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Before we get too far into Advent and Sunday School comes to a close until the New Year, I would like to point out that candy canes can be a useful teaching tool in telling the Nativity story.

The secular assault on Christmas might have lessened somewhat since President Trump was elected to office, however, there are probably a number of state schools in the US that forbid anything that even hints at the religious, e.g. candy canes and Christmas bell sugar cookies. A 2009 article from American Thinker, ‘Criminalizing Christmas Cookies, Candy Canes and Crèches’, has probably aged well. Please do read it.

So, it would seem that some children are left with learning about the Nativity story at home or in Sunday School. Enter the candy cane. Enterprising mothers and Sunday School teachers might like to make a meringue version for children.

One of my readers writes from the perspective of her golden retriever, Brodie. In 2016, she posted on the ever-popular candy cane:

and by the way here’s the history of the beloved ‘J’ shape like a shepherds crook…so the back story of the candy cane is spiritual and came in celebration of the nativity.

The link, on WhyChristmas?, explores the legend, history and symbolism behind this sweet December treat. There’s a lovely bit in the third paragraph for Sunday School teachers and Christian parents (emphases mine below):

A story says that a choirmaster, in 1670, was worried about the children sitting quietly all through the long Christmas nativity service. So he gave them something to eat to keep them quiet! As he wanted to remind them of Christmas, he made them into a ‘J’ shape like a shepherds crook, to remind them of the shepherds that visited the baby Jesus at the first Christmas. However, the earliest records of ‘candy canes’ comes from over 200 years later, so the story, although rather nice, probably isn’t true!

Sometime around 1900 the red stripes were added and they were flavored with peppermint or wintergreen.

Sometimes other Christian meanings are giving to the parts of the canes. The ‘J’ can also mean Jesus. The white of the cane can represent the purity of Jesus Christ and the red stripes are for the blood he shed when he died on the cross. The peppermint flavor can represent the hyssop plant that was used for purifying in the Bible.

So, although this symbolism is not a fact about the candy cane, it can be used to tell a child about the Nativity.

NoelNoelNoel elaborates on the religious symbolism sometimes associated with the candy cane:

Many people have given religious meaning to the shape and form of the candy cane. It is said that its shape is like the letter “J” in Jesus’ name. It is also in the shape of the shepherds’ crook, symbolic of how Jesus, like the “Good Shepherd” watches over his children like little lambs. It is a hard candy, solid like a “rock”, the foundation of the Church. The flavor of peppermint is similar to another member of the mint family, hyssop. In the Old Testament hyssop was used for purification and sacrifice, and this is said to symbolize the purity of Jesus and the sacrifice he made.

Some say the white of the candy cane represents the purity of Jesus and his virgin birth. The bold red stripe represents God’s love. The three fine stripes are said by some to represent the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Others say they represent the blood spilled at the beating Jesus received at the hands of the Roman soldiers.

Angie from Chocolate Candy Mall posted a story about the candy cane legend of the choirmaster and included a religious poem, perfect for children:

Look at the Candy Cane
What do you see?
Stripes that are red
Like the blood shed for me
White is for my Savior
Who’s sinless and pure!
“J” is for Jesus,
My Lord, that’s for sure!
Turn it around
And a staff you will see
Jesus my shepherd
Was born for Me!

Angie says:

In spite of the fact that the legend is more like folklore, the candy cane can be used in a beautiful way to represent the love and sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Short and sweet, isn’t it? Okay, back to the Legend of the Candy Cane story – Whether or not this tale is the true candy cane meaning, it presents us as believers with a simple opportunity to share a little bit of the Gospel story with those we meet during the Christmas season.

May the Lord bless you as you share your faith in Christ with others!

Let us now look at how the candy cane probably developed throughout history. They were likely to have been white sugary sticks in the 1800s, as NoelNoelNoel explains:

The use of candy canes on Christmas trees made its way to America by the 1800’s, however during this time they were still pure white.

In the United States during that time, Today I Found Out tells us that candy canes were part of Christmas tree decorations:

the first known candy cane that popped up in America was also supposedly thanks to a German immigrant, August Imgard, who used the candy cane for this purpose- decorating a Christmas tree in his home in Wooster, Ohio.

If he made crooks, he would have had to be very careful. Crooks became widespread only in the 20th century, for reasons stated below.

