The Gospel and Society, 1900–1914



‘There is no more hopeful sign in the Christian Church of to-day than the increased attention which is being given to the poor and outcast classes of society.’2 This was the verdict of the Revd Alfred Mearns, an English Congregational minister who in 1883 highlighted a new wave of social concern in the churches. Enhanced awareness of the needs of those ‘in heathen lands afar’ was matched by an increased concern for those in need in what William Booth called Darkest England3 Indeed Booth’s own Salvation Army was an attempt to reach out to the ‘unchurched masses’ not only by preaching the Gospel, but by practical help. By the end of the century social problems had assumed a central position in Christian thinking, and men such as Westcott, Figgis, Scott Holland, Keeble and Clifford were giving them a prominence in their preaching and writing that actually shifted the centre of gravity of Protestant thinking. It has been claimed that such a shift was inspired - at least initially - more by concern for falling church attendance than by a genuine awareness of vast new social problems.4 Certainly the development of Irish Protestant social thinking seems to bear this out, and to have followed the pattern of development of the churches in Britain, though with a time lag.


Twentieth Century Youth Organisation Protestant Church Sunday School Religious Liberty 
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© Alan J. Megahey 2000

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