In the Master’s Vineyard
October 16, 1919 — Seventh Quadrennial Convention of the Women’s Parent Mite Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church, Jacksonville FL
TO THE BISHOP, SISTERS AND CO-WORKERS IN THE MASTER’S VINEYARD:
How different must be the feeling, the out-reaching attitude of all of us as we sit here in this historic church and compare the record of October, 1919, with the reports of Oct. 1915 in Detroit.
There we spoke of the great war on the other side: we prayed; we viewed the situation with a degree of seriousness; but we were not reckoning with what was in store for us when it was flashed over the wires — “The U.S. has joined the Allies and will now make this a world war.” We paused only for an instant. The mothers, the wives, the sisters, sweethearts whispered, “What next?” There was rapid planning those first few days of preparation. A race that has sacrificed so much, and has always come out with colors flying, never mopes or sulks. When the orders came, in many places, our boys joined the ranks in larger proportions than the others. Ever optimistic, they fell in with the march, hoping that the democracy, so much spoke of, would be the reward for those who were near and dear to them. The signing of the armistice did not bring the desire or answer the soul’s longing cry. The signing of the armistice was god’s way of rescuing that brave, daring 92nd Division, that would have been forever removed from the earth had they crossed the line into Metz, the strongest fort the world has ever known. At each step of the way, we see God’s hand: He alone will bring all into judgment, with every secret thing “whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Let us not make the mistake in always thinking that warnings are for others. We want to look into our lives and know our need of a Heavenly Father. We pray not alone for the spirit that shall guide us into the kingdom, but we wish to be guides for others, who will be attracted to the Master by the blessings that are ours. Let us use the opportunities as we did during the conflict. When the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A., the Salvation Armies, the Y.W.C.A., the C.E. Societies and every possible activity was brought before the women of our church, they responded gladly, willingly. Sacrifices were made; they gave of money, of energy, of time, of service, until it hurt; but never a murmur was heart. There were some who at times, would feel to withdraw their mites because they were so small; but, what if the work had been carried on only by those who could contribute largely? What would have become of the homes, the soldiers, the sailors? Just as the great missionary enterprises of our Churches are sustained by the mites, so the great armies were strengthened by the individual effort that seemed so small, but reached far into the billions in the aggregate. We need never minimize the debt over there, and this body of women of the A.M.E. Church stood with each mother as she made the larger sacrifice and each sister from her soul sent this message:
Some things no words can quite express,
But in my thoughts and outstretched hand
Clasps one of yours in sympathy.
And I’m sure you’ll understand.
Again our hearts have ben bowed in sorrow, because our immediate ranks have been broken. We call to mind the activities of our sister Rosa Johnson. When with her our hearts were strangely warmed. When she prayed Heaven and earth came close together, and we echoed the “Amen.” Others have passed out during the quadrennium, whose work for the Master brought to them the divine benediction. Among them are: Bishop Schaffer and Dr. J.T. Jenifer. They have had the supreme qualification, infinitely beyond all others — that of heart rather than of head, of the big heart above the big brain. Fam and society may blow loudly their trumpets as the [w]reath is placed on the waiting brows of those whose have served in their way: but in the presence of these servants of God, they hang their heads, and the trumpets fall from their nerveless hands, as the spirits of true servants of God are passing by Let us all sing “My Savior First of All.”
We have come to this convention because the call has been issued: It is customary for us to gather every four years. But, how do we come? With what motive? In what state of mind and heart? It is an hour for the keenest searching of our hearts. All who have come will either help us or hinder; and this thought alone should sober us and bring us to our knees. Let us search; search our hearts and pray.
These in this city of great hospitality and large hearts have made great preparation for us; our program has been arranged; much for the comfort and success has been intelligently planned; but all will be as the sounding brass and tinkling cymbal, if we lack the guidance and favor of the Spirit of God.
Assembled here, with one accord.
Calmly we wait the promised grace,
The purchase of our dying Lord:
Come, Holy Ghost and fill the place.
He will come and fill it, if our hearts are right and are sensitive to every divine whisper. Great day lies before us with colossal opportunities and responsibilities. We are asking for great things because we are making our appeal before a Great Source. Some one so fittingly has said: “Do not pray for tasks equal to your power, but pray for powers equal to our tasks.”