Therefore, I will work on the assumption that most of what appeared in this era were straight, white, sticks — possibly, although not always, flavoured with peppermint or wintergreen.

Old Christmas cards provide evidence of what shape and colour the peppermint sticks were. The familiar stripes did not appear until the 20th century:

Evidence, such as Christmas cards from the late 19th century, seems to indicate people were still going with the all-white candy cane at this point. Then in the early 20th century there started to be many instances of candy canes showing up on Christmas cards with red stripes.

Given candy canes were used as much for decoration as eating at this time, it’s not surprising that somebody got the bright idea to put a colorful stripe on them. It should also be noted that a little over a half century or so before stripes were known to be added to candy canes, there is a reference of white peppermint candy sticks with colored stripes added.

WhyChristmas? says that the candy cane we know today came about around 1920 when:

Bob McCormack, from Georgia, USA, started making canes for his friends and family. They became more and more popular and he started his own business called Bob’s Candies.

Today I Found Out has more about the stripes:

who first got that idea to make striped candy canes is still a mystery. Some say it was candy maker Bob McCormack in the 1920s. McCormick’s company by the late 1950s would become one of the world’s largest peppermint candy cane producers, selling about a half a million candy canes per day at their peak. But it may well be that McCormick simply popularized the striping practice, rather than invented it. One thing is for sure, this idea spread like a wildfire and soon a red stripe on a candy cane was near universal, as was peppermint flavoring …

As for the crook:

the cane had to be manually bent when it was still warm/soft coming off the assembly line, usually using a wooden mold or the like.

This proved to be problematic for Bob McCormack on the production line:

McCormack was having trouble at the time because about 22% of the candy canes produced by Bob and his crew were ending up in the trash as they broke during the bending process.

Fortunately, the good Lord blessed McCormack with a splendid brother-in-law. Not only was he a Catholic priest, he was also an inventor. WhyChristmas? says:

Bob McCormack’s brother-in-law, Gregory Harding Keller, who was a Catholic priest, invented the ‘Keller Machine’ that made turning straight candy sticks into curved candy canes automatically!

Today I Found Out adds:

Keller’s machine automated this process and shortly thereafter was perfected by Dick Driskell and Jimmy Spratling, both of which worked for Bob McCormack. This made it so the candy canes came out perfect nearly every time.

WhyChristmas? says:

In 2005, Bob’s Candies was bought by Farley and Sathers but they still make candy canes!

So, there you have the story behind candy canes, with a Christian twist.

If anyone has used the candy cane in a Sunday School lesson, please feel free to share your experience below!

j0289346I have just wasted an hour of my life which will never be recovered.

The estimable Green Baggins — the Revd Lane Keister, a PCA pastor — has excellent, thought-provoking posts on Reformed, often Presbyterian, theology.

A post of his from June 2014 concerns the number of young churchgoers who drift into unbelief.

‘A Very Disturbing Book’ discusses Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard.

Keister tells us (italics in the original, emphasis in bold mine):

based on the research of Britt Beemer … very few people who leave the church do so because college started them on the road to doubt. In fact, they were already gone! Their doubts started (in 88% of the 20-year olds who were interviewed!) in middle school and high school. Folks, we are losing our children long before college.

Keister goes on to say that Already Gone lays the blame with Sunday School not offering enough apologetics (theologically-considered reasons) for the Christian faith, not enough emphasis is placed on six-literal-day creation and that parents are abdicating their children’s education to Sunday School teachers.

My interest piqued, I went to read the 456 comments which followed and was very disappointed indeed. Almost all of them debated Young Earth versus Old Earth creation.

Only three pointed to the necessity of teaching a belief in our own sinfulness and that loving, merciful, forgiving Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our redemption.

No wonder our children are leaving!

No one offered any practical solutions. Now, this is not intended as a criticism of either Keister, his contributors or his readers.

However, if after 456 comments, no one can come up with concrete solutions other than making six-day-literal creation the hill on which to die, then, it is not surprising that youngsters are deserting the Church.

This is a perfect, albeit unintentional, illustration of where the American church is failing.

Only a few people highlighted the real walls we are coming up against. (I disagree with their condemnation of science.) This is true also in other parts of the world:

– Too much worldliness on display, including at school: materialism, sexual activity, general self-satisfaction.

– Lack of parental instruction in the faith.

– A disregard for the traditional meaning of Sunday — a time for rest and for worship.

