The directors of the American Unitarian Association held their regular monthly meeting at their rooms, 25 Beacon Street, Tuesday, January 10. There were present Messrs. Bowles, Brown, S. A. Eliot, Fox, Howe, Hutchinson, Lincoln, Little, Slicer, and Wright, and Mrs. Catlin and Mrs. Talbot.
The business of the Southern States had precedence, and the report of the Southern Committee was laid before the board. The Southern field is the most difficult one with which the Association has to deal. The South is intensely orthodox in all its traditions and associations. There are comparatively few people whose minds are even open to new thought in religion, and the social ties which bind people to the older churches are almost unbreakable. The devoted labors of Mr. Chaney, who was for six years superintendent of missionary work in the South, succeeded in organizing a number of churches composed of earnest and devout people, who seriously set themselves to the task of building up a liberal constituency in the Southern States. The growth has, of necessity, been very slow, but it is quite impossible for the directors of the Association to think of abandoning enterprises which have been sustained at the cost of much self-sacrifice, and which surely contain the seeds of future growth. The Association, therefore, maintains four mission churches in the South as centers of influence, and as the light-houses from which the flame of spiritual religion can spread. These churches are in Austin, Tex., Atlanta, Ga., Chattanooga, Tenn., and New Orleans, La.
The church in Austin has existed for six years, and it enjoys the leadership of one of the most able and persuasive of Unitarian ministers. Rev. Mr. Wheelock’s sermons are much in demand in local papers, and are read broadly through the State. The resources of the local society are, however, very small. The people cannot raise more than the running expenses of the parish, including rent of hall and music; and the Association and the National Alliance contribute the little salary which Mr. Wheelock receives. About twenty families are associated with this movement. Services are regularly held in the Board of Trade Hall. The Southern Committee voted that $500 be appropriated toward Mr. Wheelock’s salary for the year 1899.
The church in Atlanta gains slowly, and is doing an efficient work under the self denying leadership of Rev. W. S. Vail. Mr. Vail enjoys the hearty co-operation of a most efficient treasurer and a hard-working board of trustees. There are some fifty families directly associated with the church, and from subscriptions and other sources this little company raise about $1,500 a year. To this the Association will add, in 1899, $500 toward Mr. Vail’s salary.
The society in Chattanooga has survived many difficulties and embarrassments, and seems now at last to be on the road to prosperity and success. Mr. Ham, the minister, is a native of Chattanooga, and brings to his work not only a genuine religious zeal, but also local knowledge and experience. Thirty-one new members have been added to the society during the year 1898, and the church is well organized with a Sunday-school, Women’s Alliance, Lend a Hand Club, and Emerson Club. In applying for aid, the society reported good courage and cheerful “outlook, and reduced its application by $100. The Southern Committee recommended that the application for $700 be granted, and it was so ordered.
The church in New Orleans is the oldest and the largest of these missionary enterprises. The work has suffered greatly in the past few years owing to the application of quarantine rules at New Orleans just at the busiest season of the year. The officers of the society are devoted, and the people respond according to the proportion of their means. The Southern Committee, believing that this church can be accelerated toward self-support, reduced the appropriation asked for by half, and recommended that, $200 be appropriated for the year 1899; and this was adopted.
Upon the further report of the Southern Committee, $800 from the income of the Frothingham Fund, No. 2, was appropriated in aid of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. The other applications for aid from the Frothingham Fund were laid upon the table until such time as the income of the fund can be determined.