THE CHURCH'S WORK
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Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2014
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THE CHURCH'S WORK WITH STUDENTS
THIS pamphlet is designed primarily for the inexperienced college pastor who may be looking for some communal wisdom regarding his task.
The field of religious education has become something of a learned profession. Technical literature on the subject exists in abundance. Most of this guidance, however, limits itself to childhood and the youth of high school age. Religious work with students has been neglected.
One of the few existent essays on the technique of student work faces frankly this lack of professional guidance:
Lacking such a comprehensive outline, the local worker finds himself very much alone. He does not want to copy someone else's program, but he wants to share the experiences of his comrades. The pastor or director, just coming to a student field, looks hopefully and then rather despairingly to a variety of national offices for help. He finds friendliness and an earnest desire to aid. But the assistance is less definite than he had hoped for, so he begins to write to the brethren of his own fellowship who have been in similar service for years. The first lesson that he learns is that he must build his own program, and that he must do it with less suggestion from the outside than he had expected. [* Church Work with Students, Harry Thomas Stock. Offprint from Christian Education, Vol. XIII, No. 7, April, 1930.]
This absence of professionalism in student work is not perhaps really to be lamented. A worker with students is thereby saved from the temptation to depend upon magic. No box of tricks can be handed to him as he begins his task. He must live, to a degree at least, by the Republican slogan of "rugged individualism."
[4[ A traveling observer of student work cannot cover many miles before he is overwhelmingly impressed by its endless variety. No two situations are exactly alike. A teachers' college in the South or West, for example, where naïve fundamentalism still lingers, where students go to Church by social habit, where an ice cream party in the parish hall is still a social novelty presents obviously a different problem from that which one meets in one of our "sophisticated" eastern schools. In one of the latter colleges I know of a graduate dormitory for women in which only four out of eighty students are willing to confess to any (even nominal) connection with a Church. Obviously a common denominator between these extremes would be hard to find.
In a field presenting such variety it would be hazardous to go in for ambitious national organizations or to plunge into unified program building. And this lack of uniformity may serve at times for an excuse to do little or nothing. A college pastor may be tempted to write failure down to the "uniqueness" of his difficulties. Yet this same uniqueness may save him a lot of foolish worry. He may not be succeeding with the devices which work in a neighboring college community. Very well. This is not a final proof that he is a failure. Student work is, quite literally, missionary work. And evaluation of a missionary field, when done wisely, does not measure it by a bureaucratic yardstick.
The one common denominator in student work is our goal. We are missionaries of the Christian Faith and of the Christian Church. This fact is one of awesome judgment. It is also at times one of comfort. Standards of quality must be applied rather than the mere ritual of statistics. A single "changed life" (to borrow a current phrase) may be as important as success in getting large numbers to attend a half-secular discussion group or a social fellowship meeting. The days of mass attack in college work may be definitely past. And diocesan or other authorities who evaluate student work ought to be [4/5] taught to recognize this fact. One of our pastors to students, in a recent conversation with a student worker of a sister communion, expressed envy of the large attendance the latter was securing for his Sunday evening lecture forum. The reply was: "What wouldn't I, in turn, give, could I get twenty students on an ordinary Sunday morning to come to a Communion service! You've got the real thing. We often only talk about it." In our crowded academic life we may come to have an embarrassing nuisance value if our activity does not answer needs which are imperative. And there most certainly are such needs, granted that they are stripped of accessories. In the Prayer Book service for the Ordering of Priests we are told that we have been "appointed for the salvation of mankind." A university curriculum is not a substitute for the Christian Faith. Nor is the life of a school a substitute for the Christian Church. In this conviction, but also in this alone, may be our strength and our excuse for courage.
The differences between a university or college community and an ordinary parish can easily be exaggerated. A college professor is, after all, a human being, sharing a common humanity with clerk or farmer. And it is to common human experience that the Church must appeal. Many a priest in an academic environment makes the mistake of thinking that his parishioners lust for "intellectual" sermons. I speak from experience as a professor-layman when I say that this is precisely what is not wanted. Amateur lectures on science or philosophy or economics are a drug on the market in the college world. Professors, graduate students, and even freshmen come to Church for something else--a vision of another world in the light of which they can see this one. The more courageously the preacher confounds the pride of the intellect, the more he may satisfy a basic hunger. He has an opportunity of speaking of things not [5/6] mentioned in the classroom--God, sin, the foolishness of the Cross, hope, faith, charity.
Such a warning can hardly be emphasized too strongly. Nevertheless, there remains the obvious fact that the Church faces a peculiar environment in an academic community. It is here that Christianity is on the intellectual firing line and confronts what Cardinal Newman calls "the wild, living intellect of man." How far modern intellectual life has wandered from an understanding of the Christian faith, not to mention a sympathetic exposition of it!