My solutions:

1/ Parents who are concerned for their children’s salvation really must begin religious education at home as soon as possible. I could recite short prayers by the time I was three years old. That is not intended as a boast, but rather as an expression of gratitude to my mother who taught them to me and told me how wonderful Jesus is. I also had small children’s books about Jesus and the Bible as well as young children’s prayerbooks.

2/ Sunday Schools should start teaching the short catechism as soon as possible. I still have my short version which I began learning by heart at the age of six. The teacher gave us as weekly homework five questions whose answers we had to memorise for the following week. It worked. I still can recite many of these by heart. We also had workbook exercises to complete, which the teacher graded at the next lesson.

3/ Learning the Bible, particularly the New Testament, is essential. Memorising short verses from the New Testament and being able to locate them in the text when asked is very useful in learning Scripture.

4/ A godly example in the home, particularly from fathers, is highly important in fostering a child’s experience of the Christian way of life. Keeping the Sabbath is also essential.

Please feel free to add more in the comments. A number of readers are parents themselves, so it would be helpful to know what works and what does not.

When the Georgia Guidestones first appeared in the news in 1980, I was at university:

Elbert County owns the Georgia Guidestones site. According to the Georgia Mountain Travel Association’s detailed history: “The Georgia Guidestones are located on the farm of Mildred and Wayne Mullenix…”[3] The Elbert County land registration system shows what appears to be the Guidestones as County land purchased on October 1, 1979. [4][5]

The monument was unveiled in March 1980, with the presence of 100 people.[6] Another account specifies March 22, 1980 and said 400 people attended.[2]

My friends and I discussed it in the dining hall. One said, ‘It’s really evil — all about population control.’ I, on the other hand, found the messages quite intriguing and perfect for the end of the 20th century.  Our group had a dinnertime discussion about the morality and ethics behind the ‘ten guides for a New Age of Reason’ (image at left courtesy of Wikipedia):

1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
2. Guide reproduction wisely – improving fitness and diversity.
3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
4. Rule passion – faith – tradition – and all things with tempered reason.
5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
9. Prize truth – beauty – love – seeking harmony with the infinite.
10. Be not a cancer on the earth – Leave room for nature – Leave room for nature.

I accused my friend of not having bothered reading past the first point, to which she said, ‘A “world court” would be really problematic. It would be like the UN. This is the United States of America! We don’t need world courts!’

In her Midwestern state, many people outside the larger towns and cities were deeply suspicious of the United Nations. It was not unusual for someone in that part of the world to pay in perpetuity for a billboard in the countryside that said ‘Get US out of the UN!’ At that time, the only people who thought like that had read books by the John Birch Society or heard their ideas discussed by friends or family.

So, I ignored what she had to say and forgot all about the Georgia Guidestones. Everyone else in our group was more anti- than pro-, by the way.

Over the past couple of years, however, I started reading about them again online. My occasional correspondent, Rogue Lutheran, sent me a few links to peruse in 2010, which got me going.

Thirty years on, after having reread the ten guides and the articles, I now think that the whole concept and content are rather depressing. So, my sincere apologies to Rogue Lutheran for not having written on them earlier.

It turns out that we still don’t know who paid for this humanist monument de nos jours, although speculation abounds. The only thing we know is that its sponsors are or were

A small group
of Americans who seek
the Age of Reason.

The author of this multilingual message is one R C Christian, which is a pseudonym. The word is misspelled on the stone as ‘pseudonyn’. I bet whoever commissioned it is rather annoyed about that.

Those who are familiar with esoteric (gnostic) societies surmise that R C Christian is a person (or persons) involved in Rosicrucianism, which used to be advertised in the back of Sunday newspaper supplements. They also call for

a global religion, world courts, and for population levels to be maintained at around 500 million, over a 5.5 billion reduction from current levels. The stones infer that humans are a cancer upon the earth and should be culled in order to maintain balance with nature.”[8]

Throughout the 1970s, overpopulation, the biosphere (as it was called then) and pollution were big news. The word ‘ecologist’ went mainstream at that time. These were experts, don’t you know, and I took what they had to say seriously. Guest editorials in newspapers and cover articles in newsweeklies covered these subjects regularly.

Back then, our society was much freer and much more given — in my opinion — to conspicuous consumption. Maybe it was just newer then; it was certainly cheaper. People also seemed happier, although not as happy as they were in the 1960s.  However, we had fewer laws then, although the clamour for more regulation of industry was increasing.

