1: A muscular ministry from a muscular town

The Brotherhood began in downtown Chicago

by Jim Goodson

icon2: A Curious Start - but it worked
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It was probably inevitable that the Brotherhood of St. Andrew be founded in Chicago, the city of broad shoulders, according to poet Carl Sandberg. Chicago in 1883 was the most masculine U.S. city. A thousand trains a day entered or left the Lake Michigan metropolis, dumping thousands of men seeking work in the city's factories, mills and hog-butchering plants.

It was recently named the nations second-largest city, much to the chagrin of Philadelphia, whose denizens griped that Chicago was growing simply by annexing large tracts of industrial space that ringed the often frozen lake.

Chicago didn't care. Big was big, no matter how it occurred.

Turn-of-the-century Chicago was perpetually masked by a coal-smoked dusk. Electric bulbs, often in fixtures that combined gas and electricity, were just beginning to light the city's famous skyscrapers, but these in a sense added to the problem, for they required basement dynamos driven by coal-fired boilers. As daylight faded, gaslights on the streets and in the buildings below caused the smoke to glow a dull yellow.

In this atmosphere, as train after train disgorged men seeking both honest and sometimes not-so-honest work, the Brotherhood of St. Andrew was founded at St. James Episcopal Cathedral - not by the wealthiest and most successful men of the elegant downtown cathedral, but by scores of working men adrift in the cavernous city.

As Chicago's official Episcopal cathedral, St. James wasn't able to avoid the struggles afflicting Protestant churches in Great Britain, Europe and the United States. Worried churchmen noted that eight of 10 worshipers in the average Protestant church were women. Anglican churches were especially effeminate, weakened by an excessive asceticism. The ongoing industrial revolution produced thousands of desk jobs - good for business but not-so-good for the physical health of the men who occupied them.

As evidence that there existed a woman peril in American Protestant churches, critics such as pioneer psychologist G. Stanley Hall pointed to the imbalance of women to men in the pews. They also contended that woman's influence in church had led to an overabundance of sentimental hymns, effeminate clergymen and sickly-sweet images of Jesus. These things were repellent to real men and boys, averred critics, who argued that males would avoid church until feminized Protestantism gave way to muscular Christianity, a strenuous religion for a strenuous life.

Muscular Christianity as a movement had already begun - its greatest accomplishment so far was the establishment of the Young Men's Christian Association, from which the sport of basketball would emerge under the direction of YMCA coach James Naismith.

The notion of a feminized Episcopal church appalled St. James layman James L. Houghteling, who is often credited with founding the Brotherhood of St. Andrew. Brother Houghteling's contributions to the success of the Brotherhood are legendary, but in a famous article that appeared in one of the first editions of the St. Andrews Cross, Brother Houghteling gives the credit to a drunkard from the streets of Chicago, the power of prayer and the efforts of 13 original Brothers who were determined to bring men to the salvation offered by Jesus Christ.

Jim Goodson is editor of St. Andrew's Cross.

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St. James' Episcopal Cathedral

St. James' Episcopal Church in 1871, site of the founding of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.

James Houghteling

James L. Houghteling (1855-1910), whose 13 member adult men's Sunday School class, at St. James' Episcopal Church in downtown Chicago, founded the Brotherhood of St. Andrew. more...

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An Act for the Incorporation of The Brotherhood of St. Andrew was passed and signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on May 30th, 1908.