An item of rather unique interest comes this week by way of a national magazine that deals with the Wisconsin Restaurant Association’s deep concern over the competition it is getting from church suppers. The association met recently in Milwaukee, and one of its resolutions called for the State Board of Health to subject food-serving churches to the same health regulations as restaurants. It went on to note that one Milwaukee church served 1,200 fish dinners at its monthly Friday night party. A spokesman for the association summed up the organization’s viewpoint by saying that “These church dinners can be the ruination of a restaurant business.” It might be facetious for this reporter to ask at this point what relation does this situation have to our much-vaunted free enterprise system, if any?
An attempt is being made by a representative of the Southern Baptist Convention to sell the idea of Sunday schools to Japanese Baptists. Dr. William Howse of Nashville and Andrew Quincy Allen of Dallas, Texas, recently began a three-week tour of the islands. Allen comments that “Japanese Baptists feel that Sunday school is too childlike, but my job is to try to help them see that it is manly and womanly.” Japan now has 65 Southern Baptist churches and some 8,000 members. Allen and Howse think that if the Texas techniques of building Sunday school and church memberships are applied in Japan, that within the next 25 years there can be 1,000 churches and 100,000 members. Apparently the work of the two-man visiting committee is having some effect, for a Tokyo pastor is quoted as saying, “We’re going to have to shift gears in our thinking.”
Reporting on its progress in trying to bring about a settlement of the Cyprus dispute, the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs says it has asked Britain whether it is willing to proceed with a draft constitution for Cyprus. Britain was asked to consider such a move either on its own initiative or consultation with local representatives. Agency officials say they are now holding discussion with the government and churches involved in the dispute. The immediate aim is to restore as quickly as possible an atmosphere in which negotiations can be usefully resumed.
Meanwhile the commission announced its readiness to call a meeting of church leaders of the countries involved if that seems desirable. Many uncertainties will be removed, the agency contends, if Britain is willing to go ahead with a draft constitution. The dispute stems from the deportation from Cyprus last month by military authorities of Archbishop Makarios of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is the reigning prelate of Cyprus and leader of a movement on Cyprus for reunion with Greece. Britain claims the deportation was for the purpose of avoiding further violence on the island.
Work is continuing for the planned merger next year of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church – both, Protestant denominations. The new union is scheduled to take place in Cleveland at a joint convention in June 1957. Committees and other technical machinery needed for the merger were set up this week in New York at a meeting of executive groups of the two denominations, both of them the result of previous church mergers. The planned group would be known as the New United Church of Christ, with a membership of more than 2 million. The main purpose of this week’s meeting was to adjust the differences of viewpoint between those favoring the merger and those church leaders opposing it.
In the meantime, today is “get acquainted” Sunday for the two groups. More than 400 ministers of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church will exchange pulpits to commemorate the day. Dr. Albert Coe of Boston, moderator of the Congregational Christian churches, says the exchanges were worked out on a voluntary basis in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
The United States Conference of the World Council of Churches will hold its annual meeting at Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania, April 18-20. Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, president of the National Council of Churches, who recently returned with a delegation from a 10-day visit to Russia will lead the opening panel discussion. Its subject: Russian Christians and the Ecumenical Movement. While this reporter has no desire to be cast in the role of a wet blanket, it is hardly discernible how Russian Christians could, under present circumstances, become active in a realistic way in any ecumenical movement without incurring the wrath of the ruling powers that be in Moscow.
The Most Rev. Albert G. Meyer, archbishop of Milwaukee, has been elected president of the National Catholic Education Association. Archbishop Meyer succeeds the Most Rev. Joseph Ritter, archbishop of St. Louis as head of this association.
The Rev. Myron F. Boyd, of Winona Lake, Indiana, will serve another term as president of the National Holiness Association. He was re-elected at the closing session of the group’s convention in Cleveland. The convention also approved a resolution calling for racial integration within the association, deplored what it called “sensuous and pagan appeal of many radio and TV programs,” and condemned obscene literature.
Although suffering from his second cold in less than a month, Pope Pius XII held his biggest general audience of the year last Wednesday. He received some 20,000 Easter pilgrims. On Tuesday, he addressed 1,400 girls attending the Rome Congress of Catholic Women and Girls and urged them to remain steadfast to spiritual ideals in a world bent toward pleasure and ease.