Now that we are in the 21st century, we have more laws not only for businesses but also many of a personal nature — more than we even know about.  It seems to me, that regardless of who devised the ten guides, we are being forced into them. Even OccupyZine — the magazine of the Occupy movement — has called them to its adherents’ attention.

The OccupyZine link directs readers to an article published by the Vigilant Citizen in 2010 called ‘Sinister Sites: The Georgia Guidestones’.

Vigilant Citizen (VC) writes:

As you can see, the guidelines call for a drastic reduction of the world population, the adoption of new a world language, the creation of a world court and a vague allusions to eugenics. In other words, a blueprint for a New World Order.

The first “commandment” is particularly shocking, since it basically stipulates that 12 out of 13 people on Earth should not exist; basically, that would mean everybody in the world would disappear except half of India. If today’s world population is 6,7 billion, then that is a 92.54% surplus. To consider these figures is mind-boggling. But then, how many people survived in the movie 2012? Not many. Who were they? The earth’s wealthiest people. Is this predictive programming?

The last rule of the Guidestones, “Be not a cancer on the earth – leave room for nature – leave room for nature” is particularly disturbing as it compares human life to cancer on earth. With this state of mind, it is easy to rationalize the extinction of nearly all of the world’s population.

VC also notes:

The second rule (“Guide reproduction wisely – improving diversity and fitness”) basically calls for the inference of lawmakers into the management of family units. If we read between the lines, it requires to creation of laws structuring the number of children per family. Furthermore, “improving diversity and fitness” can be obtained with “selective breeding” or the sterilization of undesirable members of society. This used to be called “eugenics”, until it became politically incorrect because of the Nazis.

VC has read the Georgia Guidestones Guidebook and provides several helpful quotations from it which promote the idea of a world government and world courts.

In their own words, the authors have chosen to stay anonymous

in order to avoid debate and contention which might confuse our meaning, and which might delay a considered review of our thoughts. We believe that our precepts are sound. They must stand on their own merits …

Fair enough. But they also are in favour of

A diverse and prosperous world population in perpetual balance with global resources will be the cornerstone for a rational world order. People of good will in all nations must work to establish that balance …

With the completion of the central cluster of The Georgia Guidestones our small sponsoring group has disbanded. We leave the monument in the safekeeping of the people of Elbert County, Georgia.

If our inscribed words are dimmed by the wear of wind and sun and time, we ask that you will cut them deeper. If the stones should fall, or if they be scattered by people of little understanding. we ask that you will raise them up again.


We have enough laws controlling our own behaviour as it is. I predict that the exponential increase in laws regulating personal conduct will be the theme which history shows as characteristic of the first two decades of the 21st century.

VC explains that R C Christian (emphases in the original):

is a clear reference to Christian Rosenkreuz whose English name is Christian Rose Cross, the legendary founder of the Rosicrucian Order. Some might say that the resemblance between R.C. Christian and Christian Rose Cross is the result of an odd coincidence. As we will see, it is however only one of the MANY references to Rosicrucianism associated with the monument. This is only one piece of the puzzle, but an important piece nonetheless.

Rosenkreuz (1378 – 1484) was kidnapped as a five-year old by an Albigensian and raised in one of their monasteries.  Therefore, he fell under the Bogomilist spell with the Albigenses in the south of France. Bogomilism is a heresy which is again picking up in popularity.

VC has also picked up on the loss of personal liberties and freedom:

Reading between the lines, the Guidestones require from the masses the loss of many personal liberties and to submit to heightened governmental control on many social issues … not to mention the death of 92.5% of the population…and probably not those of the “elite”. Is the concept of a democracy “by and for the people”, as idealized by the Founding Fathers a mere illusion, a temporary solution until the introduction of  socialist world government? Why are the world’s citizens not being consulted in a democratic matter? I guess it is easier for the elites to manufacture consent through mass medias. But maybe it won’t work on everybody…

Someone defaced one of the tablets in 2008, but the stones must be pretty securely placed to have survived intact — outside of a few chips — up to now.

It seems that this would be a good subject for Sunday School ethics classes for those in secondary school. If you’re reading this and happen to teach a class of youngsters, it would make a good lesson or two on discernment.

