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INTRODUCTORY MEETING, MONDAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 1st.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2ND.
The Training of Sunday School Teachers for their Work."
By Mr. J. G. Fitch, M.A. ...
The numerous Conferences which of late years have been held by Sunday school teachers in various parts of this country and in America, and which have been productive of considerable advantage to the cause of religious instruction, naturally suggested the idea of a General Sunday School Convention, to embrace the whole of the United Kingdom, together with such a representation of Sunday school interests abroad as it might be practicable to secure.
The often-expressed desire for such a Convention first took a tangible form at the Yorkshire Sunday School Conference, on Good Friday, 1860, when a private meeting of delegates was held in Albion Chapel, Hull, to confer upon the subject with Mr. Hartley, who attended the Conference as the representative of the Sunday School Union.
The result of the brief discussion was a unanimous resolution, affirming the expediency of holding such a Convention, and requesting the Committee in London to take the subject into their serious consideration.
After mature deliberation, the Committee considered that the year of the International Exhibition would be the most suitable period for holding the Convention; and further action was therefore deferred until the autumn of 1861, when Mr. Watson, who was about to attend the Conference of the Evangelical Alliance at Geneva, in order to take part in the discussion relating to Sunday schools, was requested to bring the proposal before the friends assembled there, and to obtain their opinion upon the subject.
The suggestion was received with unanimous approval; several of the brethren present promised their hearty co-operation ; and the Rev. Professor Nagel, of Neuchâtel, entered so warmly into the scheme, that he at once announced his intention to devote his leisure time during the winter to the acquisition of the English language, in order that he might be prepared to enjoy the opportunity, and take part in the proposed meetings.
Upon the return of Mr. Watson, the Committee again took the subject into serious consideration, and with a full knowledge of the large amount of labour and expense involved in the decision, resolved to take advantage of the anticipated presence of large numbers of the friends of Sunday schools in London, during the Great International Exhibition, and to hold, in the month of September, a GENERAL SUNDAY SchooL CONVENTION, for the discussion of measures bearing on the improvement and extension of Sunday schools at home and abroad.
Circulars were at once issued, and advertisements inserted in the Sunday school journals, inviting the attendance of representatives of Sunday School Unions and kindred institutions in the United Kingdom, the Colonies, and from the Continents of Europe and America.
In due time, the subjects of discussion were settled and announced; the manifold arrangements were gradually completed; delegates were appointed; tickets and programmes were despatched; the gallery, which it was thought necessary to erect in the Lecture Hall to accommodate the large numbers expected, was finished, and at length the time arrived for the opening of the Convention,-a period of considerable anxiety, though mingled with hopeful anticipations.
Whatever apprehensions, however, might have been entertained, were entirely dispelled by the Introductory Meeting, before the close of which the Convention was pronounced "a great success,” a conviction which grew in strength as the meetings proceeded, until they closed amidst the mutual congratulations of all who had attended them.
Altogether, more than 700 tickets of admission were issued, and 433 persons attended one or more of the meetings held in the Old Bailey. Of the 433 persons thus attending, 48 were Officers or Members of the Committee; 19—Chairmen, or others taking part in the proceedings of the Convention ; 13-Foreign Delegates ; 193-Country Delegates; 85-London Delegates ; 38—Ministers; and 37—Visitors.
It is scarcely necessary to say that all the Members of the Convention did not attend every meeting, though several of the Committee, and some others, did. The average attendance was 203.
A complete list of the persons attending the meetings at the Old Bailey is given at page vi.
It is satisfactory to state that, in response to the numerous circulars issued, on Sunday, August 31st, a large number of the ministers of London made the Sunday school cause the theme of their sermons; that in the afternoon, upwards of 65,000 Sunday scholars were gathered together, in about sixty chapels, to join in worship, and listen to the addresses of the ministers and friends appointed to discharge that service; and in the evening, at least forty prayer meetings were held, at which several thousand of the teachers of London assembled to unite in supplication at the throne of grace, that the Divine blessing might rest on the meetings of the Convention, and on the Sunday school cause at large.
The General Sunday School Convention is now a matter of history, and its effects upon the interests of Sunday schools throughout the world remains to be seen.
The Committee of the Sunday School Union indulge the hope that the influence of the meetings which have been held will be manifested in the general improvement of Sunday schools at home and abroad, and in their rapid extension among children of all classes and of all ages. But, however this may be, they are sure that all who look back upon the several meetings will long remember the prayerful spirit, the brotherly harmony, and the practical wisdom manifested throughout these memorable proceedings, and will be disposed to join in the petition, “O Lord, we beseech Thee, send now prosperity.”