Institutional Church

INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH, the name generally applied both in the British Isles and in America to a type of church which supplements its ordinary work by identifying itself in various ways with the secular interests of those whom it seeks to influence. The idea of such extension of function grew out of the recognition of the fact that the normal activities of church work entirely failed to retain the interest of a large class of the population to whom the ritual formality of ordinary services was unacceptable. Various attempts were made to overcome this deficiency, e.g. by modifying the form of service or of some services, by the addition to the ordinary services of more or less informal meetings (e.g. the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon services), by specially excusing persons from wearing the normal church-going attire in holiday resorts, and by holding services out of doors. The principle underlying all these changes is systematized in the Institutional Church which, in addition to its main building for specifically religious services, provides other rooms or buildings which during the week are open for the use of members and friends. Lectures, concerts, debates and social gatherings are organized; there are reading rooms, gymnasiums and other recreations rooms; various clubs (cycling, cricket, football) are formed. The organization of the whole is subdivided into special departments managed by committees. By these various means many persons are attracted into the atmosphere of the church's work who could not be induced to attend the formal services. This expansion of normal church work may be traced back in England to at least as early as 1840, but the full development of the Institutional Church belongs only to the latter years of the 1Qth century. The chief example in England is Whitefield's Central Mission in Tottenham Court Road, London, a church which, in addition to an elaborate organization on the lines above described, has an official journal. In the United States the movement may be said to date from about 1880. The name " Institutional " was first applied to Berkeley Temple, Boston, by Dr William Jewett Tucker, then president of Dartmouth College. The obvious criticism that this epithet emphasizes the administrative and secular side to the exclusion of the spiritual led to the tentative adoption of other titles, e.g. the " Open Church," the " Free Church," the former of which is the more commonly used. In 1894 was formed the " Open and Institutional Church League " at New York, which held a number of conventions and served as a headquarters for the numerous separate churches. In connexion with this league was formed the " National Federation of Churches and Christian Workers," which held a convention in 1905.

See C. Silvester Home, The Institutional Church (London, 1906) ; G. W. Mead, Modern Methods in Church Work (New York, 1897); R. A. Woods, English Social Movements (New York, 1891).

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

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