One of the links Rogue Lutheran sent me is from Van’s Hardware Journal. Don’t be dissuaded by the name of the blog; this post, ‘Decoding the Georgia Guidestones’, tells the local story.  As mentioned earlier, no one is sure of the identity of R C Christian, however, there are even a few local Elberton possibilities, including someone who closely followed Alice A Bailey’s Theosophist teachings, which she and her husband turned into the Lucifer Publishing Company in 1920. It is now Lucis Trust and well known for its New Age publications.

The Baileys’ Lucis Trust and their Arcane School, Van tells us (emphases mine):

have become very influential organizations and appear to be favored as the blueprint for a United Nations endorsed world religion.

A central theme in this Theosophical lineage … is the idea that man can attain divinity. As such, God becomes the jealous adversary working to thwart man’s elevation to godhood. Satan, or, more commonly in modern occult circles, Lucifer is seen as man’s ally, the Bringer of Light, the Bestower of Knowledge.

Therefore, it is a blend of Pelagianism — man’s ‘divinity’ — with satanic ideas and gnosticism, or secret knowledge.

Van’s Hardware Journal explains a possible Guidestones scenario for the unfortunate masses — well worth using if you ever teach this subject:

Through a state run eugenics program, Christian believes the world can produce “healthier and more productive human beings” over each succeeding generation. “Superior human intelligence, compassion and drive” and other “desirable mental and physical qualities” can also be enhanced under such eugenic conditions.

Humorously yet sinisterly, Christian cites “docility” and “loyalty” achieved through selective breeding in dogs as evidence that “comparable but more important modifications” in human behavior can be achieved through eugenics.

In R.C. Christian’s “Age of Reason,” even if the state allows you to have children, you will be required to raise them under strict conditions so as to “mold their characters and to develop their potentials as socially worthwhile adults.”

That is, if the state even allows you to keep them.

Because even if you and your spouse are considered good breeding stock, the state might find you “temperamentally unsuited for parenthood.” In which case, your children will be transferred “to the care of others capable of nurturing them into well adjusted adulthood”

And don’t think that you are safe just because you lined up for voluntary sterilization.

For instance, if the economy is bad and you lose your job, in Robert Christian’s rational world order, you will have to become a slave of the state to survive. You won’t be able to vote and you will be compelled to work jobs often held by illegal immigrants, who will then be displaced back to their native lands. If you don’t like your job and quit, you will starve.

Not only will you have to be suitably employed or own a private business to vote, you will also have to pass both intelligence and “educational requirements” tests to prove to the state that you are worthy of the right of suffrage. Want to run for public office? Robert Christian has more tests that you will need to pass first.

Speaking of rights, you will have none if Christian gets his way. Rights to him are privileges that the state will only bestow upon you if you properly serve the state.

And don’t forget your identity card! In Christian’s nightmare world, everyone is required to carry with them a unique biometric ID card. Without one you will not be able to get work or get government help.

Okay, so you are a good citizen in Christian’s new age world. You might be allowed to have children. You might be allowed to raise them. You might be lucky enough to find a suitable job so that you can vote.

Just be sure not to get sick or injured, because Christian believes the state must ration health care “favoring those individuals whose continuing lives are most valuable” to the state.

But you were injured because your new Halliburton electric toothbrush exploded in your right hand, blowing it off at the wrist and blinding you for life. Surely, you have recourse to litigation. No, Christian wants to place caps on litigation and let financial damage beyond this limit fall to his state’s wonderfully efficient and fair health and welfare system.

Unfortunately, that means that since you can no longer work, you will lose your voting privileges, almost certainly lose your child because you will not be able to care for him properly on welfare and you will receive the lowest standard of medical care available because you are no longer productive for the state.

It’s all very rational and reasonable in Christian’s mind.

Yet, I run across a number of commenters on British and American blogs who also (sadly) would find this all perfectly reasonable.

What does the Bible say about each of these ten guides of our time?

Short answer: obey the Ten Commandments and one will have no need for the ten guides.

This year marks the bicentenary of the death of Robert Raikes (14 September 1736 – 5 April 1811), the Englishman who helped to turn Sunday School into an international institution.

He did not found Sunday School, as the first was opened in 1751 at St Mary’s Church in Nottingham.  In 1769, Hannah Ball founded one in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. However, Raikes laid the groundwork for a number of Sunday Schools across England during his lifetime.  In the United States, mill owner Samuel Slater, originally from Derbyshire, began one for his child labourers in 1790.

