CS Archive from October 3, 1903
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When I arrived at Christian Standard more than 20 years ago, I heard many arguments against parsonages. And indeed, during my time at the church of my birth, the congregation sold three “homes” for various reasons.
It was surprising, then, to come across this essay from 115 years ago suggesting that churches should purchase and furnish a home for their minister. The article from page 7 of the Oct. 3, 1903, edition, was written by a man—at least, I assume it was a man—from Turner, Oregon.
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A Furnished House for the Preacher.
Having noticed with increased interest several articles of late, which advocated libraries for pastors, to be provided by the churches we have wondered if it might not be a wise and well-directed move on the part of the brotherhood to provide houses furnished with certain necessary articles of furniture, such as bedsteads, tables, chairs, commodes and stands, a good range and heating stove, with some parlor furnishings and bookcases—all, of course, to be within the range of the means at command and the opulence of the congregation providing it.
It is a fact that pastors lose or spend a considerable part of their incomes in rents, and either selling their furniture at a loss or shipping the same from place to place, to say nothing of the frightful wear and tear upon the same in transit. Give the pastors comfortable houses furnished with convenient furniture, and they can spend their rent and freight money for books such as each may select for themselves. Under such circumstances, pastors will be more contented and respected, and the churches will be better administered as a rule. Time, anxiety and money will be spared, and it will result in better service, longer pastorates and better libraries; to say nothing of the advantages that will accrue to the pastor’s wife and children.
Witness the loss of time, anxiety and wasted resources that devolves upon a pastor who moves into a new place from one to five times in five years. First he must search the town over for a house, then, after having to settle down, as a rule, in some inconvenient and ill-suited locality, with his family, in some ill-fitted and inconvenient tenement-house, he must visit the second-hand stores and furniture houses to barter and buy the things which he must have, at the lowest figure possible in order to [fit] up his home, and then he is not certain of occupying it longer than from month to month. . . . [And if he sends furniture by freight, it is liable to be] broken and battered beyond recognition. A few such moves are equal to a fire, and he devoutly wishes sometimes for such a deliverance rather than to ship his worthless truck to another point, for he can not sell it to any advantage, and since he is not able to buy new, he feels morally certain that he will not be respected by some of his new parishioners, who are wont to look at the things that are seen, and he is not.
Then, there is the loss to his family, who have no certain abiding place and who are tossed about without the common comforts of life, or the beauty of the well-ordered and pleasant home to fix in their memories for future reference when recounting life’s journey or deciding upon a life-work for themselves. Is it any wonder that bright and consecrated sons and daughters of the manse decide by odds against entering the ministry, on account of these things? Is not the loss perpetual, brethren, when we do not provide liberal things for our day and generation?
I am informed that many of our churches have provided these advantages, and are reaping their reward as liberally as they have sown. May and might we not have more?
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As I read this, I remembered Daniel Schantz’s humorous article from a few years back: “Seven Heavens—Memories of Growing Up in Parsonages.” Check it out. It you are a PK, it just might bring back some memories.
—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard
Image of a parsonage of the Christian church in Plantersville, Ala., listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Photo taken by Chris Pruitt.