By Sally Wagner, Church Historian
We left our church family in December of 1939, celebrating Christmas with a beautiful concert by the choir, led by our new Director, Frank Fuller. Then on Christmas Eve, our youth led a Candlelight Service (the first one in our church that I have been able to verify) open to all with music (both vocal and instrumental) and readings completely done by the Epworth League members. That would have been a daunting task for any youth group advisor, so I think I was remiss last month in failing to name those advisors. They were Harriet and Rees Emerick. I am sure I am not the only old-timer who remembers this lovely couple. They were still active in our church when I first met them, but I had no idea that they had once advised the youth group.
Now, a week later, the ball had fallen in Times Square and we had begun the decade of the 40’s. College football was still the dominant sport in that year and January 1 featured bowl games, which were broadcast (on radio). You could listen as you undecorated and stored away Christmas until next year. Bowl games were played in warm and sunny places, a reward for winning teams. In the Rose Bowl it was Southern Cal vs Tennessee: winner - So. Cal 14-0. In Florida was the Orange Bowl, where Georgia Tech beat Missouri 21-7. At the Sugar Bowl, in a close one, Texas A & M beat Tulane 14-13. And, at the Cotton Bowl, in a low scoring contest, Clemson beat Boston College 6-3.
On the next day, twelve Ladies of our church’s Womens’ Home Missionary Society, began the new year with a meeting at the home of Mrs. Arthur Weaver’s on East Second St. Mrs. Hilberry spoke to them on the General Executive meeting of the WHMS held last fall in Pasadena, California. This was duly reported in the January 5th edition of the Girard News, which also advised that the movie, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” was playing at the New Mock Theatre that weekend, and that Rev. Hilberry would be preaching a sermon next Sunday, Jan. 7th, entitled “Let Us Go On”. The following Monday would be a busy one for our Rev. Hilberry for he would be attending the First Seminar on Religion held in Youngstown, at Rodef Shalom Temple, also as announced in the News. This Seminar brought together 160 members of the clergy – Protestants, Jews and Catholics. It was a four hour event including addresses by Dr. Solomon H. Freehof of Rodef Shalom Temple in Pittsburgh and Dr. Jacob Marcus, professor of History at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.
Then, that same evening, per our own Archives, Rev. Hilberry gave the opening prayer for the first Regular Meeting of the Official Board of our church for the year 1940. The meeting began with the report of the Financial Secretary that, as of that date, 1/8/40, we had a deficit of $28.14. After a discussion the motion was made that any bills payable be referred to the Finance Committee for payment when monies were available. Motion carried. Then the report from the Board of Stewardship was received. After discussion the motion was then made that the Finance Committee be authorized to turn over to the Church Building Fund money as necessary to pay on interest indebtedness from the Current Expense Fund to pay interest due in January, 1940. Motion carried. As I noted before, throughout the preceding decade our church struggled to make payments on the debt incurred in constructing our building – debt incurred in 1927 when the economy was flying; debt payable now when the economy was still barely limping along, as were the individual economies of each of our church families. The next report was from the Chairwoman of the Ladies Aid, who reported that they had some money available for the interest. Then followed a number of committee chairs who had “no reports”. Last came the Pastor’s report. Rev. Hilberry reported that there were quite a number of people “yet to come” into church membership. He also reported that Rev. A. B. Denton was elected Secretary of the Federated Churches of Youngstown, and that our church ought to send two representatives to his Installation on the evening of Feb. 5, 1940. After some discussion, a motion was made to postpone the next month meeting of the Board from Feb 5th to Feb 12th, - Motion carried. Then the motion was made that Board President, J J Wiand and Rev. Hillberry attend the installation of Feb. 5th. Motion carried. Rev. Hilberry also advised that Easter Sunday would be March 26th that year with seven Sundays in Lent. He would like to conduct a Sunday evening service through the Lenten period and expressed his hope that good attendance would prevail through this seven week period. That concluded his report, and, there being no other business, a motion for adjournment was made. Motion carried.
The next week, Rev. Hilberry preached on the topic, “Buy the Truth”, and the following week’s service was devoted to Holy Communion.
Meanwhile, our church family had plenty of worries to keep them busy. Besides the state of our church’s finances, and our local government’s finances, not to mention their own finances, the world in Europe and the Far East continued to fall apart. The month of January was filled with reports of the Russian invasion of Finland, with the Finn army fighting on, apparently unaided. Then, in the last week of January occurred a series of battles between British and German planes over the British Channel which resulted in the sinking of 18 allied ships. On the last day of January came reports of a speech delivered by Adolph Hitler the day previously, marking the beginning of the eighth year of rule of National Socialism in Germany. In it, he blamed the allies for creating this state of total war, due to their resistance to Germany’s absolute need for acquiring land that had been occupied by the German people and that belonged to them by right. He concluded with a warning that a second phase of this war was coming which would carry the war to the west “on land and sea and in the air”.
On that sober note, we will leave our church family in January of 1940 – seventy-five years ago in our church, in our town, and in our world.