Alcoholics Anonymous & History of AA
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
At last! There will be, and now has been, established a hospitable, accessible home for the resources at the Dr. Bob Core Library just founded at Dr. Bob’s own North Congregational Church (UCC) at St. Johnsbury, Vermont
A Look at the Early A.A. Program that Bill W. and Dr. Bob Founded in 1935
When Bill Wilson met Dr. Bob Smith at Henrietta Seiberling’s Gate Lodge Home in Akron on Mother’s Day of 1935, each man had some strong alcoholism recovery factors stored away in his mind.
Bill Wilson brought to the table three major spiritual ideas that Dr. Bob had simply not implemented in his previous Christian walk. (1) Because of the deadly, downward spiral of drunkenness, relief could not come by willpower or human aid alone. (2) The experience of Dr. Carl Gustav Jung as to the efficacy of conversion as a cure, and the experience of Dr. William D. Silkworth as to the efficacy of relying on the Great Physician (Jesus Christ) for complete cure. (3) The vital importance of telling others still suffering about the healing that could be achieved through the power of God. In a very real sense, Bill’s convictions were embodied in the so-called abs’s he put in his Big Book on page 60 of the 4th edition, and in the message he gave on page 191 of the 4th edition: “Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me curing me of this terrible disease that I just want to keep telling people about it.” See Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc. )—http://www.dickb.com/conversion.shtml.
Dr. Bob brought to the table the totality of his Christian upbringing and what he called his “excellent training” in the Bible as a youngster in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. These principles and practices were, for the most part, not those of the Oxford Group with which both Bill and Bob had been “associated” as Dr. Bob put it. Dr. Bob had not implemented the principles for the very simple reason that he called himself a “wanna, wanna” guy, and simply did not want to quit drinking. Bill Wilson was really not conversant with these Congregational, Christian Endeavor, and YMCA ideas; and Bill had been totally unsuccessful in getting anyone sober until he met and joined with Dr. Bob. See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980).
Bill moved into the Smith home in Akron for the entire summer of 1935. Bill and Bob had lengthy discussions until the wee hours of the morning each day. We know that Anne Smith (Dr. Bob’s wife) read the Bible to the two men each day. We know that the two men drew their basic ideas from the Bible. And we know that Anne Smith wrote down in her journal and shared with all the pioneers the elements of the Oxford Group and Bible principles being used. But little has been said about what Dr. Bob really contributed to the simple early program that had such remarkable successes.
From his parents, his North Congregational Church, his Sunday school, his Bible study and prayer meetings, his participation in the Christian Endeavor Society, his touching base with the activities of the YMCA of which his father was a local president, and the rigorous daily chapel and required Bible study and church attendance of his St. Johnsbury Academy, Dr. Bob was fully equipped to develop a program of recovery, using Bill’s contributions, and using the Christian Endeavor ideas of Dr. Bob’s youth. Thus, from St. Johnsbury, Dr. Bob brought some clearly defined ideas from his youth: (1) Abstinence. (2) Reliance on the Creator and conversion to Jesus Christ. (3) Obedience to God’s will. (4) Growth in fellowship through prayer, Bible study, Quiet Hour, and the reading of Christian literature. (5) Reaching out to others in love and service.
Yet the origin of these basic ideas from the Bible, and particularly from St. Johnsbury, has not, until recently, even been mentioned by AAs, recovery writers, or historians—perhaps largely because Dr. Bob in his usual reticence and modesty simply did not discuss them. And so it has become important to search out, report, document, and disseminate A.A.’s Christian Endeavor Factor via the Biblical training and Christian upbringing Dr. Bob received as a youth in St. Johnsbury.
A Look at the New Dr. Bob Core Library Now Being Filled at the St. Johnsbury Church
Prior to this year, there never has been a library devoted exclusively to the when, where, what, how, and why of the basic Biblical contributions made by Dr. Bob from his youthful training to the Akron Pioneer A.A. Christian Fellowship he and Bill Wilson founded in 1935 and which brought the hope and reality of cure to so many of the seemingly hopeless, medically incurable alcoholics willing to join a fellowship of like-minded believers who really tried to get well by the power of God.
