a glance at the past
We left our church family in February of 1940, listening to an address at the Sunday evening service by Rev. Robert G. Morris of Centenary Methodist Church on “Methodism’s Involvement in the Negro”. As always we are indebted to the Girard News, Girard’s weekly newspaper, for much of the information on Rev. Hilberry’s sermon titles and notices of meetings, especially the smaller Sunday School groups, as none of that information is available in our church Archives. The Girard News can be found on microfilm at Girard Free Library.
In our archives, we do have most of the minutes of what we now call the Administrative Board. In 1940 it was referred to as the Official Board, and their March meeting occurred on Monday evening, March 4th at the church. J. J. Wiand presided. The meeting was called to order and began with a prayer by Rev. Hilberry. The minutes of the previous meeting were read and accepted. The Financial Secretary’s report was then read and accepted. The total deficit stood at $668.72. Motion was made, seconded and passed that bills be referred to Finance Committee for payment “when funds are available”. Ladies’ Aid – No Report. Trustees – No Report. Sunday School Supt. was absent due to a death in the family. Pastor’s Report: Pastor advised that about ten more adults are to be received into membership at Easter Service. The matter of church interest was discussed. (I’m not sure what that meant.) Report from the Board of Stewardship – The Chairman advised that statements had been mailed. There being no further business the motion was made to adjourn. Motion carried.
On Sunday morning, March 10th, Rev. Hilberry’s sermon topic was “Are We Able?. At the evening service he spoke on the life of Albert Schweitzer, “one of the most inspiring of our contemporary leaders”.
On Wednesday evening, March 13th, the Friendly Class, our church’s largest adult class, met in the church for their monthly dinner meeting. Of course, life in Girard did not exist in its own little cocoon. Anyone who had been listening to the radio knew that just that day, Russia had announced that it now controlled the entire country of Finland and that a “peace” treaty would be signed soon. Sure enough, the “peace” treaty was ratified by Finland on the 16th. We can only guess, looking back from 75 years in the future, but probably the war in Europe was discussed at some time over dinner. After all, most Girard folks traced their heritage back to somewhere in Europe, and many still had family there. Also, just nine days before, on March 4th, another British Steamship, the Domala, was bombed in the British Channel with the loss of 108 lives. This would, of course, have reminded Girard folks of the sinking of the Athenia, months before, at the beginning of the war, when the Girard boy Arthur Fisher was killed. So, even as they were enjoying fellowship together and making plans for the upcoming Easter services, the war news hung like a cloud, tempering the happiness that comes with Easter and springtime after the long cold winter.
Good Friday came on March 22nd, and the Union services for that day were held at our church from 1 to 3 PM. It was split up into 4 one half hour parts, so that most people could come when they were free for a short time. There was Silent Prayer and Meditation between each part. Our Rev. Hilberry had the Prayer for Grace in the opening period, and the Meditation in the 4th part. His Meditation title was “The Cross, Victory in Seeming Defeat”.
On March 24th, Easter came with its wonderful story and glorious music. The morning began at 7:30 AM with an Easter Morning Breakfast sponsored by the Fellowship Class. Then Sunday School at 9:30 followed by Morning Worship at 10:30. Rev. Hilberry’s sermon for Easter morning was “The Immortal Hope”. The Easter Evening Service featured music by the choir. At both services, the choir ended the service with “The Hallelujah Chorus”. With that rousing music ringing in their heads, they went home happy, to Easter Dinner and a quiet afternoon.
The Friday, March 29th edition of the Girard News contained the following exciting announcement: “The Board of Education is considering a new football stadium to be built at the cost of $60,000, $52,000 to come from WPA, $8,000 to come from Girard.” So far, I have reported on the new City Building, the Post Office, and now the Football Stadium, all constructed mostly with Federal Government funds. And Social Security monthly payments of benefits began January 1, 1940. All this construction, along with Social Security, would help Girard folks survive the great depression. When manufacturing picked up to provide necessities for the war already going on in Europe and the Far East, the depression would, at last, be gone. Our church’s Official Board and Finance Committee didn’t know about that, of course, so, in 1940, they were still worrying mightily about late-paid bills. Of course, they also didn’t know that those wars in Europe and the Far East would eventually engulf the United States, directly affecting almost every American. Maybe that was a good thing – not to have to confront that knowledge for another year and nine months.
The last day of March was a Sunday, and Rev. Hilberry’s sermon was “Living to Self or to God?” - That was the month of March, 1940 – Seventy-five years ago in our church and in our town.