Page images
PDF
EPUB

however, feel the force of this objection. Those who have undertaken to obtain statistics of this kind know that it is extremely difficult to get responses from a large percentage of the whole number of persons addressed. We know no reason for believing that the persons failing to respond were differently affected toward this project from those who did respond; we presume that the proportion of approvals to disapprovals shown in the answers received would hold good of the whole number of pastors. We can think of no stronger reason why those who were opposed to the plan should conceal their opposition than there was for those who favored it to express their assent. We are inclined to accept the responses received as a fair indication of the wishes of the churches. And if this be true there is an overwhelming majority in favor of some plan hy which these periodicals shall be united. We may add that our conversations with pastors during the past three years confirm this judgment.

The council, also, which is the representative of the churches, had clearly expressed its mind in the following resolution :-

Resolved. (1.) That it is the judgment of this Council that the time has come when the best interests of the cause will be better promoted, and the wishes of the churches more perfectly carried out, by the consolidation of the several periodicals published by the missionary societies engaged in the home work.”

Under this resolution your committee was appointed, and it did not seem proper for them to question the wisdom of the Council's judgment; their only business was to work “ for the promotion of the object sought by this resolution.” After a full day of consultation a plan was suggested by a representative of one of the societies which seemed to meet with the favor of the majority of those present. It was, in short, that a weekly journal, to be called The Christian Nation, be published in New York in the interest of the six societies ; that the first number in every month be entitled, by a sub-head, the “ Home Missionary Number,” and that the matter for that number be furnished by the American Home Missionary Society, the managing editor undertaking only the general supervision and makeup of the number; that the second number of the month be devoted in the same way to the American Missionary Association ; the third to the Church Building Society and the Sunday School and Publishing Society, and the fourth to the two educational societies. This would leave four numbers in each

It was

year to be filled by the managing editor with intelligence and dis cussions of a general character relating to the whole field. hoped that a managing editor might be secured who would work in entire harmony with the secretaries of the various societies, using their materials, carrying out their wishes, and in every way strengthening their hands. It was thonght, also, that a generous rivalry among the societies, in the effort of each to make its monthly number a little brighter and better than the rest, would tend to give us a very fresh and readable weekly paper.

Such was the plan, submitted to the societies by your committee in 1889, as the result of our conference in New York. By the larger societies it was not favorably received. The project was regarded by them as impracticable. Estimates of the cost of such a publication were procured by representatives of some of the societies, and it was believed by them that it would add considerably to the expense of the societies. Estimates obtained by 'members of your committee, on the other hand, indicated that a sufficient edition of such a paper can be printed for an amount considerably less than the aggregate cost of the publications of the six societies. Which of these estimates is the more accurate will only be known when the new weekly makes its appearance. Until that time the committee is inclined to adhere to the opinion that the adoption of its plan would reduce, considerably, the printing bills of the six societies.

The obligation of the several societies to furnish their periodical to their life members was also urged as an insuperable difficulty. We doubt if the difficulty is insuperable. Each society would fully meet its obligations by sending its own monthly number to its life members; and the cost of this need be little if any greater than the cost of supplying them with its present publications.

A more serious objection arises from the fact that each society regards its present periodical as an effective medium for advertising its own work, and fears that in ihe general subscription list which the new weekly would gather, the names of many of those specially interested in its work would not be found. It is an open secret that the subscription list of these various periodicals is not, to any considerable extent, a paying list. Names of men and women in the churches, who are or ought to be interested in the work of the society, have been obtained from the pastors, and the periodical is sent regularly to them whether they pay for it or not.

We as

This is thought to be good economic policy; it is believed that the interest awakened by these periodicals in these who gratuitously receive them results in contributions far in excess of their cost. And the giving up of its periodical would, in the belief of the secretaries, cut off one important means of communication between each society and its own peculiar constituency. That some weight must be given to this objection is obvious. Yet your committee believe that the great body of regular contributors to these societies are intelligently interested in all of them; and that the special and exclusive friends of any one of them are comparatively few. It is the great body of contributors, we suppose, whose wishes and interest should be consulted, and not the exceptional few. sume, also, that all our Congregational constituency should be intelligently entreated in all these causes. If it be true that some notable gifts have come into the treasury of each of these societies through the reading of its periodical, yet it must not be forgotten that these societies must depend for their support less upon such sporadic donations than upon the general interest of the churches in their work. And if the general interest of the churches in home work can be best promoted by a single well-edited periodical, all the societies will be the gainers by this course.

