Wednesday, March 21, 2007

John Pugh XIX: 'Rescue the Perishing'

John Pugh's preaching was driven by a great concern for the multitudes who were perishing in the midst of a country considered to be one of the most religious in the world. No-where was this more evident than in one of the most horrifying tradgedies for any woman - prostitution.

Today, many of these 'fallen women' are immigrants from Eastern Europe, in the 1890s, the majority would have been immigrants from Mid-Wales, as well as those brought up on the margins of society. The Forward Movement sought to reach through the curatin of silence with which respectable society had covered prostitution - Pugh recognised that Jesus is a great Saviour, for great sinners.

His approach was inspired by that of his friend, the Rev. William Ross of Cowcaddens. Ross had employed female missioners, known as 'Sisters of the People' to minister to the needs of women, and especially to those whom men could not approach without danger, and who might react badly to being approached by such people. These 'Sisters' had trained for the mission field and lived among the people. When Pugh visited Ross in 1893, he took his daughter, in her late teens, with him. She went out with one of the sisters, into the crowded streets of Glasgow. Miss Pugh felt the shame and anger that any respectable young woman might, but not compassion for the women, who she in part felt were responsible for their plight. The sister she was with, Sister Jennie, engaged a young prostitute in conversation:

"A girl stood in a doorway of a house, touting for work. The sister went up to her - 'Here is the last flower I have left,' she said, 'Would you like to have it?' The girl in the doorway took the simple gift and replied, 'It's been a long time since anyone gave me a flower' and then she added, 'It's been a long time since a respectable girl even spoke to me at all.' Sister Jennie looked at her and said, 'You're not very happy are you. Can I do anything for you?' 'No! There's nothing that can be done.' 'There might be. Think about it- anyway you know where you can find me, don't you? Come in to see me and let me be your friend.'

And the flower brought the girl in. Such unexpected kindness melted the heart of the young prostitute.
The towns of South Wales, however 'respectable' the Welsh might think themselves, contained as many prostitutes as Glasgow. Sergeant Barker, evangelist at Saltmead Hall, appalled the Calvinistic Methodist Association at Amlwch by his description of the conditions in Saltmead:
'From three hundred to four hundred fallen women reside in my district. There are more than one hundred houses empty of families because they are occupied for immoral purposes. I know girls going straight from sabbath school to the streets and thirty of them have gone since I am at Saltmead. These girls are expected to adopt this life even by some of their parents.'
Shock, however, was not enough. Something had to be done to reach these perishing souls.



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