The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit WEDNESDAY,SEPTEMBER 11, 1889. CHURCH TROUBLES.
The troubles that now beset the Presbyterian Church in the hill-foot district are only an acute phase of those from which religious bodies of nearly every Christian denomination throughout the world are making chronic complaint. Neglect of religious ordinances, non-attendance at public worship, and falling off in the amount of subscriptions and contributions towards church purposes are complained of everywhere, and nowhere more universally than in New Zealand. We have only to look to recent events to supply instances : Firstly ( the state of affairs in connection with the Christchurch Cathedral, where the contributions are so meagre that it has been found impossible to continue the beautiful services on the same scale as hitherto; the offertories given by crowded Sunday evening attendances of well and even fashionably dressed people, numbering generally seven or eight hundred^ averag ing little over £1. In the Anglican congregations at Dtmedin, special measures have been taken to arrest the defection from the churches of many gentlemen of acknowledged intellectual eminence ; and the Presbyterian Synod never meets in that city an unfavorable report being made upon the state of religious observances, though it would have been thought from the strong hold which Presbyterianism has on its adherents, who form so great a majority of this population c of Otago, that the communion at least would be free from such caube for complaint. Yet even in Scotland the general neglect of duties to the church has created, great uneasiness. Money is wanted and not forthcoming, and at one of the General Assemblies last May an eminent divine is stated to have declared that if the present state of things were to go on they would have to dispense with their manses and adopt a system of celibate ministers. Non-churchgoing is, however, the evil which is looked upon in Scotland as tho foundation of all the troubles. Many reasons have been assigned for it, among them intemperance, ignorance, and some other evils which have of late years become greatly mitigated and so cannot be adduced as causes. Pernicious literature, scepticism, nnsuitable services, and sectarianism, doubtless, have an adverse influence, and a suggestion "that tho pulpit might have something to do with it," though it seems to have been more seriously considered by the lay than by the clerical section of the Established Church, has been tho practical point of the debate in the Free Church Assembly on the question of ministerial efficiency and the best means of increasing the same. When these difficulties are experienced directly under the influence of tho moßt eminent and eloquent ministers of the day it cannot be expected that they should be unknown in the distant colonies where ministers of great ability are few and far between. Perhaps there is room for improvement on both sides. Many pastors might with advantage meet their flock more on en everyday level, and members of congregations regard their minister with more sympathy and less as a subject for adverse criticism at every possible opportunity.