History of the Christian People

History of the Christian People

History of the Christian People

History of the Christian People

Excerpt

On the main street of a New England village stand six churches within a distance of half a mile. Farthest north a Gothic structure represents the dignity and beauty of Episcopalianism, while it stands close beside the road with an invitation to the wayfarer to enter and worship. Across the way in a generous setting of greenery a Congregational church preserves its ancient Puritan heritage in a stone meetinghouse modeled upon an English parish church. Within sight of both on rising ground a Methodist church, also in solid stone, maintains its evangelical gospel and keeps a watchful eye upon the Baptist church across the common. That Romanesque edifice is located advantageously in the village square where it may minister if it will to passing people. A stone's throw farther on the Unitarians built their house of worship on the site of a colonial cattle pound, and week by week their wayside pulpit reminds passers-by of the claims of religion and high morals. Just beyond at the end of the line rise the twin brick towers of Renaissance architecture of the Catholic church, with adjoining rectory and parochial school in the rear.

Church bells mingle their call to worship. Ministers on Sunday morning are almost within hearing of one another's sermons, while rival choirs make medley of their music. The churches are not mutually hostile. Their prayer and praise rise to the same God. Their faith and hope center in the same cross. On Good Friday evening all but the Catholics join in a common communion service. But they have differences of creed and polity and outlook that are survivals of periods of misunderstanding and insurgency and conflict, and much as they idealize Christian unity they cannot forget their differences. They are able to live in peace and a fair degree of prosperity because religious liberty is a national principle in America and because a denominationally minded constituency is willing to finance their needs.

If a wayfarer who passes them by in turn could visit an English . . .

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