Indeed, as the Christian Church girds her loins for warfare against a secularized world, no battleground is likely to prove more important than the world of education. The phrase "religious illiteracy," increasingly current, is beginning to take on a sinister coloring. Commenting on this alarming mountain of ignorance and how it handicaps any and all religious work, a Princeton University report says: "It would require more than genius to explain anything in such a lack of atmosphere or medium of communication. Even the Angel Gabriel himself could not discuss religion in a vacuum. It is this vacuum that must be filled."
To deal at length, however, with the large problem of religion and education would take us too far afield. Suffice it to say that the academic environment is one of ignorance and increasing indifference. This indifference may be innocent at first, but can easily turn into actual hostility. One of our college pastors in a State university has had to wage a serious battle to prevent the scheduling of examinations on Sunday mornings. This is a mere straw indicating how winds are blowing. But it suggests ominously that our worldly secularism can become a giant enemy.
Yet this religious illiteracy of the campus creates a corresponding challenge. To think that the educated world is forever satisfied with purely secular interests is to misread human nature. Penetrate beneath a student's shy reserve and he reveals a hunger for the [6/7] simplest of religious instruction, particularly if it comes in the form of a mature, reasonable presentation. Owing to his very ignorance, Christianity is again a novel view of the world. One can again speak of the "romance" of Orthodoxy. A sermon beginning, "There exists a book called the Bible," might be pedagogically quite sound.
The masters of the academic environment are of course the members of the university or college faculty.
The thought and life of any school is forged in the classroom. Even a casual remark made by a professor whom a student admires may mold his philosophy of life. Young people may have no great respect for learning as such and may pass unscathed through much exposure to academic scholarship, but they are influenced by it, nevertheless. Above all they are influenced by the personal convictions of their elders. A recent study on Trends in Religious Education reporting the results of a questionnaire (our contemporary fountain of wisdom) testifies to the incalculable power wielded by the university teacher. A question was asked regarding changes in religious convictions experienced by the students during college. Some 72% attributed such changes to the teaching in various courses and to contacts with fellow students. Only about three per cent attributed changes in religious thinking to student pastor or Christian Association.
Anyone familiar with university life could have predicted some such result. The college professor is a respected representative of a great tradition, a tradition which, for the time being at least, is held in far greater awe than the traditions associated with institutional religion. He can command the loyalty of the student in terms of time and place and enthusiasm. He directs the student's reading. He receives a salary usually far higher than that received by the local rector and is consequently, when judged by standards of success, in a higher social bracket. He commands respect. He does not need to woo it. And the great teachers of the land deserve their [7/8] positions of influence. As Kipling puts it in the opening song to Stalky & Co.,
"Bless and praise we famous men--
Men of little showing!
For their work continueth,
And their work continueth,
Broad and deep continueth,
Great beyond their knowing."
Clearly it is this incalculable power of the faculty which the Church needs to woo if she wishes to make an impress upon the deeper currents of campus life. The day may come when religion shall again be taught to our college youth in the classroom and shall be accorded the respect now tendered to sociology or mathematics. But in the meantime, or even where religious instruction is still given a place of dignity, it is the subtle influence of the faculty in their personal attitude toward the Church which really counts. Higher education has become secularized, it is true, and instruction in the Christian tradition has very nearly vanished from our academic scene, yet, so long as literature and history are still part of the curriculum, Christian culture cannot be completely exorcised. Courses in sociology or psychology are even compelled to deal with religious phenomena directly. Could all the "asides" and expressions of critical appraisal in these respective classrooms be thrown into the scale on the side of the Christian faith, there would be a religious revival in the academic world. The Church worker, though officially only a "lobbyist," would then get his chance at a real hearing. Statistics on casual professorial comment on religion are, of course, not available, but it is safe to say that, on many a campus this comment is prevailingly expressive of a rational belittling or an indifferent ignoring of the Church. It constitutes probably the greatest single obstacle to the serious consideration of the Church's appeal.
 Even that group of the faculty, small or large, which still avows loyalty to membership in the Christian Church offers a great challenge. They also are victims of religious illiteracy. They may be laymen with a fair record of Church attendance, but they have not risen to the level of being lay missionaries. They are frequently amazingly ignorant of the best thought going on in the theological world of our time, and, if they allude to religion at all in their lectures, are often fighting sham battles. They have never heard of the great religious genius of the 20th Century, Baron Friedrich von Hugel, or come in contact with Karl Barth, or with that great stream of modern yet orthodox Christian apologetics of our own Anglican Communion (A. E. Taylor, Wm. Temple, A. G. Hebert), which can fearlessly confront contemporary scepticism. Yet when their interest, or better still, their convictions, are once aroused, they can become a force for the Christian Faith of tremendous power. They can easily rival in influence the college pastor himself and can take half the load from his shoulders.
