Taken 14th Nov 1916
Picture of the Mill street Mission Sunday school taken circa 1920
which was not part of the original report © Mike Winnett
'Deeds not words'
(Suggested at the Meeting as a fitting description of the Mission's work)
"Striving Together for the Faith of the Gospel"
In things essential - UNITY
In things doubtful - LIBERTY
In all things - CHARITY
"The Utmost for the Highest"
The Annual Meeting of the Mill Street Mission and completing its 11th Year was held (by kind permission of the Rev. S. E. V. Filleul, M.A.,) in the All Saints' Church House, on Tuesday evening, November 14th, 1916. The Chair was taken by the Rev. J. Arthur Aldington, and there were also present Mesdames Carwardine, A. H. and A. R. Edwards, Hicks, Penfold, Scudder and Seager; Misses Brailey, East, Holley, Little, Loxton, and Pawson; Dr. E. J. Day, M.D.; Messrs. M. Bird, A. R. Edwards, J.P., (Treasurer), F. Poster, G. H. P. Moors, T. Oates, T. F. Scudder, H. Till, W. G. Willson, T. H. A. Winwood, and A. H. Edwards, (Secretary).
The Meeting was opened with prayer by the Chairman, following which the minutes of the last Annual Meeting were read and confirmed.
Messages of apology for non-attendance were received from Mrs. F. E. Moore, Miss Foster, Rev. F. E. Boorman, Dr. T. B. Broadway ; Messrs. R. Broadway, W.G. Dampier, W.Evans, J.P., H. Knight, C. B. Stiby, and J. A. Travers.
The Secretary then presented his
(for the period from March 1st, 1915, to September 30th, 1916, as follows)
The final word shall be one of reminder of the Divine ability and of ours, both being emphasised in the mottoes of 1915 and 1916 respectively as follows :—
"In Him .... I am able."
The publication of the list of subscribers and donors being contrary to the expressed wishes of it large proportion of those who had thus given, it was decided that, as in previous years, such list together with the full statement of accounts should be available for inspection by any subscriber or donor on application.
The Treasurer (Mr. A. R. Edwards, J.P.,) was afterwards re-elected, together with the Secretary and the Executive Committee as follows :—Mesdames Darren, Moore, and Penfold; Misses Bird and Cross; Messrs. Dampier, Foster, Scudder, Travers, and Willson.
The Superintendent of the School and Captain of the Boys' Life Brigade (Mr. T. F. Scudder) then read the following paper :-
THERE are three principal reasons for placing Sunday School work in the forefront at this Annual Meeting of Mill Street Mission. First, because present conditions are focussing the attention of serious minded men and women on Sunday Schools. Churches conscious of weakening authority among men are looking to the children to ensure a more hopeful future. The alarming and persistent decrease in Sunday School attendance is impelling all who believe its Sunday Schools to study their peculiar problems as never before. And the disquieting increase of juvenile crime is turning the attention of even Cabinet Ministers to those morally corrective agencies at work among children which generally find their inspiration in the Sunday School.
The second reason concerns our own School at Mill Street. The Mission having been in existence for over ten years, has long ceased to be an experiment and has become an established institution. For the Sunday School ten years represents the normal period of School attendance, Those who were little more than babies when the School began are out in the world to-day earning men's wages, and in some of the old Sunday School photographs there are very small boys who are now fighting for their Country. Your School therefore considers that it is old enough to justify reflections on its experience and that it has a history long enough to be worth recounting.
The third reason for drawing special attention to our Sunday School to-night is that those who are in closest touch with it realise that the work is passing through an important transitional stage which it is particularly desirable that all interested in the Mission should understand. Never in its history has the Sunday School at Mill Street been in so interesting a condition.
The purpose of this paper, therefore, in view of the serious importance of Sunday School work, of its history in Mill Street, and of its present special interest there, is to give to the friends and supporters of the Mission a clear account of the work already done in our Sunday School, and some idea of the work before us. In other words, from the view point of this 11th Anniversary of the Mission's commencement, we desire to take a backward look or retrospect, and a forward look or prospect of our Sunday School work.
