President Eliot addressed the New England Country Church Association last evening in Tremont Temple on the problem of restoring to their former position of dignity and influence the rural churches of New England. Differences in creed have caused an increase in the number of churches, until none now hold a position of influence or are able to provide comfortable circumstances for their pastors. The problem of giving an influential position to a minister is largely analogous to doing the same for a teacher, which has been accomplished to a great extent by state support. This, however, is impossible in the case of a clergyman, because a state religion is forbidden by the Constitution. The benefit which teachers derive from state support is surpassed to no small degree by their support by large endowments, and it is here that we find the key to the problem of the country churches.
A board of trustees in charge of the administration of the endowment fund would be free to maintain churches of several denominations and, from its central location, could place in each community just such churches as were best suited to its needs. There are several organizations now in existence which are tending in this direction, and a number of denominations maintain national bureaus from which their work is directed.
The Country Church Association will hold two sessions today at Gilbert Hall in Tremont Temple. At the meeting this morning at 10 o'clock, Dean Hodges of the Episcopal Theological School will speak on "Training Men for the Country Churches," and this afternoon at 2, Professor F. G. Peabody '69 will open the discussion of the report of the Committee on Country Church Work.