Happy 200th Birthday, Sunday School (40 years ago)

40 years ago — August 11, 1980

Two hundred years ago, in 1780, Robert Raikes, the publisher of the Gloucester (England) Journal established the first Sunday school. Disturbed by the neglected conditions of the local children and their behavior on Sundays (when they did not work), he enlisted four women to teach them the scriptures, catechism, reading, and other elementary subjects.

Immediately, he incurred opposition from the conservatives who felt that popular education would lead to revolution, and from the strict Sabbatarians, who were sure that any such activity as schooling was breaking the Sabbath. But his enthusiasm and his new methods carried the day, so that in three years he felt secure enough to publicize his efforts in his paper, and others in England began to follow his example. In London, a group of “city gentlemen” formed the Sunday School Union, an interdenominational body, in 1803, to improve methods, fill gaps, and help with supplies of books and materials. The movement soon spread to the Continent, and to America, and was later incorporated into the programs of the various denominations in this country.

From “Happy 200th Birthday, Sunday School” by William H. Tiemann