posts. In most sections of the country it is recommended that recreation rooms be erected on the same level as the church instead of in the basement, as has been the practice.
In many sections of the country there is a distinct objection to having the community service features and the house of worship under the same roof. It is thought that the light-heartedness of play time tends to lessen the sacredness of the house of worship and to lessen respect for religious service. While this attitude is largely a matter of custom, and while people who have caught the vision of God can worship him any place, it is believed that wherever possible consideration should be given to this sentiment and the community service features of the church should be housed in a separate building located adjacent to the church or attached to it by some smaller club room. The two should not be located in widely separate parts of the village, as the connection between the two may be lost and the service of the church to the community in this way not recognized. Both house of worship and community or parish house should be located near the center of the village.
In villages where there is room for several houses of worship the question of community service is much more difficult. The Young Men's Christian Associations and the Young Women's Christian Associations have made partial provision in some communities on an interdenominational basis. But in the ordinary small town there is not room for a building for each of these organizations. The rural Christian Associations have been proceeding on the policy of using such buildings as are now available, but it is evident that in the vast majority of small communities, present buildings can at best be but a makeshift for complete community service. It is hoped that the time will come when the several denominations will find some way of pooling their financial resources so that as religious organizations they can provide a common building for community service. The writer knows of no village in America where this has yet been done. One village in New York State, Milton-on-the-Hudson, has a community club under the direction of a Board of Trustees of ten members, two from each of the five denominations represented in the village, the Catholic church included. This club has been very successful in operating a community house and developing a community program. It has been suggested that where property rights are involved one denomination might make its contribution by providing and maintaining the building, while the other denominations might contribute the equivalent of interest on building investment, depreciation and maintenance of building to cost of operation of the plant. It is feared, however, that in the course of time, the original cost of building to one denomination would be forgotten and the community would demand that all groups contribute to operating expenses according to their membership or some other agreed upon distribution of maintenance expense. This should be the ultimate method of maintenance.
In a number of communities one denomination has provided the building and the operating force, while other denominations have cooperated by acting on the Board of Control and contributing what they could to the maintenance cost. Such denominational leadership almost invariably leads in the beginning to interdenominational jealousy and antagonism, but in some cases the community has accepted the situation and all have cooperated, it being understood that such provision for community purposes is not for the purpose of proselyting. Sunday school and church membership is encouraged in the denominations from which the young people come, and thus a contribution by one denomination has strengthened the work of all the churches. Some form of cooperation agreed upon for a common development is preferable and independent action by one denomination should be undertaken only when the different groups concerned are not in a position either by tradition or financial ability to cooperate in a common enterprise.
The movement now is very strong in the direction of provision of building and equipment for community service by the church. May the church not fail in doing justice to its high obligation in the type of structure it may erect!
THE CHURCH AND RURAL PUBLIC THOUGHT
Many city pastors, and some rural ones too, lament the fact that people do not come to listen to them preach. This condition is in marked contrast to the good old New England days, when the whole neighborhood would turn out and listen to sermons four hours long. It is a question whether such intellectual giants as Jonathan Edwards built up such congregations or whether such congregations brought out the best in Jonathan Edwards.
People to-day go to church for a variety of reasons. But the dominant motives that should prevail are those of worship and for instruction. All Christians should attend religious services for worship regardless of the quality of the sermon or the personal attitude of the people toward the minister. The message from the pulpit should be such that it too would attract for its own sake. It is the exceptional city minister that can fill the pews from week to week and from year to year because of the type of message given. The daily papers and the many other agencies for discussion of live topics have become so numerous that the pulpit has lost much of its original importance as an agency for instruction. But in the village and the open country the pulpit still has a large field for service in this respect and thus becomes an especial challenge to the one who wants to develop as a leader of thought. The village minister has an opportunity unique in American life in this respect. Some of the greatest leaders of thought ever produced were the product of the village churches of England and Scotland. There is no reason why the village church of America should not become the seedbed for the best contributions to religious, philosophical, and literary thought of the present day.
It will be impossible to give more than a few illustrations of present needs and opportunities for service in this respect in the smaller communities. One of the first tasks of the church is the introduction of correct thought in regard to religious beliefs. It is almost unbelievable the amount of actual superstition and positively harmful beliefs that prevail under the guise of religion not only in rural but in urban communities. An example of this is the widespread belief in the second coming of Christ at an early date. Educational institutions of national note are continuously laboring to extend this form of belief. The question as to whether Christ will ever come again is one that does not appear to have any immediate social significance other than it may have some influence on conduct as to the method of preparation for his coming. Those who believe in such coming may either believe that all efforts at social improvement now are fruitless, because the ultimate inauguration of the Kingdom will result from the sweeping away of everything that now exists and in the inauguration of a new social order out of the ruins of the old. Or they may believe that the efforts of the churches and other agencies now are preparing the way for such coming, and the inauguration of the Kingdom will be but the next step in an orderly process of social progress. There is reason to believe that many of those who are teaching the second coming are inclined to the former point of view; and wherever they gain a hearing their influence practically nullifies all efforts to enlist their followers in any program of social improvement.
The effect of a belief in an immediate coming of Christ as indicated by present world conditions interpreted in the light of Old and New Testament prophecy is to paralyze all motive for social action. Such action, if this belief is correct, is useless. The devotee is driven to the position of finding his sole religious duty that of getting himself and those in whom he is interested ready to enter the new kingdom through the observance of the personal elements in religious life.
Another belief that in some sections has a limited influence is that of observance of Saturday instead of Sunday as the day set apart by biblical authority as the Sabbath. Without commenting on the rightness or the wrong of the contention, it should be remembered that this belief has resulted in some sections in practically the breakdown of observance of the Sabbath by rural communities, without a corresponding gain in Saturday observance. Community solidarity for either social or religious purposes is thus broken up. From the social point of view this is distinctly unfortunate.
Again, in some sections religion has taken an extreme form of antagonism to anything of a practical type. The extremes to which the emotional expression of religion has gone have been such that these groups have become popularly known as "Holy Rollers." Wherever this type of religious expression breaks out in a rural community it severely handicaps all efforts at making the church function as an agency for rural progress. The energies of such devotees are so exhausted in their services that they lack the energy, even if they had the inspiration, to link their efforts to any program of community betterment. This group is usually found not only opposing progressive measures in the church but also opposing other progressive activities in the community, such as better schools, road improvement, etc.
In isolated sections of rural America all over the country may be found groups of Latter Day Saints. These groups are not yet of sufficient strength to be of great importance outside of Utah and a few other Western States. But the existence of an organized group anywhere, particularly if it is of a missionary character, is likely to spread and ultimately become a factor of considerable importance. Anyone visiting the Mormon Temple at Salt Lake and reading on the monuments to Joseph and Hiram Smith the testimony in letters of stone to the effect that Joseph discovered the message of the Book of Mormon on gold plates, and that Hiram was the witness thereof, will realize how easy it is to spread almost any belief under the guise of religion if the children are taught such doctrines during their youth.
It will be unnecessary to go through the whole catalogue of beliefs finding expression in the dogma of practically all religious organizations, and in times past dividing the followers of Christianity into denominational groups. The most serious problems of adjustment of religious institutions for community service grow out of these differences in belief on points of dogma.
The solution of the problem of clearing the field of unwholesome and injurious belief lies not in writing polemics against them but in filling the minds of the people with unquestioned truth. As the rural mind is directed to the consideration of topics of vital importance these things that have crept in and disturbed social order and dissipated precious energies in fruitless discussion will disappear through lack of attention. On the other hand, persecution will attract attention to and arouse the fanatical support of them and distract the attention of the group from matters of more vital importance.
