This story of a big man in a small town was first read to my own people on consecutive Sunday evenings during the winter of 1916.
In the book form, the author, who does not pretend to be indifferent to his audience, wishes, without any pretence at false modesty, that he might have the rare privilege of knowing that every minister of every church of every denomination had read this story. The conditions pictured here can be duplicated in hundreds of small towns in every state of the Union. The unnecessary waste of good men, money and messages is heartbreaking. If Christianity is going to have prophets, preachers and ministers who shall truly represent the Gospel, some radical changes must take place in the institution called the "church."
Those changes will not take place until the men who are at the head of the church as ministers and official members of Denominational Boards get a real vision of a church and its place in a community. The whole genius of the times in which we now live is towards some form of co-operative human effort for a common good, not for a special good for some special group in the community. If the nations are in a real sense fighting for a federated commercial and political union of mutual interests, it is time for the church to feel the truth of this community spirit, and find a way to reach the life of all the people and not a sect of it.
This story is dedicated, in a special sense, to all those, in pulpit and pew, who have seen the larger definition of the church and have felt its force in their hearts. In all the denominations a growing number is "nobly discontent" with church life as it is, specially in the small town. Some way must be feasible and workable to save the needless waste of men and means, and put the church in touch in a dignified way with all the community. This little story is not an answer to the problem of church federation; it is only a suggestion. But if the hearts of the people of all the different denominations are Christian enough, a way will be found to work out any problem.
The Community is greater than the denomination and Christianity is a larger thing than men's definition of it.
CHARLES M. SHELDON.
Topeka, Kansas, 1917.
Central Congregational Church.
PLACE: RED HILL, the most gossipy town in Kansas.|
TIME: THE PRESENT.
ACTION: A Community life for a small, over-churched, financially prosperous little town in Kansas, where every event in the story has occurred in real existence. The one greatest social need of the age is the action of the story, not only for Kansas, but for every small town in every state in the United States.
HOWARD CHASE, Minister, Congregational Church.
HIS SISTER, Rose.
ROY LENNOX, his chum.
MRS. BURTON, his wife.
AGNES BURTON, his daughter, the High School Teacher.
REV. ALFRED NOYES, Methodist.
REV. GEORGE HARRIS, Presbyterian.
REV. HENRY GRAY, Baptist.
GEORGE CLARK, printer and inventor.
HIS DAUGHTER, Inez.
JAKE SEYMOUR, the "Movie" man.
LITTLE MISS WILSON.