THE GENESIS OF THE EXPERIMENT
After years of waiting for time and place and person, the Rev. Walter Drury, an average Methodist preacher, was ready to begin his Experiment.
The process of getting adjusted to its conditions was ended. He believed that, if he had health and nothing happened to his mind, he might count on at least eight years more at First Church, Delafield—a ten-year pastorate is nothing wonderful in to-day’s Methodism. The right preacher makes his own time limit.
He would not think himself too good for Delafield, but neither did he rate himself too low. He just felt that he was reasonably secure against promotion, and that he need not be afraid of “demotion.” There are such men. They are a boon to bishops.
The unforeseen was to be reckoned with, of course, the possible shattering of all his plans by some unimagined misfortune. But the man who waits until he is secure against the unknown never discovers anything, not even himself.
Walter Drury had at last found his man, or, rather, his boy, here in Delafield. It was necessary to the Experiment that its subject should be a decent young fellow, not particularly keen on formal religion, but well set-up in body and mind; clean, straight, and able to use the brains he had when need arose.
John Wesley, Jr., was such a boy.
Would the result be worth what he was putting into the venture? That would depend on one’s standards. The church doesn’t doubt that the more than twice ten years’ experiment of Helms in the south end of Boston has been worth the price. And Helms has for company a few pioneers in other fields who will tell you they have drawn good pay, in the outcomes of their patience.
Still, Walter Drury was a new sort of specialist. The thing he had in mind to do had been almost tried a thousand times; a thousand times it had been begun. But so far as he knew no one preacher had thought to focus every possible influence on a single life through a full cycle of change. He meant his work to be intensive: not in degree only, but in duration.
At the end of ten years! If, then, he had not shown, in results beyond question, the direction of the church’s next great advance, at least he would have had the measureless joy of the effort. No seeming failure could rob him of his reward.
Now, do not image this preacher as a dreaming scattergood; he would do as much as any man should, that is to say, his utmost, in his pulpit and his parish. The Experiment should be no robbing of collective Peter to pay individual Paul.
But every man has his avocation, his recreation, you know—golf, roses, coins, first editions, travel. Walter Drury, being a confirmed bachelor, missed both the joys and the demands of home life. No recluse, but, rather, a companionable man, he cared little for what most people call amusement, but he cared tremendously for the human scene in which he lived and worked. He would be happy in the Experiment for its sheer human fascinations. That it held a deeper interest, that if it succeeded it would reveal an untapped reservoir of resources available for the church and the kingdom of God, did but make him the more eager to be at it in hard earnest.