The new library will, as this article covers, contain substantial background on A.A.’s Christian Endeavor roots. I have covered some of the material in my earlier published titles such as Dr. Bob and His Library, 3rd ed.; The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth, 7th ed., The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials, When Early AAs Were Cured and Why, The Good Book-Big Book Guidebook, Real Twelve Step Fellowship History, and Introduction to the Sources and Founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
To make the resource comprehensive, useful, and accurate, the library will also include materials on: (1) The “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury. (2) Dr. Bob and the Smith Family. (3) The Fairbanks Family of St. Johnsbury and its predominant influences and activities. (4) The North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury. (5) Revivals, evangelism, and conversions during the period from 1875 to and including Dr. Bob’s graduation from St. Johnsbury Academy in 1898. (6) The Christian Endeavor Society to which Dr. Bob belonged and what it did. (7) Vermont Congregationalism and Missionary Work during Bob’s years as a youngster. (8) The activities and influence of the Young Men’s Christian Association. (9) The impact of the evangelist Dwight L. Moody. (10) St. Johnsbury Academy and the significant contribution of the Smiths—father, mother, and Bob at that period. (11) The Town of St. Johnsbury. (12) St. Johnsbury as Dr. Bob knew it as a youth—his boyhood home and birthplace, the North Congregational Church, the Fairbanks Museum, the YMCA building, the Athenaeum (town library), the courthouse, and the many buildings at St. Johnsbury Academy. (13) The relevant A.A. and historical literature. (14) Items from the Dennis Wayne Cassidy memorial historical collection of A.A. history. (15) Photographs, manuscripts, and memorabilia. (16) Twenty plus binders with abundant additional historical resource data prepared by Dick B. and Ken B. (17) All of the 28 volume Dick B. Historical Reference Title set. (18) Two new books by Dick B. on Dr. Bob’s youth and also his biography. (19) The tie between St. Johnsbury and Akron. (20) The evidence of the documented 75% to 93% success rate of Akron pioneers among the seemingly hopeless, medically incurable real alcoholics who went to every length to establish their relationship and fellowship with their Creator and His son Jesus Christ. (21) The original Akron program, and (22) More as it is acquired, analyzed, and publicized.
If, as, and when its acquisition, analysis, documentation, publication, and dissemination—along with shipping and handling costs—has been funded by benefactors whose contributions are already being made and who will be joined by others, the great majority of the books and materials for the library will be placed over the next months of 2008.
Christian Endeavor Literature for the Core Library
In the course of is writing, Dick B. has read, studied, and acquired a number of basic Christian Endeavor books and materials. And these will be in the library.
Dick was invited to be a principal speaker at the 125th Anniversary Convention of Christian Endeavor International at the Cannon Office Building in Washington, D.C. There he located the present-day leaders of Christian Endeavor and also saw literature he did not have. Timothy Eldred, Executive Director of Christian Endeavor International graciously agreed to make available to Dick some of the major CE books located at headquarters in Michigan.
Those Christian Endeavor books have now been acquired, and they will be in the new core library at North Congregational Church.
A bibliography of those books to be placed in the library is set forth below. And the books themselves contain an enormous number of references to United Christian Endeavor Society literature and recommended reading. So also do Dick B.’s books and the binders being placed at North Congregational Church. Some of the books have already been discussed at length elsewhere, but the entire collected books are listed below – with appropriate additional quotes, comments, and references.
The Christian Endeavor Bibliography of Books Being Placed in St. Johnsbury
We have added a number of quotes which will prove useful in utilizing the library books.
Those books just acquired from Christian Endeavor International—a Panoply of Writings
Brain, Bell M. Fifty Missionary Programmes. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1901, 13-14 (Describing the typical Scripture Lesson and Prayer at an “ideal missionary meeting” where “the Bible is used as ‘the sword of the Spirit,’ the all-powerful Word of God, which according to his promise shall not return unto him void; and also “the ‘Great Commission,’ as recorded in the four Gospels and the book of Acts”.)
