A Trip to the Far West
By President E. Y. Mullins, D.D., LL.D.
From The Baptist World Journal, 1910
Perhaps your readers will be interested in some account of a recent visit to the South Dakota Baptist State Convention, which met at Huron, South Dakota, and also a visit to the Michigan State Convention, which met at Detroit. I had never been into either of the Dakotas prior to this time, and was greatly pleased with what I saw. As your readers will recall, Deadwood is not far away, and the Black Hills, so famous as the scene of Indian troubles, were but a few hours distant. One naturally thought of the Dakotas as a wild region, still haunted by echoes of the Red Man's voice. As a matter of fact it is one of the most civilized of American communities – new, aggressive and full of ambition, but with all the marks of modern progress. There are not yet many large cities, and some of the refinements of the older civilization are wanting, but there are many signs that the people are of the most progressive character.
I was invited to deliver four addresses before the South Dakota Baptist Convention, which I did on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14, 15 and 16. Rev. W. C. King, who had been the corresponding secretary of State Missions until within recent months, had gone to Denver. It was with a sense of loss that I failed to meet him. Rev. S. P. Shaw, late chancellor of Central University at Pella, Iowa, is now the state secretary and superintendent of missions. There were many tokens of effective work by him which appeared in the course of my visit. He is evidently an organizer and full of the spirit of progress.
Rev. P. E. Hudson, the pastor of the Huron church, has succeeded in erecting a most attractive house worship and modern parsonage, and has thus put our Baptist cause at Huron on a strong basis. It was a pleasure to meet Rev. D. D. Proper, D.D., of Omaha, who is general superintendent of missions for the Home Mission Society in a group of states. He is one of the most youthful elderly men I have ever met, full of energy and devotion to the great cause of evangelizing the West. Mr. J. F. Schrader, leading layman of Rapid City, Iowa, out in the Black Hills, is moderator of the South Dakota Convention, and a very effective one he is. Everybody spoke in the kindest terms of Rev. E. F. Jordan, president of Sioux Falls College. He has done a fine work in building up the college and erecting a new building. Rev. H. R. Best, the pastor at Sioux Falls, impressed me as one of the most wide-awake and effective men in the South Dakota Convention. He has succeeded in erecting a tabernacle which will seat a thousand people, and the church has many institutional features which are quite effective. By the way, he is a Southern man, having been educated partly at Baylor University. Rev. H. W. Tilden of Pierre, is regarded as one of the best preachers in the convention. Time and space fail me to mention the many excellent men in the South Dakota Convention. Rev. Craig S. Thomas, of Vermillion; Rev. J. S. Kinsey, of Arlington, a former student of our Seminary in Louisville, who is doing an excellent work; Rev. A. R. Button, one of the men who have [sic] been on the field a considerable time and who is very efficient; Rev. T. H. Hagan, state Sunday school missionary, employed by the Publication Society; Rev. J. S. Schroder, who conducts a colportage wagon and drives hundreds and hundreds of miles annually, distributing Baptist and Christian literature; Rev. F. E. Stockton, of Madison, who has done solid, constructive work in a pastorate of several years - these and many others I mention constitute the bone and sinew of the ministry of South Dakota.
A Pastor at Large.
One interesting feature of the work in the West has impressed me. There is a position which, broadly speaking, may be described as that of pastor-at-large. Rev. W. C. Garberson now occupies the position in South Dakota. Instead of being located at some point, he has a sort of roving commission. When a church is without a pastor, he fills the interim between pastorates and thus keeps the work of the church from going down, - an arrangement, by the way, calculated to result in great good, in view of the sad losses to the work in many churches pending the calling of a pastor. Of course the arrangement is a voluntary one on the part of the church and pastor-at-large, but a most excellent one.
