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Church Army

CHURCH ARMY, an English religious organization, founded in 1882 by the Rev. Wilson Carlile (afterwards prebendary of St Paul's), who banded together in an orderly army of "soldiers" and "officers" a few working men and women, whom he and others trained to act as "Church of England evangelists" among the outcasts and criminals of the Westminster slums. Previous experience had convinced him that the moral condition of the lowest classes of the people called for new and aggressive action on the part of the Church, and that this work was most effectively done by laymen and women of the same class as those whom it was desired to touch. "Evangelistic zeal with Church order" is the principle of the Church Army, and it is essentially a working men's and women's mission to working people. As the work grew, a training institution for evangelists was started in Oxford, but soon moved (1886) to London, where, in Bryanston Street near the Marble Arch, the headquarters of the army are now established. Working men are trained as evangelists, and working women as mission sisters, and are supplied to the clergy. The men evangelists have to pass an examination by the arch-deacon of Middlesex, and are then (since 1896) admitted by the bishop of London as "lay evangelists in the Church"; the mission sisters must likewise pass an examination by the diocesan inspector of schools. All Church Army workers (of whom there are over 1800 of one kind and another) are entirely under the control of the incumbent of the parish to which they are sent. They never go to a parish unless invited, nor stay when asked to go by the parish priest. Officers and sisters are paid a limited sum for their services either by the vicar or by voluntary local contributions. Church Army mission and colportage vans circulate throughout the country parishes, if desired, with itinerant evangelists, who hold simple missions, without charge, and distribute literature. Each van missioner has a clerical "adviser." Missions are also held in prisons and workhouses, at the invitation of the authorities. In 1888 (before the similar work of the Salvation Army was inaugurated) the Church Army established labour homes in London and elsewhere, with the object of giving a "fresh start in life" to the outcast and destitute. These homes deal with the outcast and destitute in a plain, straightforward way. They demand that the persons should show a desire for amendment; they subject them to firm discipline, and give them hard work; they give them decent clothes, and strive to win them to a Christian life. The inmates earn their board and lodging by piece-work, for which they are paid at the current trade rates, while by a gradually lessening scale of work and pay they are stimulated to obtain situations for themselves and given time to seek for them. There are about 120 homes in London and the provinces, and 56% of the inmates are found to make these the successful beginning of an honest self-supporting life. The Church Army has lodging homes, employment bureaus, cheap food depots, old clothes department, dispensary and a number of other social works. Every winter employment is found for a great number of the unemployed in special depots, among them being the King's Labour Tents and the Queen's Labour Relief Depots. There is also an extensive emigration system, under which many hundreds (3000 in 1906) of carefully tested men and families, of good character, chiefly of the unemployed class, are placed in permanent employment in Canada through the agency of the local clergy. The whole of the work is done in loyal subordination to the diocesan and parochial organization of the Church of England.

See Edgar Rowans, Wilson Carlile and the Church Army.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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