I. RETROSPECTIVE. (1905-1916)
The writer has been privileged to burrow among the archives of the Mission in preparing this paper. The experience has revealed the existence of an unsuspected accummulation of records—minute books, diaries, reports and correspondence--all expressive of the long sustained devotion and hard work of the Mission's Secretary, and also of Miss Godbehear, the Mission's honoured Permanent Worker. The story of the Sunday School is interwoven with the record of the Mission's general activity, and is so closely connected with other aspects of the work that complete detachment is not possible. There appear however to have been three phases of the School's history and they will be seen to bear some likeness to phases of the present War.
(1) There is first the early stage, characterized by the enthusiasm, novelty and rapid changes which those who remember the beginning of the Mission will be able to recall.
It was on the 24th September, 1905, that that astonishing place of worship known as 57 Mill Street was opened to the public. The "little hut," as one of the early Mill Street converts described it, consisted actually of two small, low pitched rooms, one over the other, with a connecting staircase used as a kind of vestry or spare room. The first meeting held in these premises was that of the Sunday School, which can thus claim to be the oldest branch of indoor activity in connection with Mill Street Mission. Indeed the Sunday School regards such later developments as the Men's Club and the Mothers' Meeting as quite juvenile! It requires little imagination to realise the difficulties which were encountered by that pioneer Sunday School. It was hard and costly work, the disadvantages of the premises being aggravated by the hostile attitude which in those early days the Mill Street people displayed toward the Mission generally. It was part of the price to be paid for the opportunities and privileges which the Sunday School enjoys to-day.
(2) This early stage merged into the second stage, that of holding fast, after the Mission, in March 1906, commenced its more serious history with the opening of the first hall. It was still 57, Mill Street, but it had been transformed out of knowledge by the builder. Meantime the School attendances were steadily resing . The figures mentioned in the records during the first two years are 50, 62, 83 and 106. This almost embarrassing prosperity, considering the still very limited accommodation, was due in no small degree to the fact that Miss Godbebear, as the Mission's whole-time worker, had now come into her kingdom . From that early day to this, Miss Godbehear has been the great ally of the Sunday School. She has been engaged in a systematic attack, in he name of he Mission, upon the homes of Mill Street, and one by one she has captured the hearts of the mothers. Given sympathetic mothers a Sunday School has little to fear.
Successful as the School was in obtaining scholars, however, the succeeding six or seven years were a long hard struggle for the teaching staff. In the Secretary's annual reports the struggle is reflected. In the report for 1911 for instance, occurs the following, "We are now able to provide accommodation for five or six classes [a second cottage had by this time been acquired] but alas, alas, we have only two teachers for morning school and three for afternoon . . . and an average morning attendance of 50 or 60, and of 90 or 100 in the afternoon. " Imagine three teachers to 100 children !
A year later the teaching staff' had increased to five. In 1913 the Secretary in his report emphasised the disappointment attending the work. Individual treatment being impossible, the elder scholars were drifting away, and owing to lack of staff little or nothing could be done to check them. Only the most superficial personal interest in the scholars was possible.
The writer well remembers his first Sunday afternoon at Mill Street. It was early in 1913. The large hall was full of children-there were about 120—and the children were evidently fully alive. Including the Superintendent and Organist there were four teachers present. The enthusiastic but hardly pressed Superintendent appealed to the already embarrassed visitor to take charge of a class for the afternoon. With hesitation but in unsuspecting innocence he consented, and found to his dismay, when the School resolved itself into Classes, that he was alone in a division of the hall with thirty quick-witted, intelligent, but not very sympathetic girls ! He remembers no more.
The records for 1914 are more hopeful. Two additional Classrooms, representing the third cottage appropriated by the Mission, had done much to relieve the congestion ; whilst the number of teachers had increased. The complete separation of the infant class from the rest of the School had proved a distinct aid to discipline. The Secretary declared there to be an atmosphere in the School which was full of promise, But even as late as the last annual meeting of the Mission the workers in the Sunday School realised that owing to inadequacy of staff and restricted accommodation their efforts were sadly handicapped.