In addition to preaching those sermons which keep alive in community consciousness the sense of man's obligations to his Maker, the significance and solemnity of death and those other epochal events in the course of human existence, and the hope given to man of a fuller life through the coming of Christ, the minister has certain great moral ideals that he should instill into the minds of his people.
The matter of honesty in dealing with both the farmer and his neighbors both near and distant has already been mentioned.
The right attitude toward wealth accumulation must also be preached not only for the safety of the rural community but also for the entire nation. By the very nature of the business the vast majority of people living in small communities and on the farms must remain indefinitely people of modest means. The possibilities of large wealth accumulation are limited because the farm must continue to be a small scale industry. It can be improved so as to afford adequate leisure. But farm life does not promise large enjoyment to those of an epicurean turn of mind. The ideal of the farm must be that of producing wealth so that the modest comforts of life may be insured. But the minister must exalt the appreciation of those things that may be obtained without lavish expenditure of money, such as local entertainment produced by the community itself, literature, music, and art; and the simple pleasures that come from democratic association with intimate acquaintances.
It is believed that with all the material progress of this country, it has had to sacrifice many things that are worth far more than the types of enjoyment obtained by slavish imitation of the extremely wealthy leisure class in the cities. The exhortation to preach the values of the simple pleasures possible in smaller communities is not for the purpose of keeping people contented with a lot that cannot be improved, but because it is believed that the smaller communities to-day contain within themselves and their ideals the seed of rejuvenation of all life, and that a greater contribution can be made by rural communities to civilization by adhering to their ideals than by being diverted from them by the money-seeking, materialistic ideals of the urban centers. The best in rural ideals must ultimately become the ideals of the city if we are to avoid the degeneration that will inevitably follow a too materialistic urban civilization.
The pastor should be able to bring to his people from time to time the interpretation of national and world events in terms of their relation to the advance of religious progress. This obligation will require constant and wide reading about the social movements of the time. In the more progressive communities many of the farmers and their families will have access to literature that will enable them to form their own conclusions to a large degree. But not many of them, even though they be college graduates, will have the time to read as widely as they would like on any of the great changes taking place; and they will welcome an intelligent interpretation of these by the one who has the larger opportunities for such service.
Finally, the preacher must be a prophet. He must have caught the vision of tendencies in human life and be able to bring to his people the evidences of the hand of God working out the course of the human race in the infinite stream of human history. He must believe, with Tennyson, in a "far off divine event, toward which the whole creation moves," or with Shakespeare when he said "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will." If he can bring his people to see that, even though they may be living in some obscure corner of the earth, they have a part in the great movements going on, and that they can render a service by doing what they are able in supporting the programs for which the church stands, he will be contributing his share to the wholesome attitude needed in our rural communities.
ADJUSTING THE LOCAL CHURCH TO THE COMMUNITY
In his book on Social Control Professor Ross has pointed out that certain institutions are essentially conservative in their nature. They are solid, permanent organizations but are not inclined to assume leadership in social progress. He includes in this list the church. The fact that the church is a conservative institution is not necessarily a criticism of it. Other agencies develop new phases of social expression, sometimes in actual opposition to conservative agencies. The good innovations live and after they have demonstrated their utility the conservative institutions such as the church and the state take them over and insure their permanence.
The rapid advance of the social spirit in modern life has outstripped existing agencies in their preparation to meet the new approach to the solution of problems of living. Many forms of existing institutions were created under entirely different conditions and to meet different needs. To-day these old forms do not adapt themselves to new demands, and in many cases prevent effective action on the part of religious organizations that are ready in spirit to broaden their programs to include the new demands upon the conservative organization.
The minister, trained for the modern service of the church to the community, cannot solve alone all the problems of maladjustment he finds in his local community. He finds that the contacts and interests of his local church organization are far broader than the interests of the local group he is called to serve; and that in many cases his local efforts are nullified by these larger contacts. It is the purpose of this and succeeding chapters to outline some of the conditions existing within the church itself that must be adjusted before it can act most effectively in meeting the challenge discussed in preceding chapters.
The first and probably most important problem is that of enlarging the vision of church officials, ministers, and people as to the need for broadening the program of the church and as to the need of a statesman-like reorganization of adjustment of the church to the community.
It is believed that quite generally the membership of the larger religious organizations in this country are now in sympathy with the principle that the church should have a social-service program. There is still wide diversity of opinion as to the form that service should take. In too many cases there is no opinion at all; and while admitting the principle, active opposition develops to any attempt to put the principle into practice in a specific project. This condition is to be found most marked in those sections of the country that are not in the direct line of thought movements, or where living conditions are such as to make rural life monotonous. The monotony of the plains is as deadening as is the lack of contact of the mountain valley; and both fields offer fruitful ground for the spread of unsocial types of religious expression.
The solution of this phase of adjustment of the church to community needs lies in a patient educational program carried on by the minister of the gospel. He must be a man of broad vision and must have the fullest appreciation of the slowness with which the rural public mind works. He must be everlastingly tactful and not attempt more than the simplest advances at the beginning and not more than one at a time. He should have at hand an abundance of educational material in the way of literature, lantern slides, and periodicals which can be used in showing what actually happens when the church embarks on a broader program of rural service. A national educational program of this type will in a few years create a demand that must be met and that rural churches will pay well for as the value of such work will be recognized.
The more serious phase of this problem is the lack of adequate preparation for this service on the part of the ministry. In one of the leading denominations (Methodist Episcopal) over twenty-nine per cent of the charges are cared for by supplies, men who by reason of educational preparation, age, or for some other cause are not now and, in a large proportion of cases, never will be eligible to membership in the Conferences. Of the remainder, only a small proportion are graduates of schools of higher learning, such as colleges and theological seminaries. At a time when a large number of those living in rural communities are either agricultural college graduates or have attended short courses in agriculture, it becomes apparent that an uneducated ministry is becoming a menace to the future of the rural church.
But of those who have had the advantages of a college or theological seminary training, the type of training has not fitted them for effective rural service. The training of ministers has gone through the same process as other types of training. It was once thought that since the sole business of the minister was the personal appeal to accept Christ, with the emphasis on the personal atonement features of Christianity rather than on the principles of Christian living, the same type of training would fit one to deliver the message whether he was in the slums of the city, on the shores of Africa, or in the mountains of Colorado. Moreover, for some reason, it appears to have been accepted that the rural ministry was the simplest of all and that any one could be a rural minister. It would be amusing if it were not so tragic to accept the testimony of some of those who have not yet seen that the rural ministry is a type demanding such a cosmopolitan understanding of human nature and of conditions of human existence that it demands the best intellects and the highest type of missionary spirit to carry on successfully. We have heard of college presidents recommending young men for important rural positions because the young man was "not ambitious for any important work in the church." It has been known that officials in the church would bid for theological seminary graduates with the assurance that while they would have to accept an "undesirable" rural charge for a year or so, they would soon be "promoted." The writer knows of at least one young Negro minister, a holder of a Master's degree from a large educational institution, whose major work for his higher degree was in the dead languages. The attitude of our educational institutions, and the attitude in public thought has been that progress for the individual has been in the direction of getting away from the country instead of remaining with rural folk and giving one's life to the advancement of the group as a whole; and the courses of study have had primarily in mind the personal appeal rather than that of dealing with man in his particular environment.
