Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

any Church to appeal effectively to men on the ground that it possesses any truth or blessing not possessed by all churches. The experience of men in the army absolutely refutes any such claim. What, therefore, is the ground for further separation? I have had many men in the army say to me that in their opinion it was traditional piddling and prejudice and ecclesiastical interests.

One keen intelligent officer put it this way: "The reason why the denominations don't get together is because a lot of frock-coated ecclesiastics are afraid they will lose their jobs.” The moral and financial waste that comes from divided interests and overchurched sections is becoming so apparent that laymen are losing patience.

The war has given the world a glimpse of the power that a united Church can exercise; division and rivalry is therefore reprehensible and worthy of severe condemnation. A divided Church cannot even save itself, let alone the world. The brightest hope upon the horizon is that men see this ugly fact and are trying to remedy it. But how shall Church union be brought about?—that is the question? Some are trying to bring about union by vivisection. The different denominational bodies are placed upon the dissecting table and an effort is made to eliminate this difference and that peculiarity until a common anatomy is reached, but always and ever there is left nothing but bones. Others seek union by the mechanical adjustment of vari. ously selected parts. They would take a Presby. terian cylinder, a Baptist radiator, a Methodist carburetor, a Congregational transmission and some Episcopalian spark plugs and out of these they would construct an engine. We might call this an attempt at union by disjunction. There is a more vital way. Every thoughtful person realizes that the world has been passing through a real religious experience This experience should be given a common interpretation and made the sole basis of Church union. Again men have seen the great Church of Christ forget all of her differences and suddenly marshall her forces for the accomplishment of a single goal. What the Church most needs today is a group of preachers and teachers who will interpret the new religious experience of men in terms of a common faith geared to a common task. There are in existence three organizations which can make possible this vital union of all Protestant bodies; they are the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ with its Inter-Church Federation, the Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Associations, and the United Sunday School Bodies of North America. A little reflection upon the representative character, the particular scope of activity and the immense mobility of these organizations should convince almost any earnestminded person that if they could be unified in a common program, they would make a tremendous impact upon the life of a community.

2. Frankly the average young man who was in the army, also the one who remained at home, is not vitally interested in the type of religious life which the Church offers to him. In the first place he has the feeling that it is the religion of older people who do not understand and appreciate the viewpoint of young people. It is a life of tradition and custom and so lacks the fire of emotion and the readiness to try new ventures of faith or to adapt itself to recent changes in the environment. As one hears these criticisms of the Church he is forced to acknowledge that of many churches it is all too true. Since returning from France I have made an analysis of the honor rolls in several churches and have found that out of a list of seven hundred and twenty-four names on these rolls, there were only two hundred and eight who could be called active members of the Church in any one or more of its departments. The pastors admitted that many of them never came near the church nor were they able to interest them. One minister told me that he had received seven letters from soldier boys who resided in the neighborhood of his church of whom he had no record of any kind. They had attended the Sunday school when children and wished to be counted as one of the congregation at the front. All of this goes to show that the Church has too much repressed the enthusiasm, the exuberance, the joy, the daring and the restless, active spirit of youth; and in so doing has lost them for her service.

There are many people who attend church for strength because they are weak and weary, for consolation because they are sorrowful, for mercy because they carry the secret burden of a great sin and God knows they need all the direct help the service and the sermon can give them; but I am wondering if they would not sometimes be quite as much helped by experiencing an infusion of the joy and vigor of youth. A discerning chaplain has stated the idea in these words: “What is wanted in the fellowship of most congregations is just the influx of a great wave of young, fresh, vigorous, and healthy life. We need the new emotions, new ideas, and new purposes which the young would bring with them. We all need them. Our elderly folk of both sexes need just such a stimulus, and would rejoice in its bracing effects. They do not con. sciously want to repress and repulse youth with its charming new vigor; and they really need contact with it to save them from dullness and spiritual dryness. Yet unconsciously they have repulsed youth. They have been suspicious and distrustful towards it, and the results have been fatal both to them and the young."

3. Men are social beings and they hunger for vital fellowship. Instinctively men feel that because God is our common Father and we are all spiritual brothers in Christ, the Church should be the most genuinely sociable place in the world; but alas, they know it is often almost frigid. Now the war has given millions of men a deep insight into the true meaning of fellowship. They know what it is to be comrades, to suffer and to share together

life's interest, pains and joys. I have seen hundreds of men come up to the canteen counter in small groups and spend their money as though they had a common purse. These men have come back to their homes cured of much of their selfish individualism and eager for the higher comradeship which life can offer. They will go where they can find it and no place else. The Church will have to supply this same vital comradeship if she expects to hold many of these fellows. This raises the whole question-Does the Church really care for the poor and the stranger to the extent that she wishes to fellowship with them on the basis of a real brotherhood? There are thousands of people who think that the Church does not care. They have tried it once and they know. They were very frankly not made welcome, or else the welcome was so insincere that it repulsed them. There is no power in the world to redeem men like the power of a spiritual friendship, and the Church should make a superhuman effort to break down this barrier that keeps so many men from the Lord who came into the world to be the friend of all. Fellowship is something more than an effervescent expression of good will, as a glad handshake, a slap on the back or a "God bless you, brother.” It is all of these and something very much more definite and tangible. Christian fellowship is intimate acquaintance, personal regard, mutual helpfulness and above all loyalty to each other through loyalty to

a common cause.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »