Time to Reflect and Look Ahead

In 1997, then association Executive Director Stephen Burger reflected on the 125th anniversary of the New York City Rescue Mission’s founding and the 100th anniversary of America’s Keswick (Whiting, N.J.), which includes Keswick's Colony of Mercy. Below are excerpts from his reflections.

New York City Rescue Mission

One hundred and twenty five years ago, in October 1872, Jerry and Maria McAuley founded the Helping Hand for Men (later called the Water Street Mission), near where they both had lived in sin. They seem at first to be unlikely founders, for they were what Jerry called “the unworthy poor.” He was a convict, thief, and former alcoholic. She had been a prostitute, and called herself a “common drunk.” But they were new creatures in Jesus Christ who were willing to proclaim that Jesus was the answer for those whom there was no other answer.

Helping Hand for Men, 316 Water Street in New York, opened October of 1872.  Some facts about that first mission are especially important to us today:

  • Jerry and Maria never gave up, for they believed that if God could change them He could change anybody.
  • They included the church from the very beginning in their outreach, and told the story in every church that would listen.
  • They involved people from the total Christian community. Alfred Hatch, who gave them their first building to use, was a railroad vice president. Sidney and Emma Whittemore, who later founded the IUGM [AGRM’s former name], were from the highest of New York society.
  • They had a vision bigger than Water Street. The couple challenged others to go to other cities. In addition, Jerry started the Cremorne Mission in the Times Square area (on West 37th Street), and Maria succeeded him there when he died.
  • They built their worship services around transformed lives and never let anyone speak more than a minute. Jerry felt the testimonies of the “twice born” were the most important part of the mission.
  • They started a board very early because they believed they needed that support and encouragement and needed to be accountable.

America’s Keswick Colony of Mercy

One hundred years ago, William Raws came from England and experienced deliverance from the bondage of alcohol addiction when he received new life in Christ. He founded the Keswick Colony of Mercy, after first founding the Whosoever Gospel Mission in Germantown, now Philadelphia, at “the saloon in which I used to drink and carouse so much.” William Raws considered it “the crowning glory of his life” when he purchased 880 acres of land in the Pines, near Whiting, New Jersey, and founded the Keswick Colony of Mercy.

His vision was that “here, amid healthful and beautiful surroundings, many a drunkard has found Christ and redemption, and is now a happy Christian.”

So, 100 years ago, one of the first—if not the first—alcoholic rehabilitation facilities in North America opened with the firm belief that the need of the alcoholic is not sobriety, but salvation. William Raws set this principle as his first one, and the others were:

  • That men needed time to grow in Jesus
  • That the beautiful surroundings away from the city were helpful
  • That men growing together upheld each other
  • That Christian leaders living with these “fallen” men created a Christian family