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The Dissenters Volume IIIThe Crisis and Conscience of Nonconformity$
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Michael R. Watts

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198229698

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198229698.001.0001

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The ‘social and intellectual well-being of our members’

The ‘social and intellectual well-being of our members’

The Institutional Church

(p.168) 9 The ‘social and intellectual well-being of our members’
The Dissenters Volume III

Michael R. Watts

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the institutional church, the culmination of the efforts by the churches to provide alternative attractions to secular entertainment. The term ‘institutional church’ seems to derive from an experiment launched by Thomas K. Beecher, pastor of the Park Congregational church in Elmira, New York state, who, in 1872, persuaded his church to erect a purpose-built structure which included a gymnasium, lecture rooms, library, and public baths. In England, the first institutional church was probably that founded by John Clifford, in 1878, two years after his church moved to Westbourne Park, in Bayswater. The Westbourne Park Institute offered a library and a reading room, a literary society, a public speaking and debating society, a chess club, a choral association, and classes in French, shorthand, geology, and building construction. By 1887, the institute was running nearly thirty evening classes, including chemistry and singing, English grammar and shorthand, practical agriculture and Italian. Scores of other churches followed the example of Westbourne Park.

Keywords:   churches, secular entertainment, Thomas K. Beecher, Park Congregational church, Westbourne Park Institute, John Clifford

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