It is now recognized that modern life demands a specialized ministry. The one who can handle successfully a rural industrial or a downtown urban situation may not be at all fitted to deal with the problems of the village or the open country. On the other hand, the one who can serve farmers successfully might not be at all fitted to fill a metropolitan pulpit. Beginnings only have been made in attempting to adjust educational work to meet this modern demand. In the meantime the problem remains of the ministers trained under former conditions, if trained at all. Many of them have not yet caught the vision of the larger program of the church; and of those who have caught this vision the handling of the tools of the new program is such a delicate task that many failures are sure to be recorded. It will take years to bring the church to the place where it can meet successfully the modern demands upon it.
The second great problem is that of maladjustment in thought. Protestantism is still suffering from the effects of extreme individualism in religious belief. Strong leaders, obsessed with some one variation in interpretation of the Scriptures, have pulled off from the main body of the church and have started independent organizations committed to the development of the particular interpretation they have made. When once these organizations have been formed and have secured a financial backing, they have continued to spread, until to-day rural America presents the spectacle of religious forces agreeing on the broad general program of the relation of the church to community needs but paralyzed because of dissensions over less essential principles of theological dogma. The reasons for separate organizations have often been forgotten and loyalty to a particular organization as such has taken its place.
The solution of this problem is not that of attempting to eliminate differences in dogmatic belief by argument, but of emphasizing the points of agreement of the various religious groups. Error and nonessential dividing lines will disappear if neglected. But if they are agitated, they will thrive under persecution and conditions will be worse than ever.
The third problem is that of maladjustment of buildings to community needs. This problem presents itself in two aspects: first, that of location of church buildings, and, second, that of location of pastors' residences. In the original settlement of this country, people located their new homes in neighborhoods partly for social and economic purposes and partly for protection. Where these new groups were founded the church building soon found a place. As the communities grew, and aided in the course of time by ambitious national agencies, the sectarian interests mentioned above established new churches to care for those of each particular belief until many communities soon became overchurched. The rapid decrease in open-country, and even village, population which began during the 70's of the past century and which has continued to the present made the problem still worse, until to-day probably the least efficient institution in all rural life is the rural church.
Moreover, the first settlements did not always mark the spot of permanent development of population and interest centers. As time has passed, many of the places which it was once thought would be permanent centers have lost their preeminence and others have taken their place, until now many very small communities have too many churches, and others are lacking in adequate facilities for religious service.
The time has now come when it is believed that rural population and agricultural tendencies are sufficiently well known to enable those interested in rural life development to determine what are the most suitable centers for community development. The Interchurch World Movement, had it been carried to a successful conclusion, would have gone far toward determining those centers for the entire United States. As it is, the Movement made possible such determination for about one fifth of the United States and the task of completing the survey may be accomplished in the course of time.
When this task is completed, then the challenge to the churches of America will be to so readjust the location of their church buildings and to remodel them in such a way as to be adapted to the present and probable future growth of communities so determined. This work is scarcely begun, but it is believed that it has gone far enough to insure its ultimate achievement. When this is done, then the local church will be in a position to deal most effectively with the community problems mentioned in preceding chapters.
The situation as to location of pastors' residences is even more serious than that of location of church buildings. During the pioneer period of church organization ministers were under the necessity of dividing their efforts among a considerable number of small groups. These were organized into circuits and the pastor's residence was provided at the point either where the original church was established or where it was most convenient for him to serve the preaching points under his care. Each denomination developed its own work regardless of other groups and in many cases from the same common center, so that we now have in rural and village organization pastors' residences centralized in the minority of rural communities and the great majority of such communities without resident pastoral care.
In the State of Ohio, for example, in one county of twenty-four communities but twelve have resident pastors and in these twelve communities thirty-nine pastors reside. In another of sixteen communities but eight have resident pastors. Yet in each county there are enough ministers to supply each community with a resident pastor, if readjustment were to be made. In the northeastern part of the State on a single Methodist district are to be found two instances of Methodist and Presbyterian pastors living in the same village and going on alternate Sundays to another village, in one instance larger than that wherein the ministers live. The facts as to the growth and decline of churches with resident or non-resident ministers elsewhere present (see Church Growth and Decline in Ohio) are a sufficient indication of the effects of maladjustment of pastoral residences to rural community needs. Since the modern demand of rural life upon the church is for community leadership as well as for holding Sunday worship, it is clear that no adequate program of church leadership in rural life can be worked out until this vital need of readjustment of pastoral residences to community service is met.
A third serious problem is that of lack of coordination of denominational effort in community service. Where two or more religious organizations find a place in the same small community, no plan has yet been successfully tried whereby these organizations as such have been brought into harmonious and continuous action for community service. The presence of two or three ministers of social vision in the same small community is not always an asset, since small communities do not have a place for more than one leader and sectarian interests forbid cooperation under the leadership of either of the church pastors. This situation has given rise to such organizations as the Christian Associations, the Sunday School Associations, and a large number of nonreligious agencies now trying to provide for community leadership independent of the church. It is intended here to call attention to the problem. A suggestion as to methods of solution will be taken up more at length in a succeeding chapter.
A fourth serious problem resulting from the above is lack of adequate support for rural religious institutions. Owing to the general lack of financial resources of rural communities as compared with the urban centers, they have not been able to compete financially with city churches in bidding for men who have high standards of living and who demand large financial returns for services rendered. This condition will probably continue indefinitely because of the tendency of large-scale industrial production to centralize wealth control in urban centers; that is, unless the economic motive is taken from Christian service through the equalization of salaries. This is a solution much to be desired, but it is feared that pastors will not take kindly to such a movement; and members of city churches will continue to contribute to the support of their own particular pastor instead of to general pastoral support. But the weakness in support has been seriously increased because of dividing of such resources as rural communities have among so many different agencies. Many communities that could support a pastor at two thousand dollars or more a year now have men serving denominations at one thousand dollars per year or less.
The same is true of church building. When five church buildings must be erected and maintained for sectarian purposes in a town where there is room for but one school building there is little wonder that the contrast between church buildings and other rural institutional buildings is so marked. And it is little wonder that when people begin to think in community terms they are inclined to pass by the church as an institution offering hope of community service conservation and turn either to the school or to some other agency that they hope will serve the purpose.
Closely akin to the problem of inadequate support for the country minister and the country church is that contention often made that the job of a country preacher does not offer as great a challenge as does that of service in other branches of church work. It is believed that this contention is erroneous because the rural work, while not demanding the same qualities of service as other types, does demand qualities of its own that equal, if they do not exceed, those of the city pulpit. The ability to serve people long and continuously in close personal relation to them; to deal patiently with conservatism; to endure the hardships of living under conditions far below what are to be found in city environments; to get the support of the people for progressive measures, and to keep alive mentally in an environment that is not the most conducive to study because of lack of reading facilities and because of the ease with which one may shirk the means of personal growth—all these make the task one for the specially capable and devoted.
But if there is truth in the statement that the country ministry does not offer the opportunity for the exercise of personal abilities required by the city pulpit, then, unless we frankly recognize that the limit of possibility of building up the rural work is to alleviate an unavoidable discrepancy in personal challenge, it becomes necessary to so reorganize the local parish that it will be a challenge fit to attract the best minds in the church.
The first step already has been mentioned: that is, to adjust relationships between denominations so that a minister will have sole responsibility for community leadership.