Hence, if our battleground be viewed strategically, the faculty should be our first objective. Mass attack is, of course, out of the question. But every opportunity should be utilized, in faculty club or casual encounter, to win a hearing. We need to throw aside a little of the inferiority complex under which the average parson suffers in the presence of the professorial doctorate. There are signs that the superstitious worship of it is growing gradually less. Tennyson's line,
"Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers,"
could be writ large over our university doors. One might even preach a sermon on occasion on one of the sins feared by the Middle Ages--the libido sciendi, the "lust of knowledge." Even a college professor can be damned for his ignorance of God. It may be our task to inform him of this awesome fact.
 Perhaps the less rhetoric wasted on a description of the American student the better. He is, in a way, simply the average young citizen away from home and enjoying a privileged existence.
It is this privileged life of freedom which marks him off from the world around him. Of course he has to attend classes. But his time is subject to little control beyond his own conscience. Especially is he free to think what he pleases. The restraints of the small-town mind and of his ancestral social group are removed. He is intellectually in an atmosphere of scepticism, of philosophical exploration, and it would be foolish to expect him, even if he is relatively stupid, to escape the contagion. He is bound to be caught by an attack of intellectual pride. Hence it is really not surprising if he discovers the thrill of doubt. He associates the beliefs he brings with him with the juvenile life which he has left at home. He may experience, as a passing phase at least, the state of mind eloquently described by Cardinal Newman in The Idea of a University, when a young man's soul awakes as from a dream and begins to realize that there is now no such thing as a moral law or the transgression of law: "That sin is a phantom and punishment a bugbear, that it is free to sin, free to enjoy the world and the flesh, that eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge makes him one of the gods, so that he can look back upon his former state of faith and innocence with a sort of contempt and indignation, as if he were then but a fool and the dupe of impostors."
A plunge into scepticism such as Cardinal Newman describes probably does not often become fully articulate, but a pragmatic moral scepticism affects all except the most devout. The student begins to drift with the tide. He forgets to say his prayers, and a break occurs in his habits of worship. Inherited moral restraints do not immediately evaporate, but they cease to be built on solid [10/11] foundations. And, unless he is reconverted, he may join that large group of college-bred citizens who live conventional lives on the purely secular plane, their souls apparently swept clean of religious hungers, though not yet tenanted by demonic evil--resembling the Trimmers in Dante's Inferno, who were neither good nor bad. They may give the appearance of carefree lives, but Dante's deeper insight may be right in describing their dwelling place as one where "sighs, plaints, and deep wailings resound through the starless air."
The "dangerous age" for college youth is the transition period between home and school. The problem is to build a bridge across the chasm. And one end of this bridge is as important as the other. As a matter of cold fact, the secret of effective Church work with students lies in the home parish. A real grounding in the Christian Faith should be able to withstand the shocks of a new environment. A Church-going habit, founded upon a real understanding of the relevance of worship, would act like a fortress against the enticements of an epicurean Sunday. A student pastor's work should have something on which to build. All too frequently he must lay foundations all over again. The Christian Church is under difficulties in the academic world, but not because it cannot meet the sceptic's arguments. It has magnificent resources. Its problem lies in winning a hearing. The average college pastor spends most of his time, not in preparing sermons for his student congregation, but in weaving nets of enticement to secure that congregation in the first place.
And the student pastor may well on occasion remind his brethren in the general parish ministry of their unofficial share in student work. Young people's work, for example, which makes its center mere fellowship in the parish house on Sunday evenings in place of the altar in the Church on Sunday mornings will simply not stand the shock of being transplanted. Instructional and discussion groups which deal with everything under the sun except religion [11/12] itself will not leave much residue to serve as ballast when youth goes off to college. "Talks on everything under the sun" will be a drug on the market on the campus. Many a student could subscribe to the state of mind of the freshman girl writing home to her rector: "We are asked here at college to apply religion to the problem of war and peace, to the problems of economics, to the problem of race relations. Please tell me quickly what religion to apply."
I realize that the above paragraph belongs in a general discussion of religious education. But I shall pursue it a bit further. The danger of much of our instruction of youth is that it deals endlessly with ethics and ignores theology. It wrestles with application and takes the Faith or the Belief itself for granted. We are consequently getting Christianity without God. It is precisely the relevance of the Christian Faith and the Christian Church itself which is in question. The universities of America are dripping with ethical idealism. The issues which will confront the students will be why the Church is necessary to all this, or the historic revelation of the Christian Creed, or prayer, or even God. It is these fundamentals on which he is ignorant. To suppose that a college pastor can fill this enormous vacuum, which has to be filled unless religious loyalties are to evaporate, is too much to expect.
Yet it is a mistake to view the American student of our generation pessimistically. He is ignorant of religious culture. He is in an environment of scepticism and of epicurean enticements. But he is fallow ground. He is so ignorant of religious tradition that its past theological warfares mean little to him. He approaches even orthodoxy with a fairly unprejudiced mind. And, as G. K. Chesterton once suggested, there may be great value in being able to look at Christianity once more as if it were a "new" religion. The disillusionments of the post-war decades have opened his eyes to some of the basic facts of human experience. His elders may [12/13] still be fooled by the sentimental gospels of material progress. He himself is already often a cynical fatalist. And this can mean that the realistic world view of Christianity, with its brave facing of the tragic dilemma of human life and its corresponding gospel of hope in a living God, may again gain a hearing. My own pedagogic experience may strike others as a trifle absurd, but it is my conviction that one of the Christian doctrines which it is easiest for the present student generation to grasp is the doctrine of original sin.