_____. Weapons for Temperance Warfare. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1897, 14-15, 17-24, 40-47, 81-82 (Describing “pledge-signing;” the devotional service of the temperance meeting—the Scripture lesson, the prayer, and the hymns, with ample simple texts, Bible readings, and Bible testings; innumerable quotations from Shakespeare, Milton, William Penn, Spurgeon, John B. Gough, St. Augustine, Luther, John Adams, Father Matthew, Frances E. Willard, and others; and “An Evening With John B. Gough, programming the Scripture Lesson, Prayer, Roll-Call, Solo, Anecdotes, and personal reminiscences).
Chaplin, W. Knight. Francis E. Clark: Founder of the Y.P.S.C.E. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, n.d.
Clark, Francis E. World Wide Endeavor: The Story of The Young People’s Society of Christian
Endeavor From the Beginning and in All Lands. Philadelphia: Gillespie, Metzger & Kelley, 1895.
“The Society of Christian Endeavor started with another conception of the prayer-meeting. It was not a place for instruction from man so much as for instruction from Go. It was not the place for the exposition of a body of divinity or for indoctrination in the fine points of theology. It was a place for practice rather than preaching, for inspiration and fellowship rather than for instruction. A place for participation of all the average two-talent people, rather than of the exceptional ten-talent man and woman.
“The idea of instruction was not ignored, but the leaders of this new society contended that the prayer-meeting was not the place for instruction in the ordinary sense of the word, and that there is ample room for instruction in other services of the church.
“The Sunday morning service is for instruction. The Sunday evening service is for instruction. The Sunday-school is for instruction. The pastor’s catechetical class if for instruction. The missionary concert is for instruction. The religious newspaper is for instruction. In fact, there are few departments of church life which have not this for their central idea. But the Christian Endeavor Society has always believed that the prayer-meeting was for another order of service, and that this other service is quite as necessary to the development of spiritual activities as the service of instruction.
And so it happens that the whole idea of participation is changed. There is something for Thomas and Harry and Mary and Susan to do, as well as for their respective and respected fathers and mothers. . . . It is not sufficient for them to confess Christ before men by baptism and by publicly joining the church of Christ, but frequent, nay, constant, confession of Him alone insures their growth in grace. . . he can rise to his feet and say: ‘I love Him because He first loved me.’ He can offer the Publican’s trembling prayer, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner,’ or the Psalmist’s humble petition, ‘ Create within me a clean heart, O God.’ . . . . They can at least repeat a verse of Scripture or a favorite hymn which expresses their heart’s devotion. . . . In short, the society of Christian Endeavor is built upon this radical idea, that in the prayer-meeting there is a place for every one; a word, a testimony, or a prayer; that it is a necessary part of the Christian life to confess the Lord, and that no one can grow in grace as he should when he neglects this aid to an outspoken Christian life.” (68-69)
[THE CHURCH AND THE SOCIETY OF CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOR]
“What, pray, is the church? I am speaking now of the local organization. Is it a certain number of the older members? Is it the congregation that gathers to hear the pastor’s Sunday morning sermon or to engage in the evening service? Is it the mid-week prayer meeting? Yes, it is all these and more. The church is the local body of Christ’s followers who worship Sunday morning and Sunday evening. The church is the people at prayer in the mid-week service. The Sunday-school is the church giving and receiving instruction. . . The missionary society is the church praying and giving for the advancement and extension of the Kingdom of God. The Christian Endeavor Society is the church training and being trained for practical service in the kingdom” (185)
[Note: Dr. Bob and his parents were involved in all these, as our documentation in our new resource book and in the resource binders being placed in the Dr. Bob Core Library makes quite clear.]