A story is told of a prince who was captured, and his son with their wives and children, were brought before the ruler. Looking upon the prince, the ruler asked what he would give to be free. “The half day of my possession,” quickly answered the prince. Again the ruler asked, “What would you give that your children might be free? “The other half of my possession,” he quickly answered. Again the ruler looking upon the prince’s wife, asked him, “What would you give that she might be free?” Quick as a flash came the answer — “My life.” So touched was the ruler’s heart, that he realized them all. After their release, one day, while talking it all over, the prince asked his wife what she thought of the wonderful look on the ruler’s face the day he set them free. She replied that she had not seen his face at all.” How could that be?” the husband asked. “Oh,” said the wife, “I had eyes for none that day but the man who offered to give his life to save me.”
Sisters, in that sentiment let us give ourselves to every session and duty of this convention. Throghall this meeting may every other vision be dispelled by the glorious vision of Jesus — of Jesus only — who gave his life that we might be free.
We never know Jesus fully until we can present to Him our children. The church has given only a partial service that has failed to organize the children into a Junior Society. We must know by contact and intimate acquaintance what it in the child heart and mind, and how much of it can e of service to the Missionary Society. It is no small task. The magnitude of the work seems to be understood in part only; we have to deal not alone with the results that come as a general society, but the local and varied conditions that exist in each conference branch or society. The condition cannot be bettered wholly by correspondence, or in the conference branch gatherings or by special committee. The bulk of the work rests with the local society or societies of each section, who should confer freely with each other; then send the results and recommendations to those conferences on through the conference branch to a special committee of the quadrennium. Even then we’ll find that the results are not adequate. Even intense activity does not always mean progress. Success might mean a little more or a little better report: but, it does not indicate a standard. The Junior Mite Missionary problems that confront us are many, but we must never lost sight of the sacred purpose for which our Juniors are organized; and we must have an intelligent co-operation with all of the forces that make for progress. We will tough many at this convention, as we did in Detroit and they will resolve to have Junior Societies: but, it has been my experience that people touched in a convention are touched at long range, and that pledges are soon forgotten. Here, we must plan to reach that larger army of workers who do not get to conventions; we must reach the brain, the money that is waiting to have breathed into it the life Spirit of God, that it may come forth to service. We must make our children fully realize that God’s service isn’t a penny service; the driving home of the largeness of the word God requires of our boys and girls will rest with our Church papers, magazines, General Conferences, Quadrenniums, Annual Conferences, Church Schools, Bishops, Pastors, Sunday School teachers, the leading Christians of the Church and every force that can be brought to bear to teach the present generation the Spirit and life of Jesus Christ. When we look at our thousands of boys and girls we are reminded that:
“Great duties are before us, and great sons,
And whether crowned or crownless, when we fail
It matters not, so as God’s work is done.
“A saloonless nation for 1920” was the slogan that went out from our C.E. Societies. At once the cry was taken up by other Christian organizations. When the men were being tested for the army, all countries found it to be true that men even remotely under the influence of alcoholic drinks, could not stand the severe tests. To get an army, it became necessary to draft many unfit men. The next step was to keep the men sober, if they would improve the morale of the army and get the best service. A drunken soldier was not fit for duty. Men and women are rising by the thousands and voting to drive the saloons out of service. Through prohibition capital and labor are readily adjusting themselves, and the laboring man’s condition is being improved. The labor expended by the breweries to rob man of his brain and working value, is now being used to build homes, factories, schoolhouses and churches. A larger number of men find employment and the children are happier, stronger and better prepared to become self-sustaining. Our church wants to put itself on record as a staunch supporter of prohibition.
Our Women’s Department.
At our last meeting a committee was appointed to confer with the W.H. and F. Sisters, with a view to placing something so tangible before the general Conference that we would have a Women’s Department. The effort was a dismal failure, with even the right o edit the Recorder taken from us. We have been indifferent for so long a time, and have neglected to put int our petitions the emphasis that goes with a demand, when requests and prayers are not heard. It is a reflection on the A.M.E Church that they would refuse to recognize the efficiency of the women. Their attitude is creating a spirit of unrest and distrust. The pastor’s wife can testify that her work is becoming ore and more burdensome; the women of the Church weary of giving with no representation. That there are two societies pegging away at the Home and Foreign work doesn’t reflect any credit on the 20th century judgment. The returns are scarcely five cents per year, per capita. This would be multiplied by five if one department was responsible for the home work and the other the foreign. To keep two divisions among us will create and foster a feeling that will be harmful to the entire Church. When the Bishops are changed from the southern to the northern and western fields, and the large emigration of our people will demand the transferring of the men from the southland, then the church will once more unite its interests and we will have only the women of the A.M.E. Connection, conducting a Women’s Department with a Missionary Secretary and one paper published in the interests of missions.
