Brethren Archive

Christian Work at Rathmines, Ireland.

by Henry Wingfield Figgis

An important and prosperous Christian work is going on, chiefly among the young, at Rathmines, one of the largest and most fashionable suburbs of the city of Dublin. The story of its origin and progress is a simple and suggestive one. Some seven years ago, a gentleman, Mr. Henry (Wingfield) Figgis, commenced a Bible-class for children on Sunday afternoons. The vivid style of teaching and cheery music adopted by him gradually attracted numbers, so that in about three years the small class had swelled into a school of 300. At that time, a large and suitable building was opportunely secured, and Grosvenor Hall has become the home of various Christian labours. There is ordinary school teaching on Sunday mornings, with separate classes for the "wee ones." On Sunday afternoons, the principal service is held, and often 800 are in attendance, chiefly young people. The chosen motto is "Brevity and Variety." Meetings are not allowed to exceed an hour, and no effort is spared to make them "bright, spirited, simple, and yet earnest and evangelical." One night in the week is exclusively the "boys' own," when the lads are free to ask and answer questions, the more advanced Christian youths cheerfully helping to conduct the meeting. Another evening is set apart for seniors and adults. Then giving is associated with receiving, work with worship. The young people are trained to acts of self-denial and service. They support a "cot" in the Adelaide Hospital, collect flowers for the sick, and obtain old clothes for the poor. While encouraged to engage in private Christian activity, some special object is always kept before them to elicit their sympathy and toil, and the money saved or secured is voted to charitable or missionary purposes.
The enterprise grew out of a strong conviction. "I heartily believe in the reality of youthful conversion, under the Divine Word and Spirit," tells the secret of its beginning and its remarkable success. The determined will devised the way, so that now the promise has nearly been realized. "A little one shall become a thousand." The movement is conducted in a quiet, unostentatious manner, and upon an unsectarian basis, the necessary expenses incurred being raised by private gifts.
One aspect of this Christian work—an aspect very hopeful and gratifying, and somewhat unique—certainly deserves especial attention. This "work of faith and labour of love" is carried on, and succeeds, almost entirely among the children of the educated and well-to-do classes—apart of Christ's field, "white already to the harvest," but sadly lacking willing and qualified labourers. We have our ragged and mission schools in destitute districts. Our present Sunday Schools draw principally their scholars from the artisan and middle classes; it is the children of our prosperous trades-people, professional men, and gentry, residing in the suburbs of towns and cities, who form the neglected sections of society. Shall Christian energy and philanthropy be wanting where these may win most blessed results? What Christian enthusiasm and ingenuity have done at Rathmines can, we are sure, be repeated in many localities. Would that not a few ladies and gentlemen could be induced to open their rooms, or to engage suitable buildings, and earnestly attempt similar service for Christ among the young around them. Wealth, intelligence, culture, leisure, are talents entrusted for faithful use by our watchful Master. Are we not responsible for making and seizing opportunities to do good, for what we might do for our Lord and Saviour? "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Aptness, efficiency, success will not be denied to the truthful, willing workers; and the reapers in this harvest-field may be confident of "gathering fruit unto eternal life."

"The Sunday School Chronicle"  March 1, 1878.

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