Raikes was the grandson of an Anglican vicar, Yorkshireman Timothy Raikes, and the son of a newspaper owner, also named Robert.  Robert Raikes the Elder (as he is known) had settled in Gloucester by the time Robert Raikes the Younger was born.  His Gloucester Journal had been in publication for several years by then.  Raikes the Younger inherited the newspaper in 1757.

Raikes was concerned about the effect that the Industrial Revolution had upon children, especially boys.  He saw that because of a six-out-of-seven day workweek, they had no means of moral, religious or educational development.  Many adult factory workers were illiterate.  Furthermore, either exhaustion or social circumstances prevented them from attending church.  In the worst cases, fathers had ended up in jail or the workhouse, as they were too impoverished to pay their debts.  Raikes visited these institutions regularly and was appalled at the conditions, including the lack of food.

Raikes’s middle-class contemporaries hired governesses or tutors for their children.  Some sent their sons to fee-based local grammar schools or to boarding schools, which are still known today as ‘public schools’.  There were no state-run institutions at the time, although a number of charity or church-endowed ragged schools — some better than others — existed for the education of the poor and working class.

Raikes was so unsettled by the social conditions in Gloucester’s slums that he asked the Revd Thomas Stock of Ashbury, Berkshire, for advice.  Surely, a day-long school session held on Sundays and using the Bible as the textbook would teach the boys how to read and introduce them to Christianity.  Diligent students would then have not only skills to help them out of the grind of poverty but also equip them with good morals and biblical knowledge.

So, in 1780, a Gloucester woman, Mrs Meredith, opened her home to start the first Sunday School.  Raikes publicised the new venture in the Gloucester Journal and it quickly caught the attention of Englishmen nationwide.  In a recent biography of Raikes, the Telegraph recounted the story (emphases mine below):

In beginning Sunday schools, he worked with a local clergyman, at first paying four women to teach children in their houses. In 1780 he started a Sunday school in his own parish of St Mary de Crypt, hearing the children’s reading and awarding prizes.

Writing about the success of his venture in his own paper, Raikes attracted the attention of the Gentleman’s Magazine. The idea spread. “I find these schools springing up everywhere I go,” John Wesley noted in 1784. By 1786, 200,000 children were said to be involved.

Raikes had hit upon a need at a time when people were willing to do something to remedy it. Others had been working elsewhere on a similar idea. There was much energy among nonconformists, but Raikes was keen to make the enterprise serve the mission of the Church of England. Some parsons were reluctant to help, finding no warrant for it in the Book of Common Prayer and disapproving of independent lay initiatives.

Initially, only boys were allowed to attend, possibly because of their future roles as primary breadwinners. However, it was not long before Raikes and his teachers admitted girls to the classes. Raikes wrote the instructions for the teachers and described how they structured the day:

The children were to come after ten in the morning, and stay till twelve; they were then to go home and return at one; and after reading a lesson, they were to be conducted to Church. After Church, they were to be employed in repeating the catechism till after five, and then dismissed, with an injunction to go home without making a noise.

As one would expect, Raikes was not without his critics.  Wikipedia says:

There were disputes about the movement in the early years. The schools were derisively called “Raikes’ Ragged School”. Criticisms raised included that it would weaken home-based religious education, that it might be a desecration of the Sabbath, and that Christians should not be employed on the Sabbath. “Sabbatarian disputes” in the 1790s led many Sunday schools to cease their teaching of writing.

In 1811, the year Raikes died, the Telegraph states:

there was founded the splendidly named National Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church. One thing it did was to provide booklets for Sunday schools. Under the modest name of the National Society, it still exists, promoting the Church education of a million children on weekdays.

Twenty years after Raikes’s death:

Sunday schools in Great Britain were teaching weekly 1,250,000 children, approximately 25 percent of the population.