Missionary Boxes or Barrels.
Missionary boxes are not of recent origin: for two thousand years ago, a wonderful missionary, who had the care of all the churches, wrote, “I have all and abound, having received from the Epaphreditus, the things that were sent from you.” To be really of value and helpfulness, these should be packed by a special committee in each local society. Often the people in the home church are benefited as greatly as the family in field. Shabby articles should never be sent. There should always be two pieces of a kind in underwear. Suits for the girls and boys are always useful when not too ancient. Thread needles, wash cloths, neck-ties, ribbons, tooth-brushes, as well as tea, coffee, sugar, cereals and soaps, are very acceptable. Dolls in good condition, marbles, balls and jack-knives are gladly acknowledged by the children. The improbably and impossible things might be left at home for the junk man: because we only occasionally meet “Pollyanna.” Frequently, the Missionary barrel or box is the only means for making ends meet happily around Christmas time. Because a pastor is in a large city, is no reason why he should live prosperously and well. Often the higher cost of living in congested centres makes him suffer, because the church membership is not self-supporting. The larger organizations do well to study and know the conditions so that they can help wisely and largely.
In every community there semes to be some one trying to solve the problem of sociology, which is a broad and far-reaching that wherever there is an organization created for one general interest or the promotion of some object, scientific, literary, religious, political or benevolent, each one is touched and becomes in a measure a study of sociology. Where the religious standard of a community is reached the W.M.M.S. must play a large and important part. We must reach the standards through many visions. First there must be created the Missionary atmosphere among the young as well as the old. We must know that as we del with the types that are so often untrained or over-trained, we must first know the individual and be prepared to stoop down and and life him. We are so mixed and so prejudiced our selves, it is rather difficult matter to do the work that the society plans to do.
We are not in actual touch with the very people whom Christ meant when He said, “Go ye into all the world.” Our ranks are being crowded with the theorist, while the practical individual, who has each day whispered something comforting to a fainting soul, is scarcely seen. The church is failing to do its full duty if it does not arouse in the boys and girls and the membership the full Missionary spirit that will give a full gospel. What are some of the problems that face our general Church today?
First: The relation of our boys and girls to the evangelization of that very large army outside of the Church.
Second: The work of the Church at home.
Third: The work of the Church in the foreign field.
There must be a favorable opportunity given every person to know Jesus Christ. The rural Church must find place in the heart of the work. Young men must be attracted to the country ministry. The Church must make adjustments to Christian influence for those who go to places where they must supply the proper literature, games, entertainments and the social life of the community. Often an attitude of kindness and sympathy has to be created for the efforts of the rural preachers. The surest way to evangelize is to start the Mission work in the Sunday-School. We help someone t o see the opportunity to do Missionary work. We cannot control an individual’s decision, but we can direct them. There must be the frequent call from the teacher, the superintendent and pastor. The lists of opportunities to life, to improve and the conditions of the people should be always before those who are of a willing mind. There should be bulletins in every church setting forth the needs and cries for help. The standard of any community will never rise above the Church activities. Only 20 per cent of our Church membership is efficient: giving real, practical, full time, Christian service. What becomes of the 80 percent? Those larger forces must be utilized and only a warm Christian atmosphere can get the results needed. Students of sociology have seen in Christ the real social workers. He has shown us how to approach, how to interest, how to win and how to hold. We cannot hope for results if we ourselves are no in possession of the largest amount of Mission desire.
Step by step we are climbing, but how many of us are ascending by the way of the family altar? Sisters, gradually this family approach to the Throne is becoming a faded dream. From the daily prayers, we have found the one day in seven sufficient to meet our demands; and when hurried it is omitted then. Back to the altar in the home. The ministry must emphasize it frequently. So seldom is a reference made to it from the pulpit or in our MISSIONARY gathering that it is almost forgotten. Let me urge each one to leave this place determined to see to it that the family altar be rededicated to the Master.