The second is to enlarge the parishes under the control of one pastor that he will have ample field for the exercise of his abilities. In some sections of the country two or more communities may still have to be assigned to one minister, with the expectation that he will develop local volunteer leadership in the respective communities, or have adequate assistance in the way of special workers among the children and in the homes and have directors of religious education for full or part time in each community. In most sections of the country the communities are now of such a size as to demand the full time of a paid minister and to pay a satisfactory salary for services rendered.
The third is to increase the functions of the pastorate so that people will be willing to pay more for the service rendered. This results directly from the adoption of the larger program for the church herein recommended.
The practice—still all too rare—of supplying the pastor with an automobile for pastoral work, should be encouraged everywhere, particularly when the charge has a pastor who has the vision of the broader program of the church and is specially trained for his work. There are complications in the connectional system of making appointments that tend to prevent liberality in this respect. When a charge is brought up to adequate self-support the tendency is too often to make the charge a place to "take care" of a Conference member of that grade regardless of his fitness to follow up the type of program introduced by his predecessor. The taking of the automobile by the departing pastor deprives the community of its use. Leaving it for the use of an inefficient pastor is too great a burden on the community. Experience will determine the best means of handling this problem and should ultimately put ministers on the same basis as to having means of transportation furnished as County Agricultural Agents, County Superintendents of Schools, Christian Association Secretaries, etc.
The soldier in the ranks will probably never be looked upon as in the same grade of responsible position as the captain of the company. So the country minister has a right to look forward in due time to "promotion" in natural channels; that is, to the district superintendency. It is to be feared that too often at the present time, the rural minister is discouraged from remaining in the rural work because he sees that a very large proportion of the positions in the church that are recognized as personal promotions are filled from the city pulpits. His course of advance is now from the country pulpit to the city pulpit, thence to the district superintendency or detached service, thence to the bishopric, a position very few ministers refuse if offered. The rural work would be strengthened if rural district superintendencies were filled by rural men who have demonstrated their ability to build up a rural charge successfully, and then if these same rural district superintendents were to have an opportunity to fill the highest possible positions in the church, thus bringing to the highest administrative offices of the church the tried experience that comes from building up a district in Methodism. When the necessity of leaving the rural work in order to get "promotion" is eliminated there will be a marked strengthening of loyalty to the rural work.
The illustrations given have been taken from Methodist Episcopal experience. Other denominations have similar problems, but probably to a less degree because of the more marked form of localized democracy in church polity.
If the churches of America permit this crisis of lack of adjustment of church to community needs to pass unchallenged, and if they delay in making the adjustments needed, the time will soon come when other agencies, supported by rural communities, will make provision for these needs and the opportunity of the church will be gone indefinitely. Other agencies will be performing a real Christian service, and the church, by reason of its failure to live up to the demands upon it, will have an increasingly difficult task of justifying its existence so far as relationship to this world is concerned.
Rural progress under church leadership has been much like the first drops of water on a placid lake at the beginning of a rain. Little rises of water appear and some waves circle out, but the ultimate level is not much raised. So with the church. Here and there a minister stirs up some local community, some definite progress is made, attention is attracted from other communities and they may have a few symptoms of a rise, but too often the minister moves, another comes, and the general level of community life falls back to what it was before.
The difficulty is that with the overlapping of interdenominational jurisdictions it is impossible for any group to lead in progress outside of the local community. Methodists cannot lead in a county program because Baptists and Presbyterians will not follow them. Neither can the other groups lead because Methodists are not gifted in following the leadership of other denominations. It is perfectly natural and justifiable that this should be so. Before the churches of America, Protestant or Catholic, can render the entire service demanded of them there must be a thoroughgoing system of interdenominational cooperation worked out which will insure joint responsibility of all denominations concerned in providing for community leadership on a large scale. If this is impossible, then the inevitable alternative must be accepted of passing by the churches of America in carrying out comprehensive plans of progress and of turning to other agencies for this service.
During the past, largely owing to the apparently hopeless situation so far as interdenominational cooperation is concerned, Christian organizations, such as Christian Associations and Sunday School Associations, have sprung up to do for the denominations and for the ministers what they could not do under present conditions. These agencies have done notable work. They have accomplished much in preparing the way for a nation-wide recognition of what the broad function of the church is; they have brought representatives of all denominations together and have gradually increased the social spirit while at the same time lessening the emphasis upon those things which have divided the Christian Church into so many isolated camps. They have pioneered and experimented. They have had failures as well as successes, but their failures have been a real contribution to the sum total of human experience and have taught us many things that should be avoided. The service rendered by these agencies must ever be remembered as of the most vital and important character.
But it will be admitted by representatives of all organizations that a large part of what is now found in the programs of those other religious organizations, "arms" of the church, is a legitimate part of the work that should be supervised by the minister of a community program and included in his program, and that in those communities where such trained pastoral leadership exists the functions of these other agencies can be materially modified and their activities directed into still further new and untried fields of endeavor. The church needs organizations supported from funds not coming through the regular channels founded on the budgets of individual churches. These subsidiary organizations can go ahead with experimentation, and their failures do not bring the discredit to the parent organization that they would if done by the church directly. On the other hand, their successes can be adopted into the regular program of the church and thus conserved. Complete control of experimentation or demonstration work is likely to destroy or prevent initiative, which is the soul of progress.
In adjusting problems between denominations in local communities a number of plans have been tried with greater or less success. One of the oldest is that of the "union" church. This is a type of organization in which the people of the local community, tiring of the uneconomic system of interdenominational competition, and without hope of uniting on any one of the local organizations represented, decide to separate from all and form themselves into an independent local organization.
No large denomination to-day is favorable to the so-called "union" church; and all are opposed to the plan sometimes followed by rural industrial concerns of erecting a church building open to anyone who pretends to speak with authority about religious matters. The "union" church usually begins with enthusiasm, but because of lack of outside contacts, because of lack of continuity of program, because of lack of a broad missionary spirit, it is generally shortlived and gives way to some church with denominational affiliations. The "union" church without denominational affiliations should not be confused with the "community" church with denominational connection. It is the latter type that most religious organizations are now agreed is most desirable as the solution of the inexcusable overchurching now existing in many communities.
In these days of get-together movements denominational leaders should think clearly with reference to "federated" churches. A few of these have had a fairly long life. But their growth in the past fifteen years has not been such as to inspire confidence that they offer a satisfactory solution to the overchurched situation. The "federated" church idea is not in harmony with a connectional polity nor with the principle of world democracy with centralization of administrative responsibility for carrying out democratically adopted plans implied in that polity. Local federation involves giving of full power of selection of pastors and of determination of policies to the local congregation. Whatever may be said about the occasional failures of the connectional system in finding suitable pastors, or in other ways, it is nevertheless true that this system has a vitality and efficiency that are now being recognized by many of the leading religious organizations. The polity of the "federated" church is congregational; and extreme congregationalism and connectionalism do not mix readily so far as polity is concerned. The growth of the one form involves the decline of the other. This is why the Methodist Episcopal Church, for example, has developed so little sympathy for the "federated" church idea.
Far different from this is allocation of responsibility for community leadership. This insures leadership to one denomination or the other. Then the local congregations can work out their problems of adjustment as local conditions indicate is best. Usually some form of affiliation in worship and in sharing local expenses with continued separation of support of missionary and other benevolent enterprises has proven the most satisfactory method of local adjustment. By this method connectional interests are preserved and fixing of responsibility in each community assured.
