An Historical Sketch of the Y.P.C.U. by Miss Emma M. Slocum
From Onward Volume 13, No. 29, pg. 231, July 17 1906. A paper read in Pawtucket on Young People's Day.
The reasons which led to the organization of the young people of the Universalist Church, were the same reasons which have led to the organization of the young people of all other denominations. Thare is a gap between the Sunday School and the Church, when the youth feels too old for the former, and no vital interest in the latter. To pilot the young people across this gap, a Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor was organized by the pastor of a Congregational Church in Portland, Maine, in 1881.
From the first our young people were interested in it. We had had societies of various kinds for years preceding this, but they had been for local purposes, social or literary. The first feeling that found expression among us about uniting the scattered societies, was that they might be more distinctively connected with denominational missionary work.
In 1885, Mrs. George B. Marsh, a member of the Board of Trustees of the General Convention, formulated a plan for the organization in all our churches of Young People's Missionary Societies. This plan was adopted by the Convention in 1886, and a model of the Constitution was prepared and a copy with an explanatory letter was sent to all our parishes. So the Y. P. M. A., our first effort to combine all the various young people's societies under one name and for one purpose, was born and started on its way. But though much prayer and hard work was put into this organization, the movement failed to win any enthusiastic response, and we never had more than sixty-three of these associations.
Between 1881 and 1889 we had thirty-eight Y. P. S. C. E. Societies, about twenty-two other societies which seemed to exist for religious work, and these with the sixty three Y. P. M. A. made about one hundred and twenty-three young people's societies of the religious sort.
In 1883, Rev. S. H. Roblin, was in Victor, New York, Dr. L. B Fisher was in Rochester, Rev. Mr. Leland was in the vicinity, and James Tillinghast was a young lawyer in Buffalo. Together they were publishing a little Church paper called the "Universalist Union." These men were full of plans for the young peop le, one of them having already started a Y. P. S. C. E.
Mr. Roblin soon moved to Bay City, Mich., and organized a Y. P. S. C. E. there. From this society there went out on February 22, 1889 a letter to all young people's societies known, proposing that an attempt be made to get together and form a National Union of some sort. In the Fast the same feeling was growing as in Western New York and in Bay City.
The General Convention of 1889 was appointed to meet in Lynn. The young people of the Lynn parish obtained permission to call a meeting of all the young people's societies of our Church at Lynn on the day preceding the Convention session. This call to come to Lynn went out and they did come. The young people of the land sent up to Lynn that year one hundred and thirty-one delegates representing fifty-six young people's societies from thirteen States, and they held their first meeting.
After a brief meeting of praise and prayer, the task of organizing was begun. The name, National Young People's Christian Union of the Universalist Church, was adopted. In later years when Canada and Japan were heard from, the Union became known as the Central Union, but later resumed its incorporated name, Y. P. C. U. It is incorporated under the name of the National Y. P. C. U.
And had the founders deliberated until the end of time, they could not have chosen a name more appropriate to the Universalist idea. United here, united hereafter; union here, a union hereafter; union forever.
The Constitution, adopted the next day, stated the object of the organization to be "To promote an earnest Christian life among the j oung people of the Universalist Church, and the sympathetic Union of all young people's societies in their efforts to make themselves more useful in the service of God."
The motto of the Y. P. C. U. is "For Christ and His Church," and its watchword is "Onward." The Union has always been most heartily loyal to the General Convention, and never for a moment have the relations of cordial helpfulness between them been strained.
The little western New York paper, the "Universalist Union," was made the organ of the Y. P. C. U., and the full report of this Lynn meeting was printed in it, and 2,500 copies were distributed throughout the land. This paper was published at first by Secretary Tillinghast, largely on his own responsibility, but in 1893 the Union took entire control of the paper. Beginning March 1, 1894, the Universalist Publishing House issued it, dividing profit or loss with the National Union. The name of the paper was changed to On Ward. It is published by the Publishing House, and managed by the Union.
Its editors, since Mr. Tillinghast, have been Rev. Omer G. Petrie and Rev. Arthur W. Grose, Rev. Harry L. Canfield assisted by Mary Grace Canfield, Rev. K. G. Mason, Miss Grace F. White, and Mr. Charles Neal Barney. The present editor is Rev. Harry Adams Hersey. Onward costs fifty cents a year, and is in touch with every department of Y. P. C. U. work.
The first regular Convention of the Y. P. C. U. was in Rochester, N. Y., October 20 and 21,1890. Later it became evident that the Union could its work better and have more time if it held its annual meetings apart from the sessions of the General Convention; so in 1894 the Union was held in July, and it has continued to meet in that mouth ever since. These annual meetings of the Y. P. C. U. are equaled in importance by no other gatherings of our Church, except the biennial sessions of the General Convention.
The Boston Convention in 1895 taxed to the utmost of seating and standing capacity two large churches. In Lynn, the tenth annual Convention in 1899 was made a special decennial jubilee of the Union, in the city of its birth. The Convention of 1902 was held at Portland, Maine; the Convention of 1903 at Akron; of 1904 at Providence; of 1905 at Hartford; and the young people have their thought on Detroit, and the meeting of 1906, determined that it shall be fully up to the high standard of Y. P. C. U. Coaventions.
Mr. Lee E. Joslyn held the office of President until 1892, when Mr. Herbert B. Briggs was elected. In 1894 Rev. Elmer J. Felt succeeded Mr. Brings, and 1897 was himself suceeded by Mr. Harry M. Fowler. Mr. Fowler was President until 1900, when Mr. Louis Annin Ames was elected to the office, which position he held until 1905 when he was succeeded by Rev. F. W. Perkins, who is the present occupant of the chair.
Mr. Tillinghast was Secretary of the Union through all its formative years from 1889 to 1894. Rev. Harry L. Canfiebi became Secretary in 1894, holding the office until 1898. Rev. Alfred J. Cardall was Secretary from 1898 until 1901. Mr. Charles Neal Barney held the office from 1901 to 1903, when Mr. Harry Adams Hersey took the position until 1905. The present Secretary is Mr. A. Ingham Bicknell.
Miss Nannie Jenison, the first Treasurer, held that office until 1892, when it went to Miss Lizzie Goldthwaite, then in 1895 to Mr. Harry M. Fowler, and to Rev. Rev. Omer G. Petrie in 1897, and to Mr. Louis Annin Ames in 1899. In 1900 Mr. George F. Sears came to the Treasurer's office, which position he held until 1905, when Prof. Arthur W. was elected Treasurer and still holds the office.
The Union was incorporated so that it could hold property or receive bequests, at first under the laws of the State of Massachusetts in 1893; but on March 10, 1898, it was reincorporated under its present form.
The Y. P. C. U. has assisted in building churches in Harriman, Atlanta, Little Rock, and in purchasing a chapel in St. Paul. The contributions of the young people for all these missionary enterprises are collected through the twocents-a-week plan. Since 1895 the contributions from this source alone have been $18,000. The contributions to missions increased 33 per cent in 1903, and they are still increasing.
At the Harriman Convention in 1894, the Union added to its work a Junior Union Department This important line of work was put in charge of Mrs. Mary Grace Canfield. In 1898 Mrs. Canfield prepared and issued a Junior Star Song Book.
From 1898 to 1904 Miss Lillian Hosley was superintendent of the Junior Unions. Miss Gertrude Mason Whipple was appointed Superintendent in 1904. The Juniors are active in all lines of denominational work.