A History Minute
(#20 in a series)
Three months following the war's end, on Thanksgiving Sunday in 1945, Rev. Robert Woodroofe, Jr. (straight from an Armychaplaincy in Europe)preached his first sermon at Grace, beginning fourteen years as Rector #10. In another changing of the guard, Charles Sladen retired after almost 58 yearsat Grace Church... this English immigrant had been tenor soloist from 1887 to 1902,then Choirmaster from 1902-1946. Perhaps we should not be surprised that at a time the Vestry was writing "...this year has found the World faltering and confused" that two consecutive programs of the newly organized Men's Club addressed the (quite opposite) topics of: "Causes of the English Reformation" and "The Effects of Atomic Radiation". George Larsen re-startedGrace's Boy Scout Troop which had lapsed for several years. The Red Sox of Ted Williams and Johnny Pesky cooperated by reaching the World Series for the first time since 1918...although the Soxlost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the final game.
As America and the Soviet Union squared off in the Cold War, Rector Woodroofe asked "How long can the knowledge [of atomic weapons] be kept out of the hands of irresponsible men?...Has Christianity an answer to the problems that trouble the world? And if it has, have you and I got hold of it? How can we, who happen to be out of the main stream of trouble, help our brothers who are in the middle of it?" The Diocesan Convention, in this heyday of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, voted to support the Bishop's stand against the intimidation of independent thought by members of Congressional Committees.
In the spirit of ecumenism, Grace organized a successful summer school with the participation of the Eliot Congregational and Newton Methodist Churches. Rector Woodroofe described five characteristics of life in Newton: "1. [Burial records show] people are living about 15 years longer, yet occupation and support of the aged is a problem not yet solved; 2. Younger men of the parish are either in military service or subject to the draft, thus marriage plans are upset or delayed, and careers cannot be started without fear of interruption; 3. We are all conscious of the possibility of war with Russia, the threat of atomic weapons and the presence of Communist agents at work in our country; 4. Changes in parish membership indicate the frequency with which people are moving in and out...brief residence and lack of community roots hinder the effectiveness and continuity of the church program; 5. This is a period of uncertainty in educational philosophy...we are somewhat unsure of the proper proportion of discipline and self-expression...many parents, school teachers, and churches therefore proceed with some doubt and hesitancy. Will these conditions seem quaint to Grace Church parishioners in the year 2000? Time will tell."
This time of transition wasevident in the popular culture: the U.S. atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll were reflected in the invention of the Bikini bathing suit; Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock"and Elvis' "Blue Suede Shoes", "Love Me Tender", and "Don't Be Cruel" rocked America; TV began to thrive, thus radio broadcasting switched to music; "Peyton Place" and"My Fair Lady" reflected cultural opposites; and Philadelphia's Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier of Monaco.
In the final five years of Rev. Woodroofe's time at Grace, events in Newton and in Grace Church made clear that even more changes were coming... all in the next "History Minute".
Don Kennedy, Parish Historian