The anniversary of the Rushden Congregational Church was celebrated on Sunday, when the special preacher morning and evening was Mr. T.H. Norton, of the Nottingham Congregational College. In the afternoon a special P.S.A. service was held, the pastor (the Rev. M. E. Parkin) presiding. Solos were sung by Miss West, Miss Waring and Mr. Norton. Mr. P. Parkin gave an interesting address.
At the evening service the choir sang the anthem. “What are these that are arrayed in white robes?” and Mrs. Corbett sang a solo “To the hall of the feast” Mr. Norton preached an impressive sermon from the words, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (John v. 6) Speaking of the need for sympathy, the preacher said there were thousands of sin-stricken souls longing to lead better lives, but something or someone had pushed them aside. His hearers might do a great deal if they would speak kind words to such, if they would be thoughtful for others and sympathetic. The attitude of Christ to man was not that of a mere social reformer. He began by altering man and not his surroundings, of which fact modern socialists might take notice. Nor was Christ a mere exemplar, for that would only have mocked man; but he was a healer, an omnipotent healer.
The Annual Meeting: Mr. H. Wooding, of Northampton, the president of the County Congregational Association, was announced to take the chair, but unfortunately he was ill and had been ordered to the seaside. The Rev. M.E. Parkin (the pastor) who presided, said that Mr. Wooding had promised £5 to the fund of the church. Mr. Wooding recognised the work that the church was doing. He recognised the value of the work of the P.S.A. and made very kindly inquiries as to the progress of the movement and of the work of the church in general. As president of the County Association, Mr. Wooding would deliver his presidential address at the autumnal meeting at Rushden next September.
In the course of a thoughtful and high-toned speech, Mr. Parkin said that some writers today were saying that Christianity was played out, that it was of no service to the world, that Christians were thinking only of themselves, that their only concern was how to get to heaven themselves and that they were of no worth to the great world. The question came “What are they as Christians called upon to do?”, what would Christ do if he lived in the world today because if they could understand what he would do, that is just what they should do. A Christian should live no isolated life. Trying to explain the hold that Protestantism has upon England, a Roman Catholic writer said he thought it was because Catholics shut their best people up in monasteries and nunneries away from the world while protestants send their very best people into the very midst of men and women and by their teaching and spirit and life were trying to bring others to the same service and love. Christianity must certainly be aggressive. Urging the need for attendance on public worship, Mr. Parkin said that some people thought that the only way to improve the sermon was to shorten it. Those who believed that one service on the Sunday was better than two must not be surprised if their children thought no service better than one service. Christians must do something more than think merely about themselves. He had never shrunk from advocating individualism, believing it was very little use improving a man’s environment unless they touched his heart. They might lift a man out of the slums and give him more wages and a better home but unless brought into contact with Christ he would go back again. The root of all advancement was religion. But while they must not forget the individual, they must remember that Christ advocated collectivism insomuch as they must “bear one another’s burden”. In conclusion Mr. Parkin emphasised the fact that the great need of today was a deeper spirituality.
Mr. Norton gave an address on socialism. He said he did not believe in the levelling system. The days of levellers were past. If they were all made level with regard to wealth that night they would be unequal again the next morning if the public houses were open. He believed in Christian socialism. The evil of so many socialists was that they ignored the doctrines of Christianity. Christian socialism was not a community of property but a community of the higher blessings of life, a community of love and sympathy. Money could not give a man true happiness but when they taught a man to love the moral and spiritual blessings of life then he was truly happy and they had done something better for him than giving him a share in a community of money. (Hear, hear)
The addresses were listened to with interest.