With the vastly increased missionary resources made available by the missionary "drives" of the leading denominations there is positive danger of the problem of interdenominational adjustment being made still more serious. If the Home Mission Boards, through unwise use of mission funds for the purpose of assisting in competitive struggles, should precipitate retaliation by other denominations, a misuse of missionary funds would result that would not only dry up the sources of missionary support but bring Protestantism into lasting disgrace.
In working out a program of interdenominational adjustment the following plan has been tried with success on at least three Methodist Episcopal Annual Conference districts:
1. A survey of the district and the preparation of a map showing the location of all churches, residences of all pastors, circuit systems, and whether churches are located in villages or the open country.
2. Separate lists are then made of cases of apparent competitive relations with each denomination.
3. Conferences are then called with the representatives of each denomination to consider the problems of competition between the Methodist Episcopal Church and the particular denomination with which the conference is called.
4. After tentative plans have been adopted representatives of both denominations visit the local field together, confer with the churches concerned, and arrive at some agreement as to adjustments to be made.
5. This method is followed with each denomination, separately, with which Methodism has competitive relations.
This plan has been tried with success in the State of Vermont, where Methodists, Baptists, and Congregationalists had to cooperate or abandon the field; in the Portsmouth district, Ohio Conference, where the principal problems were with the Presbyterians, United Brethren, and Baptists; in Montana, where a conference was held to consider adjustments affecting an entire State; and in the Wooster District, North-East Ohio Conference, where adjustment of relationships is proceeding satisfactorily.
The results of this program already noticeable are:
1. The increase in salary of rural ministers made possible by uniting the financial resources of all religious forces in the community.
2. Saving of missionary money by eliminating duplication of missionary grants by competing denominations.
3. A marked increase in membership and church attendance.
4. A more vital relationship of the church to community welfare through unified action of all religious forces under the trained leadership of one pastor.
5. Resident pastorates to more communities through better distribution of pastoral residences of the denominations concerned in adjustments made.
6. A more vital appeal to life service in rural work can now be made to young people who have objected to service in rural charges where efforts at community service have been handicapped and even nullified by the presence of competing religious organizations and pastors.
It is believed that the results obtained far outweigh the possible losses that may come through Methodists intrusting leadership in service to Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, or the reverse. The good work made possible by fixing responsibility for leadership to a given denomination in one community is destined by the force of example and imitation to compel similar progress in communities to which leadership responsibility has been assigned to other denominations.
A word of caution to ministers in charge of local fields is desirable in regard to settlement of interdenominational difficulties. The interests involved are so much larger than the local church that the initiative must be taken by the district superintendent, always in the fullest consultation with the resident bishop, or the proper State, synodical, or other representative of the other denominations concerned. In a number of cases local initiative in this matter has resulted not only in defeating the end sought but has created embarrassing situations between the supervisory representatives of the denominations. If a local situation needs adjustment, the matter should be gone over fully with those responsible for church administration, and it is believed that in most cases such adjustment can be made satisfactorily. The experience of those in the Methodist Episcopal Church who have tried to bring about adjustments by the method suggested has been that in most cases other groups are ready to come to an agreement.
If other groups refuse to make adjustments, then the denomination making the advances has no other alternative than that of caring for its own obligations as adequately as possible and with every resource that can be made available. But no blame can attach to this policy after effort has been made to cooperate with other groups and these efforts have failed.
After communities have been allocated for leadership to one or another of the denominations, then the problem of a united program by all denominations remains to be solved. Unless this end is attained, then rural churches must continue to work largely alone, each in its own community without relation to the program of neighboring churches or communities. Unless there is coordination between the churches, then we shall continue to witness the spectacle of the three interdenominational branches of the church, the Sunday School Association, and the Christian Associations, each moving in its own self-chosen direction, each raising an independent budget, and each establishing county organizations without reference to the interests of the other; and none of the three doing anything to encourage the organization of county groups of the churches as such. The time has arrived when the church as such should take the lead in bringing about interdenominational cooperation for community service under its own auspices and in the most inclusive way.
For many reasons the county offers the best basis for this type of organization. It is the most permanent political unit, next to the State or the incorporated town or city. Social progress finds the closest opportunity for cooperation with economic and political agencies in the county. The following proposal for a County Christian Association, supported out of the budgets of local cooperating churches, has been worked out:
SUGGESTED PROGRAM FOR COUNTY RURAL CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OR FEDERATION OF CHURCHES
1a. Proposal for County Christian Association or Church Federation.
1b. Board of Directors.
1c. County Council chosen by each cooperating denomination on basis of membership.
2c. Election or appointment of denominational representatives to be left to each denomination.
3c. Selection of county secretary.
2b. Duties of county secretary.
1c. Survey—Follow up what interchurch county office has done.
1d. Location of all churches.
2d. Residence of pastors.
3d. Community boundaries.
2c. Organize county religious movements as:
1d. Evangelistic drive.
2d. Membership rally.
3d. Go-to-church campaigns.
4d. Religious worship in the home.
5d. Common programs with reference to moral and spiritual problems.
6d. Other religious movements.
3c. Interchurch adjustments.
1d. Act as secretary of Committee on Adjustments—provide office for interchurch activities.
2d. Depository for interchurch religious information.
3d. Follow-up plans made as result of interchurch survey, including:
1e. Encouragement of building parsonage and getting resident pastor in every community.
2e. Getting a community church building in every community adequate to its needs.
3e. Getting a community building under joint religious auspices where need exists for several houses of worship.
4e. Clearing house for membership conservation.
5e. Determination of parish boundaries.
6e. Establishment of new work in communities where there is none.
4c. Social and recreational.
1d. County field days.
2d. Cooperation in organizing boys' and girls' clubs in Sunday school or otherwise.
4d. Direct social and recreational activities.
5d. Assisting in selection and training leaders for church and community service.
5c. Religious education.
1d. Recruiting membership campaigns.
2d. Perform all functions now expected of volunteer county Sunday school secretary.
3d. Assist in analysis of Sunday school methods and organization in local churches in organizing for larger service.
4d. Week-day religious instruction plans.
6c. Social service activities to be encouraged:
1d. County free library.
2d. County hospital and nursing program.
3d. Adequate provision for dependents, defectives, delinquents.
4d. Securing desired State public service.
5d. Health and sanitation campaign.
6d. County Farm bureaus.
7c. Cooperation with other agencies. In general, give moral support to agencies doing effective work in the fields mentioned in (6c).
8c. Act as bureau of advice with reference to appeals for charitable purposes.
9c. Religious publicity.
1c. Estimated Salary of Secretary $3,000 Travel 400 Office rent 300 Equipment 200 Stenographer 750 Publicity 400 ——— $5,050
2c. How to raise.
1d. Estimate amount that should come from each cooperating church. Ask each church to assume its share on a three-year guarantee.
2d. Make list of special givers who may become a private source.
3d. Communicate with respective missionary boards for aid in carrying balance of budget until such time as it can be brought to self-support.
[Footnote 1: Prepared in Collaboration with C. J. Hewett, Garrett Biblical Institute, Evanston, Ill.]
This form of organization has many advantages, among which are:
1. It coordinates all the religious forces of Protestantism, for a common community service.
2. It insures ultimate permanent support by being financed out of the budgets of the cooperating churches instead of by a limited number of private givers of large funds.
3. The county organization develops its work through the churches, strengthening the program of the minister instead of developing independent organizations locally with volunteer leadership related to an "arm" of the church instead of directly to the church.