(3) What is regarded as the third stage of the Sunday School's history, the stage of reorganization and expansion, is of recent date. A prominent journalist a few years ago addressed an audience of public school boys on the rather unpromising theme of "Patience." Speaking from a long and varied experience he declared he had proved that wherever men had held on long enough in hard places there had come a time when apparently insuperable difficulties had yielded, and a period of rapid progress had followed. This certainly has been the experience of our Sunday School. During the last six months the faith and patience which sustained the School through so many difficult years have been rewarded. The teaching staff has been more than doubled. The attendance of Scholars has improved, the number on the roll being now nearly 150. The School has been subdivided into four separate departments, with the result that senior Scholars who had left the school have been induced to return. A useful library has been collected and set in working order. Two preparation classes, which have proved a great stimulus to the work, have been established and meet every week. As a result of this increased staff, improved organization and more systematic teaching, there is deeper reverence and a new spiritual power pervading the School. It is possible now, as never before, to study the Scholars as individuals and thus truly to know them. The teachers in the Intermediate Department are at present engaged in systematically following up all Scholars who, during the past twelve months, have left the School, and, by means of the "Cradle Roll," the leader of the Beginners' Department enrols prospective members of the School almost as soon as they are enrolled by the Registrar of Births.
Such are the present circumstances of the School. It is breaking new ground, making experiments, and endeavouring zealously to improve its organisation. The Spirit of God is evidently at work in the School. During the past few weeks four of the senior girls have quite spontaneously declared their decision to follow Christ.
Before turning to consider the future of the School some reflections may usefully be made upon its history. They illustrate important Sunday School principles.
(1) Experience in Mill Street has shown that the Sunday teaching of a School needs to be supplemented by some form of intercourse with the Scholars during the week if it is to make the desired impression. It has been found that in the hour, or two hours, available on Sundays it has been difficult, if not impossible, for teacher and taught to gain that understanding of one another which is preliminary to effective moral teaching. During the first year of the Mission's existence week-night classes for reading and writing, singing and sewing developed in connection with the School, and from that day to this sewing classes have proved popular. There are now two and sometimes three girls' meetings in the week for sewing and other things. During one period a successful Children's Service was held on Tuesday evenings. It later developed into a Band of Hope, and did excellent work. The summer of 1913 saw the establishment of the Boys' Life Brigade in Mill Street; and although the Company has never boasted large numbers, yet, in holding the lads for the School and helping them to better things, it has served a good purpose. The gift of two drums during the past six months has formed, with the four bugles previously acquired, the nucleus of a band, The band is making its presence well-known to the inhabitants of Mill Street !—but it badly needs two or three more bugles. The Company is proud of its Roll of Honour. Out of a membership which has never exceeded thirty there are three Officers and nine boys now with the colours.
(2) The history of our School illustrates another principle of Sunday School work. An understaffed School cannot properly fulfil its functions. Being interdenominational, with no particular Church behind it, the Mission School has had no natural reservoir of teaching power upon which to draw. Its workers have been drawn from other Churches, which generally could ill spare them. It has been difficult at times also to bring available teachers to realise that because the work at Mill Street was hard it was the better worth doing. Certain it is that for years the efficiency of the School has been impaired owing to the impossibility of the few teachers doing the work thoroughly.
(3) It is further clearly shown in the experience of Mill Street Mission that a Sunday School to be really successful must have ample accommodation. The first necessity in any description of School, namely order and obedience, is rendered difficult of attainment by overcrowded premises. To the honour of those responsible for Mill Street Mission be it remembered that the continued expansion of the premises has been made chiefly for the sake of the Sunday School. The School has needed all the accommodation provided, and as an afternoon visit to the School would make clear, makes the fullest use of the two halls and six class-rooms now at its disposal. Indeed the ingenious manipulation of the buildings which makes it possible for four Departnrents to meet simultaneously, without the necessity of mixing or interfering with one another, can only be understood when it has been seen.
II. PROSPECTIVE. (1916-?)
Our retrospect having brought us to the existing condition of the school we may profiitably change our aspect and look to the future. The study of history at any time is valuable only as it helps us the more intelligently to act in the present and to face the future. Our survey of the past 11 years' Sunday School work in Mill Street therefore, if it his been worth making, should turn us to the future with clearer understanding of the task and stronger purpose to go on with it.
