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1883 Ecclesial Guide

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26. -- Recording Brother --(Usually called Secretary).

It is necessary to have a brother to whom all communications intended for the ecclesia may be addressed, and who shall present the same to the arranging brethren, as representing the ecclesia; to keep records of all proceedings, whether of the arranging brethren or the general body. The brother so appointed has no authority by reason of his office. He is simply the organ of the ecclesia, by which the ecclesia officially sees and hears, and, when necessary, acts. He becomes the hand of the ecclesia only when the ecclesia, as represented by the arranging brethren, imparts its volition to him by special or general direction. He is in all things subject to the arranging brethren, without whose direction he has no power to act. He may have a standing direction from them in matters of routine, in virtue of which he performs acts without coming before them, such as arranging for conversational interviews with a view to immersion, reminding brethren of their appointments, &c., but in all specific matters coming under his cognizance, his duty is to lay the matter before them, and ask their direction before acting one way or other. It is part of his duty that he take cognizance and record of all receipts and disbursements by the treasurer.

A Recording brother necessarily exercises great influence in an ecclesia, and, therefore, it is above all things necessary that he should be a true and hearty brother, and not a mere technical expert.

 

27. -- Finance Brother (usually called Treasurer).

As holder of the bag, the principal requisite in a treasurer in any community, is trustworthiness; but in an ecclesia of the living God it is needful that besides this, he possess and exhibit the mind of Christ. In his intimate relations with the rest of the brethren, he influences them for good or evil. He ought, therefore, not only to be an exact registrar and safe keeper of all monetary matters, but an ardent sympathiser with all the objects of an ecclesia's existence. He ought, at the same time, to have all the qualifications valuable in a treasurer. He ought to have a proneness to defend the bag from encroachment, as much as if it were his own purse. In this, he may render valuable service to the whole body. A good Christadelphian treasurer will at the same time never sink the brother in the treasurer. He will blend the enthusiasm of a servant of Christ with the care and forethought and accuracy of a banker. This will exclude parsimony and prevent extravagance. For the rest, a clear and full record of all receipts and payments, in conjunction with the Recording brother, and an intelligible report of the same at the periodical business meetings, completes his part -- an essential, honourable, serviceable, though humble, part.

 

28. -- Exclusion of Business from Sunday Meetings.

The great object to be aimed at in first day meetings is comfort and edification in the things of the Spirit. All arrangements ought to converge upon this result. Everything ought to be avoided that at all interferes with it. All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient. It is not expedient to introduce matters of business or topics of debate at assemblies convened for the contemplation of the things of the Spirit. They interfere with the placid contemplation of these things, and, in time, have a tendency even to displace them altogether. Without stringent care on this point, ecclesial meetings are liable to degenerate into social clubs, at which secular matters acquire ascendancy in the minds of members, and the realities of God's glorious will are driven into the distance. It ought to be an absolute rule, that no business discussion should take place at first-day meetings of the ecclesia. Let all business be banished to another time.

 

29. -- Fraternal Announcements.

Announcements concerning matters of fraternal interest are not "business" in the sense of these remarks. They are acts of information which may tend to edification. Such, for example, as the announcement that a brother from a distance is present for fellowship; or that a sick brother is improved in health; or that a meeting of a special character is to be held at such and such a time. All these are spiritually interesting, and an interval ought to be provided for them. The interval should come before the general prayer, for this reason; matters may be announced -- such as the sore trouble for some one, or even death -- which it would be desirable to make the subject of petition. And concerning brethren visiting from a distance, it is pleasant thus to know that you are uniting your prayers with theirs -- a pleasure you would miss if you were left in ignorance of their presence.

 

30. -- Mode of Conducting the Meetings.

