The Oberlin Evangelist
July 6, 1859
Remarks on the Late Annual Meeting of the Ohio Congregational Conference.
We went to Sandusky City anticipating a good meeting, but we bore thither on our hearts a heavy load; for the brother who should have gone with us to preside at the opening session, as Moderator of the last Conference, was in prison at Cleveland. A year ago he was elected the presiding officer of the our State body, and was the guest of Governor Chase at Columbus. Now he is the victim of Federal persecution, restrained in his personal liberty, and hindered from fulfilling his official duties. This cast a shade over the hearts of all who attended the late Annual Meeting. It gave us a special message at the Throne of Grace, in our hours of devotion, and many and earnest were the prayers in behalf of the prisoners, GodŐs honored servants. It gave tone also to the business sessions of the Conference, and a pervading animus to the entire anniversary.
On gathering in the Church Friday Morning, we missed the brethren from the southern part of the State, and especially from Marietta Conference, only one representative of that local body being present, owing doubtless to the distance, 400 miles. It was perceived, too, when it was too late to be remedied, that we had generally left our wives at home, and this was regretted as a serious miscalculation. The good people of Sandusky City made arrangements to entertain members of Conference and their wives, and were disappointed by the nonattendance of the latter. Had cards of invitation been sent by the Committee of Arrangements, specially soliciting the Pastors and delegates to bring their ladies with then, it would have induced many, no doubt, to comply. This was done prior to the late Annual Meeting of the Michigan Association, and resulted well. The expressions in Conference of regret at the absence of the wives, and the testimony of delegates from other western bodies, where the ladies do attend, prepared the way for a change in this respect, and we confidently anticipate a good attendance of the sisters at our next Annual Meeting.
The reports of delegates to and from corresponding bodies occupied most of the forenoon. The number of representatives present was small. (Unfortunately, the delegate from Massachusetts was misinformed of the time of our meeting, and came on as far as Cleveland before he discovered the error, one week after date.) There was a providential concurrence in the reports of delegates of western associations rending to acquaint the brethren of our Conference with important points in which we are as yet behind band. As we are among the youngest of this western sisterhood of State organizations, it is becoming in us to learn wisdom from our elders. The particulars in which we are inferior, as a body, compared with our sister organizations at the West, are chiefly such as relate to completeness of organism, business energy, and actual working machinery.
In earnest piety, in personal home labors, in devotion to truth and principle, and in love fore Congregationalism, the brethren of Ohio would not probably suffer in comparison with those of any Association in the West.
The festival, on Friday evening, kindly provided by the ladies of the Congregational Church, afforded an opportunity for a social re-union, which was prized and improved by the members of Conference. In this they were pleasantly joined by the families whose guests they were, and largely besides by the members of different churches in the city. Among the pleasant addresses of this occasion, were some contributed by the Pastors of the city.
A deeply interesting feature in the meeting on Saturday forenoon, was the presentation of a letter from Prof. H. E. Peck, dated Cuyahoga Co. Jail. This valuable Christian letter has been published in the Evangelist. The reply, prepared by the Moderator at the request of Conference, and read on Sabbath after the communion season, we trust will be published also. It was a fitting response to so noble a letter.
The resolutions passed on the Rescue Case were very decided, and all that could be asked in that form.. We should have been pleased to have had the Conference issue an address setting forth the main facts in this case, and appealing to the church3s to be prompt to meet this crisis in our civil and religious affairs, as a commonwealth.
An important feature in our Annual Meeting is that of embracing the Sabbath in the days devoted to our meetings. The opportunities this affords to reach the people of the place with a religious influence, and also of celebrating the LordŐs Supper with the congenial solemnities of the holy Sabbath, commend this arrangement warmly to our heats. We should regret to see a change in this particular. A proposal to return to the three middle days of the week was brought before Conference, and laid over fore consideration at the next Annual Meeting. We hope brethren will not be too hasty in deciding unfavorably upon the present experiment.
We cannot refrain from alluding to an incident in connection with the communion season, which illustrates the importance that may, under certain circumstances attach to so small a thing as the selection of a tune. When before the supper the hymn was read,
Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
Perhaps the entire congregation were expecting to unite in singing the tune belonging to those words; and the disappointment was great when the choir sung an unfamiliar and indifferent piece. Some, we noticed, closed their books, and others sat down, and we afterwards heard expressions of dissatisfaction.
We trust much good was done by the preaching of the Word, in the various churches of the city; and we also hope that a happy influence will go forth over the State from the meetings of Conference. J.A.T.