[THE Y.M.C.A. AND THE SOCIETY OF CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOR]
“The Y.M.C.A. can hardly be called a sister of the society without forcing language and bringing a smile to the bearded face of many a Y.M.C.A. brother, but yet the relationship between the Y.M.C.A. and the Society of Christian Endeavor has always been considered a family relationship. They occupy different fields, and they both recognize the fact. The association is for the community at large, the society for the individual church. Th3e association is necessarily undenominational, the society is necessarily inter-denominational. The association can acknowledge allegiance to no one church, the association [sic – but meaning “society”] must acknowledge allegiance to some one church; and yet, though they occupy different positions, each is doing an invaluable work which the other cannot accomplish. . . . But, as I have said, they can in many ways mutually aid one another; as the receptions which are given by the associations to the societies, and by the societies to the associations, have been proved. Some of the best workers among the secretaries of the Y.M.C.A. have been trained in the Christian Endeavor Society for their future work, and some of the most earnest advocates and eloquent speakers at Endeavor conventions have been leading Y.M.C.A. workers” (191)
[Note: Dr. Bob’s father was a deacon in the North Congregational Church, superintendent of and teacher in its Sunday school, as well as a regular attender at the church. He was also president of the local Y.M.C.A. The Fairbanks family members were deeply involved in the North Congregational Church and in the Y.M.C.A., donating to the building of the church and of the Y.M.C.A. They held offices in both organizations. The Y.M.C.A. lay leaders were prominent in the Great Awakening in St. Johnsbury. The Y.M.C.A. conducted lectures and concerts at North Congregational Church; and it also conducted lectures at St. Johnsbury Academy]
Clements, John R. The Francis E. Clark Year Book: A Collection of Living Paragraphs From Addresses, Books, and Magazine Articles by the Founder of the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1904. The quotes following give a real picture of Clark’s role and views:
[QUIET HOUR – Prayer, Bible study, Asking guidance].
March 19: None of us have, perhaps, Henry Drummond’s wit, learning or natural charm of manner; but we may have the chief quality that made his character so uplifting and inspiration to multitudes. I have said much in these letters of late about “the morning watch.” I ventured even to recommend in my annual address at San Francisco the observance of this daily quiet time alone with God. I know of no other school than this in which the lesson of Drummond’s life can be learned (42).
March 20: To-morrow morning rise an hour earlier than usual. You will be tired and sleepy? No doubt. You will wish to turn over for another nap? I do not doubt it. But no matter; overcome drowsy nature for once, at least; and a good hour before breakfast, and before the rest of the family are stirring, be dressed and ready for a talk with the King. The joy of the appointment he is waiting to keep with you is worth the extra exertion a thousand times over.
Take your Bible, your own Bible, the one with marks and references, and comments in your own handwriting, and go, if possible, into a room quite by yourself. Open your Bible to the fourteenth chapter of John, and read a chapter or two from there on, slowly, meditatively, lifting up you heart, and saying frequently as you read, “O Lord, open thou my eyes that I may understand.” Perhaps you will not get through half a chapter, so full of new and wondrous meaning will each verse be as you dwell upon it, the new light from heaven illuminating the page. No matter. All the better, indeed. The spirit of Christ is in every verse. There is food enough in any verse for a morning meal (43).
March 29: Giving God a chance at you; that is the meaning of the Quiet Hour. Parents, teachers, friends, books, newspapers, business, pleasure, all these have a chance at us. Should we not also give God a chance at us? (48).
June 12: “Practicing the presence of God.” It involves going away by one’s self. It involves a daily quiet hour with God. It involves a putting away of all known sin. It involves a searching of the heart for the rebellious life-guard who would keep some of the apartments of the soul closed to the entrance of the King (71).
[OBEYING GOD’S WILL – Eliminating sinful conduct, walking in the light]
July 9: Confess, repent, forsake sin; and the darkness will flee away, and God’s light will flood your soul (80).
[FELLOWSHIP WITH LIKE-MINDED BELIEVERS – Avoiding slipper people and slippery places]
August 22: If your companion, though he be your best friend, cause you to stumble; if heleads you into bad ways; if he makes you careless and thoughtless, and indifferent of the good, and complacent of the evil, cast him off, flee from him as Joseph fled out of the way of temptation, though you leave the very garment by which he seeks to hold you in the clutches of the tempter (96).
