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The New Missionary Field

The New Missionary Field

Chapter:
(p.81) Chapter Three The New Missionary Field
Source:
Evangelical Gotham
Author(s):
Kyle B. Roberts
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226388281.003.0004

This chapter discusses the emergence of a “New Missionary Field” in New York City following the War of 1812. Freed from the threat of European encroachment on the continent and flush from wartime profiteering, the city and its spiritual marketplace rebounded quickly, if unevenly. Evangelical denominations emerged as the most active producers in the marketplace, but their emplacement strategies led them to ignore whole swaths of the city. To rectify this situation, Ward Stafford devised an ambitious blueprint for a “New Missionary Field.” Evangelical laity traditionally on the margins of church decision-making—women and young men—formed voluntary associations in which they pooled their financial resources and organizational talents to sponsor missionaries to implement Stafford's plan. Along the edge of urban settlement, they focused on gathering people into missions that became the basis of neighborhood churches. On the waterfront, they engaged sailors and their families on the decks of ships and in boardinghouse parlors. Not content to be passive recipients of missionary attention, local residents took an active role in shaping missionary activities to suit their own needs.

Keywords:   spirituality, spiritual health, voluntary associations, Ward Stafford, missionaries, New York City, urban evangelicalism, evangelicals, neighborhood churches

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