4. By organizing to do their own work in this way the churches obviate the necessity of private Christian agencies organizing with outside support to carry on interdenominational work.
If the churches of America do not rapidly work out plans of interdenominational cooperation in the development of their work, other agencies will enter the field and will receive popular financial support for doing those things in rural progress that are the legitimate task of the church and for which the church should receive support. Church people will supply the large part of the funds for carrying on these activities through nonreligious agencies; and because of the narrowness of program the church will have chosen for itself many of the brightest and best minds, and consecrated hearts now found in our student groups in educational institutions will find their life's activities outside the church instead of within its ranks where they would prefer to be. This will be the misfortune of the church and she cannot clear herself of the wrong of depriving her young people of the opportunity of rendering a service to humanity within her own ranks and of forcing them to render that service through independent social agencies.
THE CHURCH AND OTHER RURAL AGENCIES
Since the arousal of interest in rural welfare by the studies made by the Country Life Commission in 1908, probably no movement has made more rapid progress than that concerned with rural life. Studies of rural church conditions made by the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions and other agencies, of rural health by the National Public Health Service and by a number of the large philanthropic foundations, of educational conditions by the United States Bureau of Education, and of other problems by various agencies concerned, have revealed the more important conditions and have made possible the organization of programs for their amelioration. The conditions still further revealed by the problems incident to preparation for the World War and the facilities made possible by that preparation for mobilization of the forces for improvement still further advanced the rural-life movement until now no other interest is occupying more public attention than this.
The list of agencies with programs of rural service on a national scale that have found representation in the National Council of Rural Social Service affiliated with the American Country Life Association will indicate the large number of groups now contributing to the advance of rural welfare. This list is as follows: National Grange, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Board of Farm Organizations, Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union, American Home Economics Society, American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Federal Council of Churches, National Catholic Welfare Council, Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, American Baptist Home Missionary Society, Board of Home Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Young Men's Christian Association, Young Women's Christian Association, United States Department of Agriculture, States Relations Service; United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Farm Management; United States Public Health Service, United States Bureau of Education, United States Department of Labor, Children's Bureau; National Organization for Public Health Nursing, National Child Labor Committee, Child Health Organization of America, Russell Sage Foundation, National Tuberculosis Association, National Educational Association, Rural Department; American Library Association, National University Extension Association, National Child Health Council, Playground and Recreation Association of America, Community Service, Inc.
The above is a list of thirty-one different agencies that have a national definitely organized rural-service program. This list doubtless is incomplete and will be increased in the course of time.
The problem before us is to determine just what place the church should have in this formidable galaxy of agencies, and to consider what advantages and difficulties present themselves to the churches of America in functioning unitedly and successfully in doing their part in the entire movement.
It must be recognized that it is impossible for the church to assume leadership in all the interests represented now by various specialized agencies. It has been contended that the task of the church has been completed with reference to a number of these interests when it has encouraged their organization in a local way and has continued to give them its moral support so long as they render effectively the service for which they were intended. Rural interests are so complex that specialized groups are necessary to insure adequate attention to all the interests concerned.
It must also be recognized that until the two great branches of the Christian Church—Catholicism and Protestantism—learn to cooperate in their service to the community, the religious forces of America cannot present a united front in rendering the service that belongs peculiarly to them. It is assumed that the effort will be made by those responsible for community service in both branches of the church to work out this problem so that the church can do its part in the general movement.
The physical basis for organization of all forces for service on a comprehensive plan is recognized to be the political units, county, State, and nation. The township is giving way gradually to the community as the more local unit of organization. In cases where community boundary lines do not coincide with county lines local adjustments will be made whereby the integrity of communities may be maintained within the organization of one or the other of the counties concerned.
The present movement is toward the appointment of county work secretaries on a salaried basis to administer the work of the respective interests concerned. Thus we have now developed wherever the spirit of the people has made it possible salaried County Y. M. C. A. officers, Y. W. C. A. officers, International Sunday School officers, Red Cross Chapters, Boy Scouts, Community Service, Inc., and so forth. There is no regularity or uniformity in the selection of the counties by the different agencies with reference to each other, but it appears that when one of the groups succeeds in getting a county office established, it is increasingly difficult for other agencies concerned in rural social service to gain a foothold on a salaried basis. The agency that succeeds in gaining a foothold originally tends to incorporate into its activities the full program of social service. Theoretically all admit their readiness to turn over to other agencies the functions belonging to other groups as soon as they are ready to assume their proper duties, but practically the organization of an interest group county office delays indefinitely the organization of rural service on a proper basis.
The normal course of development is for the agency that is prepared to organize and finance a comprehensive rural program for a county should render this service; but it should at the same time use its influence to bring about at the earliest possible moment a county council of social agencies that will give unified control of the rural service program to all agencies that should have a voice in rural progress. If this policy is adhered to, there will be the heartiest support of the work of any agency that wishes to begin its work on a county basis in any section of the country.
The first impression that may come to one not familiar with the vastness of the organized movement for rural welfare may be that a large number of agencies have undertaken rural service for their own sakes rather than for the sake of the community. This is not the case. It is recognized that rural organization for definite objectives should take the place of previous uncoordinated, haphazard opportunism in rural progress, and the present sporadic and unrelated movements toward organization are but the result of a very rapid development which has not yet found time to make the desired adjustment desired by all concerned. The National Council of Rural Social Agencies, the State Councils coming into existence, the County Councils and the community councils that have appeared here and there are but the beginnings of a well-ordered, economical and necessary coordination of rural social forces.
How is the church related to this movement? Repeated investigations have shown that the churches of America have within their membership by far the larger proportion of those whose public spirit registers itself in voluntary financial support of public enterprises. The "friendly citizen" is largely a myth. Those who build churches at large personal sacrifice, and pay the bills in maintaining religious services are those whose names appear at the top of most subscriptions to benevolent enterprises. It was the Christian ministry and the church membership that made possible the Red Cross drives during the war, and the other financial campaigns for relief and other calls incident to the war. Thus history has continued to show the same condition so far as financial resources for public welfare support are concerned.
Since this is the case, it appears that the most natural method of initiating social service work on a voluntary basis is to expect the churches to take the lead. As has been pointed out, the church and the school are the two local institutions that have salaried officials to care for their public service. Other agencies, with the possible exception of public health nursing service, will probably not in the near future be able to secure financial support for full-time salaried local officials. The nearest they can approach to such salaried service is the county official who must depend for local service upon trained volunteer help. This condition puts upon the church an additional responsibility because through the organization of a county religious organization outlined in the preceding chapter it can not only mobilize local support for such work on a permanent basis most effectively, but it can also provide the salaried local leadership for carrying out a well-organized community service program. Moreover, in harmony with principles presented in an earlier chapter, the church as a conservative institution is one of the permanent organizations that in the last analysis must be expected to take over and insure permanence to well-tried advances in community organization and service. If this thesis is admitted, then it logically follows that all who are interested in rural progress should encourage the organization of the religious forces on a comprehensive basis to insure the perpetuation of the work now being inaugurated by a large number of private agencies.
When it is found that the interests of other organizations conflict with the program of the church, the interests of the American public will give the preference in support to the church, or to the tax-supported institution. In the long run much of the work now being done by private organizations of various sorts will be inherited either by the church or by the state; and it is not only the opportunity but the obligation of the church to prepare itself as rapidly as possible for conserving these newer activities by financing county and State and national organizations for coordination of religious forces for community service. If county offices for coordination of religious forces were now in existence, the churches could provide facilities through which much of the work now being developed by other agencies could be carried on. And thus the church could render a much-needed service to the entire rural-life movement.
