Since being founded in 1836 our activities may have changed with the times, but our original mission to enable churches to bring the gospel to men, women and children remains and is still the driving force behind all we do.
CPAS (the Church Pastoral Aid Society) was founded in 1836 by prominent Christians, including the pioneering social reformer Lord Shaftesbury. It was established as a Christian response to the massive social change brought about by the Industrial Revolution. What were once small village churches found themselves with the new urban poor on their doorsteps.
Lord Shaftesbury and his friends stepped in to set up a new charity that would resource these churches to cope with this change, through giving them grants to enable them to employ extra members of staff. Their aim was simple: the gospel should be taken 'to every person's door, with a single eye to the glory of God'.
What was controversial – though hardly a surprise to us today – was that CPAS gave grants for the employment of lay staff as well as those who were ordained. One of the chief critics of this was William Gladstone, later to become Prime Minister. One of the first recipients of a grant was the Rev Patrick Bronte, Rector of Haworth, and father of the famous novelists, who was able to employ Rev Arthur Nicholls as curate.
Mr Nicholls actually married Charlotte Bronte and CPAS even merits a passing reference on the first page of her novel Shirley:
'Of late years, I say, an abundant shower of curates has fallen upon the north of England, but in eighteen-hundred-eleven-twelve that affluent rain had not descended. Curates were scarce then: there was no Pastoral Aid - no Additional Curates' Society to stretch a helping hand to worn-out old rectors and incumbents, and give them the wherewithal to pay a vigorous young colleague from Oxford or Cambridge.'
Over time, of course, the work of CPAS has developed. But nonetheless the vision of our founders burns strongly in us. Like them, we believe in resourcing leaders - both lay and ordained. Like them, we want to see the church equipped to cope with rapidly changing social circumstances. Like them, we want to see the gospel find its way to everyone's door. And as we do so, we know that we're building on the solid foundations of the past.