Easter Sunday in the year 1896 was observed on April 5th. The April 3, or Good Friday, issue of The Belknap Republican made no mention of the Christian holy days on its front page, but used a back page to print a few stories related to Easter. The newspaper printed a poem titled “Easter Day”, a love story with an Easter touch, and an article about Curious Easter Customs. Adjoining these was an advertisement for an egg incubator referred to as “the wooden hen”, but it was an inside column that particularly caught my attention. Beside a column announcing a couple of Easter Services was one entitled Christian Endeavour Notes.
A Christian youth movement begun at a church in Portland, Maine in 1881, had, in 15 years spread in the United States and to many countries around the world. New Hampshire, including the Lakes Region, was among the areas affected by the enthusiasm and Christian behavior exhibited by many young people of that era.
The Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavour was founded on February 2, 1881 in Portland, Maine by Congregational minister Rev. Francis Edward Clark and 57 young people who met with him for tea on that day. The organization caught on quickly in other states and Protestant denominations as young people professed their loyalty to Jesus Christ and the movement that promoted their active involvement in the ministries of their churches as well as in the Endeavour meetings. By 1908 there were 70,761 societies with 3,500,000 members.
On a local level in the Laconia area, the Lakeport based Republican paper’s column devoted to Christian Endeavour news reported that the Junior society of C.E. of the Laconia Congregational Church had held a Sunday afternoon missionary service where sketches of several missionaries were given. The group’s prayer meeting committee of the South Church in Laconia “…are making special efforts to make their meetings more interesting than they have heretofore been.” They were also making plans to promote the growth of the society. The Christian Endeavour members at the Baptist Church had met on March 21st with the subject being “Diligent in Business” with Charles Easton , a young man from Brown University, leading the meeting. From the newspaper accounts it would appear that the C.E. societies from the different churches had begun “City Union” meetings. The second of these meetings was held at Park Street Church in Lakeport in February with the subject being the prayer meeting committees. Another meeting was held on a Sunday evening (Palm Sunday?) at the Baptist Church with Mr. Easton as the speaker. The newspaper reported that “ everyone was cordially invited to be present.”
The missionary committees of the C.E. societies of the Congregational Church of Laconia were said to have collected two thousand eight hundred and five papers and magazines which were sent to missionaries in South Dakota, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, “ and other places destitute of good literature.”.
The American Baptist Publication Society was, in 1905, producing a weekly paper for Young People by that name, and included in its pages was a column about the Y.P.S.C.E. in which it reported activities of various Endeavour societies in the United States and other countries. The April 22, 1905 issue noted that “The Christian Endeavour Society at Northwood, NH has had full charge of the Sunday evening services for two years.”
The society was formed by Rev. Clark to bring youth to Christ and then give them opportunities to serve Him. Its involvement in churches decreased as denominations developed their own youth programs. The organization still exists to help churches with their youth ministries and is now based in the State of Michigan. At its beginning the society adopted a pledge that its members were asked to adhere to as follows:
“ Trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for strength, I promise Him that I will strive to do whatever He would like to have me do; that I will make it the rule of my life to pray and to read the Bible every day, and to support the work and worship of my own church in every way possible; and that just as far as I know how, throughout my whole life, I will endeavor to lead a Christian life.”
My guess is that 120 years ago that Easter services around the world were made more enjoyable by the participation of young men and women of the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavour.
The Lakeport newspaper in that 1896 edition also noted that the Y.M.C.A. (Young Men’s Christian Association), another local youth ministry of the time, would be having an “ Easter song service for men in Cram’s Hall at 4:30, Sunday afternoon, conducted by the general secretary.”