by Mike Roberts, Church Historian
During the middle of the last century, our church would annually participate in a joint Thanksgiving service with other liberal congregations in Cincinnati. On Nov. 25, 1943, First Universalist Church (as we were then known) hosted the service at our old Essex Street location.
Each congregation had a role in putting together the service. Those congregations participating and represented included our own church (represented by Rev. Kenneth Hutchinson); the Isaac Wise Temple (represented by Rabbi James Heller); St. John’s Unitarian Church (represented by Rev. Julius Krolfifer); First Unitarian Congregational Church (represented by Rev. Melvin Welks); the Rockdale Avenue Temple (represented by its President, Mr. Philip Meyers); City Temple (represented by Dr. Harry Granison Hill); New Thought Temple (represented by Dr. Harry Gaze); and the Religious Science Society (represented by Rev. Verner Hegg).
Many musical selections, as well as prayers and readings by the representatives of each congregation, marked the service. Our own Rev. Hutchinson performed the offertory, and the offering was presented to the Emergency Fund of the Visiting Housekeepers of the Better Housing League. The sermon was delivered by Dr. Hill and was titled, “Thanksgiving, Even Now.” We may only speculate, but this would likely be a reference to World War II, which had been raging with American involvement for nearly two years. D-Day was still over six months in the future.
For the annual Thanksgiving service the previous year, on Nov. 22, 1942, in the order of service, David Grayson offered the following thoughts, under a heading that read “A True Folk Festival:”
“No holiday in all our calendar is comparable to Thanksgiving. There is not a holiday quite like it anywhere in the world. It celebrates no battle, no fall of a Bastille, no bank or business holiday, the birthday of no great men, no political revolution, no church ritual.
“It is the great holiday of the common people who have worked all the year and now thank God humbly for good harvests. We are not celebrating Washington or Columbus, or the Declaration of Independence – just the true good thing, the simple blessings of the soil and common life.
“Most holidays are somehow pagan and, if traced back, are rooted in the dull, bloody stories of some old war; but Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life. You must go back to the old Greeks for anything to compare with it; a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of seasons, the beauty of seedtime and harvest, the ripe product of the year – and the deep, deep connection of all those things with God.”