19 July 2012
Getting Involved with George Fonyo
George Fonyo has been attending The Church of St. Michael & St. George since his parents first brought him to Sunday school in 1931. During his years at the church he's done a lot more than just attend service on Sunday. He's been an active member of numerous groups, from the Sea Scouts as a youngster, to the Quakers and the Canterbury Club as a teen, to the Vestry as an adult. He shared some of his fondest memories of building relationships through the church. -Amy Zimmerman
Memories of Sunday School . . .
Sunday mornings we met in the old auditorium (where the Great Hall is now located). The floor sloped down to the front where there was a stage. Every Sunday, Dr. Block (Rev. Dr. Karl Morgan Block was rector from 1926 to 1938) would assemble the Sunday school students and teachers. We sat with our respective class and Dr. Block would make poignant remarks and send us to our classrooms. Once a month, we went into church where the children's choir sang. The remaining Sundays Dr. Block's presentation really provided the spiritual portion of the service.
I started going to St. Michael's in 1931 when I was four years old. Kindergarten met in the room where the Sant Library is located now. Miss Dwyer taught our class. My dad brought my sister and me every Sunday, but he never went into the church. The fathers walked along Wydown arguing politics and other topics while the children went to church. Fathers brought the kids, but I don't believe the dads ever entered the church. They just waited outside and picked us up when Sunday school was over.
Perfect Attendance . . .
At the conclusion of the church school year, Dr. Block presented gifts to those of us with perfect attendance. I remember having perfect attendance for 11 years and I still have many of those gifts, which I cherish.
Today, times have changed a great deal. Then, there weren't many distractions from Sunday school. There weren't many of today's activities or sports competitions. Plus it was during the Depression, so things were pretty sparse.
Organizing the Acolytes . . .
When we were confirmed, we started attending the church services. Most of the boys became acolytes. I usually served the early service that started at 7:30 AM because no one else wanted to get up that early. I rode my bike from home in Wydown Forest.
When Dr. Sant became rector (Rev. John Francis Sant served as rector from 1938 to 1963) he started a wonderful tradition. Following the early service, he invited several attendees and the acolyte to come to the rectory for breakfast. Mrs. Sant always was in attendance. Dr. Sant wanted to know every member of the church.
For about 20 years following my Army service, I supervised the acolytes. It was a difficult job. I still see many of the individuals at church. The program was not very organized, and there was much cajoling to get many of them to serve. It was quite different then, than it is now, but it worked.
Social Activities at the Church . . .
Before World War II, the church sponsored a Sea Scout group that was affiliated with the Boy Scouts. We had a quarterdeck and meeting place in the church basement. We all wore sailor uniforms. We had an area headquarters at Alton Lake where we did our sea training and sailing.
The church provided several social opportunities for young people. There was a high school youth group called the Quakers. That was where I met several individuals who are still friends. We met Sunday evenings for supper. It was a big event and brought together young people from different high schools, which was a good ecumenical opportunity. The Canterbury Club was similar to the Quakers, but for young people in college.
We had a men's group similar to Steak and Stories that met monthly and was very active. Dinner meetings were held in what is now the Taylor Room.
There was a Phoenix Group that formed for those dealing with death or divorce of a spouse. The initial counselor was a chap from St. Louis University who had never been married but who equated the relationship with his dog to that of a spouse. His sessions were so bad that the group decided to get together after the meetings and have some fellowship. That's how the social part started. We would go out for dinner and later it evolved into a group of 30 to 50 people who also had an annual pool party. Several in the group ended up getting married, not necessarily to each other.
Teaching Sunday School . . .
One of the years when I taught Sunday school I had a group of girls who now are grandmothers but at the time were in high school. There wasn't a Sunday school curriculum in those days so I didn't know what to do with them. It was a beautiful spring morning so we all got into my 56 Chevy convertible with the top down and drove over to Forest Park where we had a good conversation. On the way back, one of the girls, who I won't identify, found a bottle of gin in the well where the top goes down. As we drove up Ellenwood, church was getting out and the girls started waving the bottle of gin and yelling about what a great Sunday school session we just had. It's funny now but at the time I was grossly embarrassed.
Serving on the Vestry . . .
During my years at the church I have served on the Vestry at various times for a total of about 16 years. The first time, I was in my 20s, and the last time was with Andrew Archie. Other activities include serving as Junior Warden a couple of times, on the Search Committee for Ed Salmon, as chair of the Every Member Canvass, as representative at church conventions and on miscellaneous committees. All of these experiences were rewarding and, I trust, contributed to the church.
Social Life of the Church . . .
Over the years, the church has been a focal point for much more than the Sunday service. There is a sense of belonging that has been meaningful. The church is an important part of one's spiritual and social life. It's important to greet others and newcomers. Sometimes I will introduce myself to those I don't know, thinking they are new to church, only to find they have been there for years. So you don't know everyone, although you try. That's a significant part of what the church is all about.