At the Geneva meeting Superintendent Bross in his annual report makes mention of the fact that the Nebraska State Missionary Society had almost reached its majority, which to-day it boasts, in the following words:
"This is the twentieth anniversary of our Home Missionary Society. The history of the years has much to show of progress. Then we had a membership of 4,042, now 16,005; then our home expenses were $45,248, now $150,030; then we raised for our benevolences $8,723, now $19,479. While then we had nominally 147 churches, many of them were so only in name, and even their names have since disappeared. Only seventy-seven of our present 205 churches had then been organized. We often mourn over our lost churches, and in many cases we ought not only to weep but to humble ourselves in dust and ashes that we forsook them in the time of their dire extremity; but it is worth remembering that the total membership of the churches whose names have disappeared from that list of twenty years ago amounts to only 453, only four or five of them having a membership above twenty.
"Three features of the work of the past year I wish to emphasize, viz.: the Lincoln Convocation, the advent of the Yale Band, the efforts of the board to take advantage of this occasion to increase the volume of our work.
"The Lincoln Convocation [presided over by Hon. C. B. Anderson of Crete] March 23, brought together many representatives from different parts of the state and gave utterance to the deep conviction on the part of many that we need an awakening interest in our Congregational ranks. Dr. Herring evidently interpreted the feeling when he said: 'I am oppressed with the sense of the weakness of our Congregational Zion.'
"For a whole day, from 8:00 o'clock in the morning until 9:00 in the evening, the convocation faced the question of ways and means for an advance along the line. Prayer and conference, addresses and resolutions, the best wisdom and concentrated attention in committee meetings combined to make the day memorable in our Congregational history. The publication in the Congregational News of April of Dr. Herring's strong address and the resolutions adopted brought the message of the meeting into many of our homes. The paper ought to have gone into many more homes.
"Among the resolutions adopted was the following: 'In our judgment the time has come to set a higher standard for our missionary gifts. Especially in the matter of home missionary offerings do we feel that our 15,000 members ought not to attempt to raise less than $10,000 per year, nor to be satisfied to fall short of it.' This certainly struck a high note, none too high, for our home missionary gifts. The meeting also expressed the conviction that in view of the great need of laborers, the superintendent should visit eastern seminaries and appeal to the young men to come to the rescue. Upon reporting this matter to New York it struck a responsive chord there, and Secretary Choate, without waiting to write, wired the superintendent at once advising the visit.
"It has been felt by the board and the superintendent that the coming of this band in connection with the utter-
ances of the Lincoln Convocation ought to mark the beginning of better things in the development of our work. Evidently we ought to he moving more rapidly toward the goal of self-support. In the hard-time years we could not press forward with much momentum. We have outgrown hard-time conditions. It is amazing to witness the recuperative power of our great state. Churches in eastern Nebraska that have almost reached self-support need to make the additional effort to complete the work.
"But especially do we need to bestir ourselves for increased contributions. With this fact in view, the hoard has given much time of late to this aspect of the work. The sessions have not been simply to pass upon applications but to advance the interests of our Congregational Zion.
One result of these deliberations has been the publication in a red-letter circular of a statement and an appeal to the churches for the raising of $8,000 the present year. Enough of these have been prepared to circulate among our families, or at least in groups of families. This is a red-letter edition, and it is hoped that pastors will make free use of them in connection with their annual collection. Take samples of them to your homes. The other is along a different line and I can not use three minutes of your time to better advantage than to read it.
"THE CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP BAND
"Dear Friend--In view of the abundant means now in the hands of Congregational Christians in Nebraska, many of the more conscientious are seriously asking the question whether it is right for us to look to eastern givers--many of whom are less able than we--to provide two-thirds of the financial help needed for the home missionary work in our state, when the Lord has placed in our hands ample means for this work if we are willing to use it in any way.
A movement is therefore on foot to band together such as recognize the claims of Christian stewardship, for the purpose of doing more thoroughly our fair share of this important work within our own state. Recognizing the fact that the amount received from church collections is not sufficient for these important lines of Christian work, many persons in the East contribute annually, as individuals, to the work, because they firmly believe that no agency is as
well fitted to strengthen and develop the institutions of freedom inherited from our Pilgrim forefathers as are the churches and Sunday schools, and that these should be planted and kept actively at work in each local community. Many in Nebraska share in these convictions, and to such this letter is addressed.
"Out of over 16,000 Congregational Christians in the state it is believed that from 300 to 500 at least can be found who are able and who will be willing to contribute in sums
of $10, $25, $50, or $100 a year for this specific work in addition to what is usually given in connection with the annual church offering. In this way it is hoped at least $5,000 additional can be raised for this work. At present, of the $12,000 and more of home missionary money used in the state, the Nebraska givers furnish less than $5,000. The Christian Stewardship Band is a recognition that this sum is no fair proportion of the abundance with which the Lord has blessed us and is an effort to organize a 'band whose hearts God hath touched,' to the end that Christ's work may receive the same businesslike attention which is given the less important secular enterprises of the state.
"If this movement meets your approval and you are willing to join us in it, please fill out the enclosed pledge form for such sum as you are willing to invest in the work and forward it to Supt. H. Bross, D.D., Lincoln, Nebraska. DO IT NOW.
"Yours in the Master's service,
"S. I. HANFORD,
"W. A. SELLECK,
At the Geneva meeting steps were taken looking toward the incorporation of the Nebraska Home Missionary Society. This was accomplished a year later at the Lincoln meeting, and the Nebraska Home Missionary Society is now a corporate body, and is looking forward to the near future, when it shall he independent of the National Congregational Home Missionary Society and administer its own funds, commission its own missionaries, and be able, through the C. H. M. Society so long its foster mother, to do something for "the regions beyond."
In incorporating, the society elected the following officers: President John F. Tuttle, D.D., Lincoln; Secretary Rev. A. E. Ricker, Aurora; Treasurer Rev. Lewis Gregory, Lincoln. Board of Directors: Prof. A. C. Hart, Franklin; W. A. Selleck, Lincoln; Rev. J. D. Stewart, Aurora; Rev. S. I. Hanford, Weeping Water; M. A. Bullock, D.D., Lincoln; Rev. George E. Taylor, Pierce; Rev. A. E. Ricker, Aurora; Supt. C. H. M. S. for Nebraska Harmon Bross, D.D., Lincoln. Officers of the board: M. A. Bullock, D.D., chairman; Rev. George E. Taylor, secretary.
Before, however, the State Home Missionary Society can become self-supporting there will have to be a vigorous growth of the feeling of responsibility for our home missionary work on the part of our churches. Our contributions will have to be increased three-fold before we can assume self-support, and four-fold before we can do an aggressive work in the state. The society awaits the response of the churches. The society has secured the help of Rev. N. L. Packard as general missionary and he entered upon the work November 1, 1904. He combines evangelistic work with that of caring for pastorless churches, and great good is expected from his labors in the state.