From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Accidental Ethnographer (3d)—The Great Melbourne Revival IV

One year ago on Round and Square (10 June 2011)—Living and Learning: Nothing Doing (Do Nothing!)
Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "The Accidental Ethnographer." (Coming Soon)
Click below for other posts from "The Great Melbourne Revival":
Revival 1              Revival 2              Revival 3              Revival 4
[a] Down, under RF
I gave a lecture at the Doylestown Historical Society on June 1st, as part of Doylestown, Pennsylvania's big bicentennial celebration. The subject was the American explorer and evangelist William Edgar Geil (1865-1925). This is part of a larger project that I am working on this summer in Doylestown with the help of Beloit College anthropology major Megan Nyquist '14. As I did a few weeks ago in preparation for another lecture (on another subject), I am posting some of Geil's own writings. This was enormously helpful to me the last time I tried it, and I think it is worth another try. I will, over the course of my summer research, post my lecture and some of the early results of the research Megan and I are doing. In the meantime, though, I want to start the "Accidental Ethnographer" series with William Geil's own words. I will post two or three readings from each of Geil's dozen books over the course of May and June.

William Edgar Geil was a world famous figure in his day, and the reasons he has been lost to history (from his death until now) are as interesting as the underpinnings of his fame. Here is a very brief overview. In a day before anthropology or Chinese (or African or Micronesian) studies had a toehold in world universities, William Edgar Geil traveled the world, took extensive notes, returned to Doylestown, and wrote books. Depending on how you count them, he wrote almost a dozen—many of them thick and substantial in ways that a turn of the (last) century reader would understand, even if many people today would not. He traveled across central Africa in the first decade of the twentieth century, spent a year in Australia and New Guinea, and then found an abiding love for the study of China (which is where I "met" him, in a manner of speaking). He traveled the length of the Great Wall, journeyed the Yangzi River from Shanghai into southeast Asia, visited all of China's provincial capitals, and is the only Westerner to have written a book about his travels to all five sacred mountains of China.

[b] Versatile RF
He wrote about it all, and he took pictures. The former is not without problem; the latter is easily his legacy. It is all a fascinating picture of an American abroad in a peculiarly resonant time in American history—from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 to the end of World War I. This series will grow as my research does, but let's get started with Geil's own words—a little from each of his published books.
 ***  ***
We wrap up this mini-series on William Edgar Geil and his Melbourne preaching (c.1902) with the last segment from a journalist who had been watching (and admiring) Geil during his time in the big Australian city. As I have already noted, preaching was a significant part of Geil's worldwide appeal at the turn of the twentieth century, and outside voices can give us a perspective on how he was viewed. Here, J.A. Packer builds to the big (and breathless) conclusion by channeling yet another voice. Take a look.

Ocean and Isle—The Great Melbourne Revival IV
William Edgar Geil (1902) 
If one section of the mission appealed to Mr. Geil more than another, it was his work at Footscray during the fortnight in which the suburban missions were in operation. Nearly everyone of the suburban centres had applied to the executive to have Mr. Geil as the missioner. I do not know what guided the committee in their decision, but they could not have made a wiser choice, so far as Footscray was concerned. Mr. Geil would have drawn a crowd and done good work anywhere, but it is questionable whether anybody could have done as well at Footscray. Rightly or wrongly, it was spoken of as the hardest of the vineyards to be tilled. Mr. Geil entered upon his task with a light heart and smiling face, with no thought of failure, but confident of success. His first services on the Sunday in the Federal Hall gave a splendid start to the mission. The building was utterly inadequate to accommodate the crowd, and at night "acres of people," to use Mr. Geil's phrase, were turned away. Probably the majority were church-going people, for all the churches contributed to the success of the services by closing half an hour earlier in the evening. 

But, whatever the character of the crowds, they proved a fruitful advertisement, and for the rest of the mission the problem was what to do for the people who could not get into the hall.

[c] Appeal RF
Efforts were made to obtain an immense marquee capable of holding 3,000 people, but his failed, and nothing remained but to restrict, as far as possible, the attendances to persons not church members. This was done by issuing tickets through the principal shopkeepers. There was no gainsaying Mr. Geil's popularity at Footscray. He caught on with the people straight off, and wherever else he went he had a good word to say for the people of Footscray, and gave them bold advertisement. He appealed to them and they appealed to him, and a mutual attachment sprung up, the strength and genuineness of which manifested itself in the affectionate and touching scenes which took place at the closing night of the mission. 

