by Mike Roberts, Church Historian
It is common practice for ministers to submit end-of-year reports to their board which detailed their activities over the preceding twelve months. Many of those reports still reside in our archives. The Reverend Anthony B. Beresford filed such a report for the year 1917. In it he mentions that when he took the pastorate at First Universalist Church there were active churches with full-time ministers at Dayton, Mt. Carmel, Milford, Blanchester, Cuba, Wilmington and Hamilton. By the end of 1917, none of these churches had ministers and Reverend Beresford was trying to assist in any way he could, especially at Blanchester, where he preached on 17 evenings so they could have services.
In a statement that would raise eyebrows today, he made the following recommendation:
“The one department of our church that has been filled with anxieties is our Sunday School. The country as a whole is most anxious about this phase of education– for only about one fourth of the children of school age are enrolled in Sunday Schools of the nation.
“The indifference of the parents has suggested to some who have the present and future moral status of the American people much at heart the need of some legal action in this matter. Public school attendance is made compulsory–to fit the boys and girls for the exacting duties of American citizenship. How about their moral fitness for the same duties? Would it be practicable or desirable to have attendance at some Sunday School made compulsory?”
The Reverend Beresford also reported the following statistical summary for 1917: 149 sermons, lectures and addresses, 46 social and committee meetings, 12 marriages, 12 funerals, 13 persons baptised, 18 persons received into membership, 3 commemorations of the Lord”s Supper, 544 pastoral calls, 1185 pastoral letters and 2400 communications sent through the mails to members of the church.