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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Most of our pastors stand alone


the cities offer attractions that are irresistible to the young men and women from the country. Thousands leave quiet country homes every year, and, with no certain prospects before them, cast themselves into the busy life of the nearest great metropolis. In many places, especially in New England, the villages number less, and farm land is much less valuable than it was fifty years ago. It is this massing of population that is causing us already to experience some of the evils that are old problems in the great cities of Europe. There is the same gulf between the rich and the poor, with the added element that the great mass of the poor are composed of foreigners and their children. And the difference in race is a hinderance to a common ground of sympathy. A greater hinderance is the difference in religious faith. The preponderating number of native Americans are Protestants, and their thoughts and beliefs are permeated with the principles that their fathers held so dear, and which they sacrificed home and country to preserve. They hold a faith that is inseparably connected with free institutions, personal liberty, and personal responsibility. But the mass of foreigners that are in the great cities largely belong to the working-class, and, with the large proportion of the poor who are the wards of the city, are Roman Catholic in faith, a faith that has little in sympathy with republican institutions, and which least prepares its followers to exercise the duties of citizens of a
republic. Keeping these facts in mind, the statistics contained in the following extracts are of telling force: "If the laboring class should contribute its due proportion to the congregations, the churches, many of which are now half empty, would not begin to hold the people. In 1880 there was in the United States one evangelical organization to every 516 of the population; in Boston, _counting churches of all kinds_, there was but one to every 1,600 of the population; in Chicago, one to every 2,081; in New York, one to every 2,468; in St. Louis, one to every 2,800." "The worst of it is that, instead of improving, the condition of things has been growing worse every year. While the prosperous classes are moving away to the suburbs, and the laborers are being more densely massed together in the heart of the city, the church accommodations, even if fully used, are becoming more inadequate to the needs of the community. Including religious organizations of all sorts, New York had in 1830 one place of worship for every 1,853 of its inhabitants; in 1840, one for every 1,840; in 1850, one for every 2,095; in 1860, one for every 2,344; in 1870, one for every 2,004; in 1880, one for every 2,468; and the religious history of Chicago is even more noteworthy in this respect: Chicago had in 1840 one church for every 747 of its population; in 1851 there was one for every 1,009; in 1862, one for every 1,301; in 1870, one for 1,593; in 1880, one for 2,081; in 1885, one for 2,254. All the large cities have districts which are destitute of church accommodations, and have not seats in Sunday-school for more than one tenth of their children."[94]

Have we not as great need of deaconesses as any of the cities of the Old World? Most of our pastors stand alone. They do not have the assistant curates and pastors that are connected with large city churches in Berlin and London. When the minister makes pastoral calls, and, entering working-men's homes, finds sickness and scanty resources, he has no deaconess to call to his aid with her cheerful words of encouragement and her loving sympathy, that are better than money and medicine. It is not charity alone that is wanted in such cases; it is the knowledge of how to use proper means to make the sick one comfortable, how to lessen the burden on the family that a small additional call for work and care has so sadly taxed; how to enlighten the ignorance that is so common without wounding the susceptibilities that are so human. For, to quote the words of the Christ in the _Vision of Sir Launfal_:

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