The, future of Mill Street Mission lies of necessity very largely in its Sunday School. The present Scholars will be the men and women of the future, and this fact, unless the School is failing lamentably, must have an important hearing upon the future work of the Mission among adults. In its early days the Mission was consciously a pioneer enterprise, breaking new ground, and finding in Mill Street that very little could be taken for granted either in religious life or religious knowledge. But through the children of to day the Mission is taking root in the homes of Mill Street. The children have never known Mill Street without the Mission, and scarce a child there has not to some extent come under its influence. If therefore we accept Ruskin 's dictum as only partially true, that " it is in the earliest years of life we fix irrevocably the custom of the soul " it is evident that strategically Sunday School is the greatest work the Mission can do. The future of the Sunday School therefore demands from all interested in the Mission the most earnest attention. It is proposed for the sake of convenience to consider the future under three simple subdivisions.
1. THE POSSIBILITIES OF THE FUTURE
The possibilities of course include failure, decay, extinction but these are not to be considered. We are concerned with the upward possibilities of the School, and in considering them are lifted to the sphere of Sunday School ideals. It is possible for our School services to be so conducted that every child, in the child's own way, may be conscious of worshipping God there, It is possible thart every child should feel in the Sunday School that it is understood. It is possible for the Sunday School to enter for every side of a boy's life or a girl's, making the Sunday teaching the pivot and centre of all. In particular, in viewing our School's possibilities, no calculation should be made that at a certain age the Scholars will be lost to the School. Some of course will leave the neighbourhood as they go out into life, and so of necessity be deprived of active association with the School, But no others need be lost. The School is capable of indefinite extension upward, We should be satisfied with nothing less than a regular gradation of classes and departments which will involve no break between the Sunday School and those agencies such as Brotherhoods and Mothers' Meetings which especially cater for adults. Far too much of the energy and resources of religious bodies are expended in efforts to recover the allegiance of men and women who, when they were youths and maidens, ought not to have been lost. Our School is as yet at the beginning of these things, but with a vision at least of its high possibilities, When asked how best to retain senior boys in the Sunday School, Mr. Marion Lawrence, an American Sunday School expert, replied," Build a wall of men between them and the door." Here lies the work before our School. We must endeavour gradually to establish senior classes of young men and women between the children and their tendency to leave the Sunday School when they leave day School. If the School realises its possibilities in this direction it should ultimately absorb or coalesce with every other activity of the Mission, making of the Mission one well organised and properly consolidated whole.
2. THE PROMISE OF THE FUTURE.
There is a difference of course between possibility and promise. The former is idealistic, the latter practical. To think of our possibilities is to gain vision : to turn to our School's promise is to apply the vision to the facts. After hitching your waggon to a star it is well to look to the road upon which your waggon will travel.
The future of our School promises well. The School was never so well staffed, as a contrast of the present 23 teachers and helpers, to the old time three or four will show The teachers too are devoted to their task. They recognise that to be Sunday School teachers means infinitely more thou talking religion once a week to a number of children and practically forgetting their existence until the next Sunday. There is indeed scarce a night of the week when some meeting in connection with Mill Street Mission Sunday School is not held.
The Primary and Beginners Departments in particular show excellent promise They have been recently reorganized and supplied with such modern equipment as sand trays and Primary chairs. The whole School in the future will benefit from the more therough and appopriate teaching now made possible to the youngest children. In connection with the Primary Department a most promising innovation is the drafting into it, that they may act as helpers, of certain senior girls from the upper School. The experiment has been completely successful; Not only has it greatly assisted the leaders of the two earliest Departments, but it has been a means of helping the girls themselves to full dedication of their powers to Christ's glorious service.
The work of the Upper School or Intermediate Department, which is the largest Department in the School, has benefited recently by a rearrangement of the premises and by the provision of three useful screens which make possible the teaching of four classes in the main hall. The future certainly does not lack good promise, but the range of age in the Department is considered to be too wide for the best work to be done. It should be divided into two Departments, Junior and Intermediate.
The elder lads are full of enthusiasm for their own special Department, and fill their room almost to suffocation long before the hour of commencing. With one exception these lads had definitely left the School, and have been won back only by being treated as they regard themselves—no longer as Sunday School children.
The most promising feature of the School is the place which Prayer now occupies in its work. The weekly Preparation Classes are giving opportunity for the teachers to pray regularly and unitedly for their scholars. This more than all else is "changing things."