It is to be presumed that those who are specially interested in the work of the Home Missionary Society, for example, would subscribe for the periodical in which, once a month, its work is ably presented and discussed. All such persons would, at the same time, be enabled to become better acquainted with the work of the other societies. Perhaps their interest in these might be increased. And thus the other societies would be the gainers by securing an introduction to those whose interest bad been mainly given to the Home Missionary Society. Each of the societies would profit in the same way. It might fail to gain access to a few of its own special friends, but it would extend its acquaintance among many more new ones.

If, however, any of the societies should feel that it was failing to reach by this method an important part of its own constituency, we see no reason why it should not secure extra copies of any of its monthly issues and send them to its friends. It may retain its old mailing lists, and by comparing them with the mailing lists of the new weekly may easily avoid sending duplicate copies.

It is to be hoped that such a paper as we have suggested, if ably edited, would secure the hearty support of pastors, by greatly aiding them in diffusing missionary information; and would thus gain a far larger paid circulation than that of any of the missionary periodicals now published ; and thus that each one of the societies would find it a far better method of communication with the churches at large than that which it now maintains.

All these considerations, which appear to your committee to have some weight, bave not, however, prevailed with our brethren who are charged with the administration of the societies. They have not, as yet, been able to see this matter exactly as we see it. Some of them say that they are ready to co-operate in such a plan; but others regard it as impracticable.

A proposition was made by some of them, not long after our conference with them, to have the missionary magazines bound up together as one periodical and sent monthly to subscribers, but this was not adopted. Recently a plan of clubbing bas been agreed upon by the representatives of the several societies, by which one dollar, sent to any of the offices, will secure the six periodicals for one year.

This, then, is the sum of what has been accomplished during the three years by the societies in the direction pointed out by the Council's resolution. Your committee have not regarded themselves as called upon to dictate methods to the officers of the societies; we have no power over them, and have not sought to exeicise any; with considerable labor and expense we held an extended conference with them nearly three years ago and submitted the above plan of co-operation. That plan did not commend itself to their judgment. It remains to be seen whether the one which they have substituted for it will meet the demands of the churches. The committee have not insisted upon the specific plan recommended by them, but have urged the adoption of some such feasible plan by which the churches might secure what they are asking for.

We have given our reasons for believing that the plan presented by us is practicable. That difficulties would be encountered in carrying it into effect is a matter of course; we can only say that these difficulties do not appear to us to be too insuperable. The fact that the societies agree that the consolidation might be effected if it were to include seven periodicals instead of six, shows that the administrative obstacles are not the most serious.

Much is made of the alleged failure of the Presbyterian monthly. We are not convinced that there is any lesson for us in the experience of the Presbyterians. The plan proposed by us is entirely different from theirs ; it gives each society a distinct opportunity of presenting its own work to its own special patrons as theirs does not; it offers, as it seems to us, a field for sprightly and telling journalism which a monthly magazine does not offer.

We need only say in closing that our conferences with the secretaries have been of the most amicable character. They do not always appear to get our point of view, but they have their own point of view ; and we know that they are trying to see things clearly, and that they desire to do what is best for their societies and for the churches at large. We can only hope that friendly inquiry and discussion will make the right path plain to the societies and to the churches.

WASHINGTON GLADDEN.
M. F. MONTGOMERY.
MICHAEL BURNHAM.
M. McG. DANA.
O. F. PRESBREY.

ON COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION.1 The National Council in 1889 adopted the following resolution :

Resolved, That the provisional committee after inquiry and conference secure, if found practicable, space in the proposed Exposition of 1892 in which to show what Congregationalism has done for the world.

Subsequently the provisional committee took the following action :

Resolved, That in accordance with the vote of the National Council we hereby appoint Rev. Frank W. Gunsaulus, Rev. James Gibson Johnson, Rev. Wm. H. Warren, George W. Barrows, and Isaac N. Camp a committee with power to name their own chairman, add to their number, and fill vacancies ; and we authorize this committee to do whatever is practicable to carry out the purpose of the Council, as expressed in the resolution referred to, in the matter of the Columbian Esposition, it being specially understood, 61. That if the Exposition is open on the Lord's day this com.

Page 20.

« PreviousContinue »