Tuesday, October 6, 2009

McCauley Rescue Mission Then And Now

Above: Current location, 90 Lafayette St., one block up from The Tombs!
Illustration on the left depicts typical Water Street Mission scene circa 1892: At 7 p.m. coffee and sandwiches before the meeting that included songs. a sermon and personal testimony.
above at the old address on 316 Water StreetFrom Correction History of March 17, 2005
Approximately 133 years ago a former inmate of NYC's Tombs and NY state's Sing Sing founded (along with his wife, an ex-prostitute) a rescue mission whose evangelical and rehabilitative work with the homeless and destitute continues to this day although the original wooden building in Lower Manhattan has been long gone. The year was 1872; the month, October, and the couple, Jerry and Maria McAuley. They named their mission house, at 316 Water Street, the Helping Hand for Men. It is reputed the first such rescue mission in New York -- a model for an uncountable number of such urban missions that followed across the country and around the world. Years later McAuley wrote about how he and his wife began the mission house: One day I had a sort of vision. I thought we had a house in the Fourth Ward, and a stream of people were coming in. I washed them outside, and the Lord washed them inside; and I cried as I thought, "O, if I could only do that for Jesus' sake." "Do it for one, if you can't do it for more," said Maria, and that's the way we begun, in an old rookery of a house in one room, and a little sign hung out: "THE HELPING HAND FOR MEN." Connections can be drawn between that late 19th Century October occurrence on Lower Manhattan's rough East River waterfront and another October occurrence a half century earlier in a forest just north of rural Adams Village in northwestern New York's Jefferson County. Into that woodland walked a 26 year-old attorney determined to resolve in his mind the issue of the human relationship (his in particular) to the Divine. To borrow a biblical turn-of-phrase, he went to wrestle with God. When the young man emerged many hours later, he had won, in that he had resolved (not only in his own mind but in his heart as well) the nature of soul-saving faith -- as grace freely given and freely accepted or rejected. Some believers might add the observation that God also had won the Adams woods wrestling match. For from henceforth lawyer Charles Grandison Finney took his Lord on as sole client.

1 comment:

Lawrence Hicks said...

I volunteered at the Mission in 1984-1986 and enjoyed my time there.