American Unitarian Association

Looking Toward the South

AMERICA IS EMERGING from war conditions. To the average American the war seemed to end abruptly, whatever may have been the knowledge which military experts had of conditions in Europe. The American Unitarian Association has not only borne its part in the obligations of the Nation during the period of the war, but has maintained as completely as possible the normal activities of our fellowship of churches. We were confronted by conditions of peculiar difficulty which indeed to some extent still prevail. More than one-fifth of the ministers of the Unitarian churches in the United States went into some form of war service. The readjustments of our work were exceedingly difficult under these circumstances.

A view of our Southern field is illuminating in itself and will serve to illustrate conditions which prevail in other areas of the United States. Some of our churches established in recent years had to be temporarily closed. We are now endeavoring to reopen them and to re-establish the work vigorously. New Orleans has remained open, and the people there are fortunate that their faithful minister, Rev. George Kent, has been persuaded to remain in spite of the attractive offers of other fields. At Richmond, Va., the work has not been permitted to falter. Rev. Frank W. Pratt went abroad in the service of the Red Cross and is still overseas. The church has been kept going continuously and is now in charge of Rev. C. F. Russell, formerly of Weston, Mass.

The minister at Jacksonville, Fla., Rev. Walter C. Pierce, has divided his time between the church and work of the American Library Association. He is now, however, in the midst of a busy season of successful work in the church. The same is true of Charleston, S.C., where Rev. Clifton M. Gray has been in War Camp Community work. At Birmingham, Ala., Dr. Thomas P. Byrnes has maintained the work of the church in full vigor while rendering public service in his community. The same is true of Rev. William E. Clark, the faithful minister of our church in Memphis, Tenn.

There has been, however, a temporary closing of the new movements at Houston and San Antonio, Tex., at Orlando, Fla., at Chattanooga, and Nashville, Tenn., at Atlanta, Ga., and at Charleston, W.Va. With the exception of Houston, for which a competent minister must be discovered, these places are now all reopened. Rev. George H. Badger has taken charge of the work at Orlando, Fla. His long experience in pioneer work for the Unitarian faith is the foundation for the hope that the important movement in Orlando will soon be going in full vigor. Rev. Arthur Schoenfeldt, a new recruit in the ranks of the Unitarian ministry, has taken charge at San Antonio, Tex. At Atlanta, Ga., there are very interesting developments. The Universalist church has united with the Unitarian church in the Unitarian building, and the sale of the Universalist property will add to the resources of the united societies. Rev. G. A. Keirn has taken charge of the united work, a man of long experience and success in the Universalist ministry. Rev. M. W. Taylor, formerly of Nashville, has accepted a call to Chattanooga. His place at Nashville has now been filled by the call of Rev. George B. Spurr, formerly of the North Church in Hingham, Mass. Rev. Channing Brown has been making an extended visit to Charleston, W.Va., and re-establishing the work there.

These churches are widely scattered over a great territory. Each one is, however, in a chosen position. In every case the community was carefully studied before the work was established. Each of these communities gives conclusive evidence of being a field where a strong and influential Unitarian church can be developed. Each of these churches will not only serve its community, but will be a centre of influence for a great territory round about. It will have its place in the further development of American life in these great commonwealths of our South.

Only those who have carefully studied the development of American cities in recent years realize the way in which many Southern cities are growing. This growth is one of the highly significant features of the life of our Republic. North and South have been drawn even closer together by the experiences of this great war in which they have shared on equal terms. The whole nation is more united in feeling and in purpose than ever before. The future of our Southern cities glows with great hopes. In this growth our Unitarian churches in Southern cities should have their share.

Each of these Unitarian ministers who is taking up new work in these cities has gone to his post full of hope and moved by consecration. These men have complete confidence in the loyal support of the people of our Unitarian fellowship. They deserve that support in the fullest measure. Their hands will be strengthened for their arduous labors by the confidence that through them our entire fellowship is at work in these communities. Shall we sustain them? There is only one answer that we can give and that is the answer of a whole-hearted support.

These men and churches deserve not only the financial support of our people, but the sense of a strong and loyal fellowship. Great spaces separate them. Not one of these men has a Unitarian minister as a near neighbor. In the long years their hearts may be invaded by loneliness, but we must give them the quickened sense of a vital fellowship which believes in them and in their work, and will sustain them with every kind of strength which they need. One reason for the call which the American Unitarian Association is making for substantial contributions of money is the imperative need of sustaining this important work in Southern cities.

Source: The Christian Register found in Google Books, Vol. 98, No. 8, Feb 20, 1919, Pages: 6 – 7 (174 – 175)