Baraca Philathea

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Baraca Philathea was an ecumenical movement designed to facilitate adult evangelism through Bible study. A million strong during the early twentieth century, it tried to bridge the gap that young people, aged sixteen to twenty-five, felt between their churches and their own experiences. Marshall Hudson, the movement's founder, was a successful business owner in Syracuse, New York, who made a name for himself selling crockery. Hudson had grown up in the church. Then, like most young people - especially young men - of his day, Hudson left the church behind as he focused on his career. In 1890, he and his pastor decided to help the young men of the city to avoid making the same mistake of leaving God behind. Hudson started the first Baraca class for men in his home church, the First Bapist Church in Syracuse.

The Baraca class at First Baptist Church met during Sunday school and studied the Bible together. Hudson gave his boys ownership of the class and began to provide activities that assisted the men in their physical and intellectual growth in addition to his central provision of spiritual food. In 1893, Hudson's eldest daughter, May Hudson (pictured to the right with her father), started a class for young women based on the same program and named it Philathea. The first Baraca class began with a membership of sixteen and before the year was over had a roster of more than 150. When other churches heard of the success of these classes, they wanted to use Hudson's ideas and apply them to their own churches. By the early 1900s there were Baraca and Philathea classes in every major Protestant denomination, in almost every state in the United States, and in Canada, Italy, England, India, and Japan.

(History taken from back cover of A Million for Christ: The Story of Baraca Philathea by Ann Elizabeth Olson) 

The Harold John Ockenga Institute