The per cent of increase in membership is not encouraging. We are so content to collect the 5c per month and make our reports just a little larger. There should be the feeling of obligation throughout he entire membership to do something for Mission on other days tan Easter. The earnest public appeal is made for that day only. Christ doesn’t car for us one day in the year. His All-seeing Eye is constantly seeing us. There should be the organization in each Church and their duty be driven home to them, that they would reach every one else in the Church. This is a daily task and with the commission “Go ye” comes the sacred promise “Lo, I am with you always.” The work is so large. We are satisfied with our present results. We can’t make it too large. We have done fairly well, abut as a Church of 700,000 members, can we expect a “well cone,” when our yearly receipts for Missions are less than $500,000? We are not giving in proportion as God has blessed us; we are not opening the eyes of those who come to use and are a part of us to the immense responsibility that is ours and to the largeness of the work, for which e must render an account.
This report of our stewardship will increase when we place in the field prepared men. We can’t afford to send any with the message who do not think enough of it to deliver from the heat a a clean, prepared source. Our Missionary Societies should be able to support the men in the rural districts or smaller charges in a way that would make it worth while for them to put into their work a complete service; a service that would build up and compel men to come hear the gospel. Too long has the Church sat quietly by giving a message to those who by way of pastime or who wish to meet some on e socially would drop in and take the back seat. Indeed, so indifferent has been the church attitude, that those seated in the gallery or rear of the Church are looked upon with askance. The Spirit of Christ should settle upon all — for every inch of ground is consecrated. Each member should leave the Church with a message that can be delivered somewhere and often during the week; not in a spirit of preaching, but given in a way that will set the other fellow thinking and make him want to hear for himself a good sermon. We do not advertise what we have done in such a way that the folks who were absent will feel that they have missed something. Keep the Master’s business booming, even if we have to put conspicuous bulletins to let the world [know] that we are about our “Father’s business.”
We are at the point in our development that if we are not watchful we will be putting only one talent on the market, and will bury the other. The majority of us belong to that large class of individuals to whom the Master entrusted two talents. Let us find a use for both. Now that we are encouraging the Juniors as a Missionary Department, we must not be blind to the greater demands that press in upon us. The watchful care of the women over our girls and young people must broaden. The housing conditions, the social environments, the spiritual contact will be a part of our work. Nor can we divorce ourselves from it, fi the true Missionary spirit is ours. The “Go ye” means better the conditions of mankind everywhere. Often our girls are sleeping in unsanitary houses; they simply exist between four walls; they have no homes; but often the skillful touch of some woman, who has a motherly interest in girls, will transform that house into a home. We need not think that all girls who are sheltered beneath the roof of a mother or a father live in a home. Frequently the lack of harmony, the indifference to the refining influence of pretty thing sin the bed-room and sitting-room, will drive the girl to prefer spending her idle hours somewhere else There is so much room for more love. Missionary women, when you go from here hunt some poor girl, love her, be her big siter. Out of the largeness of your heart and because the opportunity is yours to build strongly for the Mater. Enlarge your work, get one other woman from the community to join you. Give a worthy report for your stewardship.
So few of our Churches have Bibles from the front door to the back. Often you enter a Church and the only Bible rests on the pulpit stand. Our Conferences each year contribute something to the Bible Society. Make these contributions larger and let the Mission Churches be in a position to ask for Bibles. Then can we not see to it that in each home we visit there is a Bible? Place one I that girl’s room whose life is a dreary one. Le it be an easy print; a pretty Bible, having a concordance. You know we all fee proud of something handsome. Do not lower the standard of the value of the Bible. The truths are the same, whether the Bible costs $0.50 or $5.00 — but some how the looks of the book will speak to the person. The Bible has bene translated in the Ibo tongue, which is spoken by 4,000 people of West Africa. Arch -deacon Dennis has supervised the work of the native evangelists and is pleased with the wonderful results. Through his personal touch these people have spread to the inland portions of Africa, carrying with the Bible translated in their own tongue. Fifty years ago they were naked savages and cannibals. Now they are scattered over Northern Nigeria, working as engineers, telegraphers, clerks, hospital attendants, etc. In almost any important town in Northern Nigeria the post-master, government clerks, sergeant of police (being the only men who can read and write) are Christians. When we send our resident Bishops to Africa, we want to keep them supplied with Bibles.
The Anti-Lynching Movement.
