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The Country Church

( Originally Published 1915 )

Mission of the Country Church. - Life in the country cannot be made satisfying unless the local church minis-ter reasonably well to the spiritual and social needs of the country people. If a church is dividing the people into sects instead of uniting them into cooperative bodies (Fig. 121), if the church is unattractive or, what is equally bad, attractive to the least intelligent only, it cannot hope to do its work among country folk. If the well-to-do and the brighter people are not interested, they will stay away or leave the neighborhood and the church will come more and more under the domination of the less capable people. But under the right leaders, a rural church may become one of the most helpful institutions. It may build up and stimulate the spiritual life, cheer the faint-hearted, and minister beautifully to the intellectual, social, aesthetic and moral life of the community. In its meetings, suppers, and social gatherings may be nurtured the cooperative spirit which is the natural order for life above the brute. If there is such a church in the district, it should be the business of the teacher and the school to cooperate with it in order to enable it to minister as best it can to the people of the district.

The Church and Religion.—Of course the primary interest of the rural church, as of any church among us, is to bring the Christian religion to all the people of the community. We are not yet spiritual beings. Without constant help, we easily lapse into immorality and barbaric practices. Hence, as Dr. Gladden says, " The test of efficiency of the church is the moral condition of the community." Most rural districts are over-enough to attract reasonably capable pastors and they cannot pay enough because they are trying to support too many churches. Then, too, we have had no pastors especially prepared for the rural life work. The minister for the rural church needs a broader and deeper preparation than the man for the city church. In the country the preacher must avoid emphasis of sectarian doctrines. What is needed is the man who can preach to plain, open-minded people the real gospel, the reality of God, the value of human life and endeavor, the gospel of a Saviour, the law of sin and its penalties, the great social teachings of Jesus, and the awful waste of human life and resources in war and through sin of many forms such as vice and crime, drink and other forms of intemperance.

Rural Pastor.—It is needless to say that the rural pastor, like the rural teacher, should be a member of the community, that is, live in the country and be one with the people among whom he labors. The pastors who have been most successful in the country are the pastors who know something about scientific agriculture. The rural pastor, like the rural teacher, should be a member of the Grange, and should take an active interest in the rural work being done by the Y. M. C. A. and the Y. W. C. A. The Eight-week Courses prepared by Miss Jessie Field, National Rural Life Secretary of the Y. W. C. A., are sending young women from the colleges back to their home district able to help the rural pastor. These young ladies, when they become teachers, are to be of more service to the communities in which they work.

Religion and Life.—Country people do not know how to play. They have never been taught how to enjoy vacations. The Y. M. C. A. and the Y. W. C. A. are organizing the young people and conducting summer camps. In Miss Field's county, when she was County Superintendent, she had summer camps for boys. These were conducted by the Y. M. C. A. Part of the time was spent in play, but two hours each day were spent in the study of religion and two in the study of vital, interesting agriculture—stock and grain judging, stunts, rope tying, seed corn tying, and other things that offered opportunity for contests and activity. The three great agricultural people of the world who never separated religion and agriculture are the Scotch-Irish, the Mormons and the Pennsylvania Germans, and all three are noted for what both agriculture and religion do for their people. Certainly the teacher who understands that education is more than book learning, must seek to understand the powerful influence of religion. She must be keenly conscious that a base people makes a base religion and a base religion helps to make a base people. She must be keenly conscious that a noble man is the highest creation of God and a noble God is the greatest discovery of man. She must be in perfect sympathy with the Good Book which says, " And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden . . . to dress it and to keep it."

Patriotic Responsibility.—Just at this time in our history the rural church in America has a great responsibility. Christians must be better farmers than non-Christians or the country will become non-Christian. Here is our dangerous race problem. If the native stock has a standard of living requiring a higher consumption of wealth than can be satisfied in the country, other peoples with lower standards of living will accumulate wealth in the country, buy the land and own the farms.

The native Americans must be taught to lower their standard of consumption or, what is better, taught to manage and farm so as to accumulate money. The church has not always remembered this and hence in many places it is noticeable that church people do not make money by farming. In many places the foreigners are the better farmers and the more thrifty people, and they are becoming the landowners while the sons and daughters of the native stock are drifting to town. This is the real danger from the Chinese and the Japanese races.

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