October 9: . . . . There are multitudes in whose ears have been sounding as with cataract roar this tremendous truth spoken by the voice of God himself: “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people;” and yet they have never heard it (114).
[BRINGING OTHERS TO CHRIST BY WITNESSING – converting them]
November 9: I believe the great danger in these days is not of asking people too often to decide for Christ, or of asking it in an unwise, perfunctory, or unpleasant way, but of not giving the invitation at all (127).
December 4: I look upon it as one of the first duties of a child of God to tell the glad news to others, “Let the redeemed of the Lord, say so” (138).
[GROWTH IN UNDERSTANDING AND FELLOWSHIP THROUGH PRAYER AND DEVOTIONAL READING OF THE GOOD BOOK]
December 19: Meditation shows us that God is the source of supply for all our needs. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.” Prayer digs a channel straight and true to this source of supply. “Ask, and ye shall receive.” Devotional reading of the Word of God keeps the channel from becoming clogged with selfishness and self-seeking. It keeps us from simply teasing God for material blessings and nothing more. “My God shall supply all your need.”
Poling, Reverend Daniel A. Dr. Poling’s Radio Talks with Questions and Answers. NY: George H. Doran Company, 1927.
[See the quotations from Dr. Poling in the review of A.A. principles below]
Wells, Amos R. Expert Endeavor: A Textbook of Christian Endeavor Methods and Principles Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1911.
[THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOR]
“Definite standards of service, and definite commitment to those standards. Open confession of Christ, and speaking for Him according to ability and opportunity. The cultivation of the devotional life b regular prayer and Bible-study. Training in Christian service by a variety of committee work. Loyalty to the church and regular attendance upon the church services. Generous giving to Christian work. Christian citizenship. Interdenominational fellowship, and the promotion of peace and goodwill among the nations of the world” (20)
“It is twofold: to help the Sunday school through the Christian Endeavor society, and to help the Christian Endeavor society through the Sunday school” (81)
“The Sunday school is for Bible-study; the Christian Endeavor society, for religious training. The first is for impression, and the second for expression. The Christian Endeavor society has no time for teaching the Bible, and the Sunday school has no time for training in prayer-meeting testimony, in public prayers, in mission-study, in the leading of meetings, in the conduct of business meetings, in the many activities of the Christian Endeavor committees and officers” (84)
[TEMPERANCE WORK BY ENDEAVORERS]
“. . . . They may engage actively in temperance campaigns, holding mass-meetings, organizing temperance parades, with striking banners and transparencies, circulating temperance leaflets, and working to get out the full temperance vote. They may get up a society temperance pledge to be signed by all the members and then framed, each new member signing it as he enters” (95)
[THE QUIET HOUR]
“It is a regular time spent daily in quiet communion with God and meditation on the Bible, and the greatest themes of life and destiny” (125)
_____. The Officers’ Handbook: A Guide for Officers in Young People’s Societies, with Chapters on Parliamentary Law and Other Useful Themes. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1900, 1911.
[DOING OUR FATHER’S BUSINESS]
“And our Christian Endeavor business should be done in the very best way. We are ‘about our Father’s business’” (7)
[DAILY PRAYER AND DAILY BIBLE READING]
“Private devotion is the fourth plank of our society platform—daily prayer and daily Bible-reading” (12)
“Sixth and last in the list of Christian Endeavor principles is the interdenominational fellowship. Christian Endeavor has developed a very complete and beautiful system of unions—city, county, State, national, and world-wide. In most communities, these unions are the only rallying centers for the Christians of all faiths” (14)
[RELATION TO THE AUTONOMOUS CHURCH]
“This society, being a part of the church, owes allegiance only and altogether to the church with which it is connected. The Pastors, Elders, Deacons, Stewards, and Sunday-school Superintendent, if not active members, shall be, ex officiis, honorary members” (30)
_____. The Young People’s Pastor. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1905.
[INVITING A DECISION FOR CHRIST]
“There is one purpose for which I wish our pastors would more frequently assume the leadership of our prayer meetings, and that is to ‘draw the net.’ If the meeting has been an impressive one, and the pastor thinks that some have been moved are usually indifferent, why should he not at the close simply take charge of affairs for a few minutes, and give an invitation for Christian decisions? Thus every Endeavor meeting would be a possible revival. To watch for signs of spiritual awakening, and take prompt advantage of them, is the pastor’s blessed task, and the Endeavor prayer meeting gives him a superb opportunity for it” (15-16).
