A People's Religion: P. W. Philpott and the Hamilton Christian Workers' Church

Kenneth L. Draper


When P. W. Philpott left the Salvation Army and founded the Christian Workers’
Church in 1892, he was followed by many former Salvation Army adherents who,
like Philpott, were dissatisfied with the Army’s hierarchical structure and its centralized
management of funds. While the Christian Workers had no political or social
agenda and did not foster a class consciousness, much of Philpott’s critique of the
Army paralleled the language and concerns of class struggle. The Christian Workers
dissociated themselves from what they portrayed as a concern for social propriety
and economic advancement that had distanced the “denominational” churches
from the working people. The lack of a political agenda could be interpreted as a
failure of the Christian Workers to respond to the social realities of the early twentieth
century, especially in rapidly industrializing Hamilton, where Philpott was pastor
for over 20 years. However, the discourse and practices of the Christian Workers
provided what Michel Foucault has called “technologies of the self” that could be
employed individually by men and women to make sense of their lives and thereby
transform themselves and their condition.

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