The eagerness of modern youth to wrestle unabashed with the fundamental questions of human life and of religious experience is, I believe, simply a fact. It constitutes a great challenge to the Christian Church. The wheel has come full circle, and we may again see our pagan world, like the pagan world of ancient Rome, wise enough to become Christian.
TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES
 WE frequently overlook the obvious. In thinking of the means whereby we may win a student world to the Christian Church, we sometimes fail to utilize the Church herself. We are tempted to place our trust, instead, in a variety of tricks and devices and pedagogic techniques, all of them useful, perhaps, but not sacred in themselves.
The Christian Church, that "glorious and sacred mystery," as the Gelasian Sacramentary calls it, is a very strange thing. It is so strange that it often explains itself better through its own life and liturgy than through the most brilliant rational apologies. Take, for example, the Christian liturgy. The average man may think of Christianity in terms of a scheme of "things to believe." Let him walk into a Church service--a baptism, a marriage, a funeral, a Eucharist--and share in the liturgical prayers and responses. The effect is quite different. Something is happening. He is not being asked to subscribe to intellectual propositions. He may suddenly find himself on his knees saying "Our Father, who art in heaven," or "We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep." Even in reciting the Christian Creed he is pronouncing allegiance, not to a theological system, but to a Name, a God who made heaven and earth, a Son who, in actual historical fact, lived and died and rose again. In the Holy Communion, a liturgical action is taking place, involving common things like bread and wine, involving the people in the pews who "lift up their hearts" and a priest, their representative, who offers a sacrifice (unexplained perhaps) at an altar. The whole procedure takes place in an atmosphere of primitive human emotions--awe, wonder, trust.
 Of course, rationalization of religious experience must come. The sceptic and the apologist must have their say. But in an age which has lost the background attitude of faith in God of earlier generations, the Church Liturgy will loom large again as an educational tool. It is precisely the sophisticated, educated man who needs a re-introduction to what I have called "primitive" religious experience, that fundamental human attitude toward the transcendent which throughout man's long history, has built altars and houses of prayer. The mystery of religious silence may convert our pagan world sooner than an avalanche of philosophical argument.
It may be argued that a plea for the Church's Liturgies is taking sides in the Catholic-Protestant controversy. [*A rediscovery of the power latent in the worship life of the Church need not be limited to a party within the Church. Give to the Holy Communion, for example, whatever interpretation is for the time being familiar, celebrate it in cope and chasuble or surplice and stole, my point is that it appeals in ways which no rational argument can equal. There are signs that in other non-Roman communions this service, in whatsoever form it has survived, will come into its own again. And the implications of such a revival are incalculable. One needs merely to read a modern Lutheran commentary on the Eucharist like Brilioth's Eucharistic Faith and Practice to see that the whole of Christian life and thought, social as well as individual, is involved in the meaning of this historically central worship service of Christianity. And Brilioth's book can also show that there are elements of this service preserved in the Protestant tradition which it well behooves the Catholic himself to rediscover.] This is not so. We are today witnessing a liturgical revival in all Christian communions. And for a very good reason. In an age of religious weakness, we hunger for communal discipline in humility. We cry for something objective to worship and adore. A purely subjective and individualistic form of Christian experience is suspect today. Where, for example, are the evangelical prayer meetings of yesteryear? The religious forum and discussion meeting have taken their place. Yet these are not adequate substitutes.
We have, then, as a tool in student work, the Church herself. We have the Book of Common Prayer. The ways in which the worship life of the Church is utilized will, of course, vary.
 A few concrete descriptions may be useful. One of our student pastors is in a large eastern university which has its own chapel service. He has been given an altar in the aisle of the University Church. He celebrates a daily Eucharist. His one Sunday service is again a Eucharist at 9:30. One of his devices recommendable to others in other circumstances, is a five-minute sermon at the Sunday service, a sermon directed toward interpreting the Communion service itself. Such an emphasis upon sacramental worship may seem one-sided. But a crowded university calendar has here forced a definite choice of limited means. And if such a choice must be made, the Holy Communion stands the test.
In other places, too, where the tradition runs to "Morning Prayer and Sermon," the early morning Communion service is evincing a peculiar drawing power. All other devices for gathering the student group together are likely to fail sooner than a monthly Corporate Communion. It does have the advantage of appealing to Church loyalty at its highest. The socially satiated student may fight shy of Sunday evening fellowship meetings, but he is often not unwilling to sacrifice time for fellowship in the Church itself. The call to this can come with a mystic sanction. And if, as frequently happens, the Corporate Communion can be followed by a breakfast (our modern Agape), Christian social fellowship finds a place in his schedule which is natural and unforced.