“What are promised here? Eight things:--
1. An attempt to do Christ’s entire will.
2. Daily prayer as a rule of life.
3. Daily Bible-reading as the rule of life. . .” (73)
Those Books Previously Acquired by, and Discussed, in Other Dick B. Titles, Articles
Clark, Francis E. Christian Endeavor in All Lands. Boston: The United Society of Christian
Endeavor, 1906. And here were some key quotes relevant to the Akron A.A. program:
[TRUST IN GOD; OBEDIENCE TO HIS WILL, GROWTH THROUGH PRAYER AND READING IN ORDER TO SERVE]
“Christian Endeavor is a school Teaching us to trust and obey, To read and pray. To serve; Christ and the church in every way” (326)
[LOVE AND SERVICE]
“Bear with me if I rehearse once more the fundamental necessary features of this world-wide movement. . .—
Confession, Service, Fellowship, Fidelity.
Confession of our love for Christ.
Proof of it by our service for Him.
Fellowship with those who love Him.
Fidelity to our regiment in which we fight for Him” (100)
“Christian Endeavor is a watch Whose mainspring is love, Whose movement is service,
Whose hands point to heavenly joys on the dial of eternity” (326)
[NON DENOMINATIONAL, NON SECTARIAN]
“Here at last in the history of Christianity is an organization that is confined to no one
sect, no one nation, no one language. . . . There are absolutely no denominational barriers which Christian Endeavor cannot surmount. There is no one of the many folds of the one Shepherd where the Society is not at home, and has not found its rightful home” (615, 618).
[FOR THE SALVATION OF MAN]
“Christian Endeavor does not ask a man whether he lives in Africa, in India, China, or America. It does not ask him whether he be clothed with a black skin, a white, a tawny, or a red one. Christian Endeavor stands first, last, and always for the salvation of man” (341)
_____. Memories of Many Men in Many Lands: An Autobiography. Boston: United Society of
Christian Endeavor, 1922
Cowan, John Franklin. New Life in the Old Prayer Meeting. NY: Fleming H. Revell Company,
Murch, James DeForest. Successful C.E. Prayer-Meetings. Cincinnati, OH: The Standard
Publishing Company, 1930.
Sheldon, Charles M. In His Steps. Nashville: Boardman Press, 1935.
Wells, Amos R. Expert Endeavor: A Textbook of Christian Endeavor Methods and Principles.
Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1911.
Review of the Original Akron 5 Point Program and Correlative Christian Endeavor Sources
1. Abstinence: The Temperance position and pledge advocated by:
Christian Endeavor (Brain, Weapons, pp. 41-47)
“Every moderate drinker could abandon the cup if he would; every inebriate would if he could—John B. Gough” (42)
2. Reliance on the Creature and becoming His child through a decision for Christ:
Christian Endeavor (Dr. Poling’s Radio Talks)
“How do we lose our fear of God? By knowing Him. . . . We know God at least through Jesus, His Son; know Him through Jesus, know Him as long-suffering and generous, sacrificial and kind, know Him as the omnipotent Father of us all” (102)
“How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? Salvation offered once and for all—salvation, triumph in Christ? . . . . How is the salvation achieved? Not by purchase. Not by blood inheritance. Not by right of earthly stations. It is the prerequisite of no office. It is the crown land of no temporal authority. What can mortal man do to secure his salvation? Mortal man can do only and just what God bids him do. He can repent and believe. He can arise and follow Christ as Matthew did, and as have all others who have achieved the great distinction” (162-63)