This Series of Blogs provide vignettes of the early pioneers of The Muscular Christianity Era - Faith-Sport Integration who laid the foundations for the Modern Day Sports Outreach Movement
THE YMCA DAYS - THE 23RD STREET BUILDING DESIGNED TO ATTRACT YOUNG MEN
The first building McBurney built included a gym, library, meeting rooms and places for games. (C) Of the major YMCA buildings that were completed by 1869, McBurney’s 23rd street building came to define the four-fold work of the Y. Compared to Ryde (England’s Association building, constructed in 1864 chiefly as a library); Moody’s Farwell Hall in Chicago (built in 1866 primarily as a hall for general evangelistic services and revivals); and the San Francisco Y building (built in 1869 and dedicated two weeks before the New York building) which included a gymnasium; the 23rd street facility, was the largest and best of them all. It was specifically designed to carry out McBurney’s ambitious plans for reaching men for Christ. While the San Francisco Y was similar, it was not nearly as large and grand, nor was it designed for the breadth of programming which McBurney had planned for his building. More than anything else it was this building which gave him a prominent position in America and as a result, people from across the country streamed to visit him in his “tower room” atop that first building. It was an impressive building, but it was only the first in a long line of buildings which were to come and which would permanently ensconce McBurney as the master builder of the YMCA.
McBURNEY THE ORIGINAL GENERAL SECRETARY - PROFESSIONAL SPORTS MINISTRY
When McBurney came on the scene, the Y was a totally volunteer led organization. McBurney made history when he became the first hired employee of the Y. More significantly he became the embodiment of what the ideal General Secretary should do and be. Without question it can be stated that he single handedly defined what the General Secretary should be.
For many years McBurney served as the General Secretary for the New York City YMCA at its 23rd Street building. During this time many other buildings and branches came into being as a result of his leadership. This growth caused administrative and organizational problems and forced the Y to reevaluate its organizational structure. R. C. Morse reported that the Y was greatly helped in solving this dilemma by McBurney’s recollection of a series of lectures on Church History given by Professor Roswell D. Hitchcock. These lectures indicated that the 1st century Church growth was greatly enhanced by an episcopal based system of organization. This recollection certainly influenced the Y and out of this evaluation grew the Metropolitan model of organization, which was modeled after the early Church and its episcopal structure.
McBurney spent the last years of his career as the Metropolitan General Secretary of the New York City Y and from this position could oversee the growth and maintenance of the entire organization. Both he and the Metropolitan style of organization became the model for the YMCA in Philadelphia, Chicago, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Baltimore and many other cities.
McBURNEY THE BUILDER
McBurney was the epitome of the phrase: “build it and they will come" and his vision for acquiring recreational buildings was validated as the Y witnessed dramatic growth. During this decade he added ten new "facilities." the membership of the New York City YMCA increased from 151 to 8,328, and moreover, it witnessed a daily average attendance of 5,670 members. It was clear from the growth of the Association that not only was McBurney an avid builder, but he was also an excellent administrator. (D)
MCBURNEY THE DISCIPLER/REPRODUCER
To McBurney the essence of the ministry was the transmission of the gospel and he spent his life surrounding himself with gifted men he discipled for a life time of service for the Master. (E) He fully believed the optimum mode of transmission was by young men to young men. However, he also understood that an attractive recreational facility could greatly enhance a young Christian man’s chances of gaining an audience with his non-believing friend. Whereas George Williams perhaps saw the acquisition of Exeter Hall in London as the crowning achievement of the YMCA and the end result of so many years of Y work, McBurney understood that the facilities he bought and built were the means to the end of sharing Christ with young men. (F) This truth continues to be obvious a century later. Churches that build athletic facilities witness increases in their outreaches and memberships and likewise, YMCA’s see an increase in their membership upon the building of new facilities. Simply stated, McBurney built recreational buildings to attract non-churched, non-believers so that he and his leadership team would have opportunities to share the gospel with them.
For some inspirational anecdotes on the personal affects McBurney had upon the young men who frequented his 23rd street building consult the addendum which comes at the last installment of this vignette of McBurney.
This blog is an excerpt from a future book: "Surrounded by Witnesses" by Dr. Greg Linville All rights reserved. For any reproduction right, including copying, computer reproduction, etc. contact:
Dr. Greg Linville at CSRM International C/O The World Outreach Center 5350 Broadmoor Circle N. w. Canton, Ohio – USA 44709 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other blogs and articles on Local Church Sports, sports theology and ethics written by Dr. Greg Linville and other local church Sports, Rec & Fitness Ministers are archived at: http://www.csrm.org/blog/