The leading presidents of the Southern colleges, seeing the situation from the view-point of the greatest good to the largest number, have joined the crusade against lynching. The exodus of the black man from the south, is his un-spoken protest. To have heeded the cry of the black man for fair Christian treatment, would have spared the country much humiliation. The white pulpits are silent. Who of the large numbers [that] profess Christ will dare to be a Christian? We lack Christians. There are thousands enrolled on the Church books who support Missions and put millions of dollars into the home and foreign work. But those who dare to follow in the foot-steps of the lowly Nazarene are few and far between. He gave the “In as much as did it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” The women of the Parent society of the M.M. Society in session in the southland, will to-day, throw out the challenge in behalf of a suffering people and will ask, “Who will dare to be a Christian, and speak and do in defense of these people?” The reply should come from every pulpit occupied by the Master and one of His servants.
Sisters, we have toiled late and early; and have accomplished some things; we have raked the field over, but at no time have we sopped to dig a “post-hole.” The conditions are being forced upon us, and we must do the definite work, or dig the “post-hole.” We have no training schools for our girls; there is no place we can send those who are orphaned. Cannot the women of the A.M.E. Church start such a home and school in this coming quadrennium? Secure the best teachers in dress-making, millinery and every industry along with a good common school education. The Baptists have such a school. We are lagging in our disposition to brand out in definite service. Remember, when we start it, there must be no let up on the digging. The deeper the “post-hole,” the stronger, the steadier the top of the post.
As women of the M.M.S., we will look ahead and get a vision of the “life that counts.”
“The life that counts must toil and fight:
Must hate the wrong and love the right,
Must stand for truth, by day, by night —
This is the life that counts.
The life that counts must aim to rise
Above the earth to sunlit skies,
Must fix its gaze on Paradise —
This is the life that counts.
The life that counts must helpful be:
The cares and needs of others see:
Must seek the slaves of sin to free —
This is the life that counts.
The life that counts must helpful be;
In darkest nights make melody.
Must wait the dawn on bended knees —
This is the life that counts.
- Our Junior branch must be given definite work and the funds from them must either be reported separately and sent to the treasurer as their part, or there must be a separated treasurer for them. The two treasurers will not be necessary, if credit is given from the local society on to the quadrennium. Such moneys should be subject to the demands for their special work. Next, it must be as much the duty of each local society to make a report for their Juniors as it is for them to report for the senior societies.
- Complaints so often come that in some localities there are Churches that never make a Missionary report. Frequently, these points are helped by the Missionary Society. If no Missionary effort is made, there should be no recognition of that point unless it is clearly shown that it was impossible to arouse the people. In such a case that minister should be moved before the Church dies.
- We must not think that we are to relax our energies in the temperance world. The brewers are going to keep up a fight for strong drink. People are already weakening because they are led to believe that they will be heavily taxed in order to make the deficit in returns from the liquor tax. Let the Church keep awake. The young women must be on the alert. Fight the tempter at every step. Make the temperance movement one of the strongest in our Church. Especially among our children awaken a strong desire to stand up for temperance.
- The women must stand with the Bishops in their effort to place prepared men in every point. They should be physically able, mentally prepared and spiritually strong when they apply for admission to the Conference. The awakening in each Church of the needs of the smaller churches should ring us larger returns; then the allowances would be greater. Each man is entitled to as least a living wage.
- Appoint a committee to make definite plans for creating a training school for girls. Let the committee be empowered to select a site, decide on styles of building and go ahead with the work, so that when we meet at the quadrennium, the school will be a reality. Each local and Conference branch will be requested to send a special offering to start the world.
- For the Women’s Department I make my strong plea. Will the A.M.E. Church longer humiliate those who have toiled since ethe Church started? We want our secretary and the Missionary paper. There must be one M. M. S. Can we make our plea strong enough to be effective.
I am winding up my 12th year as president of the Parent Society. This may be my last official message to you. I ask that you, my co-workers and helpers shall help the one who follows me to build firmly and strongly. We are all at the beginning of the great work we are yet to do. Give to the one who follows me the love and loyalty that has bene mine.
During the war a surgeon saw a wounded soldier in the trench. The surgeon heard him whisper, “Here.” He asked, “What do you mean by saying ‘here,” comrade?” Then he smiled and answered, “Doctor they were calling the roll in heaven and I was answering to my name, ‘Here.”
It will not be long before the roll will be called for us all. Let us live, my sisters, so that at the last we shall have the abundance entrance into the Kingdom above, where we shall see Him and be with Hm forever. God bless us, one and all.
Source: The Seventh Quadrennial Convention of the Women’s Parent Mite Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Jacksonville, FL: Edward Waters Press) 1919, pp. 17-28.