Part 6: Home Missionary Movement
This is a reprint of The Haystack Prayer Meeting. It was written by Edward Warren Capen, PH.D. president of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, now Global Ministries, and published as one of the 1906 Envelope Series. Subscribers paid 10 cents per year for the series.
PLEASE NOTE: This piece was written in 1906 and therefore reflects the language of that time.
The Congregationalists of Connecticut were not alone in their interest in missions. Similar action was taken in Massachusetts at almost the same time. It was, however, decided to make the scope of the society broad enough to include more than home missions. Its constitution of 1709 declared that its object was “to diffuse the knowledge of the Gospel among the heathen as well as other people in the remote parts of the earth where Christ is seldom or never preached.” Five years later an amendment was adopted which still further broadened its scope and distinctly declared that the society had in view work abroad as well as in the home field. The provision of 1804 read: “The object of the society is to diffuse the Gospel among the people of the newly settled and remote parts of our country, among the Indians of the country, and through more distant regions of the earth, as circumstances shall invite and the ability of the society shall admit.” So much attention was devoted by this society to remote regions that it was deemed wise a little later to organize a Domestic Missionary Society to care for the needs of Massachusetts. This society was later merged in the Massachusetts Missionary Society, when, after the formation of the American Board, it became strictly domestic. Following the example of Connecticut, the society voted in 1802 to issue the Massachusetts Missionary Magazine, but it was not until the next year, after Rev. Samuel Worcester of Salem was added to the committee, that the first number was issued. It was published at Salem in June, 1803.
The missionary movement spread rapidly. In 1801 the New Hampshire Missionary Society was formed, and in 1807 the General Convention of Vermont began to act as a missionary society. Besides these state organizations, there were local organizations with the missionary purpose. The women, also, were interested. The first missionary organization for women, the Boston Female Society for Missionary Purposes, was constituted in October, 1800, and four years later there was founded in New Hampshire the Female Cent Institution, the members of which were pledged to contribute one cent a week to missions.
The Congregationalists were not alone in this new movement. Even before the decisive action of Connecticut, the Presbyterians had moved. In 1780, two missionaries were sent from Hartford County, Connecticut, to Vermont, and in 1789, the first General Assembly passed an order requiring the churches under its care to take up collections for a missionary fund. The New York Theological Magazine, which contained some articles of missionary intelligence in addition to its doctrinal discussions, began publication in July, 1795, followed five years later, Jan. 1, 1800, by the New York Missionary Magazine and Repository of Intelligence, whose chief purpose was to report religious and missionary news. A still more important publication was the General Assembly’s Missionary Magazine or Religious lntelligencer, first issued in January, 1805. It soon took in some respects the highest rank among such American periodicals. The Baptist churches in Massachusetts were likewise interested. The Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts was formed in 1802 and the next year, at the request of this society, Dr. Baldwin of Boston commenced the publication of the Baptist Missionary Magazine, which circulated throughout the northern states, and contained journals of missionaries on the frontier, accounts of revivals, and missionary intelligence from abroad.
Meantime, important events had occurred both here and in England which had an important bearing upon the missionary movement in America.