During a recent discussion in the Cornerstone class, I used a sports analogy to get my point across. Before I even finished my statement, Frank Spelich, being a huge sports guy, knew exactly what I meant. Later, when he and I were talking, we were both in agreement with how often sport imitates life, not to mention faith. I have used sports analogies too many times to count during various lessons and small group discussions.
When you think about it, those first involved in spreading the good news functioned exactly like a sports team. They had a "big guy" upstairs, the owner (God). He had a multitude of help (the GM and all the inter-office people). They had numerous minor league teams and feeder organizations in cities like Phillipi, Galatia, Colossae, Ephesus and Corinth. They had scouts (Timothy, Barnabas, Stephen, Titus, Silas and the apostles themselves) seeking out talent in those cities and encouraging those that weren't quite ready to "move up" to keep working at it. They had a head coach or manager (Jesus) and then there was Jesus' coaching staff or "inner circle" (Peter, James and John). There were also the players themselves (all the apostles and other disciples). And last, but most definitely not least, there were the behind the scenes people, especially the women, taking care of the groups needs, which were many. Women like Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Martha to name a few.
I coached basketball and baseball nearly 15 years and had some good teams, some not so good teams and was fortunate to coach a few great teams. The great teams were never the most talented and typically never had a superstar. However, when the chips were down, they had one thing in common, they all counted on each other and they all believed in each other. In the end, they were all working towards the same goal. Team was always first, because as the old saying goes, there is no "I" in team. I could tell you countless stories about how our #7, 8 or 9 hitter won a big game for us, or how the 9th or 10th guy off the bench made the big shot or big play. And none of us were surprised when it happened. Now don't get me wrong, those teams weren't perfect, far from it. We had many disagreements, shouting matches and players occasionally disciplined.
We had many changes, sometimes way more than I thought we could ever handle. Players changing positions, quitting, new players coming in and coaches often differing on how to approach a game, a practice, etc. And we as coaches were far from perfect, with me leading the charge for imperfection way more than I'd like to admit. But in the end, especially with the teams I was closest with and spent the most time with, the players knew we as coaches wanted only what was best for the team. They knew we loved them and yet would kick them in the butt if needed. We coached fairly, treated people with respect and always played by the rules, even if we did "stretch" them once in awhile.
And for the most part, those teams were a reflection of the coaching staff. Some picked up more of the fiery side of our staff, others the more laid back approach, while many had a mix of both. And they played the game hard, fair and did the things necessary on and off the field to be better players. Sometimes they reflected the not so good side of our staff, but for the most part, they were good sportsman, gentlemen and dedicated teammates. Boys and later young men you would be proud to call your son.
They were the true definition of a team. One for all and all for one. They didn't always get along, the leadership failed often, things were far from perfect and yes, sometimes pride got in the way. But they respected each other, they loved each other (though at that age, they probably didn't realize it) and in the end, they wanted what was best for the group as a whole. That's what true teams do. They're never perfect, but the successful ones are the ones that can put aside all their differences, whatever they may be, in order to do what's best for the team in the present and what's best for the future. And in the end, they become as close to perfect as possible when they put team and others first. Remember how I said earlier that sports imitates faith. Does any of what you just read sound familiar when it comes to our faith?
Now after reading all of that, let me present a few questions to us as a congregation. Do we truly realize that we at GUMC are all on the same team, that is, Jesus' team? Are the things we're doing in the church, either in service, in conversation with others or just in the general workings and functions of a church, making GUMC more cohesive or more divisive? Are we all working towards the same goals? Are we concerned more about self and what we want more than others and what's best for all? Are we concerned about the long term future of our church? Are we welcoming to new people at all times? Are we treating those we may have differences with respectfully? And finally and I believe most importantly, IN ALL THAT WE DO OR SAY, ARE WE REFLECTIONS OF JESUS?
I am asking all those involved at GUMC to ponder over these questions, myself included. These questions arose in my head, as did the theme for this post, out of my recent personal revelation that I have failed in every one of these areas and in some instances, I'm embarrassed to say, quite miserably. I have been far from a team player, which is something that I have been a believer in my entire life. I am struggling with so many of the changes going on at GUMC and in typical human fashion, was dealing with them myself. Well guess what, it's not working. I need to go through this with all of you and I am sure many of you are struggling in a similar manner. And that's OK. This will take time. We all knew that going into this journey. But in the end, if we put what benefits others and the church, first, I believe we will come out of this a more faithful, vibrant and stronger group. There is no "I" in Jesus either, but there is an US. And that, I believe, is exactly where all of us need to be, in Him and Him in us.
