In this Centennial Moments in History e-letter, you will read about the early post-war years, 1945-1956. The parish had lived all but the first year of its 18-year life in the Great Depression (1929-1941) and the war years (1941-1945). That's a long period to live in severe adversity! How did the parish fare and change in the early post-war years as economic prosperity returned? When was the church first air conditioned? What issues did the church face that one of its predecessor parishes, St. George's Church, had faced several times, and how was our parish's response different this time? Read on to find out.
Centennial Moments in History
The History of The Church of St. Michael & St. George
The Early Post-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
Solicitations to pay for the replacement of the Esty organ that had been installed when the church was constructed in 1913 had been suspended in 1940 because of the economic conditions imposed by the impending war and the growing shortages of materials. With the end of the war and rationing, an Organ Committee was formed with Mr. Charles Claflin Allen, Sr. as chairman.
The original organ had been designed for a church half its present size. The volume had been inadequate since the enlargement and construction of 1929. The organist, Mr. Paul Friess, described it as "a fourth-rate organ in a first-class church." The committee elected to purchase an organ to be built by M. P. Moller, Inc. of Hagerstown, MD. The cost, including cases, screens, building alterations, and architect's fee brought the total to $47,000 (multiply all dollar figures in this e-letter by 9 to get an approximate present value, based on the CPI). The Choir Fund of $6,800, obtained from renting the canopy used for weddings, was turned over to the committee, and substantial gifts were made by Mr. Robert O. Kennard and Mr. E. G. Lasar. The new organ was dedicated on 13 June 1948. The following year, the balance of the amount needed to pay for the organ was subscribed by numerous special gifts.
The Rev. Dr. J. Francis Sant reviewed his first ten years as rector at the Annual Parish Meeting in January 1949. There had been a $73,000 building debt when he arrived in 1939. The parish had been debt free since 1945. The number of communicants had grown 28 percent over the decade, from 1,192 to 1,530. The annual budget had grown from $31,900 to $55,150. In 1939, $8,100 was spent in religious work beyond the parish, and Dr. Sant was pleased to report that the figure had almost doubled for 1948.
On 1 November 1950, Dr. Sant was one of three candidates nominated for the position of Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Missouri. After the first ballot, Dr. Sant withdrew his name, and Dr. Arthur Carol Lichtenberger, a seminary professor, was elected. He succeeded Bishop William Scarlett upon the latter's retirement on 1 November 1952.
The post-war years brought a housing boom in St. Louis County, and the church was no longer the westernmost parish of the early city churches. St. Peter's Church had moved from Lindell and Spring to Ladue and Warson Roads, and the Church of the Holy Communion had relocated from Washington and Leffingwell to Delmar Boulevard in University City. There had been an increase of 300 communicants in the 1940s, but the church assumed that it could no longer expect the same rate of growth as the population continued to move westward. As the membership stabilized, the parish operated on balanced budgets, but often had to borrow money to cover cash flow when pledge giving dropped in the summer months.
The church was air conditioned in 1954. Every effort was made not to mar the beauty of the interior with the addition of the air ducts. The vestry received permission from the Standing Committee of the diocese to place a $50,000 mortgage on the church property to pay for the air-conditioning. This loan was amortized over five years and paid from each year's operating budget.
Pipe organs seem permanent to many of us, but they have finite lives. The pipe organ placed in the church in 1913 had been inadequate since 1929 when the size of the church interior was doubled. The Great Depression, combined with the large building debt, and then the war years had deferred plans to replace the organ. How was the Moller organ of 1948 funded? When (not if) we have to replace or do a major renovation to our present organ, how would you suggest we go about funding that work?
In the history of St. George's Church, we watched the city population's constant migration westward, with the church moving westward twice and giving consideration to moving further west a third time. The St. Michael and All Angels Mission was planted by Bishop Tuttle on the then westward-most area of the city in recognition of the westward migration. By the 1950s, the population growth had moved well west of the Church of St. Michael & St. George, and Episcopal churches had either been planted in or relocated to the growing areas. Are new approaches to mission and ministry required when a church that once was in a growing area finds itself in a stable area? If so, what might those new approaches be?
Stir your church, O God, our Father,
Move throughout its life today;
Cultivate a sense of mission
In our hearts and minds, we pray.
Help us to renew commitment
To a way of ministry
Which interprets for our culture
How your truth can make us free.
Make your church a living witness
to the power of its Lord;
send us to the world around us
with your Spirit and your Word:
to the inner-city turmoil,
to affluent suburbs too--
to all those who need your message
send us forth to tell of you.
Give to us a social conscience
Which enables us to see
That all folk are your creation
And that they have dignity.
Let us feel, with real compassion,
Needs of body, mind, and soul;
For these needs may we provide
Your ministry which makes them whole.
Challenge us, O God, our Father,
To the tasks which must be done
For your church to find fulfillment
In the way taught by your Son.
With awareness of our purpose,
With commitment to your call,
May we help prepare the time
When Christ will reign as Lord of all.
-- John R. Tyler
Historical information from Trilogy by Harriet Davidson