The Baptists of South Dakota number only eight or ten thousand all told. As a result, of course, they do not have a very large state convention, but one thing which impressed me greatly in their state meeting was the thoroughness with which several practical problems were wrought out. The convention incorporated in its program a discussion of various practical church problems. Among those to which I listened was a discussion of church finances. It was led by Mr. Best, of Sioux Falls, in an illuminating talk at the outset. This was followed by one of the most fruitful and interesting discussions of the subject I have heard. Scarcely any phase of the subject of church finances and mission collections was omitted. It was an opportunity for the pooling, so to speak, of the wisdom of the whole convention regarding a most vital and practical matter. Other similar discussions were had on practical themes.
I was much impressed by a group of young men, all of whom have lately come to the state and all of whom are lately out of the seminary. It so happened, by the way, that most of them are Crozer men. They are as follows: Rev. L. M. Hainer, Camp Cook; Rev. H. M. Spangler, Bone Steel, in the Rosebud Indian reservation; M. J. Jeffries, Gettysburg; Rev. A. P. Waltz, Burke; Rev. M. J. Mecklen, Pierpont. Some of these young men have fields where they travel as much as a hundred miles to get from one appointment to another. All of them are bright, well educated and thoroughly devoted to their work. If there are any skeptics as to the high ideals of the modern minister, I wish they could have heard these young men tell of their work, and could felt something of the pulsations of their zeal and enthusiasm. There is not a man among them who would not be capable of holding an excellent pastorate in the East. In their heroic way they have chosen to go to the West and have a hand in molding the great civilization which is rising there. Surely here is an example of a ministry without any semblance of the sordid and the worldly in its ideals. No doubt, if we could gather statistics, there are thousands of such men at work in various parts of the country.
I have already referred to the work done by Pres. Jordan, of the Baptist school of the state. He has succeeded in erecting admirable buildings. Of course I did not visit this school, as it was in another city. I was greatly impressed, however, with the Presbyterian oollege at Huron, where the convention met. It was one of the most attractive modern brick buildings I have seen, costing $100,000, given in large part by one man.
I was impressed with the vastness and the future of this great country. The plains roll away into the dim distance, and impress one with the vastness of the arena on which here humanity is to work out its destiny. Some one humorously said that on these plains of Dakota a man could look toward the sunrise and see clear across the day after tomorrow, and toward the sunset and see all the way to day before yesterday. Surely the man who are [is] building for God on these plains have a vast opportunity.
The Michigan Convention.
From Dakota I came by Detroit, and gave an address on "The Authority of Christ" before the Ministers' Conference, and the opening address before the Michigan State Convention on Tuesday, October 18. The Michigan Convention is a great body. Rev. T. W. Young, pastor of the North Baptist church of Detroit, has achieved marvels in erecting one of the handsomest houses of worship to be seen in the Middle West. A very intelligent layman from Chicago declared to me that there was not a house of worship in Chicago that was equal to it in facilities for work. The State Convention met in this church. Dr. Young has accomplished great things in his pastorate, and occupies a very high place in the estimation his brethren. Pastor Pikes, of the Woodward Avenue church, is also doing a great work and preaching to great congregations. Our cause in Detroit has many promising features, and so with the cause in the state at large, though I was informed that the report of additions to the churches for the year gave a smaller Increase than the previous year. It was not my pleasure to remain long at the Michigan Convention, so that I have not as many details to report as from that of the South Dakota
It was a joy to find that in both of these state meetings our Seminary occupies a large place in the esteem and affections of our Baptist people, and it was a joy to speak to them and mingle with them in social fellowship during these few days. I find that everywhere students of our Seminary are appreciated for their effectiveness as pastors and their fidelity to the Gospel of the grace of God.
One of the special pleasures of the trip was a meeting with Mr. J. S. Dickerson, editor of The Standard, Chicago, who was in attendance at the Dakota Convention, whose delightful companionship I enjoyed on the return trip from Huron to Chicago. Mr. Dickerson is full of enthusiasm for the West, as well he may be, and as we all know, he is making a great paper of the Standard.
[From The Baptist World Journal, November 3, 1910, pp. 6-7; via Baylor U. digital documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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