Yet if the Communion service is, both historically and as a matter of experience, the chief Christian service of worship, other services have drawing power also. I have discussed the sermon in a previous section. In certain parts of the country attendance on the part of students at the traditional Morning Prayer service is astoundingly good. More than one observer has hazarded the guess that statistically our Church students have a better record of Church attendance than their elders.
 The liturgical opportunities facing the student pastor, however, are not limited to tradition. In fact, some fairly startling developments may be ahead of us. An example will serve. One of our college clergy was having difficulties with his traditional Sunday evening discussion group. Once a success, it suddenly died. In its place he is trying a liturgical experiment, an informal evening worship service. It consists of silence in a darkened church, interspersed with organ music, a scripture lesson, a few prayers, a "directed" meditation. Students share in conducting the service and take the task so seriously that strenuous rehearsals of lessons and prayers are usual. The service draws students in numbers far exceeding the old discussion group.
This experiment is instructive in many ways. It must not be taken as proving the uselessness of discussion group or forum. But it indicates the existence of a basic hunger on the part of young people. We have had an amusing debate on the suggestion for a moratorium on preaching. There might be another on the relative value of "talk." Certain it is that student meetings anchored somewhere to worship have the best chance of surviving. One of the most successful Sunday evening lecture forums for young people of which I know ends regularly with a fifteen-minute service (with instruction, if you please) in the Church itself. Compline services are also making headway. These can be either in the form of the traditional Compline Office or in more unconventional style. To attend the Compline service in the Sewanee Chapel, for example, with darkened church except for candles on the litany desk, and with a "directed" prayer meditation by the chaplain is an unforgettable experience.
Next to the church with its Liturgy I should rank, as a tool in student work, the rectory. Mass attack in student work may [17/18] gradually grow more and more difficult, except for the appeal of communal worship. But contact between priest and individual student can remain a constant, no matter what may happen to the increasingly crowded academic scene. And the happiest environment for such contact is surely the priest's study; or, when two or three are gathered together, the rectory parlor or dining room, with the rector's wife--if there be one serving tea or presiding at table. Students have a way of ignoring invitations from everybody short of the college Dean. Conscientious etiquette is not a characteristic of youth today. Nevertheless an invitation to the rectory is likely to prove more immediately attractive than endless urging to "come to Church." And one such visit can establish lasting understanding. Furthermore, small informal groups gathered round a fireplace, yet definitely set for religious talk, can be far more easily engineered than ambitious mass meetings. One of our most successful chaplains issues quite blunt invitations: "Won't you come to the rectory at seven o'clock next Thursday evening for an informal talk on the meaning of Lent?" Honest attack is often appreciated.
I am, of course, picturing somewhat ideal circumstances. Many a college pastor, saddled with a sizable student congregation in addition to a large parish, cannot possibly indulge in the endless ritual of teas and dinners. Such a régime, again, may throw unfair burdens upon his wife and upon the family budget. An "entertainment fund," secured from diocesan missionary funds, is often a great need. The rector may have to compromise by concentrating upon the freshmen, or the students particularly called to his attention. He may find it convenient to use his study instead of his home. Nevertheless, to see students by invitation in his own environment is likely to prove more successful in the long run than emphasis either upon a flourishing Church club or upon mere "calling."
THE PARISH HOUSE
 I have hitherto belittled, perhaps, group contacts with students outside the worship life of the Church. No real condemnation, however, is intended. It is a problem in proportion.
Our academic life is becoming increasingly crowded. The whirl of activity--club meetings, committee meetings, fraternity and sorority nights, social parties--is beginning to resemble a witch's dance. The more "mature" a university is, the more is the student besieged with demands upon his time. And the week-end problem is an added complication. If the Church enters into this mad competition it must think out carefully its strategy.
Religious work with students began a few generations ago under very different circumstances. College life was still relatively simple, often even rural. Puritanical inhibitions still kept social pleasures under control. There was a real need for social fellowship--a need which the Y. M. C. A. and later the Church student center began to fill. And it was relatively easy to harness this social fellowship to a program of religious sharing. The Episcopal Church, unhampered by Puritan taboos, stood out enticingly as a purveyor of sociability. Sunday evening especially came to be sacrosanct for Church fellowship, as it still is in much of our parish young people's work.
