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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Chautauqua Assembly

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is the name given to an annual summer gathering. for purposes of instruction in, worship, and recreation. Its meetings open early in July and continue about six weeks. The place is a well-wooded point of land jutting out into the beautiful Lake Chautauqua, a body of water about twenty miles long by two wide; and over fourteen hundred feet above the level of the sea. It is in western New York, ten miles from Lake Erie, and seven hundred feet above it. The assembly grounds contain about one hundred and fifty acres, and are four hundred and sixty miles from New York city,four hundred and twenty-five from Cincinnati and fire hundred and thirty from Chicago. The air is pure, the water good;, the grounds wellshaded, and the entire place and its neighborhood are noted for salubrity.

I. History. This place, known as Fair Point, :had been used for two years as a camp-meeting, tinder the control of an association chartered for: that purpose, and consisting of a number of prominent members,of the Methodist Episcopal Church in western New York and in several adjoining states.. Among these was Mr. Lewis Miller of Akron, Ohio, a man of broad views and great force of character, and. especially interested in Sunday- school work. W hen his friend, the, Rex. J. H. Vincent, D.D., Corresponding Secretary of the Sunday-school Union of the Methodist Episcopal Church, conferred with him on the subject of a Sunday-school Institute to be held for several weeks, Mr; Miller suggested that it be held in the woods, and afterwards proposed the ground by Chautauqua Lake as the place for holding it. It is worthy of mention here, that several: years before this time Mr. Silas, Farmer, of Detroit, Michigan; had suggested the idea of a "Sunday-school Camp-Meeting." (See Sunday-school Journal, April, 1870, p.'155.) - Nothing, however, came from it at that time. Dr. Vincent, who had years before organized the first Sunday-school Institute ever held, had for a long time cherished the thought that it might be possible, as it would certainly be desirable to gather Sunday-school teachers in a meeting for instruction and practice, which should last a mulch longer time than the ordinary institute; and w hen Mr. Miller suggested the great Fair Point as the place he accepted the suggestion.. There was accordingly held for fourteen days, in August, 1874, a meeting, with this object in view, and called the "'Sunday-school Assembly.": Tie attendance was large, and so deep wast the interest excited that, before the assembly was dissolved, there was by formal action a unanimous desire expressed that another assembly might be held the following year.

For several years the meetings were thus held, especially for Sunday-school teachers. The success was so great that, in 1875, an organization was formed which bought the property from. the Camp-Meeting Association, and has ever since held it for the purposes of the assembly. The plans of work broadened with each successive year. Very early in the history of the assembly Dr. Vincent suggested the desirability of adding to the programme a scientific conference. The idea was soon carried into execution. Since then the Chautauqua: Assembly, while it has retained in its original enthusiasm and power the idea of instruction in Sunday - school work, has greatly broadened its scope, until now it- includes every branch: of human knowledge. It places the Bible at the very centre and foundation of its work, seeking to study. the word of God and the works of God. The religious element is predominant in-all its operations, though there is perfect freedom from asceticism, cait, and sectarianism. Abundant provision is made for innocent recreations but late hours, dancing, and cards are forbidden.

II. Organization. There are at present in the assembly seven different departments besides: the Chautauqua School of Theology and the Chautauqua University, separately noted below.

1. The Chautauqua Assembly: Normal Department. This comprises the Sunday school Assembly :with which the movement started, and includes five classes:

(1) The Chautauqua Children's Class;.

(2) The Chautauqua Intermediate Class, for youths and adults;

(3) "The Chautauqua Sunday-school Normal Class, for parents and Sunday-school teachers;

(4) The Chautauqua Advanced Normal, which has a post-graduate course in biblical and normal class work;

(5) The Primary Teachers' Union, for primary-class teachers.

2. The Chautauqua Teachers'. Retreat, begun in 1879. Teachers of secular schools may attend this during their summer vacation, and. in the intervals of recreation and of rest have. the advantage of a summer school under, the direction of some of the foremost educators of the age. Lectures are delivered on the Philosophy and Methods of Teaching, and on other subjects-of practical interest to teachers...

3. The Chautauqua School of Languages, begun in 1879. The object of this is to familiarize teachers with what is known as the natural method of teaching the modern languages, as well as to illustrate other methods in both ancient and modern languages, and to increase popular interest in philological studies.

4. The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, begun in 1878. This is one of the grandest educational conceptions of the day. It aims to help the large number of people, old as well as young, but especially the ;young, who have a desire to read, but do not know what to read. For all such, courses of reading are marked out, and text books indicated, many of them being specially prepared for the purpose. These courses of reading are peculiarly adapted for busy people, who can take but-little time from their daily toil or their domestic cares.. An average of forty minutes for each week - day, or four hours a week, will take one through one of these' annual courses of reading in nine months. It is not necessary that the members of the Circle " should ever come to Chautauqua, though every summer there is a large gathering of them .at that place.- It is expected, however, that members will fill out memoranda of their reading, and send them to the central office at Plainfield, N. J.