3. THE PROBLEMS of THE FUTURE.
We must not allow too bright a prospect of our work to blind us to the dangers and problems of the future. They are serious, and we need wisdom, from above to face them. Every institution must regard its future with uneasiness in these uncertain days of war. We have already given three valued workers to the Army, and must be prepared for the practical depletion of our male staff. There is of course no wisdom in anticipating difficulties, but the problem of staff is even now a real one. To do the work thoroughly we need more workers' but they must be "workers." 'There is no better test than that frequently quoted by our Secretary. Our Sunday School teachers mrust " Love Christ, love children, and love hard work."
Special Sunday School problems will arise " when the boys come home." And surely we could in no way better demonstrate our earnest longing for that day than by beginning now to prepare for it. We must be ready on their return to reabsorb the old boys in the organization of our School. We must have week night activities, and greatest of all leaders ready for them. Dr. Thistleton Mark, in dealing with the subject, urged that definite schemes should at once be put in hand, and where possible the men invited by correspondence to become members now in anticipation of their return.
This suggests another pressing problem, the problem of premises. It is pressing now, but the future will accentuate it. If proper provision is to be made for the warriors' return we must have more room than at present. And if the grading of the School is to be completed an additional hall is essential. The Secretary has a scheme for extending the present Mens' Club to form this badly needed hall, and in any case the Mission has no lack of land upon which to build when other things necessary are forthcoming.
The Sunday School is entitled to the best that we can give it, whether it be time, talent or money. There can be no better investment than that devoted to the welfare of children ; and for this reason those of us who are in closest touch with the School at Mill Street feel that we are not asking favours but rather offering privileges when we let our material needs be known. As an instance the work of the Primary Department would be greatly facilitated by the provision of a serviceable piano ; and as our organization is improved so our wants will multiply. But again, God's service is entitled to the best.
After the war a new world will arise out of the ashes of the old, and the shaping of that now world will be chiefly the task of the boys and girls of to-day. Our duty and privilege therefore, as Christian men and women, is to equip the future generation for its high task in the best possible way, by instilling into it the spirit and the principles of Christ. From this view Sunday School work to-day is invested with an added dignity. Christ commissioned Peter to "feed His lambs" and all who teach children for Christ's sake have this great authority for their task, and we who have been called to this work in Mill Street thank God for the call, and look to all who know and love the Mission to support us with their practical help, their sympathy and their prayers.
AN enthusiastic discussion then followed, in which the Treasurer, Messrs. T. H. R. Winwood, H.. Till, Dr. E.J. Day, Mr. G. H. P. Moors, and the Chairman took part, and ultimately an "omnibus" resolution was proposed, adopting Mr. Scudder's paper, and appointing a small Sub-Committee to immediately consider the question of a further slight extension of the premises to give the increased and necessary accommodation asked for, and if the response to a special appeal - justified the step, to proceed forthwith to carry out the work. Indeed such was the feeling of the gathering as to the imperativeness of the need for extension, that two or three most gratifying promises were made forthwith.
A resolution of thanks was passed to the Rev. S. E. V. Filleul, M.A. for the loan of the room, and one of the most successful Meetings in the history of the Mission was brought to a close with the Benediction, pronounced by the Chairman.
MILL STREET MISSION
Genealogical Notes:- The above report was kindly provided to OPC by Mike Winnett who comments:-
I was given this by Mr Oates in the early 1970’s. My late mother in law, Mrs Nellie Lee (nee Bartlett b. 1914) attended the mission in the 1920’s. She said how beautiful Mrs Oates was when her new husband introduced her to the Sunday School children and that “She looked like an angel”.
The additional picture with the lighthouse was taken in the 1920’s.
We think that the boy on the right might be Albert “Soner” Bartlett who was unfortunately killed in a motorcycle crash on the road approaching Grey’s Bridge. His father George Bartlett was a steam roller driver and according to family legend he drove the machine now residing in the children’s playground on the Kings Road, Fordington.
Among one the stories Nellie handed down, was of a little girl called Esther who tripped in front of one of these Behemoths and sadly died. It was an early lesson in road safety.
The delightfully and appropriately named Miss Godbehear, a teacher in the Mill Street Mission Sunday School, now rests in St George’s cemetery , on the northern curved section, by the river, where there is a memorial to German soldiers. [Note:- Miss Kate Elizabeth Godbehear died on 6th March 1949 having served for over 40 years at the Mission]
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