2: A curious start - but it worked

by James L. Houghteling

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CHICAGO - The Brotherhood of St Andrew started in the parish of St. James', Chicago, and the way of it was curious enough. There came to the rector of that parish (it was not a frequent occurrence) a poor, miserable outcast, a dilapidated and ancient drunkard, who appealed to him for help. He was a strange drunkard; he came from outside of Chicago, or he never would have come to St. James'.

He just drifted into town on a freight car; and the rector of St. James', who was also a new man and a true man, cast about him to find what could be done with this strange charge.

The rector could not live with him, nor could he stay and watch with him against his temptations. The vestrymen would not have touched him with a window pole. The other young men of the parish, what few there were that were doing anything, were teaching classes of little girls in the Sunday School, and were not in practice for ancient drunkards.

So the rector turned as a last resort to a little class of half-grown boys who met in a dilapidated attic with a hole through the plaster ceiling, and discussed in a very erroneous and heretical way, I fear, as I look back on it now, the Word of God. I was the teacher. I was recently out of college, and I knew more about what men usually learn in college (which is not education, of course) than I did about the Word of God.

But that class was the only thing the rector had to turn to, so he brought this dilapidated creature - I can see him now - up into that class room. He took me to one side and said, "For Heaven's sake do what you can for this man. I am supporting him, and he comes to me almost every night and tells his woes. Now can't you and your boys hedge him about somehow and help to shore him up?"

Drunkard cites St. Andrew

We took him in. He slept, I remember, through several sessions of that Bible class. But on one of his wakeful days he told us that when he was a young man, in an Episcopal church in a far distant city, he belonged to a Society of Andrew and Phillip.

And when we asked what that might be he explained: "You remember that Andrew was the man who first found his own brother, Simon, before he did anything else, and brought him to Jesus, and that Philip was the man that first found his particular friend Nathaniel before he did anything else, and brought him to Jesus."

And with this last flicker the wasted life went out, for he died shortly afterwards in jail, from the effects of a debauch. Yet through the word of this man God stirred up the wills of that little company, that dozen of insignificant fold, so that they started out; to do something.

The place for old men in that parish, if they wanted to do anything, was on the vestry. The place for young men in that parish, if they wanted to do anything, was in the Sunday School. And the vestry was full, and the Sunday School was full. There didn't seem to be any opportunity. But the Lord stirred them up to will that something must be done, and that, God helping them, they would each do the thing that he was best qualified to do.

And as a boy of 17 did not seem to be best qualified to teach little boys and girls in the Sunday School, or to serve on the vestry, and did seem best qualified, by every instinct of common sense and St. James' Episcopal Cathedral in 1871.

And as a boy of 17 did not seem to be best qualified to teach little boys and girls in the Sunday School, or to serve on the vestry, and did seem best qualified, by every instinct of common sense and common sympathy, to lend a hand to other boys of 17, it did seem to them that what they had to do was for each one to go out, after the manner of Andrew and Philip, and get hold of his brother or his friend and bring him within the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer first

Now, the way they started out - and remember, this must all have been the stirring of God, because these things which came to them without experience and without knowledge, were the things that have been tested all over this world and found good - was this: They felt that a man, in order to do God's work, must get near to God, and take his orders from God. Therefore, the first thing a man had to do, in order to be empowered to do anything much, was to pray to God for His blessing, for His Holy Spirit, that he might do that which was well pleasing in God's sight, and that he might have the eternal power of God pushing on behind to make his work strong and effective.

And so the first thing they said they would do, as a matter of ordinary common sense, was to pray to God ever day of their lives that He would empower them.

This was no new thing - prayer. This was something that had been taught them at their mother's knee. This was a thing that the sweet mother at home, and the Church, had been teaching them all their days - to pray. And doubtless they had been praying. Doubtless each one of them had knelt down at his bedside and said, as John Quincy Adams said to the last day of his life, "Now I lay me down to sleep."

Doubtless the Lord's Prayer had come from their lips every day of their lives. But when these men came to pray for something definite and important and impending, to ask for a special definite thing upon which they were bent, the whole matter of prayer became new to them. Prayer was old, but the power of prayer and the meaning of prayer were new to them. There flashed into these men like an inspiration of God what prayer really was. They took prayer and applied it to their needs. And if Christian people would take prayer and apply it to their needs there would be no questions about the efficacy of prayer.

