Organized Sunday school work in the Bay State goes back to 1854 or 1855. In 1869 it was reported that the commonwealth would soon hold its fifteenth annual convention. In 1875 a regular Saturday meeting was held in Boston to study the uniform lesson, which by 1872 "was carrying everything before it." Another meeting was held in Cambridge. Four or five hundred persons attended each week, "rubbing out our sectarian lines for the hour."
Partly because of the relative unimportance of the county in New England, only two Massachusetts counties were organized in 1875. By 1878 it was reported that a high percentage of ali church additions were from the Sunday school. Four thousand people were present at an 1889 meeting in Boston, and 60 conventions were reported. The movement had sought to provide a district meeting within reach of every school. A full-time worker was employed. By 1893 "the workers in Massachusetts are proving the proposition, take care of the township and county organization, and the state organization will take care of itself." The work was reorganized in 1889, with 53 districts; and by 1889 the organization was reported "thorough." In 1902 most of these districts had maintained their organization, and all but three had done good work. In 1900 complete reports came from 29. All but six held conventions at least annually, some of them more often. Contributions in 1904 amounted to nearly $10,000.
Among state federations of churches that have survived uninterruptedly, Massachusetts, the earliest, was organized March 31, 1902. Massachusetts Church Federation history divides itself into four main periods; only the first of these will be noted here in any detail.
(1) The E. T. Root Era, to 1930.
Dr. Root's unpublished manuscript and other materials (many of them printed) amply document this period. Dr. Root was primarily interested in people: "Comity and cooperation are means; and the end is not even 'successful' federations, denominations, or churches, but the perfecting of individuals and their communities." He testified that in spite of "the complexity and novel difficulties of interdenominational cooperation, involving constant salesmanship to individuals and congregations," and "much travel," "my health improved." He early "learned, in interviews and addresses, to appeal to the premises of each denomination." It was the official commitment of the churches themselves, not the cooperation of individuals, which gave significance "to a federation of churches, local, state, or national. This--not achievements however brilliant, not leaders, voluntary or salaried, however able, not the size of the budget--is its esse; these other things, however desirable, contribute to its bene esse." A federation's "best work is to better (the churches') work. It is not their rival but their joint agency, maintaining and strengthening them, until, two by two, and ultimately all, they merge into one ecclesiastical organization." He recognized ecclesiasticism as a reality.
"During its first five years, work in Massachusetts would have collapsed but for the base of operations in Rhode Island," where Dr. Root lived in a
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Church Cooperation in the United States:The Nation-Wide Backgrounds and Ecumenical Significance of State and Local Councils of Churches in Their Historical Perspective. Contributors: Ross W. Sanderson - Author. Publisher: Association of Council Secretaries. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1960. Page number: 262.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.