It is no longer possible to say with any degree of truth that a woman is too talented to devote herself to missionary work. Goodness of heart may once have been thought all-sufficient for mission work abroad as it was for mission work at home. To-day the highly trained worker and the specialist are required in religious as Well as in secular callings both at home and abroad. If a woman feels called to devote herself to the foreign mission field she will naturally wish to go out in connection with the church of which she is a member. All branches of the Christian Church send some of their followers abroad to teach the Gospel to "every creature," in accordance with Christ's last command (St. Matt. xxviii. 19).
The oldest purely missionary society in connection with the Church of England is the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts - usually known as the S.p.g. Its headquarters are at 15, Tufton Street. Westminster, S.w. The first step to be taken by any woman who feels that she has a vocation for missionary work (and who wishes to go abroad under the S.p.g.) is to apply by letter, if unable to do so personally, to the secretary of the Women Candidates' Department at the above address. If under twenty-three she may be recommended to join the Missionary Preparation Union, as no woman is sent abroad under twenty-five, nor could she begin special missionary training until twenty-three.
If the prospective candidate is over twenty-three, a list of questions will be sent to her to answer as to her parentage, place of birth, etc., as to the schools and colleges at which she was educated, the examinations she has passed, her occupations and interests; whether she has any professional qualifications as doctor, nurse, or teacher; whether she finds it easy to acquire foreign languages; what experience she has had in Church work; whether she is prepared to be wholly or in part an honorary worker, and if she has any provision for sickness or old age. She is also asked to reply to questions with regard to Bible knowledge and Church doctrine. Two medical forms are also sent, one to be answered by the candidate and one by her medical adviser.
These three forms must be filled in and returned to the S.p.g. House, and if they are considered satisfactory the candidate will be examined by the doctor of the society and interviewed. If she comes from a distance she is invited to spend the few days occupied by these interviews at the S.p.g. Hostel and Training Home for Women Missionaries at Wandsworth Common.
The final interview with the committee is often looked forward to with dread, but generally looked back upon with pleasure - the usual verdict being that the committee were "so kind and sympathetic." It is not usual for the candidate to be either accepted or rejected at this juncture, because, as a
If, after due consideration, a candidate is accepted on probation, she is required to undergo a period of special missionary preparation, the method and duration of this training being determined by the Candidates' Sub-committee. The usual length of training is two years, but it may be extended. It may also be shortened for those who have gone through some university or professional course of training.
The special training given here depends entirely upon the kind of Work which the student intends to take up in the future. Devotional classes are held in the hostel for all students, and all attend the theological lectures given at the Rochester Deaconess Home. The afternoons are generally devoted to parish Work in the neighbourhood; district visiting, club work, and Sunday-school teaching forming a valuable preparation for missionary work. When the locality to which the future missionary is going has been decided upon, she begins, whenever possible, to study the language and history of the country to which she is allocated. Instruction in Sanscrit is very useful to all who are going to any part of India, as it forms the basis of all Indian dialects. Students studying Chinese attend lectures at King's College.
Many students further specialise in their own particular subjects during the time spent at the hostel. A doctor will perhaps attend special lectures on the eye or throat, etc., and a cookery teacher take her diploma at the Polytechnic. Every student has her own special time-table arranged for her particular requirements.
S.P.G. missionaries are also trained at St. Andrew's Home, Portsmouth, at St. Denys', Warminster, and at the Home of the Epiphany, Truro. The cost of training amounts to about £40 a year, a grant up to this amount being provided by the S.p.g. Candidates' Fund when considered advisable.
The special needs at the present time are for workers under the three following heads: educational, medical, and evangelistic.
No teacher can be too highly trained for work in the mission field; degrees, diplomas, and certificates are required there as here. Every variety of teaching is required abroad as it is at home. Every kind of school is to be met with, from the village hut-school up to the university. Domestic science is also called for, especially in South Africa. Perhaps even higher qualifications are necessary for those taking up work in the mission field than for those teaching at home, for the missionary has not only to teach scholars, but to train native teachers.
The elementary school-teacher, the high-school mistress, the lecturer on domestic economy are all needed, provided their first desire is for the spread of Christianity. It should be fully understood by those wishing to teach abroad that they must hold the same certificates which are required In England. Both in India and in South Africa government grants are given to certificated teachers. Grants towards professional training are sometimes made by the S.p.g. to those desiring to devote their educational talents to missionary work.
Under this head are included doctors and nurses, and here again the best is required; and not only must training have been undei-gone and examinations passed, but practical Work should have been done as well. The doctor must have her degrees, and the nurse her certificates, and both must have had experience after training.
The doctor's training is a long one, and usually covers a period of at least five years. The expense deters some who feel that they would like to qualify in this direction; but if they are anxious to combine medical with missionary work the difficulty may be met.
The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge will, on the recommendation of a Church society (such as the S.p.g.), allow a grant of £50 a year for five years to medical students. In the case of a student having no private means at all, this grant is sometimes supplemented by the S.p.g. in order that the full cost of training and maintenance may be covered.
The woman who wishes to train as a nurse need incur no expense in doing so, as she can enter as a probationer in almost any hospital without paying a premium, and in most cases will receive a salary commencing at the end of the first month. The salaries vary in different hospitals from £10 to £12 the first year, £15 to £18 the second, £18 to £20 the third, and £20 to £25 the fourth. In all the principal London hospitals the training lasts for four years.
Evangelistic workers should have had some experience in home mission work. The study of psychology, pedagogy, and sociology is of great value.
Should they hold the archbishop's diploma of "Student in Theology " (S.Th.) a most excellent foundation would have been laid.
The scheme inaugurated by the Archbishop of Canterbury is for the purpose of training women to become duly qualified teachers of theology. The diploma is conferred by him upon candidates who give satisfactory evidence of (a) systematic study, (6) proficiency as shown by examination or otherwise, (c) teaching capacity. The Archbishop's licence to teach theology is further conferred by him at his discretion upon holders of the diploma who desire to make Church teaching their special work, and who are communicant members of the Church of England.
Further particulars may be obtained from Miss Bevan (Hon. Sec), 39, Evelyn Gardens, S W
Other societies will be dealt 7vith in subsequent articles.