Whatever interferes with the comfort of a meeting interferes with edification. Edification is a delicate mental result, easily interfered with, and requiring careful nursing. All the exercises ought to be so apportioned that no needless fatigue should be inflicted on any. For this reason, standing exercises ought not to succeed one another. When a hymn has been sung (perhaps a long one) it is acceptable to the assembly to sit down. Therefore another time should be chosen for a prayer than just after a hymn. The reading ought to come between. In this way, a rest is provided, which leaves the mind more at liberty than if the fatigue of standing through a hymn has to be succeeded by the fatigue of standing through a prayer (perhaps a long one -- but prayers ought not to be long).

Both in prayer and reading, it is a great interference with the mental concentration that ought to prevail, for late comers to enter during those exercises. In some ecclesias, this evil is remedied by having the doors closed during reading and prayer; which has also the advantage of helping the habit of punctuality.

 

On such points, Brother Shuttleworth makes the following suggestions: --

I. -- COMMENCEMENT OF MEETINGS

Unwise Way -- Begin 5, 10 or 15 minutes after the appointed hour, and tea meetings at least 320 minutes after time.

Wise Way -- Begin all meetings punctually at the hour. If presiding brother not at his post, another to take his place, and commence the meeting, and give way to him when he comes.

Reason for the Latter -- Punctuality imparts zest to the proceedings, and gives a feeling of earnestness as to the matters in hand: wastes no one's precious time: and promotes the happiness and edification of the occasion.

II. -- WHO TO SELECT HYMNS

Unwise Way -- One brother selecting all the hymns Sunday after Sunday, such as helpers at harmonium or leaders of son.

Wise Way -- The presiding brethren to select the hymns each day in their turn.

Reason for the Latter -- Secures variety of selection and a choice of words, rather than tunes -- which is the more important.

III. -- THE RELATIVE PLACE OF SINGING AND PRAYER

Unwise Way -- Praying immediately after the first singing.

Wise Way -- Dividing first singing from prayer by having reading between.

Reason for Latter -- Gives a rest between the two -- not so long to stand.

IV. -- NATURE OF HYMNS CHOSEN

Unwise Way -- Any sort will do: all good, no need for much selection. hymns suitable only for brethren may be used at public meeting, for presenting the truth to the stranger.

Wise Way -- The presiding brother will always have respect to the nature of the occasion, or subject of the lecture. In the morning he will open the Psalms of David, or some other general ascription of praise to God -- following, with others, upon the sufferings or priesthood of Christ, and, with others, on the comforts of the truth, the desolution of Israel, or the coming of the Lord -- as each occasion may seem best to suggest, or call for. At night, the presiding brother won't ask the alien audience to tell lies by asking them to say, "Oh, how I love thy law, it is my study all the day," but will confine the selection to declaratory hymns, in which even the stranger may join, such as "Zion's king shall reign victorious."

V. -- WHEN TO SELECT HYMNS

Unwise Way -- Leave the selection of hymns to Sunday morning, and keep all the meeting waiting while the presiding brother turns over the leaves.

Wise Way -- Select the hymns beforehand.

Reason for the Latter: -- The comfort of the meeting preserved; no time wasted.

VI. -- NATURE OF PRAYER

Unwise Way -- To turn morning prayer into an exhortation to the brethren; and Evening Prayer, into an exposition or running Lecture to the outer-court worshippers.

Wise Way -- Let prayer be to God alone -- one brother leading the rest in thanksgiving and supplications to His name. And that the subject matter of each prayer be appropriate to the occasion.

Reason for the Latter: -- That God may be glorified, and all may be edified.

VII. -- WHEN AND WHAT SCRIPTURE READINGS TO SELECT

Unwise Way -- Select any chapter after it is time to begin the meeting and keep the meeting waiting perhaps five or ten minutes.

Wise Way -- Read the Bible Companion chapters for the day on Sunday morning (two out of the three portions); and the same at week-night meeting (one portion).

Reason for the Latter: -- No delay or embarrassment. Everybody knows what is to be read. But the principal advantage is that great and interesting variety of spiritual matter is afforded, as compared with a plan that results in a very limited selection with some chapters several times over a short time.