The course of reading of the "C. L. S. C.," as it is called by abbreviation, is not by any means designed as a substitute for a regular collegiate course of study. While it covers the college outlook, it is rather designed for those who have not had the advantage of such a training, and yet who have a thirst for knowledge. Already in a number of instances it has awakened in some of its youthful readers an ardent desire for a thorough collegiate course, and has started them on the way. At the same time it is designed to help men of business who are college graduates of former years in reviving the .studies and literary pursuits of their earlier days. So popular is this new movement that the "C. L. S. C." now numbers sixty thousand members engaged in one. or another of a four years' course of reading. It has over one thousand local " circles," numbering. from three students to several hundred each. These are to be found in all parts of the United States, even in Alaska, and also in Canada, Great Britain, India, China, Japan, and the Sandwich Islands. The first class was graduated in 1882, after having pursued the four years' course of reading, and numbered over seventeen hundred. The second class, which graduated in 1883, consisted of nearly thirteen hundred members.

5. The Chautauqua Young Folks' Reading Union, be gun in 1881. ' For this there is an annual course of entertaining reading provided. The design is to drive out interesting bad books by interesting good books. It is especially intended for children and young-people.

6. The Chautauqua Missionary Institute.- This is designed to increase interest in domestic and foreign missions.

7. The Chautauqua College of Music, begun in 1883. This, as its name implies, aims at' the cultivation of the science and of the art of music.

III. General Characteristics and Accessories.-Life at Chautauqua would be anything but rest should one undertake to attend all the different meetings. He would be kept busy from early in the morning until late at night, with but little intermission for recreation or food. But this would be clearly an abuse of the design of the. assembly, and would be as unwise 'as if one should visit Saratoga for his health and drink of all the different springs as rapidly as he could ride from one to another. There is abundant time for recreation and for rest-to those who wish them, as most of the. visitors do... Each must make. a selection of the lectures or other exercises of the day he wishes to attend, and leave the others to those who prefer them. Various departments of instruction are in operation, simultaneously. Then there are certain hours in the morning and evening when all exercises. are closed excepting the popular lecture, or concert, or addresses in the amphitheater. If one be so disposed he may absent himself from all these, and spend the entire day roaming the woods, or sailing on the lake, or quietly seated in tent or cottage, and then at half-past ten at night go to bed at-the sound of the chimes of bells, generally sure of being undisturbed until the same faithful sentinels shall announce the coming of six o'clock in the morning.

The appliances for the educational purposes designed are very complete at Chautauqua. The original auditorium consisted merely of rough benches fixed under the shade of the forest trees, and a large covered platform. There were sittings for-about three thousand people. This old place of gathering still remains, and is frequently used, but it long since became too small for the immense congregations who gather in Chautauqua. Five or six years ago an amphitheatre was built, or, to speak more correctly, an amphitheatre which nature had made was seated and roofed over. This will easily accommodate six thousand people. It has an immense pipe ordain for Sabbath worship and for concerts, and is the favorite place for the great lecturers and preachers who every year delight Chautauqua audiences. There are also other buildings for smaller audiences the Hall of Philosophy; the Children's Temple; the Chapel; the Normal Pavilion,

Besides these places for audiences -there are places devoted to education through the eye. 'Newton Hall" has a Museum of Art and of Sacred and General Archaeology. There is a model of the Holy Land nearly three hundred feet long, with Lake .Chautauqua to represent the Mediterranean sea. There is a model of the City of Jerusalem; and a sectional model of the Great Pyramid.

During the height of the assembly season, a daily paper is published on the grounds, edited by the Rev. T. L. Flood, D.D. It has eight large pages and forty-eight columns, and is called The Assembly Herald. There is also a monthly magazine known as The Chautauquan, a quarto of seventy-two pages, under the same editorship. These periodicals are devoted to the interests of the Chautauqua Assembly. In them are published reports of the various meetings held and of-the lectures and addresses delivered. Besides this The Chautauqusan has several series, of papers to be read or studied in the course of reading prescribed for the "C. L. S.C."

The attendance at Chautauqua, especially at the height of the season, is something wonderful. The residents for the- term and the casual visitors are numbered by the ten thousand. In 1883 the receipts from all sources were forty thousand dollars, of which nearly thirty thousand dollars were taken at- the gate, as payment for admission to the premises. The entire receipts are devoted to the payment of expenses and to the improvement of the grounds. The men to whom the management is intrusted, and who do the most important part of the work, receive no pay for their services, and, if the whole truth were known, it would probably be found that they are sometimes out of pocket. Their work is purely a labor of love, and they consider themselves well paid in beholding the results-. (J.M. F.)


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Chautauqua Assembly'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/c/chautauqua-assembly.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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