The Necessity and Value of Associations Henry Whitney Bellows Berry Street Essay May 30, 1865 Note: The following is a report on the 1865 Berry Street Lecture, found in the The Christian Inquirer, June 1865. The full text has not been located. The Conference meeting was held in the Chauncy-street Church. It was well attended and quite interesting. At half-past nine o’clock the Ministerial Conference met at the Arlington-street Vestry. Rev. Mr. Tilden, of Boston, called the meeting to order, and Rev. J. M. Merrick, of Walpole, was chosen Moderator. After prayer by Rev. Dr. Farley, of Brooklyn, and officers for the year were chosen, Rev. Dr. Bellows, of New-York, gave the Address on the Necessity and value of Association, illustrating this point by a glowing and beautiful statement of the importance of standing together in the family. Exceptional characters do not feel the need of husband or wife, can live without a home, making the homes of others better by their contributions, but this fact does not in the least impair the validity of home relations for the majority of men. So, exceptional characters to the contrary notwithstanding, the great majority of men need to stand together n the State and in the Church. The South, the woman in our political household, chafed under the restraints of law and sighed for her maiden state; in love with her slaves, she sued for a divorce from the marriage contract, and undertook to enforce her claims by brute power. Her pride has been humbled, and she has been conquered back to her old allegiance. She finds that she needs the North as much as the North needs her; and only as she stands bound and plighted count in herself. Secessionism in the Church is just as fatal to the individual and social welfare as it is in the state. God has united man and woman, the strong and the weak, the ignorant and the learned, the better and the worse in the religious family; And the progress of each and the welfare of all demand that what He hath thus united, men in their spasms of individualism, their freakish consciousness of power, shall not put asunder. Man is a creature of relations, and is nothing out of those relations. He is not a whole, but a part, and a very small part in the grand totality of God's blessed design and providence. The best need the worst, the wise need the ignorant, the evenly-balanced need the imperfect; and the more closely all orders of mind and grades of character are joined together and cooperate in the Lord's great family on the earth, the better for each and for all. At the close of the Address, which was listened to with marked attention and interest, the Conference considered the call for the Congregationalist Convention to be held in Boston the fourteenth of June, and what the Unitarian Congregationalists should do in the premises. This subject was discussed at considerable length, and it was finally voted that a Committee, consisting of Rev. Drs. Gannett, Robbins, and Ellis, be instructed to present a declaration of our position and rights to the Congregational name to the Convention. The subject of the Address was then taken up for discussion. Rev. Dr. Bulfinch spoke of the importance of a better attendance upon the Communion-service. Rev, Mr. Stetson thought the Communion-service should be made one of the public services of the Church, and be open to all. He had seen the great benefits of this course, and from a large experience would recommend it to others. Rev. Mr. Shippen discussed the questions of Institutions versus Individualism. He ably criticised the position taken by Mr. Emerson in his late course of lectures. Man is the creature of civilization. He as been made what he is by the great institutions of the world. The present grew out of the past. Mr. Emerson and the come-outers were as free to avail themselves of the results of the toil and thought of generations as others use the railroad, gas-light, and post-office, and if they give up the Bible, quote very freely and with great reverence from the Rig-Vidas. Mr. Thoreau would give up society and civilization in order to return to nature, and said eloquent things about the voice of the woods and the wisdom of birds and bugs. But Mr. Thoreau graduated from Harvard University with the culture of two thousand years in his brain, and his faculties all sharpened by the drill of schools, and made wise with the thoughts of the sages and saints of antiquity, and was thus prepared to go to nature and learn her secrets, and enjoy her communion. But the child of nature, the South Sea Islander, without all these helps, discovers no such wondrous wisdom in the sighing of pine-trees and the singing of quails. We must have institutions to enable us to stand alone and learn the lessons and receive the blessings of Nature. Rev. Mr. Hale took this occasion to reply to a charge of unfairness made against the Committee of Arrangements of the late Convention by several persons. All the Committee had to do about it was to provide the p1ace and means. The gentlemen who attended the Convention took the chances of every democratic assemblage of five hundred men. He failed to see the ground of complaint; for the gentlemen themselves admit that the Preamble, with which they find fault, contains only a creed-let, which is but an infinitessimal point of a creed, and by express vote of the Convention even that was not binding upon anybody, and could be accepted in whatever way, and with whatever interpretation each individual saw fit to accent it. He had great faith in symbols as a language. They are more expressive than any terms of speech we can use. Were he to go to a place where Liberal Christianity is unknown he could adopt no more expressive and telling way of indicating the difference between our position and that occupied by the other Christian bodies, than by announcing that the Lord's Supper would be administered to the entire congregation. Rev. Dr. Bellows expressed a regret that his numerous pressing engagements prevented him from preparing such an address upon this subject as he wished to give, and as its importance demands. The subject is greater than any question of administration. He did not believe that people should be urged to attend the communion for the sake of their neighbors. He did not admit that any had outgrown its importance and need for themselves. The best can derive more from it than the worst. But we must not imagine that it benefits only the communicants. It exerts a wide and sacred influence on the congregation who do not participate in its solemnities. Public worship helps hundreds who never attend it. The city of Boston was saved and sanctified by its steeples. We need to stand close together, with mere clearly defined relations, and better understood methods of activity, to work with proper effect. Dr. Bellows proceeded to speak of the importance of a better drill and more systematic organization to our body at the present time, at some length, with his usual force and eloquence, his remarks eliciting the heartiest applause from the audience. Thus closed one of tho best meetings of this Conference which has been held for the last twelve years.