Comments on Southern Churches: Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio

Southern Letter.

Most notable perhaps of happenings in the Southland during the last month was the dedication of the graceful and convenient new church building of our society at Atlanta. Toward this event the Unitarians of this city have been working for many months, and the completion of this beautiful structure opens a new chapter in the history of our liberal cause, not only in Atlanta itself, but to a degree in the whole South.

For at Atlanta perhaps we have a more significant meeting of the South that has been and the South that is crowding to be than in any other city below Mason and Dixon’s line. The fine old tradition of the South “before the war” is surely here,—tenacious, self-respecting, and nobly conservative of the best,—but as surely here the bustle and eager activity of a metropolis of new things with face set valiantly forward.

In a certain sense our church represents the later phase of city life more than the former, in some respects being too much identified with the “Northern influence” for its own good. But in honest fact this is only seeming, for our church in Atlanta is a true “Southern church” in the best values of that phrase, and has the confidence of all classes of people in the city. (Archivist: Emphasis added)

The dedication took place on Sunday, November 7, with Rev. William I. Lawrance of Boston preaching a most fitting sermon of dedication with impressive dignity and earnestness. Peculiarly welcome on the programme was the presence of the founder and first pastor of the church. Rev. George L. Chaney, whose influence was so potent in extending the liberal faith in all parts of the South at a critical stage in our denominational life. President Ware of Atlanta University also had an important part in the programme. Dr. J. Wade Conkling and his wide-awake and winsome wife are surely doing a good work here, which the adjunct of the new building will greatly facilitate.

Orlando, Florida 

From Orlando, Fla., comes a cheery letter of optimism and sturdy resolve from what its correspondent styles “a little church around the corner.” Rev. Eleanor E. Gordon has this church in charge, spending her winters here, and preaching services extend only from the middle of October to the middle of April, as the larger part of the congregation is made up of “winter-people.” But the Sunday-school has continued all summer, under the faithful direction of Mr. T. L. Hawes. A most effective factor in the usefulness of this church is the Unity Circle, which meets every Wednesday afternoon and pursues a varied and stimulating programme of studies of celebrities in literature, modern drama, and other walks of life. On Sunday evenings the Round Table meets, with a well-devised programme arranged to cover the whole winter’s work. “The Children’s Hour for Story and Play,” con ducted by Mrs. Stanley, is also a unique feature in our work here.

Oklahoma City 

Our church in Oklahoma City is trying out an interesting experiment for the Sunday evening problem. This is exclusively a “men’s affair,” and so there is “something to eat,”—a luncheon served at the regular place of service, the Musical Art Institute, —groups of three men in turn providing for the table, with a modest charge for each meal. All the men of the church are invited thus to meet “for informal sociability and increase of acquaintanceship, as well as for information gained concerning the world of affairs and its duties,” as a card of invitation reads. Such men as City Attorney Shear, District Judge Clark, and Attorney General Freeling have addressed these meetings, and so far the experiment is proving a great success. The new pastor, Rev. C. S. Boswell, is gaining the confidence of the whole community as well as his own people, and the work progresses well. A quite crowded “Datefinder” which comes to our hands records for one week a wide range of expectancies and activities, including one wedding.

Dallas, Texas 

The church at Dallas, Tex., is always wide-awake, and a recent letter tells of brisk beginnings for the winter. With Prof. Kreissig at the organ, and an excellent quartet engaged for the season through voluntary subscriptions, the musical parts of the services are assured of success, and the frequent publication of Mr. Gilmour’s sermons in the local press extends widely the influence of the church. The Sunday school has commenced more auspiciously than in other years. It is able to support itself through its weekly collections; the new Beacon Series of lessons for the younger children is proving most satisfactory; attendance has increased steadily, and nearly twenty-five per cent, of the school below the adult class has a record of perfect attendance for two years. The adult class, under the leadership of Mr. E. N. Willis, is studying the origin and development of the New Testament. The Women’s Alliance began its work with a business meeting, October 13, when plans for the year were formulated, and Mr. Elmer Scott, city director of public welfare, gave a stirring address on “How the Church may assist in the Work of Public Welfare.” The ladies agreed to co-operate with the welfare board in charity work. At the social meeting of The Alliance, October 27, Mrs. Stenger lectured upon Moliere’s plays, giving interesting readings from “The Forced Marriage” and “The Doctor in Spite of Himself.” An interesting course is outlined in the dramatic study class for future social meetings. A dramatic club recently organized among the young people will present plays after the church suppers. The Young People’s Religious Union meets on alternate Sunday evenings, and has formulated for itself the following aims : ” To inspire our members to the study of the lives of great examples in the conduct of life ; to develop in our minds the spirit of unbiased truth-seeking; to develop in our hearts the spirit of sympathy, loyalty, and unselfish service to humanity; to fit ourselves for intelligent and useful membership in the Unitarian church.”

Austin, Texas

At Austin, Tex., Rev. Benjamin R. Bulkeley has been spending two months in active work, and finds some genuine encouragements in the field there. About twenty-five people connected with the University are discovered to be interested in our cause,—mainly among the faculty, — and as many more from the townspeople. The great handicap to our work here is the impossibility of finding a suitable place for services near the University. The only hall available is the Firehouse Hall down town, used oftener for dances and festive functions than for religious services. While in Austin Mr. Bulkeley gave a lecture on “Old Concord” to an audience of over two hundred and fifty University people at the Young Men’s Christian Association Auditorium, and he was invited to take part in five of the University chapel services. The people in Austin are hoping that the Association will be able to send a minister to follow up Mr. Bulkeley’s efficient services, for the rest of the season.


San Antonio

At San Antonio the young people of the Junior Alliance have just given a unique little three-act children’s play, entitled “Grandmother of the Winds,” which netted a nice little sum for the building fund, and served also to arouse the children them selves to renewed enthusiasm. Our Sunday school is a little bit of a thing quantitively, but is very much alive. We need so much a church home of our own, for the development of these things! The women of The Alliance have already begun “the small beginnings” of a building fund, dividing themselves into committees of two, each pair undertaking to raise $25 toward the building before the year is closed. Mr. Badger has announced a course of sermons on Some Modern American Types, and What We May Learn from Them: 1. “Theodore Roosevelt: Apostle of Strenuosity ” ; 2. “Billy Sunday: A Hustler for Religion ” ; 3. “Judge Benjamin Lindsey, Champion of Childhood”; 4. “The Younger Rockefeller, and What he is Learning”; 5. “Jane Addams: a Woman Who Can.

A. H. B.

Source: The Christian Register found in Google Books, Vol. 94, No. 47, Nov 25, 1915, Page: 18 (1122)

Posted in Christian Register, Other Documents, Unitarian Church of Atlanta

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