W3299 TO REV. THOMAS BAKER from his granddaughter Mary Maud Baker.
May 10 1879
To: Rev. Thomas Baker.
From: Mary Maud Baker.
Minster May 10th 1879
My Dear Grandpa
I was very pleased to receive your letter, and to read you were all so well. Here has been a great deal of sickness in Minster this spring but glad to say I have very good health, Grandpa also, Grandma has improved very much, she has been for a walk to the top of the garden, on crutches, she can go up and down stairs, which is a great comfort for her to be able to get about a little.
We have had a very cold, damp spring, in fact they say this has been the coldest, and longest winter they have known for many years, in England, therefore things are rather back-ward, but we are now looking for-ward for some fine weather, which many will be thankful to see. On a fine day it is very pleasant to take a walk upon the hills the sky-larks sing beautiful. I had good luck to catch a young black-bird, but not to help it, the poor little [??] died
Grandpa has a very fine sky-lark. Dear Grandpa as there is no Congregational Church in Minster, I attend the English. It is a beautiful building and one of the oldest churches in England.
The clergyman is much respected throughout the village, he is very good to the poor, he has called several times. I sent you this tract, which he sent us, that you may form your opinion of him. I went to farmsgate the other day with Miss Nash, and Uncle Oswald’s little boy he stays with his Grandma Buddel. Uncle Oswald, and wife, are in Brighton, I don’t know what they are doing but are quite well I believe.
Dear Grandpa I should like the pleasure of seeing your sister very much Grandpa will kindly relieve me for a few days during the summer, if I should receive a letter from him.
With kind love to all
I remain Dear Grandpa
Your Afft Granddaughter
[Enclosed Church Tract]
January 1st, 1879
My Dear Parishioners
As the opportunity is seldom afforded me of addressing you all in your Parish Church, I would leave no stone unturned in fulfillment of my duty, and therefore venture to send you, at the opening of the New Year, a few words of affectionate remonstrance and hope.
I might, perhaps without blame, re-echo those congratulations, which I often hear, on the advances which the Church has made in this Parish during the past year; both as to the numbers attending her services and the fervour and reverence of her worshippers. I thank God that the congregations have more than doubled. But I do not wish to deceive myself or you. True religion seems to me to be at the lowest ebb among us. Even the “form of Godliness” has vanished from the lives of the majority. Frequent disregard of Religious Ordinances is the rule. Regular attendance on them is the exception. The most numerous class of the community is almost entirely absent. The other classes, to whom men look for example, appear with easy infrequency. The population of Minster (excluding the Union) is about 1400. Of these, under 400 are to be found on Sunday in all three places of worship. And our great Church, though containing now a congregation more than equal to that of both the Chapels put together, looks to me (accustomed to full churches) drearily empty. The sad fact remains, that more than two-thirds of the people go neither to Church of Chapel—that is to say, a thousand souls in Minster seem content to live without God in the world! The consequence is a lowered tone in the entire community, and all the social evils which follow in the train of ungodliness.
Take a common-sense view of it. Unless men give active personal attention to their worldly business, it will go down. And unless men give active personal attention to the Religious system to which they belong, it will go down. If a man keeps away from his shop, and complains to his neighbors that his salaried assistants don’t make it pay, they will smile at him. So if a man keeps away from the services of Church or Chapel they become cold and unprofitable. The funds fail. The cause sinks. “An empty sack can’t stand upright;” nor can an empty Church. There are many heads of houses in this parish who wish well to their Church, but who felt obliged, from causes which have now passed away, to abstain form attending her services; and who have thus [snuk?] into a fatal habit of absence. They know by experience that a thriving Church means a thriving community: and they sincerely lament the decay of Religion, and regret happier and better times: and yet they never make the personal effort necessary to restore better times, either by their influence or by their example! They must forgive my urgency if I say, that every time their seat is empty, that empty seat preaches a sermon, compared with which sermons spoken from the pulpit are empty words. If I were to put that sermon into plain English it might open men’s eyes. For it denies the necessity of public-worship—declares there is not truth in Religion, and no need to prepare for death and judgment! It throws discredit on the Being, and on the Word of God, and declares aloud that any reason is enough to keep a man by his fireside on Sunday, however solemnly the bells may call him to do his duty to God!
Few words preach this sermon in so many words. Many preach it every week in Minster, by deeds—whenever their seat is empty without real and adequate cause. Example is stronger than precept. Absence from Church is a good long step towards the destruction of the Church. There are enemies of God and man who would wish the Church destroyed; but you, my friends do not. If a man proposed to you, for the good of the parish, to pull the old Church down, to stop the services, to silence and drive away Minister after Minister, to break up the beams for bonfires and the pews for matchwood [fold in the paper] organ, clock, and bells, and self the bell metal for drink, I do not think many in Minster would listen to him. But men might just as well do so as profess a regard for the Church which they are starving by their absence: or content themselves by lamenting the loss of her influence. She sorely needs the personal co-operation of every Churchman in the parish: and that all her members should make a conscience of attending all her services, or sending some one to fill their places, if they are really hindered themselves. Some say they can read their Bibles at home. Would to God they did—for those who do, are always found glad to come to hear it explained. Others say the Church is so ill-adapted for sound that, since the restoration, no man’s voice can be distinctly heard, and complain, with much truth, that is draughty and cold. In reply it is observed that some, who will go through all weathers on week days, become strangely delicate on Sundays; but still there is good ground for complaints of draughts, which if made to the Churchwardens by those who attend the Church, would soon be remedied. Only come and they will not refuse to put up winter screens, or take any steps which are necessary to protect the worshippers, and enable all to hear distinctly. Every parishioner has a legal right to a seat where he can see the Minister, and hear the service. From the inconvenient custom of appropriating whole pews, instead of sitting, there are many such seats invariably empty. While men stay away, nothing can be done to remedy these evils.
But I am full of hope. There are an increasing number who feel that the Church must be supported, without respect to the particular Minister who happens to lead her services. They know that she belongs to them, not to the Clergy alone; and that she is well worth preserving. They repudiate the vulgar notion that attending Divine Service is a sort of personal compliment to the presence to those met together to its name. They go regularly, not to “get good,” but to do good; not for their own gratification, but for God’s worship; not because they like it, but because God has commanded it; not because it is their pleasure, but because it is their duty. May the number of such worshippers be increased, is the prayer of
Your faithful Minister,