The Church of Christian Kindness was established in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1875 by Reverend Abel Caine, who felt that existing churches had moved away from the basic principles of what Christ stood for.
With an initial membership of 20 local families, Rev. Caine taught them his vision of a Christian church that would be based more on helping the needy than it would be on “rituals and double-talk”. His vision struck a chord with the simple farmers of the area and by 1892, the Church of Christian Kindness could boast of a membership of almost 200,000 with churches established in every Canadian province, 20 American states, Great Britain, France and Germany. When Reverend Caine died in 1897, his vision had reached to over 15 countries worldwide and 400,000 worshipping members.
Although Reverend Caine had a strong opposition to war, a belief that kept the church removed from the Boer and Spanish-American Wars. Church attitudes had changed by 1914 though, and the First World War would be the greatest test that COCK had ever faced. Overshadowed by such organizations as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross, COCK nonetheless acquitted itself admirably, recruiting thousands of nurses and ministers to tend to the soldiers fighting all across Europe. Many of our people were killed performing their duties, but COCK came out of the conflict a much stronger, larger and more respected institution on the world stage.
It was also around this time that it became apparent that the organizational structure of COCK must change to support the size of the organization. Reverend Littlefield spearheaded the committee that would eventually establish the partitioning of the world into 6 (now 7) Districts under the leadership of one or more Reverends (the titles were changed to “Pastor” in 1943). The whole church organization would now be lead by an individual voted into office by all the Reverends and would take the title of “Bishop”. The “Bishop” would determine the direction that the church as a whole would take and serve as the spiritual father of all COCK members worldwide. It was a lifetime appointment.
Reverend Littlefield also recognized that the true heart of the church was in its members, and thus established the Council of Deacons to represent that power. The Council of Deacons would be comprised of regular members of COCK, voted into position every five years by each individual church. They would meet on a district basis every two weeks and on a global basis four times a year. The Council of Deacons would be responsible for the day to day charitable operations of the church. Today, with the advent of high speed communications, district and global level meetings of the Council of Deacons can (and do) take place at a moment's notice.
By 1929, COCK was a true international church with members and houses of worship in 106 different countries. The church was thus ideally placed to lend aid and support to the many people affected by the coming decade of depression. Wise investments and management by the leadership of the church throughout the 1920s and the fortuitous withdrawal from all investments in 1928 meant that the church had a fantastic cash reserve that it was able to use throughout the 1930s. In fact, the assets of the church were such that we were able to ensure that no member or his family suffered throughout the years of the Great Depression. Most of the financial security programs enjoyed by our members to this day were born from this period in COCK history.
In September 1939, COCK once again stood side by side with the Salvation Army and the Red Cross in lending aid, comfort and support to soldiers fighting in what would become the Second World War. For the second time in 25 years, thousands of young, female church members volunteered to put themselves in harm's way while thousands of others served in other ways at home. The COCK volunteers in World War II are perhaps best known for the small, handmade lollipops they would hand out to soldiers as a treat from home. It was obvious to the church that the lollipops had an effect on moral as many a soldier would arrive at a COCK aid station and ask for “one of those tasty, little COCK suckers”
After World War II, the church once again started investing its financial resources on the world's markets, and by the mid 1980s could boast a financial portfolio in the hundreds of millions of dollars. What to do with such a vast amount of cash was the topic of much debate throughout the next 10 years, but it wasn't until 1997 that Pastor Edward Rennie put forward the notion of using the money to fund new churches, orphanages and clinics around the world in general and in Africa in particular. As of this writing, over $83,500,000 had been distributed around the world for this purpose, 65% of the money being spent in Africa alone.
What the future holds for COCK can never be known, but we hope that this century is as kind to COCK as the last one was.