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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: Charteris retires

Looking Back

Friday July 11 2014

Looking Back: Charteris Retires

The Very Rev Prof Archibald Charteris convened the Committee on Christian Life and Work from 1869, helping to establish Life and Work, the Guild and the Diaconate. This article was published in July 1894, after his retirement from the committee.

The Rev Prof Archibald Charteris


A QUARTER of a century ago, on Saturday, May 29 1869, the General Assembly "called for the Overture by certain Members of this Assembly on the Christian life and work of the Church." The Overture was read by the Clerk. It was then moved and agreed to-"That a Committee be appointed to inquire as to the progress of Christian work in the country, and, further, to consider and report as to the best means of promoting evangelistic efforts, and of guiding those engaged in them, so as to secure their co-operation with the Office-bearers of the Church, in order that the Ministry of the Church may be aided by voluntary Christian efforts, and that the pastoral superintendence of her Ministers may be enjoyed by those for whom such efforts have gathered in."

The language of Church Courts is sometimes strange to the lay reader, but the foregoing sentences are worth reading again. They narrate the beginning of one of the best movements in the Church of Scotland - we might say in the Churches of Scotland - for in a few years other communions in Scotland, and indeed beyond it, followed the example. The movement was at once stimulating and, in the best sense, conservative; for it was to call forth new life and activity on the basis of the organised Christian Church. Its founder and leader was Professor Archibald Hamilton Charteris, D.D., who, as Convener of the Committee, gave in its first Report to the General Assembly of 1870, and who, after twenty-five years of arduous and successful toil, resigned his post to the Assembly of 1894.

How the movement has grown in twenty-five years! There is the Organisation of Woman's Work, with its Guildswomen, Guild Sisters, and Deaconesses; its Deaconess House and Training Home; its Mission Buildings and "Lady Grisell Baillie Memorial Hospital" in the Pleasance of Edinburgh, and its other hospital far away at Kalimpong in the Eastern Himalayas. There is the Young Men's Guild with 23, 482 members, and a Guild and Mission Church in India. There is its Mission to the Fishing Stations, with unpaid Deputies; its Evangelistic Missions known as Mission Weeks, and its Mission Preachers. There is this Magazine, Life and Work, entering 100,000 homes every month - the Magazine was begun by Dr. Charteris in 1879, and he edited it for more than a year. There are the Magazine Supplements, the Year-Book of the Church, the now numerous Bible Class Text-Books, and the Guild Examinations. There is special work among farm-servants; and there is now being formed a Volunteer Missionary Band.

Is not this a record of progress?

The General Assembly received the resignation of Dr. Charteris with much regret - regret deepened by the knowledge that his health compelled this step. They put on record their sense of the great service which he has rendered to the Church of Scotland and the cause of Christ by his labours as Convener. They said truly that during all these years his wise counsel and unwearied devotion have given direction to the operations of the Committee and inspiration to its members, and have caused it to grow year by year in favour and usefulness.

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