We left our church family at the last week in October 1940, celebrating Homecoming Sunday with a covered dish dinner downstairs at the conclusion of the morning service, where everyone could visit and enjoy the fellowship. After the dinner there was “peppy” singing and a talk by Dr. Garth of Youngstown. For this information and much that follows, I am indebted to the Girard News, Girard’s weekly newspaper, published every Friday and available on microfilm at Girard Free Library.
The Friday Nov. 1st edition of the News headline was “Largest Vote in Girard’s History is forecast”. Girard had been growing throughout the 1930’s both with immigrants fleeing the poverty of Europe, rural Americans from the southern states seeking jobs in the northern cities, and recently immigrants from Europe seeking safety from the war. The American Legion had worked diligently nationwide (and the News told of the Girard Legion’s work) to offer citizenship classes for the immigrants, and these folks, along with the southern Americans, had swelled the voting rolls. The election of 1940 was an historic one. President Roosevelt was seeking a third term, citing the dangerous state of the world as reason for breaking the two-term limit established by custom, but not by law at that time. He was opposed by Wendell Willkie, a member of the liberal wing of the Republican Party. Much like the recent election of 2012, Willkie (Romney in 2012) tried to win support of the isolationist wing (Tea Party wing - 2012) of his party even though he was an internationalist (Moderate Republican - 2012), waffling on what America’s role in the European chaos (Health care, Foreign affairs - 2012) should be, losing support of many from both wings of his party. Roosevelt easily won re-election, carrying many Democratic candidates at the local and state level with him. This was a stunning break with our country’s tradition of Presidential terms of office. Four years later, with the United States in the third year of World War II, the country again broke with tradition and voted Roosevelt an unprecedented fourth term. These two elections aroused fear and anxiety among many people that a very popular President could, in effect, become a Dictator, winning term after term. It would eventually lead to the passage of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1947, which was ratified by the required number of states into law in 1951. So, today, President Franklin Roosevelt remains the only President ever to serve more than two terms, and by law, no President will ever serve more than two terms.
Back to 75 years ago in Girard: There was another front page headline in the Nov. 1st issue of the News – “Draftees Numbers Are Drawn”. In Washington DC, on September 29th, the draft lottery had begun. It affected sixteen men from our small town of Girard. They would have to report for duty, take physical exams, and, if they passed, become members of the U S Armed Forces. The News did not list their names. Were any of these first from our church family? I have no idea. I am certain, however, as successive numbers were drawn, some from our church would be drafted. It was a fate that hung over most young men 75 years ago. And, it would continue throughout the war years. I can remember my own Dad, in 1944 when he was 35 years old, leaving home to catch a train to Cleveland to report for a physical and other registration, and returning home with a card stamped 1-A. He had two children at that time, and worked for Strausbaugh Motors, which was supplying Dodge trucks and parts for the war effort. He never had to serve, but had the atomic bombs not produced a Japanese surrender in 1945, he, along with unknown thousands, would have been called up for the invasion of Japan. However, in 1940, it was just beginning. The US was still technically neutral even though our sympathies were strongly for England and its allies. Our merchant ships were supplying war materials to England, and on November 8th, our first merchant ship was sunk by a mine off the coast of Australia. But, of course, everyday life went on. On that same day, the Girard News reported that Foster Hotchkiss would be in an organ recital at our church on Sunday afternoon at 3:30. He would be assisted by Russell Girt, a clarinetist of McDonald. The News went on to report that “Hotchkiss is a pupil of Bernice Price and has been studying organ for three years. The public is invited.”
The next Friday’s edition of the News reported that, “On Wednesday evening, November 13th, the Friendly Class met at our church for their monthly meeting. Their guest speakers were “Mr. and Mrs. Similac of Youngstown who told of their travels through Checko Slovakia (sic), accompanied by motion pictures in Technicolor of the scenery and people.” This was followed by a dinner at 6:30 and a meeting after, when it was decided that the December meeting would be a Christmas Party with Mr. and Mrs. F. K. Teeter in charge.
Thanksgiving came and went. The last issue of the News in November reported in the “Church Notes” that Rev. Maly’s sermon title for Sunday, December 1st would be “Silent Christmas” and that Junior Church would be starting under the direction of Mrs. Dan Harris.
With that, we will leave our church family in 1940 – seventy-five years ago in our church and in our town.
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