MISSIONARY PROGRAMS AND RURAL COMMUNITY SERVICE
Long years of experience in foreign missionary service has vitally affected the methods of carrying the gospel of Christian living to those who have not yet come under the influence of the Christ. Here the demonstration method of what Christianity means in terms of increased human welfare has done far more to spread the gospel than simply preaching to people. The freeing of the millions now living under the control of other forms of religious belief by introduction of schools, together with the message of health and better moral ideals through the practice of Christian living, has done more to spread Christianity than all the efforts of attempting to build a Christian spirit into a civilization not suited to it nor prepared for it.
The missionary agencies in the home fields have learned from the experience in the foreign fields, and now the programs of home missionary boards are characterized by their large emphasis upon the social gospel. The revival of interest in religious life in this country coincident with the recognition of its vital significance in sound social organization has come so rapidly and popular support has been so liberal that grave danger exists lest the funds made available should be used unintentionally in ways that tend to defeat the purpose of the gift. The church, in its benevolent program, should take advantage of the lessons learned by private philanthropic agencies in dealing with problems of reclamation of the unfortunate or of stimulating to a larger life.
Many of the efforts at social progress fail because of lack of clear statement of objectives. So far as the rural work is concerned, the following are presented as necessary objectives, if the rural church is to succeed in measuring up to its task. It is believed that funds of the church can be used safely and wisely in their attainment.
1. Strengthen the weak places in rural church work in harmony with principles of interdenominational ethics and well-established principles of benevolent assistance.
2. Increase effectiveness of rural ministry by training ministry now in service in modern methods of church work and by recruiting and training a new ministry in sympathy with rural life and devoted to its improvement.
3. Organize rural church work so that every rural family will have definitely assigned pastoral care.
4. Adjust interdenominational relationships so that the ideal of but one resident pastor and one church to each community may be realized.
5. Provide means of interdenominational cooperation so that rural religious forces may work together in dealing with common problems of rural social and religious progress.
6. Organize rural work so that it may have due consideration in the general policies of religious organizations.
7. All the above are preliminary to the one great object, from the social point of view, namely, that of making it possible for the rural church and the rural minister to function most effectively in bringing more abundant life in the best sense to rural people.
After religious forces are organized so that they can present a united front in the attack on the great social problems of rural life, then the individual churches and all churches together can undertake to meet the challenge outlined in earlier chapters of this text and also well presented in much of the recent literature on the subject. But effective organization must precede most effective and permanent service.
Certain principles have been the guiding influence in the program on which the rural department of at least one of the leading denominations has been working. For those who come to positions of administrative responsibility from time to time without having been under the necessity of acquainting themselves with the principles that should guide in the safe expenditure of funds for maintenance of pastors, these are given here:
1. Principles of interdenominational ethics should be observed in making grants of missionary funds to local pastors. It is to be feared that too often funds have been used to sustain a local work in the presence of another denomination when efforts at interdenominational adjustment would have relieved the situation by removing the necessity, namely, that of division of local resources by competing religious forces.
2. Owing to the unusual problems presented on charges asking for missionary aid only the ablest ministers should be assigned to such points. They should be supported according to their needs through missionary aid, and their acceptance of difficult work should enhance rather than lessen their standing in the church.
3. Rigid avoidance of use of missionary funds for purposes of charity, or for making appointments easier. The charge, not the minister, is the objective.
4. Centralization of effort on a few places instead of dissipation of funds in providing inefficient service in many places.
5. Gradual but certain withdrawal of support from national or State boards in order to avoid pauperizing communities by relieving them of their local financial responsibilities.
As one of the most serious problems connected with rural missionary service is that of interdenominational complications, an effort has been made to work out certain principles that may be observed by all religious organizations carrying out a rural program. At the annual meeting of the Home Missions Council in 1914 a statement of principles was adopted. In 1919 the rural fields committee of the Home Missions Council undertook the revision of these principles in the light of later experience and adopted the revision as a committee report. Because this document represents the best judgment of those in the various denominations concerned with rural work it is presented herewith as a desirable basis on which grants of funds may be safely made. The statement is presented in full:
Persuaded of the urgent need of some comprehensive and united plan for the evangelization of our country and for closer cooperation to make such plans effective, the Home Missions Council proposes for the consideration of its constituent societies the following principles of comity. It is to be distinctly understood, however, that no ecclesiastical authority of any kind is implied except as ecclesiastical bodies shall adopt these policies as their own. They have only the moral force of the consent of the parties desiring to see them become effective.
FIRST. As to the occupancy of new fields. The frequently suggested plan for the entering of new territory is to divide it among the various denominations, holding each body responsible for the proper working of its field.
a. In the judgment of this Council this course of procedure would seem to be impracticable. But a sensitive regard not only for the rights but for the sentiments of sister bodies of Christian people is demanded by every consideration of righteousness as well as fraternity.
b. In districts or in places already occupied by any denomination new work should be undertaken by any other body only after fraternal conference between the official representatives of the missionary organizations embracing those localities.
c. Occupancy of the field shall be determined by at least the following characteristics:
1. The establishment of a regularly organized church.
The establishing of a Sunday school shall not be deemed sufficient to meet the terms of this definition.
2. The appointment of a pastor who shall be expected to hold services in the community at least once every two weeks.
3. The provision of church building and equipment within a reasonable time adequate to the needs of the community at its present stage of development.
The occupation of a field by any denomination after conference and agreement shall give to that denomination the right to the field and the responsibility for its Christian culture until such changes in population shall make it desirable that it be shared with one or more other denominations.
If the above conference shall fail to reach agreement, it shall be the privilege of the aggrieved party to make appeal to its respective board or society, which board or society shall confer with the sister board or society concerned, and these boards may then request the superintendents of the denominations concerned for the field in question to make personal investigation and to report their findings to their respective boards. If they agree, the boards shall take action in accordance therewith. If they disagree, the matter shall be referred to the boards for such action as their wisdom may determine, which action shall be communicated to the churches concerned with whatever ecclesiastical or moral force their decision may command.
SECOND. In communities already occupied by two or more denominations, in case any church or mission station shall consider itself aggrieved in its relations to sister churches, the course of procedure outlined in Section I shall likewise be followed.
There shall be friendly conference in the spirit of the Great Head of the church and recourse be had, when necessary, to the local or national missionary authorities, whose findings properly communicated shall have behind them the moral force of this Council.
Where any denomination occupies a district by groupings of mission stations under one missionary the same principles shall apply and the same method of adjusting differences shall be followed.