VIII. -- FRATERNAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

Unwise Way -- To make them towards end of meeting -- or without any fixed place.

Wise Way -- To make them next after opening singing and reading.

Reason for the Latter: -- Puts everyone in early possession of information as to the state of the brethren, or other important matters, -- so that the prayers following may include intercession for such as are sick: or the hymns altered and exhortation made approproate in case of death having been announced.

IX. -- GIVING OF THANKS FOR THE BREAD AND WINE

Unwise Way -- To make no reference to the bread andwine at all but pray and preach about everything that happens to come into mind.

Wise Way -- To limit the thanksgiving to actual thanks for the bread and wine as briefly and appropriately as possible, to the exclusion of matter that would find its proper place in other prayers.

Reasons for the Latter-- Seemliness before God and man, and the comfort and edification of all concerned.

X. -- GIVING THE RIGHT HAND OF FELLOWSHIP

Unwise Way -- Doing it between giving thanks for the bread and its distribution.

Wise Way -- Doing the same before thanksgiving.

Reason for the Latter -- Uniting the newly-received brother in the whole act of breaking bread, instead of making him feel in a sense outside till the bread is actually handed to him.

XI. -- WHO TO EXHORT ON SUNDAY MORNING

Unwise Way -- Leave it to the presiding brother whether qualified to speak to edification or not.

Wise Way -- Let the presiding brother call upon the brother chosen because qualified to do. Such brother may be a presiding brother as well; but do not make exhorting a part of the duty of the presiding brother necessarily.

Reason for the Latter -- Some brethren make good presiding brethren who are not the suitable mouthpiece for exhortation. Compelling such to exhort is to the hurt of all concerned.

XII. -- TIME FOR PRINCIPAL EXHORTATION

Unwise Way -- Leave it till before the last hymn.

Wise Way -- Let it precede the breaking of bread.

Reason for the Latter -- Makes an edifying preparation for the breaking of the loaf.

XIII. -- TIME FOR COLLECTION

Unwise Way -- Have the collection after all is over.

Wise Way -- Let it follow close on breaking of bread.

Reason for the Latter -- The giving of our free-will offerings ought to be sanctified as a part of our service.

XIV. -- MODE OF MAKING COLLECTION

Unwise Way -- Suddenly and unceremoniously pass the box round, without a word from the presiding brother, or without his ever standing up.

Wise Way -- Let the presiding brother before passing the box round, rise to his feet, and invite the brethren, in a dignified and loving way, to unite their free-will offerings for the service of the truth.

Reason for the Latter -- Imparts grace and profit to an important act of service.

XV. -- WHO TO APPOINT AS PRESIDING BRETHREN

Unwise Way -- Appoint any brother who may greatly desire the office, or whom it would much please to have it conferred; his being a novice to be no disqualification.

Wise Way -- Restrict the appointment to such as are supremely taken up with the things of the Spirit, and who possess a natural or acquired facility of address in prayer and otherwise, and who are capable of rising to some extent above a school boy's vocabulary in divine things.

Reason for the Latter -- Promotes the up-building and comforting of the saints, which is sacrificed by the "abc" prattle of such as talk to time like a machine.

XVI. -- SUBJECT OF PRAYER

Unwise Way -- To pray in the morning, for the success of evening meeting.

Wise Way -- Let prayer refer to its own occasion. Ask in the evening that the evening meeting have a blessing.

Reason for the Latter -- God does not require several hours' notice, in order to grant a blessing. Sufficient unto the day, is the good, as well as the evil.

XVII. -- THE CONDUCT OF ARRANGING MEETINGS

Unwise Way -- Begin in a leisurely and informal way, without any very nice respect to time. Begin anyhow and end same.

Wise Way -- Conduct the meeting with the same order and promptness as other meetings. Have a Chairman; let prayer open and close: and let everything be gone through in a way consistent with earnest purpose and the fraternal spirit.

Reason for the Latter - Too obvious to require specification.

 

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