An Earnest Effort

The next item of the program was that a man need not go journeying off into far countries to find a duty to do, but that there was a duty to do at home; that every man of them had near at hand tens and scores of men who were alien from God or heedless of Him - who were God-less, in the literal sense of the word.

And so the next rule was that each man should make an earnest effort each week to bring at least one man within the bearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I think the coving power of God, stirring up the wills of these men both to plan and to do, is very manifest in this, that they did not undertake themselves to convert anybody, they did not indicate by the phraseology of the rule that they were going to convert anybody. Their prayer, God knows, was that they might themselves be converted. But they proposed to bring men within the hearing of the everlasting Gospel and to leave them there with God. And so, with these simple rules, they went to work. They started out to spread the Kingdom of Christ among young men. That seems like a very large program, but after all it is the simplest program in the world. They started out to so live and so work that men should receive into their hearts the seed of the Word of God, and that they should become members of the Kingdom of Christ. Bible class and church services Their first method was to reorganize their Bible class and bring men there; because they argued that many of the men and boys who had been asked a thousand times, or ordered a thousand times, by their parents, guardians, spiritual pastors and masters, to go to church, and who did not go, would come to a class. They used the Bible class because it was a social method by which to get hold of men, and because the study of the Word of God is the way through which men usually come to the knowledge of God.

At the same time, with regard to the services at the church, they put cordons around the church, 'This was the stirring of God' which men passing by might be asked to come in. They put men at the doors of the church that men coming in might receive a welcome. They put men in the pews of the church that a man coming in might have a neighbor - a man who would be neighborly unto him, one who would hand him a book and show him the place, one who would leave the church with him, get up an acquaintanceship with him and thus establish a basis on which he could be dealt with and attracted toward the Kingdom of God; and there was a dignity in that citizenship that made it the thought of their minds and the topic of their conversation.

There was nothing new in Bible study. They had been taught in Sunday School; they had been taught at home. But the use of the Bible for personal usefulness and helpfulness to their fellowmen made Bible study a new thing to them; and the use of the public worship of God for conversion of souls then and there, was a new thing to them. Just think what the public worship of God has come to be in too many of our churches. Think of the amazement and consternation of many of our clergymen if after a sermon a dozen men should flock to the vestry and say, "Sir, what shall we do to be saved?" Public worship has come to be in large measure a selfish thing, a respectable thing. It is a thing we want for ourselves and our friends. It is not the setting forth of the Gospel in order that souls may then and there be moved to cry out for salvation. But when these young men at the back-door of the church, unrecognized by the parish, tolerated barely by the parish, began to use the worship of God for the conversion of souls, and to expect that men would thereby be led into the Kingdom of God, worship became real to them. And I do not know of any way by which worship may become real to people unless they are brought to believe that they are addressing a God who bears their prayers, unless they believe that there is an Arm stretched down to these who seek for help.

The fruits Now, this starting out was to be judged by its fruits. I have very little patience with those people who sigh, and look down, and wipe away a furtive tear and say that they "leave the results with God." I believe that God expects that a man who consecrates his life to Him shall expect blessings and fruits. What were the results? There were 13 of these men when they started - an unlucky number. Perhaps in the first two years of their working the average number of workers was 20. At the end of the second year they had brought to the rector, to be presented to the Bishop for Confirmation, 40 men, who were willing to stand up in the face of the congregation and say that they were not ashamed to confess the faith of Christ Crucified. There were a hundred men sitting in the pews in the back of the church every Sunday. There were connected with the church, in one way or another, in the process of bringing in, 300 or 400 men, and it had become notorious that if any man in that great boarding house community that lay just outside the palaces which surrounded that House of God wanted to go to church he could be sure of a welcome at St. James'.

That was the way the Brotherhood of St Andrew started. It was on this basis that it began its work. It was the basis of the responsibility of a man to God not only for his own soul, but for his brother's soul; the expectation that God would bless him when he undertook to work in God's world as God wanted him to work, and the belief that God wanted him to do the work that he could best do; that the work that he could best do was to get hold of the next man, and the determination that, please God, he would get hold of the next man and would bring him to God, in order that ever and ever enlarging and expanding from man to man, the Kingdom of Christ might be spread.

"The fruits justify the principle and the method" James L. Houghteling, whose 13 member adult men's Sunday School class founded the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.

James L. Houghteling, founder of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew


icon1: A Muscular Ministry from a Muscular Town
icon3: A Lightning Quick Start
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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.