I. Sunday in East London

STUPENDOUS as are its burdens and its problems, never did the great world which we call East London present such inspiring aspects or so fascinate the social and religious worker as it does to day. Who shall describe even the surface of the vast panorama of the East London of to-day! In picturesqueness of roof and sky-line, this great congeries of towns, with a population of 1,600,000 persons, startles and pleases the world-tourist's eye. Its great imperial highways, its newer public buildings, its vast and ever-increasing mileage of lofty industrial dwellings, and the human tides which surge along its streets, are beginning to be discovered by Londoners themselves. It is in Aldgate and Whitechapel, not in the magnificent and luxurious West, and amid the overwhelming and concentrated traffic of commercial London beyond the old Eastern city gate, and not in the Old Court suburb, that the spectator is nearer to the heart of London life. Here and farther East he feels the buoyancy of the rising tide and the energy of the younger life. New and imposing buildings, educational, religious, and charitable, everywhere meet the eye. The great and almost illimitable plain of East London is thickly set with towers and spires and hospitable beacons stretching still farther and farther East to the far Essex horizon beyond. They rise like great friendly lighthouses from the once dreary social swamp or the cheerless highway, telling of newer forces and helpful centres now available for a hardly-pressed people.

Close by the greatest hospital in the kingdom, the London Hospital, there now rises the greatest elementary school for poor children of which England can boast - the Jews' Free School in Spitalfields. Here, too, are found old beacons of the historic past, noble parish churches, bearing up bravely amid almost overwhelming cares, and in friendly touch with almost magnificent mission halls, of which the West End might be proud.

Not far from the People's Palace, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge stretch out a helping hand to East London. Beautiful and capacious college settlements have arisen in Whitechapel and Bethnal Green, and a still newer centre in Canning Town. At Shoreditch and Mile End are two Nonconformist temples, each led by one of the foremost of London preachers, the congregations in which are counted by thousands - centres of religious life which are among the most auspicious pledges for the East London of the future.

If, as seems undeniable, East London has in recent years become the scene of social and religious movements which are largely changing the face of society, the Sunday aspect of the place should afford some clues to the still more hopeful future which seems to be in store.

Sunday religious agencies, although by no means the only forms of activity in the district, are the chief expression of the regenerative forces which are at work. It is on Sundays that the newer as well as the older forms of propaganda find their chief opportunity.

Some of the greatest problems of modern times have recently taken on new aspects, and are probably working themselves out to unforeseen and eventful issues. For the East London of today, although still largely consisting, as is supposed, of the most destitute population in the kingdom, is no longer the inert, inorganic, unaspiring, unquickened world of a quarter of a century since, almost narcotised with unvarying labour. Since that period it has been vivified from many sources, both within and without. Immense and unwieldy as it may be, East London is largely acquiring a social and organising life of its own. It is no longer swallowed up in its own vastness.

In spite of enormous difficulties, the older methods and equipment for church work in East London still survive in the more historic centres, although under greatly changed conditions. Magnificently built churches are still the nucleus of parochial work. On the other hand, some phases of religious organisation and church life would seem to have passed away, at least for a time. The list of places of worship which have been given up and devoted to non-religious purposes during the last twenty-five years is a long one. Their activities and ministrations in the district may have taken other forms, but some of them will be sadly missed in a Sunday visit to East London.

But the greatest and most portentous of the newer religious and social phenomena of East London, more especially in their Sunday aspects, has now to be mentioned. It is the startling and overshadowing growth of Anglo-Judaism. The extraordinary increase in the numbers of the Jewish population, their progressive consolidation and irresistible expansion, and their unceasing overflow still farther East are by far the most important and significant of the influences which are transforming great parishes in East London. [1]

For reasons which will be mentioned, it is impossible to assign any limits to the growth and extension of this Anglo-Jewish population and its effects on the future of East London. The aspects of the Sunday are necessarily greatly affected by it. And yet, as will be seen, the Jewish Sunday agencies in use for religious and educational purposes are on a great scale, and of no little interest and import. On the purely educational side, the scheme for a Jewish Toynbee Hall at Mile End will still further colour the character of the Sunday in the district. Altogether, the contribution of Judaism to the Sunday and week-day life of the East End is, perhaps, the most important factor to be reckoned with in future religious work for East London.

