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THE PLIGHT OF THE
BY THE REV. A. A. MACKENZIE
THA "HAT the country minister and his On the question of remuneration to such
church have had a hard time of it an extraordinary being, the prophet is for many years has not been concealed wisely silent; for it would be a hard matfrom the most careless observer. The man ter to forecast what salary ought to be who has gained first-hand knowledge by given to one who would have to be Coloan investigation of the actual conditions is nel Roosevelt, the Secretary of Agriculaware of the hopeless outlook in many ture, the Mayor of Milwaukee, Professor quarters. One who has condescended to Briggs, and General Booth of the Salvalet us into the secret of the "making of the tion Army, "all rolled into one." country minister" assures us that he who This will never do. The new minister is to deliver the country church and the who will make good is going to adapt himcountry minister out of all their troubles self to the new conditions and difficulties will be the country minister himself. But of the rural parishes, as his successful prethis is not the country minister who is, decessor did to his environment, but he but the country minister who shall be. He will not win his way by pretended skill or is going to “lead the farmers into the new thaumaturgy. He will be an all-round rural civilization." He will "energize man, of course, living in the present, with their homes." He will be “a prophet of an open heart and an open mind; intellithe Lord in the pulpit; out of it he will be gent, patient, hopeful, self-sacrificing. He a theological professor, a lecturer on soci- will not have all the learning of the Egypology, a political reformer.” Such crea- tians, although he will prove himself a tures as grafters had keep out of true leader to his flock. He will take adclose range, for he will “detect political vantage of such courses as are given in the trickery a mile away." Lovers of short agricultural colleges for the rural clergy, sermons may well take alarm, for his although he may not feel himself able to church will be open “not for a mere miser- give instruction in practical farming any able four hours per week,” but will make more than the town minister displays skill its call for convocations during every in running banks or making shoes. “It is active hour that the people are awake. not the business of the church to do everyAnd this is no idle threat, for we are told thing,” an intelligent artisan said the other that he must lecture “on every phase of day, in answer to a question regarding the country life, on travel, history, biography, minister's mission of service to the workscience, village improvement, sanitation, ing-man. If the minister is to vindicate public health, public education, granges, his raison d’être, he will not be a fussy etc.” We are solemnly warned that “out- meddler with what his parishioners are dodoor playgrounds, waterside parks, and li- ing and know how to do much better than braries are to be a part of his dreams." he possibly can. What he will not do is the problem.. Every year it is becoming increasingly There was no need of reminding us that difficult to induce young men of even ordia minister “just out of the seminary is no nary ability to study for the ministry, and minister at all,” for it may safely be said it would be vain to expect those who have that no seminary could "make" a minister, gained first rank at the universities to look according to the words of this prophecy. forward to a country pastorate with any
degree of complacency. It is true that the demoralizing effect on all concerned. The “Students Volunteer Movement" has farmers are sometimes close-fisted. Last given honor-men of Oxford and Cam- year one who has property worth, at the bridge to the work of evangelizing India lowest figure, $7000, gave $5 to his minand China; but to compare the country ister, who preached a sermon every Sunminister's lot with that of his brother in day in a church a short distance from his the foreign field, is to lay bare a state of door, and who, moreover, had to drive six affairs that is almost tragic. That he con- miles to deliver the sermon, barely making trives to provide for his family and himself sufficient to pay for horse-hire. Progreson his pittance of a salary, displays him in sive farmers are generally more interested the character of a master of finance. An in grangers' and gleaners' meetings than unmarried country minister has to get on they are in preaching, and soon get tired with $200 a year; one with a wife and of paying money to a man in whose work three or four children, may get $400 or they took only a mild interest from the $500, and if by reason of the financial start. The minister soon has to take to strength of his church he gets $600, still the road, and the country church has anis his life one of labor and sorrow. He other dreary vacancy, and a year or two cannot afford to give his wife a holiday; in which to die. Church buildings go to he cannot take one himself. He cannot decay, the love of many waxes cold, and afford to educate his children; he cannot the traveler through the rural district is lay up money for an emergency. The forced to ask how it is all to end. Michigan papers have lately reported the The suggestions which follow are ofcase of a country minister who had to fered as a contribution toward a solution beg for money to bury his boy.
