History Minute 13

A History Minute 
(#13 in a series)

By 1924 Rev. Laurens MacLure had been at Grace Church for 17 years; and Martha and Elizabeth Bell†attended the Sunday School. The Twenties were "Roaring". In full swing were "The Charleston" dance craze and the (brand new)†practice of purchasing items†on credit. MacLure, a traditionalist, wrote†about societal changes in words that seem eerily relevant†in 2007:  “Our worst difficulty in this part of Newton is that our young people, when they come to marry and make a home, can find no place…they are like Noah’s dove released from the ark…they find no place where they can afford to rent or buy a house unless they are very fortunately circumstanced”.† The Vestry noted “…for nearly three quarters of a century the Parish has not changed materially in its composition as a group of neighboring families [however] now we see on all sides the older estates being developed for smaller homes…in wards one and seven, the large estates are disappearing, small houses are taking the places of the larger ones, people of moderate incomes are coming in and those of larger incomes are going out, this condition is bound to be reflected sooner or later in the income of the parish”.†A committee appointed by the Annual Meeting reported on the question of changing from the†historical system of rented pews to free pews (that is, adopting a system of pledges or donations to support church expenses)… “the certainty of having their families sitting with them at divine worship without being separated, as might be unavoidable in a free pew church, is a precious privilege….Grace Church [considering all its weekly services] has approximately 20% free pews…The only service of Grace Church at which no sittings are free, is the 10:30 Sunday morning service…There appears no serious demand in Grace Church for free pews…No radical change in the methods of sittings should be†undertaken…a violent change in fiscal policy might subvert or greatly delay the plans [“for amplifying, completing, or beautifying our buildings”]…our Committee is not in favor of free pews for Grace Church at this time”. However, three dissenters on the committee wrote: “We do not agree…other churches have experienced not only an increase in revenue, but a distinct spiritual gain”; collections at this time were taken†only on the first Sunday of the month, Communion Sunday. Yet the Annual Meeting voted with the dissenters:†“On and after January 1, 1930, pews and sittings in Grace Church shall not be rented, but shall be free to those who wish to occupy them during public worship” thereby initiating†our current system of pledging to finance the budget; similar motions for free pews†had been voted down in 1922 and 1927.

Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic; Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs; Ella MacLure became the first female elected to the Grace Church Corporation (hence the first woman eligible to†vote at the Annual Meeting);†“Singing in the Rain", "Stardust", "Ain’t She Sweet” and “Ol’ Man River” were composed; Clara Bow was the “It” Girl; “The Jazz Singer” with Al Jolson was the first talking movie; CBS founded; automatic record changer invented; the “Black Tuesday” stock market crash ushered in the Great Depression of 1930’s; Amos ‘n Andy on radio; St. Valentine’s Day Massacre shooting in Chicago. 

Learn how the Great Depression affected Grace Church leadership in the next History Minute.

Don Kennedy, 
Parish Historian