There are academic environments where this somewhat idyllic condition still exists, where opportunity for sociability is still at a premium. And in such environments, older techniques quite properly apply. Student workers in such places may well be envied. In most colleges, however, in which student work of former generations could count on an obvious need for sociability, the student worker today faces a totally changed environment. Dances and parties, clubs, discussion groups for the budding intelligentsia--all exist in abundance. Architecturally magnificent student union buildings are making student centers largely unnecessary. [19/20] Our Church, like other communions, finds itself on occasion saddled with structures which have outlived their usefulness. To be sure, there is still, even in a "sophisticated" university, a large fringe of socially underprivileged, who are not in fraternities or sororities, who are not "joiners," who are not overwhelmed with "dates." A program of social fellowship in connection with a parish house or a student center is more than welcome to this group. And the opportunity to serve this group should not be missed. There are, however, obvious dangers. Such a fellowship tends to crystallize into an organization, and this organization, in turn, tends to symbolize the Church on the campus. Students whose calendars are already over-full, yet who wish to be loyal to the Church, find themselves in a dilemma. Their sense of duty to the Church as the Church does not seem adequately to cover loyalty to the "Episcopal Club," yet a reluctance to join in its activities is interpreted adversely. They are sometimes tempted, therefore, to cut off their connection with the Church entirely.
The parish house, accordingly, insofar as it connotes mere fellowship, with only a tenuous connection with the worship and "service" life of the Church, needs to be severely put in its place. "Religion in its decadence," says the contemporary philosopher Whitehead, "falls into sociability." To worship God can come to us as a divine command. To attend a forum lecture or discussion group or to attend a party, however Christian, cannot find such immediate sanction in the decalogues of either Old or New Testament. There are centers of Church work with students in which there is no Episcopal student organization, no club, no Sunday evening discussion group, no lecture forum, yet in which the Church's missionary task is being very successfully fulfilled.
Having surrounded parish house or student center activities with all these theoretic safeguards, I can set forth the other side of the story. When kept in their place, as auxiliaries to the students' [20/21] Church life, not as substitutes, all kinds of activities can prove useful. They can range all the way from dramatic clubs and dances to lectures on Tibet. Many of these activities I shall not venture to describe. They can be, I repeat, all valuable in their place. What that place is, in my own view at least, can be best illustrated by the program carried out at St. Francis' House, Madison, Wisconsin. The student pastor has it understood that the serious promotional activities of his office are going to be directed toward two things only: the Church life centered at the altar, and instruction in that Church life. St. Francis' House itself, however, with its inviting social rooms, is free for the use of the students themselves. Informal activities flourish. There are Sunday evening lectures and discussions; there are teas; there are dramatic productions; there are dances. But a student whose days are crowded, and who is faithful in attending the chapel worship services is not made uncomfortable because he does not appear at a discussion evening or at a party. Loyalty to God and the Church is not confused with loyalty to an auxiliary activity. A worker with students, obedient to this law of proportion, can save himself many a heartbreak. His Sunday evening program, may, with changing conditions, suddenly fail. His carefully nurtured Episcopal Club may disintegrate. This need not mean that God has died on his campus. So long as his students are somehow kept tied to the Church, he may gain through a temporary loss. And if Church loyalty is sound, auxiliary activities will come to life again. Let him frankly try something else.
The question of the best type of organization for Church students is often discussed. Here, too, surely, a sense of proportion helps. Some kind of student organization is usually desirable. A great variety have been tried. The one most frequently met with is the "Episcopal Club," often designated by the name of some beloved Bishop. And so long as these are truly representative of the whole body of Church students, nothing need be done to cause a revolution. [21/22] The type of organization, however, which I believe to have most promise for the future is the student vestry. This can accomplish practically everything which a club bureaucracy can do and has the advantage of corresponding to general Church polity. Its very name will lead it to take into its view the more Churchly needs of student life as well as those usually connoted by the word club. Indeed, half a dozen organizations could flourish and yet leave the student vestry responsible for the whole program. In most places where student vestries now exist, they have already proved to be eminently practical. In parishes which have regular adult vestries, they are sometimes called in for joint counsel. Student altar guilds are also on the increase. In Church life as elsewhere we may be underrating the desire for maturity on the part of the young.
A word about the Forum or Discussion Group. Its utility--again as an auxiliary, not as a substitute--is obvious. In many places it is still very much alive. Many students, when they come to college, find it easy to adjust themselves to a Sunday evening discussion group because they are familiar with it from the Young People's Fellowship. Owing to the ever-increasing crowding of academic life, however, it is likely to prove less popular in the future than in the past. Its place may be taken by smaller and more informal discussion meetings in the rectory and by equally small study classes. One difficulty with the Sunday evening meeting has been, I believe, that it has tried to be too informal. Informality is a wonderful thing in its place. But an attempt to secure it without its proper adjuncts has ruined many a Sunday evening program. The most successful forum of which I know is quite formal and planned with extreme care. It is part of the evening program of a great city church. In fact, I might say in passing that in our great cities, where the student population has a city environment rather than that of a "campus," the type of activity which I am describing, holds great promise. Half of the clientele of the Sunday evening meeting [22/23] are students in college; half are mature young people. A program committee plans the speakers a year in advance and this is published in a neat folder. The speakers are the leading clergymen and laymen of the city; sometimes prominent visitors. Supper is served at six-thirty. From seven to eight, or a little after, the speaker has the floor, with discussion encouraged. The evening ends with a brief prayer service in one of the chapels. A Corporate Communion is held every third Sunday in the month.
