The following text is from the Fourth Lecture (“General Church Usages and Benevolences”) of the “Probationer’s Hand-book: Religious, Historical, Doctrinal, Disciplinary and Practical” by Rev. S. Olin Garrison, M.A. The handbook, also known as the Probationer’s Catechism, is a series of lectures in catechetical form, intended to prepare probationary members for full membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church. These outlines could be adapted for a church membership class.
51. What chief peculiar usages are maintained in our Church?
The Itinerancy, Class-meeting, Love feast, and Watch-night.
52. What is the Itinerancy?
It is a system of regular rotation in the pastorate, under episcopal supervision, whereby every member of an Annual Conference receives an appointment, and every congregation a pastor, in accordance with the peculiar usages of the Methodist Episcopal Church. (See Discipline.)
53. What is the design of the Class-meeting?
It is designed to gather together the members weekly for free spiritual conversation. It is not a confessional, but it furnishes the leader an opportunity to instruct, exhort, rebuke, and encourage those who are committed to his care. It has been, and should continue to be, a power in Methodism. Heb. 10:24, 25; Jas. 5:16; Col. 3:16. (See Discipline.)
54. What is the design of the Love-feast?
The Love-feast is a meeting in imitation of the Agapæ of the early Christians and is designed to promote fellowship and brotherly love among the members. Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7; Jude 12.
55. What is the design of Watch-night?
It is to seize the event of the closing year in order to enforce religious lessons and make solemn vows.
56. How many benevolent societies are there in the Church?
57. Will you name them?
Missionary, Sunday-School Union, Tract, Church Extension, Freedmen’s Aid, Education; American Bible Society, Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, and Woman’s Home Missionary Society.*
*(Explain the “Children’s Day ” collections. See Discipline, (1896,) ¶337, §2; ¶334, §2.)
58. Give briefly the nature and aims of these several societies?
(In preparing the answers consult the Discipline and inquire of the Quarterly Conference Committees.)
59. How are the regular expenses of the Church and the demands of the various benevolent societies to be maintained?
By the voluntary gifts of all the full members and the probationers as God prospers them. 1 Cor. 16:2.
60. Should all Christian people form the habit of systematic giving?
They should, by all means; and they should also teach others the same lesson, especially children.