The great University Missions and Settlements also necessarily come under notice in these papers. In Whitechapel and Bethnal Green, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have planted vigorous offshoots from the parent stock, and with great courage and perseverance they have commenced the experiment of settling colonies of their own laymen to live among the inhabitants of the East End, and there, in the evening and other periods of leisure, to carry on educational and religious work, or both, amongst their less happily circumstanced fellow-residents in the East. At Oxford House and at Mansfield House these missions have a more distinctively religious character. They will be found contributing in their own way to the religious character of the Sunday as well as to week-day evangelising agencies.

By no means the least important of the newer agencies is the mission founded by the Society of Friends. At the Bedford Institute, Spitalfields (the famous historical site associated with the Quakerism of two hundred years since), and at other permanent buildings recently erected in the great East London parishes, a highly interesting and expansive work is in progress, on the lines of the 'forward movement' lately adopted by the newer generation of Quakers, for the education and spiritual welfare of the poorer and more neglected classes. Here again the Sunday and week-day work is of great interest. It marks the definite adoption by the newer generation of Friends of mission work with an evangelistic object as a new development of Quakerism. The result so far is a valuable and highly promising contribution to the great army of evangelical lay workers.

The Tower Hamlets Mission has an eventful and inspiring record in the annals of East London evangelistic effort. Both at its headquarters, the Great Assembly Hall of Mile End, and by means of its many outdoor services, it is still carrying on its important and beneficent work.

During the last decade the ever-widening field has engaged the attention and devoted labours of the Wesleyan East End Mission. Not a few of the most zealous and gifted of Wesleyan evangelists have maintained here an arduous campaign, especially in districts of the most evil repute.

Less distinctly religious, but for the most part marking a social movement which is as yet in its infancy, are the Sunday afternoon meetings, lectures, and discussions on religious and miscellaneous topics. Those which are known as Pleasant Sunday Afternoons have already taken root in the East of London. Largely countenanced by the clergy and Nonconformist ministers, they are generally held in connection with places of worship.

On the other band, the non-religious Sunday meetings promoted by the Labour organisations, held in Town Halls and other non-ecclesiastical buildings, have equally become a regular part of the East London Sunday programme; they are being watched with eager and sometimes anxious eyes, for they are very gradually but surely becoming a social force in East End circles. The part which the clergy take in these gatherings, at the invitation of the men, promises to be of great value in the mutual relations of the Church and the Labour classes.

In these attempts to sketch the Sunday aspects of East London the background of the past will not be forgotten. Not a few of the newer workers draw helpful inspiration from the example of men and women of unrecorded lives, from whose hands they received the living torch. The rank and file of the great army of East End workers remain unnamed, like the preacher of Matthew Arnold's beautiful poem; but the thought of those who have gone before is still a consecrating force in the hearts of their successors.

'Twas August, and the fierce sun overhead
Smote on the squalid streets of Bethnal Green,
And the pale weaver, through his windows seen
in Spitalfields, looked thrice dispirited.
I met a preacher there I knew, and said:
'Ill and o'erworked, how fare you in this scene?'
'Bravely!' said he; 'for I of late have been
Much cheered with thoughts of Christ, the Living Bread.'

0 human soul! as long as thou canst so
Set up a mark of everlasting light,
Above the howling senses' ebb and flow,
To cheer thee, and to right thee if thou roam,
Not with lost toil thou labourest through the night!
Thou mak'st the heaven thou hop'st indeed thy home.'

[1] In two parishes alone - Whitechapel and Mile End - the Jewish population already amounts to at least 36,000. In the words of Lord Rothschild, uttered at a recent meeting of the Jewish Board of Guardians, 'We have now a new Poland on our hands in East London. Our first business is to humanise our Jewish immigrants, and then to Anglicise them.'