Instruction in the Christian Faith and the Christian Church is the most neglected activity in the Church's work with students.
The traditional Sunday evening meeting with its lectures or discussions partially fills this void. But a candid view of the usual Sunday evening program indicates that the subject matter generally deals with the periphery of Christian thought and life. Such presentations of topics connected with the great secular world are valuable. A professor of geology may give a fascinating lecture on a trip of exploration, or a prominent lawyer of the community may arouse interest in the problem of juvenile delinquency, or the college pastor may handle a discussion on Communism or Pacifism. All of this is praiseworthy. It is, however, not a substitute for hard wrestling with fundamentals. It is not doing for the Christian Faith what the classroom is doing for secular interests all over the shop.
In brief, the modern student is left wholly ignorant of theology, not to mention the other intellectual disciplines connected with institutional Christianity. If the word theology frightens, an innocuous substitute could be used. But theology itself is essential in an educated man's acceptance of the Church.
A discussion of this need for instruction in the intellectual foundations of belief bristles with difficulties. Most people's notion of theology or Christian doctrine is in terms of a cut and dried scheme [23/24] of what we used to call "Divinity." It is thought of in scholastic, purely rationalistic terms. Young people's memories of the Catechism are not always happy. The realization that Christian doctrine can be intensely alive, that it deals with the deepest insights into the mystery of life, individual and social, that it explicates a revelation in history, not a scheme of revealed theological "geometry," is still very rare.
Yet whenever Christian belief is presented in terms "understanded of the people" (and I mean our historic Creed, not an emasculated new one) students and young people accept it eagerly. Youth wants to wrestle with the fundamental questions of human life. A knowledge of the revelation of God's answers to these questions, which the tradition of the Church has preserved for us, ought to be the birthright of every Christian boy and girl. And the thing can be done honestly and aboveboard, with no dragooning into compulsory belief. Young people, I am willing to assert, are literally fascinated by it. Let anyone try the experiment of throwing a topic like immortality, or hell, or sin, or even God, open to frank discussion and see whether the result does not verify my observation.
And in college this need for instruction in fundamental beliefs is especially evident and is also especially complicated. Here presentation of Christian doctrine must take the form of Apologetics, a defense of the Faith against secular rivals, a settling of issues with a sceptical environment. Many a freshman has never heard the fundamentals of the Christian Faith explained since his catechetical instruction in the fourth grade. Through high school and college he is growing into intellectual maturity in all areas of secular thought. Gradually all he has left of his childhood religious beliefs is a shrivelled collection of "vestigial remains."
A mature presentation of Christian doctrine has not sufficiently become a matter of concern to the Church. These fundamental beliefs have been taken for granted and the emphasis in dealing with [24/25] youth has been shifted to the area of ethical application, particularly on the social plane. In theological language, it has shifted from Grace to Law. It is possibly in our student work that the unfortunate results of this neglect are first to be revealed. Many college students are quite ready to be pacifists or social idealists, yet see no reason why they cannot at the same time be agnostics and quite outside institutional religion. The problem of fundamental beliefs, therefore, must either be judged irrelevant or must be dealt with more thoroughly than in the past. The whole future of the Church hangs somehow in the balance. It is, in the last analysis, the relevancy of any religious view of the world involving "things unseen" which is being questioned in the modern world.
Instruction, accordingly, is an increasingly desperate need. Students themselves are often surprisingly conscious of their religious illiteracy. When invitations to study Christian thought are presented frankly, they frequently receive favorable reception. The less enticements to join a study group are sugar-coated, the more likely are they to succeed. I have been astounded to find on many a campus flourishing study classes (usually conducted by the college pastor himself) which rank in intellectual dignity with the university classroom. Such courses of study, judged by experience, seem to work best if they run through a limited period of time--through Lent, for example. Again they appear to work best when they are not confused with the Sunday evening forum. In certain parishes they can be part of the Church school program. In the student center of one of our great universities a course in Christian Apologetics is conducted which parallels one of the noted university courses in secular philosophy. Students receive no credit, but they attend in conspicuous numbers. Confirmation classes can be designed on so mature a level that many students already confirmed are willing to "listen in." At the very least the pulpit can become a teaching desk instead of an oratorical platform. Here again we [25/26] probably far underrate both the ignorance of the modern educated adult and also his willingness to learn. We may also be underrating his trust in authority--the authority, let us grant, not of rationalistic learning, but of a wise, teaching Church. And this, as I have tried to show, is a living, worshiping society, drawing upon resources unknown in the best of classrooms. The Holy Ghost, is, thank God, still a part of the Trinity.
If I have been right in my assertion that Instruction is a neglected element in Church work with students, the same may be said of Christian "Service." The word "service" has become cheap in our time, but I know of none better. We have been afraid to demand from our mature young people a "sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving," a sacrifice which ought, however, to be the normal life of the Christian.