A doctor-clergyman says both professions are playing an increasingly important joint role in the case of hospital patients. Dr. Granger Westberg, who also is a professor of religion at the University of Chicago, says it has been shown that recovery is faster and longer-lasting in emotional stress sickness if the cause rather than just the symptom is treated. And, he added, “That’s where the minister comes in.” He also cited premarital counseling as an example of where the doctor and the clergyman work ideally as a team.
A program has been launched in West Virginia aimed at helping solve the problems of racial segregation in the schools, churches, employment, and other fields. The first of its kind to be sponsored by church groups, the program is expected to serve as a guide for similar projects by church councils in other states having the same problems. The West Virginia Council of Churches describes the program as “a pilot project in human relations.” A group of 20 white and Negro leaders from all parts of the state has been organized to help local areas bring about integration in a peaceful Christian way. This group’s task will include helping to set up educational panels, seminars, and discussion groups at the request of the various communities, and without cost to those communities. Educators, clergymen, physicians, parents, and others experienced in community leadership comprise the corps of 20. The program’s purpose is not, as church officials point out, “to step in and try to tell the courts and school officials when and how to end segregation.” Instead, it will be aimed at trying to help people to understand and solve the complexities of transition.
A federal judge at Milwaukee this week administered the oath of American citizenship to Monsignor Sigmund Mihalovic in a special ceremony in his Milwaukee hospital room. Federal Judge Robert Tehan administered the oath to the 66-year-old Roman Catholic priest who was driven from his native land by communist persecution. Now seriously ill as a result of two strokes suffered last fall, he was so weak that his raised hand had to be supported as he spoke the few words of allegiance. During his years in Hungary, he worked very closely with Cardinal Mindszenty, a more famous victim of Red persecution. In fact, Cardinal Mindszenty inspired the priest to flee the country several months prior to the Cardinal’s own arrest. The communists tried Monsignor Mihalovic in absentia and condemned him to 15 years in prison for what they said was espionage in favor of American imperialists. He came to this country in 1950 and had lived in Mundelein and Wheeling, Illinois.
During the past two or three decades, something fundamental has been happening to a very important segment of our population, i.e., those who live, or lived, on the family farm. A profound change is coming over the agricultural life of the country. Some may look at it as progress; others may view it with apprehension, for it does have its tragic aspects. The isolated family farmstead was not only a way of making a living, but it was also a way of living a life, and from this old and deep tradition sprang much of our moral outlook and our conceptions of individualism, our politics, and our folklore. Much of this is now drying up, for the family-size farm and farm family life are vanishing, and with this vanishing, America is never going to be quite the same again.
And while this reporter was born and reared on such a farm and within such a family environment, let him assure you that these reflections are in no sense merely a bucolic nostalgia for a return to the days of his boyhood. But almost everywhere one sees the seeming unstoppable tide of change. Small farmers are selling out to owners of larger acreages and are moving away from the farm to seek a living elsewhere. They just cannot make a go of it today in competition with large-scale factory farms. One such small farm of about 130 acres is operated by an intensely hard-working dirt farmer and his efficient wife. They have no phone, no car, and all expenses are pared to a Spartan minimum. His gross cash income last year was only some $400. Generations of children grew up on this farm, but the end has come. No small farmers will buy these places when their present owners die out, for no profit is possible, and likely they will all end up eventually as part of great properties owned by corporations or city businessmen who can make farming pay on a very large scale, or who will run them for income tax deduction purposes.
One can get a broader idea of how this is happening all across the country by reading a long study just published by the Farmers’ Union Grain Terminal Association in St. Paul. They studied 4,300 family farms in good farming country like the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Montana, and Minnesota. Some of their findings include the fact that net income in 1954 was $2,500, which means $50 a week. To get this much required that the family put in some 5,000 hours of work during the year, more than twice as many as is the standard for the city worker. If this is figured at a five-percent return on investment, it would mean that the income was around $450 for the whole year, earned by the labor alone. While home construction boomed in and around every great city, very few farm homes have been built within the last generation.
The study also points out that in these five farm states, over a five-year period, some 38,000 farm homes have disappeared, or about one family in 13 gave up the life they had tried to live, and this rate of failure seems to be on the increase, not only in the region covered by this particular study but elsewhere throughout the United States. The point is that the independent farmer and his family are leaving the land: the home is vanishing, and the business office is taking over in their places.
Which brings to this reporter’s mind the words of Oliver Goldsmith in his poem, “The Deserted Village,” where he says,
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.