Friday, November 16

Parish Model

Thomas Chalmers argued for the "parish model" of ministry, particularly in cities, saying, "Now, in our large towns, we have the ministerial service without the pastoral; and we all know what a loose and precarious connection between ministers and people this has given rise to."

He explained, "It forms a most imperfect spiritual husbandry—just as much so as if in natural husbandry the whole of the agriculture were confined to the mere casting of the seed upon the ground, without any preparation of the soil before, without any inquiry or care about the progress of the vegetation afterwards, although the rains of heaven, which easily might have been drained off, should destroy the rising crop, or the fowls of the air, which might have been easily scared away, should devour it. The scanty and uncertain produce from such mere scatterings as these, will represent the scanty and uncertain produce of all our city sermons."

Indeed, he asserted, "There has been little or no preparation of the soil for them beforehand, in a rising generation trained by religious schooling, or taught in the bosom of well ordered families; and no surveillance, whether by the pastor or his associates, afterwards, as in those good old days when it was not thought enough that ministers should preach, but that elders should seek the fruit of it among the people—armed with authority enough to put down those moral nuisances which multiply now without check and without control on every side of us. There is a wide, and, under the present system of things, an impracticable gulf of separation between the clergyman and the families of his territorial charge; and even should his church, Sabbath after Sabbath be filled to an overflow by people not his own, he, on the one hand, can take no adequate weekly cognizance of them—nor, on the other, can he do aught to stem or make head against that practical heathenism, which is taking deeper root, and every year becoming more inveterate and hopeless within the limits of his own peculiar vineyard.

Therefore, he concluded, "Let the patronage be as righteous as it can, there is not a city-population what will not rapidly degenerate under the regimen of well-served pulpits and ill-served parishes. The word that is sounded forth may be carried far and wide, as by the four winds of heaven, and even descending here and there upon individual consciences, may cause that the town shall not be spread, but, if I may use the expression, be spotted with Christianity; just as in savage islands, where, with the distribution, such as it is, of the vegetable family under the random play and operation of nature’s elements still we might behold occasional tufts of richest luxuriance, or surpassing loveliness and verdure—yet the island after all is a howling desert; the town after all is a moral wilderness."


Jayme said...

Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Most excellent

Dr. Knox said...

If this is the basis upon which your church is founded, it could quite possibly be revolutionary, offering hope for those of us frustrated by modern churches of every stripe. This too might prove to be the subject of a publishing project worth pursuing.

gileskirk said...

I have for some time now wanted to write a book on the Parish Life model. While publishers have wanted me to write on a host of other topics, this is not one that they are particularly interested in--so, I will probably have to do it myself. And that requires a bit more time and money. But besides a biography of Chalmers, this is the book I most want to write.