Early Church Clubs
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Social Meeting Places 172

Voluntary Association

Group of PeopleThe voluntary association was a very important form of social relationship in the Greek and Roman cities. A great variety of groups of friends, relatives, neighbors, or working associates, drew up a constitution, found a meeting place, and declared themselves the Association of "whatever." An Early Church club as one of this group was usually not large but most often contained from a dozen to thirty or forty, rarely more than a hundred members.✞

Private Clubs Thrived

Shoe MakerBefore the evolution of Early Church clubs, private clubs of various sorts thrived unregulated in the West and in the East. While information about them is relatively sparse and mainly confined to inscriptions, it provides a reasonably intelligible if only a general picture. The clubs were formed for various purposes and from various groups, trades (bakers, shoemakers), professions (musicians, actors), civic functions (firemen, veterans, sports), and were directed more to the social and religious than to the professional or economic interest of their members.✞

Monthly Subscriptions

Ancient Burial SiteThe clubs held regular meetings, usually with religious ceremonies, elected officers and sometimes a patron, and exercised a certain discipline over their members. They could also hold property. For a monthly subscription to a common treasury, they provided their membership with banquets and other festive and leisurely activities and, at the end, an honorable burial. The associations that were classified as clubs for the poor including males and females, slaves and freedmen, apparently emphasized dining and funeral benefits, and by underwriting the necessary burial proprieties they served a public interest as well.✞

"Early Church Clubs"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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