Thanksgiving, 1943

by Mike Roberts, Church Historian

In a past archive article, mention was made of the Union Thanksgiving service conducted by liberal faith congregations in Cincinnati during the middle of the 20th century. These joint worship services brought together congregants of different faiths but similar philosophies. Such a service was conducted at our Essex Street Church on November 25, 1943, at one of the lowest ebbs of World War II.

The service opened with an organ devotional, “Andante” by Hollins followed by a processional hymn, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,” an English harvest festival hymn written in 1844 by Alford. The Invocation followed, delivered by Dr. Harry Gaze of the New Thought Temple. Next was a proclamation read by The Reverend Verner Hegg of the Religious Science Society.

An anthem was then sung, “How Manifold Are Thy Works,” by Foster. Next, a prayer with choral response was led by The Reverend Melvin L. Wilke, minister of The First Unitarian Congregational Church. The Offertory was led by our own minister, The Reverend Kenneth R. Hutchinson. Hutchinson had been brought to the First Universalist Church to replace The Reverend Ralph Boyd who had enlisted in the U. S. Army to serve as a chaplain and was stationed in England in November 1943. Proceeds from the offering were given to the Emergency Fund of the visiting Housekeepers of the Better Housing League. At the conclusion of the Offertory, the anthem, “Praise to the Great Creator” by Shackley was sung.

A scripture was read by Rabbi James G. Heller of the Isaac M. Wise Temple, followed by a Secular Reading by The Reverend Julius Krolfifer of St. John Unitarian Church. A congregational hymn was sung, “Behold a Sower” written in 1904 by Washington Gladden. Gladden was minister of the First Congregational Church of Columbus for 32 years.

The centerpiece of the service was the sermon delivered by Dr. Harry Granison Hill, minister of the City Temple. His congregation was eventually to merge with our own before the end of the decade. The topic of the sermon was “Thanksgiving, Even Now.” No record of his thoughts is available, but in the dark hours of conflict with the Axis Powers and Japan, it is likely that his thoughts reflected a need to focus on all for which the listeners could be thankful, even in the midst of world-wide horror.

Dr. Hill’s sermon was followed by the anthem, “Open My Eyes That I May See,” written by Clara Scott in1895. Scott was the first woman in America to publish a book of hymns. The Benediction was delivered by Reverend Hutchinson with a choral response. “Festal Prelude” by Boslet was the Organ Postlude and it introduced a period of an interchange of greetings among the participants and congregants.

Image: Stained glass windows inside the Essex Street Church Building, Cincinnati, Ohio, where the Union Thanksgiving service was held in 1943.

Image courtesy of Barb Barnes.