Nonconformist churches and chapels also started Sunday Schools, particularly in deprived areas.  It was not unknown for adults to begin attending them in some regions.  From there, church-sponsored activities and associations began, particularly for the needy and disadvantaged.  One excellent illustration is that of Surrey Chapel in Southwark (London), which existed between 1783 and 1881.  Southwark, although somewhat transformed now with a number of office blocks, is still a poor area and has a number of council estates for its residents.  Surrey Chapel, however, helped transform the borough.  From Wikipedia (earlier link):

When built it was set in open fields, but within a few years it became a new industrial area with a vast population characterised by great poverty amidst pockets of wealth. Recently the site itself has been redeveloped as an office block (currently occupied by the London Development Agency), and Southwark Underground Station has been built opposite …

Its founding pastor, Rowland Hill, having a strong interest in inoculation, established one of the most effective vaccination boards in London at Surrey Chapel …

Surrey Chapel, though owned and managed by independent trustees primarily as a Nonconformist chapel, was operated as a venue for music, singing, and for the meetings of charities, associations and societies, several of which became closely associated with it. For a time, the composer and arranger Benjamin Jacob was organist, attracting thousands; a practical response to Rowland Hill’s well known concern about chapel music of the time: ‘Why should the Devil have all the good tunes ?’

Surrey Chapel – as a result of this ‘open door’ policy – became a popular London venue … as well as the site of the first Sunday School in London. So much so, that new premises had to be found to accommodate the growth in services, ragged schools, Sunday schools and the Southwark Mission for the Elevation of the Working Classes – an auxiliary to Surrey Chapel managed by the plain speaking George Murphy for the increasing numbers of industrial poor of the district.

infed (the informal education homepage and encyclopaedia of informal education) tells us:

By the mid-1800s many Sunday Schools had passed into the control of working people, although the membership of chapels would appear to have been drawn rather more from the skilled than the un-skilled working class (McLeod, 1984, p.24). Three quarters of working class children were attending such schools in 1851 (Lacquer 1976: 44). This was popular provision on a massive scale.

… the key element in the success of Sunday Schools was that they provided the education and expressed the values that working-class parents wanted for their children. In particular, it was the transmission of the values of the ‘respectable’ working class or labour aristocracy that were stressed: self-discipline, industry, thrift, improvement, egalitarianism and communalism. Sunday Schools, when considered in this light, paralleled other working class institutions such as friendly societies, trade unions and savings banks. Sunday Schools were used not simply to improve literacy and religious knowledge but also, arguably, to enhance the culture of working class life.

Indeed, if you walk around the area near the site of the former Surrey Chapel, you can still find a workingman’s temperance mutual society in Blackfriars Road. The council block across from the chapel (now the LDA building) is called Rowland Hill House.

As for Sunday Schools in the United States, the New York Times archive has a long article from 1865, which describes a meeting of the Methodist Sunday School Union, incorporating Methodist Episcopal churches.  This excerpt gives you an idea of the Sunday School ethos:

ORANGE JUDD, Esq., editor of the Agriculturist, then made an address. He gave some reminiscences of his own early days, when Sunday-schools were first organized among the log cabins where he lived when a boy, and referred to his own long experience as a Sunday-school teacher, and to his sense of obligation to Sunday schools for the good reading and good training they supplied, and explained how the children could bring other children into the schools …

In the course of his address, Mr. JUDD called on all those present who desired to go to heaven, to signify it by raising their right hand, which occasioned a heavy vote

The exercises were ended in the usual manner, and the children filed out in good order, and with pleased faces

The proceedings of the afternoon were inaugurated by the singing of “Glory to the Father give” by the united schools, subsequent to which Rev. W.F. COLLINS offered up prayer. The singing of the “Children’s Jubilee” was followed by an able address by Rev. W.W. HICKS, of Delaware, who welcomed the children and spoke to them of their duties toward God. A second address in the same spirit was delivered by JOSEPH LONGKING, Esq., and the “Sunday School Banner” by the pupils brought the exercises to a close. The benediction having been pronounced by the chairman, the assemblage then dispersed …

The galleries were thronged with the parents and friends of the little ones, who presented an orderly and attractive appearance … D.L. ROSS, Esq., delivered an address happily appropriate to the occasion, which elicited attention from all the children. He alluded to the necessity of Sunday-school instruction, to mold the early character, and its vast influence in disseminating the gospel among the young. After drawing a vivid picture of the thousands of little ones exposed to every temptation in this city, he contrasted their condition with those who had the advantages of the religious instruction which the Sunday-school afforded, and urged the necessity of advancing in the work.

Back in Blighty, the Telegraph concludes:

Sunday school and parish church formed a virtuous circle, each supporting the other.

Today, with leisure to be had on other days too, parish groups have diversified, but surely nothing can compare for intensity of mutual improvement with the 19th-century Sunday school.

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