The work done at Footscray was both real and deep. The local ministers rallied round Mr. Geil magnificently and caught the true spirit of his enthusiasm. There was also an admirable united choir and a band of willing and devoted workers. Something like 1,300 persons were brought under conviction during the ten nights, and signed cards expressing a firm determination to live the Christian life. Footscray was undoubtedly the brightest spot in the whole mission, and for many years to come Mr. Geil's memory in the district will be as fragrant as ointment poured forth.

It was thought best for Mr. Geil to visit several centres for a night each. Everywhere packed houses greeted him, and many professed conversion. At Cairns Memorial Church a marvellous result obtained as told by the pastor, J.A. Ewen:—

[d] Revival need RF
"The last night came, it was pouring wet, and yet this capacious church was packed to its fullest; amongst those present being a large number from both the Scotch and Ladies' Colleges. Promptly to the minute, Mr. Geil too the platform, and gripped the meeting from start to finish. We confess, as the speaker began, we felt a little disappointed. WE had staked so much on this meeting, had expected so much—it was our last effort—and now, what is he giving us?—jokes, witticisms, facial contortions, that set the audience rippling with laughter. God help us—what does it all mean?—we have been praying for bread—is this a stone? Wait! The speaker has now, like some powerful engine, hooked on his audience, every one of them, even the thoughtless lad who came to laugh and have a good time; he has then all thoroughly interested, and in a moment we feel ourselves switched on to another line, and we are moving in new directions. 

We are not now smiling at the raw, long-legged youth, bashfully sitting by his fair companion, studying photos of plump, well-fed babies, but at the ghastly daguerrotype of a young man lying dead in his coffin. We can see the attenuated hands folded in death, the pale, clayey cheek, the sunken, lustreless eyes. The scene is painfully realistic—a hush sweeps across the audience, and we seem to feel, if not to see, the spiritual dead among the living. 'Where art though?' The speaker suffered from a fearful cold, his voice hoarse, rasping, breaking into jarring notes; but the ring of pathetic earnestness is there. He is on the right track, and he is letting himself go, and one begins to detect a new element in the atmosphere—the voice of God is in the air, and it is coming very near. It is like the voice of a mother seeking her wandering boy, and calling him home; and so he pleads, and pleads, till, finally, his voice gives way, and with something suspiciously like a sob, he stops. 'I can do no more.'

[e] NZ RF
Test Number One: Every head is now bowed in silent prayer. 'Are there none here who would like to come to Christ, who would like to be helped, to be prayed for? if so, quietly lift the hand. Thank you, God bless you—another, another, and yet another. This section here, that section yonder; so many that I cannot count.' Another word of prayer, a hymn, and they are invited to remain to the after-meeting. About six hundred remain.

Test Number Two: Quietly, with consummate tact, and with something bordering on genius, he besought those who had asked their prayers, to help themselves, to stand up for Jesus. The quiet stillness of God's house became almost painful. Still no response. The tension was hardly bearable. A sigh, a sob, a heartfelt prayer, and then, suddenly, there was a 'sound of going.' Singly and in twos and threes, in families and whole seats, they arose; youths and maidens of seventeen, old men and women of seventy. An appeal to the chivalry of youth brought twenty-one students to their feet, and another to the young ladies of a neighbouring college was responded to by the same number. And all this was done with naturalness and entire absence of anything sensational, that even the most critical could find nothing to carp at. 'All things were done decently and in order.' The church became a valley of weeping, but the tears were tears of joy. The missioner himself was visibly affected, but reminded us that even Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

Test Number Three: Promptly, blank forms were distributed, to be filled in by those who had decided, and in less than ten minutes 120 of these were signed and returned. A few words of kindly counsel, the Benediction, and the meeting dispersed; such a meeting as will live in the memories of those who were privileged to be present so long as memory lasts. We have assisted in evangelistic work along with such masters as D.L. Moody, Professor Drummond, the Rev. John McNeill, and others, yet never in church or hall have we seen such intense earnestness, such a spontaneous response, such a visible manifestation of the Divine presence. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes."

Click below for other posts from "The Great Melbourne Revival":
Revival 1              Revival 2              Revival 3              Revival 4
[1] William Edgar Geil, Ocean and Isle (Melbourne: Wm. T. Pater & Company, 1902), 277-281.

Geil, William Edgar. Ocean and Isle. Melbourne: Wm. T. Pater & Company, 1902.
[f] Marvel(l)ous RF

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