of the problem. As regards the scornful Take the following record of work turning away from the churches, which, which was kept up for three years by a it is claimed, is becoming almost universal minister in a western State, and consider among enlightened people, it is surely the "hire" given to the laborer. On Sun- nothing but a passing mood of the public day morning he drove sixteen miles and mind. It cannot be that the permanent preached at eleven o'clock; early in the attitude of humanity toward Christianity afternoon he drove back ten miles and will be one of contemptuous indifference. preached at two o'clock; he then drove It is the duty of the church, however, as seven miles and preached at seven o'clock; it never was before, to present its message after which he had to drive six miles to in such terms as will appeal to what is get home. He visited his widely scattered highest and best in man. field most assiduously, and did not give up 1. The country minister should have a until health had begun to give way. His house and a fixed salary of not less than salary was $600. Out of this he had to $1000 a year. pay $7 a month for house-rent, and buy 2. Our rich men, instead of giving the a buggy, sleigh, robes, and harness. What whole of their surplus wealth for the enremained for living expenses and for cloth- dowment of universities and the establishing his wife, four children, and himself ing of libraries, all of which go to cities could not have been more than $380 as an and towns, should divert a portion of it to average salary for the three years. To the endowment of the country churches of buy books was out of the question.
their own denominations. James Baird, Consider some of the things that cause the Scottish mine-owner, gave half a milthe country church to dwindle and die. lion pounds sterling to endow the smaller The families are often miles apart, and, parishes of the Church of Scotland, and, a consequence, it is difficult to maintain largely as a result of this munificence, alcongregational unity and warmth. The most every Scottish village or country disminister is frequently a raw youth trying trict, no matter how weak financially, has his 'prentice-hand at sermon-making; or, well-established religious services. Amermore unhappily, one who has made a fail- ican millionaires may well come to the resure of a town pastorate. The rivalry be- cue of the American country church, for tween the different sects makes the congre- if Christianity shall cease to be a power in gations thin and the salaries small. The the lives of our farmers, there is a serious frequent changes in the pastorate have a outlook for the nation. Were a church
that pays $500 a year to be endowed so to barbarism. We are holding tenaciously that another $500 would be available, a to the things of which we ought to be capable pastor could be secured-one who ashamed, while our adherents and even could afford to stay.
our members look on in dismay. At the 3. Should our rich men fail to do so present hour, in a single county of a great a work, let every denomination raise northern State, one denomination has a sustentation fund for its country seventeen churches and only two settled churches, such as was raised by Dr. Chal- pastors. Another has eleven pastorless mers when the Free Church of Scotland churches out of the twenty it has in three left the Established Church.
counties. In a little village there are two The objection to the last two sugges- churches within a few yards of each other, tions is that where there are two or three neither of which has services; both are rival churches in a small community, it hastening to decay, for they stand for diwould be a waste of money to provide an vision and not for Christianity. endowment for them all, or to support Such a state of things as the following them all from sustentation funds.
ought not to continue. There is a church 4. The different boards in charge of the at a point which I shall call A; three miles country churches should come together away there is another at B; three miles and make a combined effort to put an end from B, and about five miles and a half to the divisions which are the prime cause from A, there is a church at C, and nine of the miserable condition of so many of miles from A and six from C there is a the country communities.
church at D. The same creed and cate5. The country churches should be chism are taught in the four. Two managed by a central board representative churches centrally situated and one minisof the various denominations. The filling ter would give a sermon every Sunday and of vacancies should not be left to local pastoral supervision to every one connected officials. The "voluntary principle,” with them all. Now the churches at B, dear to so many in other lands, has proved C, and D have had long pastorless peria failure so far as our rural work is con- ods. But that is not the whole tale. cerned. A pastor should be sent to the Within a few miles are a number of other country church for a certain number of churches in which a slightly divergent creed years, as is done by the Roman Catholics is taught; and as a matter of fact, the and Methodists, who have no vacant young people of all the denominations, churches in the country.
without any regard to the magnified difIt would be impossible, of course, to get ference of creed, attend the nearest church; all the country churches to unite; but there that is, whenever there is a pastor to preach are some, such as the Baptist, Methodist, in it. Presbyterian, and Congregationalist, that Is there any wonder that our converts might well make up their differences at in China and Japan have given us fair once. If a Baptist preacher differs from a warning that they will not perpetuate our Methodist, what makes him differ? In divisions among themselves? They have nine cases out of ten it is not the peculiari- already learned that it is next to madness ties of his creed, but his own-his mental to face their problems with a divided habits, his reading, his general make-up. front. Every country church that has Wherever there is diversity of gifts there earned a reputation for chronic uselessness is diversity of teaching; but such diversity should be closed. In every country comis no excuse for division. The waste of munity one church should be kept open, money to keep up rival churches, to collect and only one. Any form of Christianity, which such pitiful efforts have to be made; any church, is better than none.
The the miserable poverty of many ministers larger union will come later. Would it and their frequent bickerings, all of which not be a glorious consummation if that are perplexing to the man of the world — feeling after unity, which is stirring, althese things are the crying wrong and dis- most throbbing, in the hearts of Christians grace of home mission work. Were our the world over, should first realize its end country schools managed in this fatuous and fruition not among the Japanese or way, the young people would not only be Chinese, but in the farming communities illiterate, but would be on the high road of our own beloved land?