THIRD. "Overchurched Communities." Not infrequently the promise of new towns fails of fulfillment, with the result that there are more church organizations than in any economic view should be maintained—at least out of missionary funds. In many sections of the country also, because of the marked shift of population from agricultural communities to urban centers, overchurching has weakened all denominations to the point where missionary effort is necessary to restore again a wholesome religious life. Regardless of the cause of overchurching, whether from the undue optimism of the newer sections of the country or changed conditions in the older, or other conditions, the problem of overchurching must be dealt with in the true spirit of comity and cooperation for the sake of the common good.
a. The principle should be established that one Protestant church is adequate for each community of less than 1,500 inhabitants; and that efforts should be made to bring about interdenominational readjustment to this end in all sections of the country where economic and social conditions have become sufficiently established to make improbable any marked or rapid increase in population within a short time.
b. In communities of over 1,500 inhabitants there should not be more than one Protestant church to every 1,000 population.
c. In communities of over 1,500 inhabitants and of less than 5,000, plans should be worked out whereby the different denominations concerned shall cooperate in providing adequate building and equipment for community service. Such building should be strategically located and should be controlled by a governing board made up of representatives, the number of whom from each denomination shall be determined by the constituency of that denomination in its proportion to the total Protestant or cooperating population. The rules for the control of the activities of such cooperative community service should respect the standards of the respective denominations. The support of such community service should be apportioned to the respective denominations concerned to be raised in their respective budgets in proportion to their respective representation on the governing board.
d. It shall be the duty of the denomination to which responsibility shall have been allocated to provide the best-trained leadership and the best service of which it is capable out of consideration to the other denominations that have intrusted the spiritual welfare of their membership to this group.
e. In determining what denomination has prime responsibility in a given community of under 1,500 inhabitants the following shall be considered.
1. Present resident membership and constituency. The organization having the largest bona fide membership and constituency should be considered as having prime responsibility, from this point of view.
2. The residence of the pastor. In general, the pastor's residence should be given larger weight than membership unless the denomination having prime responsibility according to (1) stands ready to provide a pastor's residence in the community where this denomination has prime responsibility from the point of view of membership.
3. The location of the church building. The denomination that has a building located in a village center should be given precedence over the denomination that has its headquarters in the open country near a village. The building of the village church should be suitably located for adequate community service; that is, near the center of the village.
4. As between the village and the open country church, the village church should be given prime consideration in putting on an aggressive community program.
5. No missionary or "sustentation" support should be given by any cooperating denomination to a pastor in an overchurched community nor to a "circuit" involving interdenominational competition until after an adjustment is made either by reorganization of the circuit or an agreement has been reached by the missionary and administrative bodies of the respective denominations concerned as to an allocation of such missionary responsibility.
6. Church extension aid should not be given toward the rebuilding of churches in these communities until after allocation of responsibility has been effected.
7. If after due effort to secure satisfactory adjustment of relationships according to the plans suggested in First above, and by such further arbitration or other means as may be adopted by the Home Missions Council or its constituent bodies, then the denomination seeking such adjustment shall be at liberty to develop its own work as it may see fit, standing ready, however, to make agreement with competing bodies whenever they wish to renew negotiations.
8. In the interests of the Kingdom, after missionary responsibility has been allocated, efforts at unifying local religious organizations may take the form of federation, assimilation, affiliation, or such other mode as may be determined on by the local churches concerned.
9. Plans should also be worked out whereby the religious forms of the different groups may be respected; that is, that membership in the remaining religious organization may be obtained by fulfilling the obligations of the cooperating body with which the persons belonging to the withdrawing organization would naturally affiliate.
10. It is understood that nothing in this proposed set of principles implies that withdrawal from given fields shall be forced. It is only intended to provide a plan whereby all forces both local and general shall be united as rapidly as possible in the attainment of the desired end, namely, that of unifying Christian service in given communities.
11. In determining the limits of communities to which this plan shall apply the Federal Census Bureau designation of communities of 2,500 and under as rural shall be adopted except as noted in paragraph 5c.
FOURTH. Inasmuch as many of the constituent bodies of this Council are already by official action committed to the principles of comity which we advocate, it would seem reasonable to hope that at least gradually these principles would find realization along some such lines as here proposed.
It is manifest, of course, that no plan of procedure can be expected to cover all cases or to be of universal applicability. We are glad to record that in some States there are Interchurch Federations to which local comity matters would naturally be referred. For other cases this Council proposes the erection of an Interdenominational Commission, to which any matter of comity not otherwise provided for may be referred by mutual agreement of the parties at interest. One representative of each of the bodies having membership in the Home Missions Council shall constitute this commission. When any case calling for adjudication shall rise, which case shall previously have had the consideration of any one or more of the constituent bodies of the Home Missions Council, it shall be referred to a Committee of Three chosen from this committee and acceptable to both parties. The decision of this committee shall have no ecclesiastical force, but its utterance shall be regarded as voicing the united judgment of the Home Missions Council and so far forth shall be binding on its constituent bodies.
It is recognized that these principles do not receive the most enthusiastic support of church leaders who are thinking in terms of denominational progress instead of community welfare. But this lack of support is an evidence of their value instead of a criticism. Denominational interests must be sacrificed for the sake of the advancement of the entire cause when the two come into conflict. There is reason to hope that not only Protestants but also Catholics and Protestants can come to cooperate on programs of community service, thus overcoming forever the vital objection to religious leadership now made that because of fundamental differences in belief the two great branches of the church cannot render an organized community service.
The relations of the benevolent boards of the several denominations to other church organizations are such that but little can be said concerning methods of relating missionary work to the larger program of community service. In each case where projects for missionary aid are presented effort should be made to see that local conditions are made such that the pastor can render the best service. It must be recognized that the application for outside aid is in itself an admission of local weakness. The people are poor, or indifferent to the type of service to which they have been accustomed. There has been unforeseen disaster, as the destruction of church property by fire or in some other way. Sudden movements of population have temporarily weakened the support of the church and new resources have not yet been developed. Circuit systems must be broken up so that people will be willing to support full-time resident pastors with efficient programs for service. Customs of expecting the pastor to make his living in outside work and attending to religious service as a side issue must be overcome. The pastor's residence may be in such condition that families cannot be sacrificed for the sake of missionary communities and residences must be supplied by liberal outside aid as the preliminary to effective service. Church buildings are inadequate, and the trained minister must be given every assurance that aid will be rendered in bringing physical equipment up to par. In each case the problems that present themselves must be met. The demands of any one charge do not compare with the demands of any other. And methods must be adapted to meet the specific needs of each charge. These are matters that must be left to those responsible for administration of missionary funds.
When the religious forces of America learn their problems so that a long-time organized program of religious advance can be worked out, when they learn to cooperate in carrying out this program, then the haphazard, wasteful, competitive missionary program that has characterized rural religious work in the past will disappear and we shall see one of the most marked advances in religious welfare the world has ever known.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
In the preceding chapters the effort has been made to outline some of the conditions and principles involved in organizing the rural church for community service. The field has been limited by distinguishing between that type of service which has to do with man's relation to his Maker and that which has to do with his relations to his fellow man. The latter service has been chosen as the field for the present discussion, and the effort has been made to keep within the field, regardless of the desirability of discussion of the other phases of the work of the rural church. The field itself both as to size of community and the scope of the entire field has received attention. An attempt has been made to present the philosophic basis justifying the church in giving large attention to community service. Some of the more general aspects of rural life demanding attention on the part of the church have been discussed and the reasons for assuming that certain phases of rural social activity properly belong to the church rather than to other agencies have been presented to the reader.
The problems of adjustment between religious denominations as such and between the parent religious organizations and so-called "arms" of the church have been outlined and methods of adjustment suggested. The relation of all religious forces to other rural life agencies has received some attention; and, finally, the missionary program of the church as the agency for strengthening the weak and of advancing the general cause of conquest of all life with principles of Christian living was discussed. It is hoped that the principles presented will at least be given careful consideration, and if they are not accepted in full, that they will at least provoke discussion that will eventually lead to some form of organization that will more nearly meet the demands of the time than the present unorganized, unrelated sectarian and other efforts that paralyze and discourage those responsible for service in the local as well as in more general fields of Christian work. If this object can be accomplished, the effort to point the direction organization should take will not have been in vain.