Centennial Celebration

In this Centennial Moments in History e-letter, you will read about the years 1938-1945. We begin these years still in the Great Depression, and if that weren't enough, then 7 December 1941 arrives, and the country is thrown into a World War. During this time the Rev. Dr. J. Francis Sant came as rector. That name is familiar to us today because we often walk into and through the Sant Memorial Library in the parish house. What did Dr. Sant inherit as rector, and how did he go about setting the tone and approach in his first years with us? How did the parish respond in the upheaval of the war years? Read here to find out.



 Download Centennial Moments No. 21


                          Centennial Moments in History
No. 21
28 June 2012

The History of The Church of St. Michael & St. George (1928-     )

Financial Improvement during the War Years

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
                                                                                                   -- Hebrews 12:1-2a

 A search committee was unable to find a successor to the Rev. Dr. Block prior to his departure, and a retired clergyman from New York served as locum tenens (Latin for "place holder") during the interim. The Rev. Frederick Kates, who had been assistant rector, left about the same time Dr. Block did to become rector of Trinity Church in New Haven, CT.

In December 1938, the Rev. John Francis Sant, vicar of Christ Church in Detroit, MI, was called as rector. In a letter to Mr. Sant, the church's senior warden described the church as "a grand parish with close to 1,300 communicants and a church school of nearly 500 children. We have a group of modern and commodious buildings which provide complete facilities for every kind of parochial activity and an attractive rectory on the church grounds." Mr. Sant, who liked to be called "Frank", his wife, Josephine, and their two sons, John and Bill, arrived on 2 February 1939.

The Rev. John Francis Sant, second rector of The Church of St. Michael & St. Geroge, 1939-1964.
In the mere four months between Dr. Block's departure and Mr. Sant's arrival, Sunday attendance had decreased 25 percent to an average of 300, and pledges for 1939 had decreased by 18 percent from pledges for 1938. This left a most unhappy first task for the new rector: to decrease the budget while securing a new assistant. Mr. Sant chose the Rev. George Tittmann, a recent seminary graduate, as his assistant. Mr. Tittmann was the son of parishioner Mrs. Helen Tittmann and the nephew of vestryman Eugene Tittmann. Mr. Tittmann arrived in June 1939, and during his tenure he married Miss Florence Messinger, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Messinger who were parishioners.

Although Dr. Block had made great strides in reducing the building debt, a $58,000 debt (multiply all dollar figures in this e-letter by 14.8 to get an approximate present value, based on the CPI) still remained, and it was a handicap to the church's programs. Mr. Sant appointed a four-person Debt Retirement Committee chaired by Mr. Donald Danforth. The committee solicited funds from a small group of potentially large contributors who then pledged $25,750 for debt retirement contingent upon the committee's ability to raise at least $50,000. By the Annual Parish Meeting on 7 January 1942, $53,000 had been pledged and two-thirds of this amount had already been collected. While this fund drive was being conducted, Mr. Duncan Meier had been securing subscriptions in the amount of $3,700 for a new organ to replace the one installed when the church had been built 27 years earlier. All this had been accomplished while the country still languished in a Great Depression, and the Annual Parish Meeting where results were announced had been held just one month after the date that the Empire of Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. We will review the war's effects on the parish in the next e-letter.

In August 1945 as the war was ending with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, the last of the bonded indebtedness was paid and the church was finally free of the building debt that had burdened it throughout the years of the Great Depression and the war years.

When it was assured that the building debt was soon to be retired, Mr. Sant began planning for the long-range financial security of the parish. He appointed an Endowment Fund Committee whose purpose was to provide income to supplement that contained in the annual Every Member Canvass. On 1 July 1943, in the middle of the war years, the vestry created a trust called "The Endowment Fund for the Parish of St. Michael & St. George". The trust stated that the principal would be held inviolate, and that only the income could be used for the benefit of the parish and its ministries and activities. A letter dated 29 June 1943 was sent to parishioners explaining the Endowment Fund. It mentioned that "the first gift of $400 has been received as a bequest from one of the faithful and beloved former members of this parish, now deceased". Within three months, three other gifts were received in an aggregate amount of $1,500.

In May 1942, Mr. Sant was awarded two honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees: One was conferred by Westminster College in Fulton, MO, and the other by his alma mater, Kenyon College in Gambier, OH.

Back to the future logo

What would you say was the effect on the incoming rector and the parish of a 25 percent drop in attendance and an 18 percent drop in pledges during the four-month interim before the new rector's arrival? What roll do parishioners have in maintaining ministries and momentum?


No rector wants his or her first task to be a reduction in the operating budget with its commensurate reduction in ministries and programs, and sometimes even staff. How would you assess Mr. Sant's leadership as he approached the tasks of eliminating bonded indebtedness, balancing the operating budgets, and creating an endowment fund? How would you assess the parish's response to the leadership of Mr. Sant and lay leaders, giving consideration to conditions during the years 1938-1945?


What lessons from this history can we apply today as we plan for the financial future of our church?



I know not where the road will lead

   I follow day by day,

Or where it ends: I only know

   I walk the King's highway.

I know not if the way is long,

   And no one else can say;

But rough or smooth, uphill or down,

I walk the King's highway.


The countless hosts lead on before,

   I must not fear nor stray;

With them, the pilgrims of the faith,

   I walk the King's highway.

Through light and dark the road leads on

   Till dawns the endless day,

When I shall know why in this life

   I walk the King's highway.



-- John R. Tyler
Historical information from Trilogy by Harriet Davidson