The yellow-tinted, aged paper caught my eye, seeming to call out for a reader.
In preparation for her upcoming house move, my mom had been going through cabinets. She’d been pulling out dusty folders from hidden drawers and came across a mimeographed, typed, 2-page newsletter entitled The United Church of Christ (UCC), dated March 18, 1969, Garden Prairie, Illinois. The church was among one of the last my grandfather, Rev. Marvin Maris, served during his over 40 years of service to the UCC. With so many other papers, church programs, bulletins, newspaper articles, old photos and other odds-and-ends materials bursting from their filing cabinet, this one faded item seemed destined for the trash heap. But in a moment of nostalgic weakness, I scooped it up and began reading.
What I found was so similar to today’s churches, large and small: a much-needed commitment by the congregation to run the church well, to volunteer, to get projects off the ground, to attend services, to financially give and, above all, “HELP, HELP, HELP!”, as the newsletter so fervently begged. I counted 6 “help”s, along with quite pointed sentences urgently calling for assistance and involvement.
My mom revealed it was most likely her mom, Connie, who wrote the newsletter, not so much Marvin. I’m sure he was consulted but Connie had a take-charge knack for enthusiastically pulling folks together as the pastor’s wife. Marvin’s erudite, scholarly approach to ministry was balanced by Connie’s ability to be more down-to-earth in seeing to the fellowship aspect of church-going. She was a good one to get projects off the ground, albeit sometimes at the last minute, and rally the troops (i.e., church members) to participate.
This is obviously apparent in the below newsletter, created and typed 51 years ago, with topics and sentiments that still hold true to those of today’s churches. For my Christian followers, see how many are reported by Marvin and Connie that you find true today in your own church community. My guess is that there are more than a few.
============================================================================18 March, 1969
The United Church of Christ Garden Prairie, IL
From Marvin and Connie Maris:
SPRING IS HERE: The birds are back, ducks are traveling! Time to clean up and pick up! Bring your pails, mops, rakes, clippers and other equipment Saturday, March 22, this coming Saturday and help get the place ready for Easter. WE NEED YOUR HELP. Teenagers, men and women, old and young! Come early and work as long as you can.
FRIDAY MARCH 21: Cookie bake. Order your cookies from any church school member … or call parsonage. Proceeds for Summer program and building fund.
RUMMAGE SALE: FRIDAY MARCH 28. Bring your good used things to the church by Thursday evening. Please press and hang clothing on hangers. It will help the workers. Donations of baked goods for sale welcomed. Lunch served also. Come and help, buy, give. All for the church treasury. This is an all church project. Set up Thursday, sell Friday, clean up Saturday.
THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY has been instructed by the church council to give each of you a quarterly statement of monies given to the church. This is a private thing and no one else knows what you give. It is one way to keep your tax records straight, also.
DID YOU KNOW: We have three choirs, a rhythm group (devotion in motion), two Youth Fellowships (age group 7th through 12th grades), two women’s circles, a women’s fellowship, church school ….. and we should have the church overflowing on Sunday mornings. You are not doing your share when you stay at home or go other places. We need you, you need a church in Garden Prairie. Someone from a larger church remarked the other day that she was surprised how much activity we have here. It gets discouraging for those who DO THINGS for the rest of you to forget to become involved also. How about trying a little harder?
MAUNDY THURSDAY. SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION. 8 p.m.
EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE 6:30 a.m. Breakfast follows. Let Frances Snider know how you will help. Service by youth groups
EASTER. 11 a.m. worship service, three choirs and a special Easter message. Will you be there?
BOONE COUNTY RELIGIOUS CENSUS: This is an effort to reach the unchurched. Our church is responsible for Bonus Township. We need 20 workers and several drivers. This is for Sunday, April 20. This is a good way to invite people to our church also. WILL YOU HELP EVEN TO DRIVE A CAR SO THAT SOME OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE CAN PARTICIPATE?
The church school brought in $27.00 for the One Great Hour of Sharing. Did you do your part? You can still give.
SPRING FLING: AN EVENING OF FUN AND ENTERTAINMENT at Educational building, April 10. Tickets available from Circle 2 members. There will be 100 tickets only. Get yours and invite your friends to come. Supper and entertainment. Mrs. Priscilla Wieck, Mashall, Illinois, will be doing the program. A Spring Fling is traditional in many parts of Europe where the keeping of Lent was taken very seriously. It is the celebration of the breaking out of winter and the promise of bright, sunny, warm days.
VACATION CHURCH SCHOOL: With help, we will conduct another Vacation Church School during June. We will need teachers and helpers. It is not too early to plan
Our Treasurer is getting a big headache because the necessary $30.00 a day to run the church is not coming in. Are you doing your fair share? Lent and Easter is a good time to think about it and to get out those back envelopes and tuck in a little extra. The fuel bills have been high because we are using the buildings more. HELP! HELP! HELP!
O Lord, so long as the weather is reasonably fine,
so long as I have no visitors,
so long a nobody asks me to do any work,
so long as I can sit in the back pew,
so long as they don’t choose hymns I don’t know,
so long as my grandson is asked to recite at the Christmas programs,
so long as I can get out in time for the game on TV,
I will honor Thee with my presece at one of the services of Thy church
whenever I feel like it.
(From the bulletin of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Williamsville, New York.)
Some must blend the plaster, Some must carry the stone;
Neigh man nor the Master Can ever build alone.
Building a room for a shelter, Or building a house for a king,
Only by working together Can we ever accomplish a thing.
Someone said this: “The tithe, in its broadest sense, is the setting aside first a definite share of one’s income regularly for the work of the Lord. In the stricter sense, it is the setting aside for the work of the Lord first, exactly one tenth. Any person who takes Christ seriously will find it difficult to justify the giving of left overs! Try it faithfully for a year and find for yourself its joys. You will find a deeper and richer life.”
What percent of time, talent and money are you returning to God who gave all for you?