Take, if you please, such a thorny question as almsgiving. Is there any reason why a Christian youth of twenty should not be trained in giving to the Church? The excuses usually offered will simply not bear examination. Students sometimes gain a respect for the Church when it asks for support. Such a growing institution as the student vestry develops responsibility when it is a custodian of money, however small in amount. There is no reason why the envelope system, so generally used throughout the Church, should not be introduced into student work. I know of one sizable Church student group in which 75 % are regular Church supporters.
But service activity on the part of students need not be limited to almsgiving. I have already mentioned student vestries and altar guilds. A Woman's Auxiliary exists in several college groups, as do also acolyte guilds. The Church school and choir are obvious channels for service. Rural missionary work is another. One diocese of which I know secures from a leading university as many as [26/27] a score of lay readers who visit the rural missions in the surrounding territory. All of these activities are connected with the Church herself. When one thinks of the opportunities for service in the community at large, the horizon can be enlarged indefinitely. A warning, however, is proper here. Some giving of time and effort for humanitarian causes is desirable during one's years in college. Yet a student's first duty lies within the area of the school itself. Even the Church must practice restraint. A dishonest slighting of study is a sin during college years.
The brevity with which I may discuss the pastoral office of the priest ministering to students should not be interpreted as a judgment upon its relative worth. Brevity may be excused simply for the reason that pastoral needs on a campus do not differ much from those in any parish, and textbooks on the general subject exist in abundance.
A college community as well as a parish contains the sick and the poor, and sometimes the dying. No college pastor is likely to overlook the more spectacular cases in this category which come to his attention. His problem often comes in keeping himself informed. A relationship of mutual trust with the Dean's office (or offices) and with the university or college hospital is very useful. Calling at the infirmary is especially to be recommended to the busy parish priest who has only limited time to spare for his student congregation. I know of one such busy priest of our Church who has gained a hold over an entire student body through nothing more than his sick calls. The hospital bed is, for the college pastor, a rather miraculous thing. You have your student where you want him, and you have him when he is alone.
Indiscriminate student calling, except for the few student workers who are blessed with an exceptional environment, is becoming [27/28] an almost insoluble problem. Of course, it cannot be wholly neglected, certainly not unless substitutes can be found. But a student is apparently never at home. One of our most faithful student pastors can prove by statistical record that over a school year only one call in eleven resulted in finding a student in his room.
A few hardy souls among our student workers can haunt dormitories endlessly at midnight. And this is sometimes fruitful, particularly for a first brief contact. At times, too, dormitory or fraternity calling leads to group discussions which can turn into notable events for both students and parson.
Nevertheless, until student work can be sufficiently manned, a substitute for indiscriminate calling is a great need. I have already mentioned inviting students singly or in small groups to the rectory. This is certainly a substitute worthwhile. Another technique which some of our most experienced student workers recommend is to make appointments for students to come singly to the rector's office.
Freshmen in particular can be met in this way. A ten-minute conversation with a student alone, in your own Churchly surroundings, can lead to a more fruitful intimacy than a pastoral call under the necessary embarrassments of a dormitory corridor or a sorority parlor. The effectiveness of this device may vary according to the relative sophistication of the student. Hence the fact that it works best with freshmen. Yet even upperclassmen, judging by more than one record of experience, are surprisingly willing to visit the student pastor. Respect for the sacramental grace of ordination has by no means evaporated.
The fraternities and sororities on a college campus present peculiar problems. They react toward Church and priest in surprising ways, usually in some form of group attitude. The calling problem is either delightfully easy or relatively very difficult, sometimes almost impossible. Yet sororities and fraternities are realities on the majority [28/29] of our campuses and must be realistically dealt with. The socially gifted priest frequently finds a ready entrance, though his popularity may not always be a religious asset. The group may persuade itself that it is paying its dues to the Church by sharing cocktails with the parson. Corporate services of worship arranged for a fraternity or sorority have been a success in some of our college churches.
A word might be devoted to the kind of attitude which a college worker should cultivate toward his students. Specifically, should it be that of a "brother" or that of a "father"? As an illustration of the former I recall the remark of a young priest on a campus who was told of a student getting into bad drinking habits: "Oh, I shall soon buddy him out of it." My own reaction to this remark was unfavorable, but it may be prejudiced. There is much to be said for the brotherly approach. It comes fairly natural to the younger priest, as it does to the fledgling instructor. To be known familiarly by one's first name, and to be welcomed at cocktail and bridge parties is very pleasant. But many a young instructor's experience could be brought in as auxiliary testimony that a frank recognition of the gulf between master and pupil leads to the only kind of familiarity which endures. If we think of confession at all, for example, we think instinctively of a "Father," not a "Brother" confessor. The great schoolmasters of the past have been those who bridged the gulf between themselves and the young, not those who ignored it.
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