The Depression Years of the 1930’s

With “Black Friday” in October 1929 the Great Depression set in. Calvary was undeterred: On January 15, 1930 congregational goals were set for that year. These included a 10% increase in church members, a 10% increase in contributions to our missionary pastor, increased church attendance, increased Wednesday prayer meeting attendance, a 10% increase in homes having family worship, an evangelistic meeting, a school for religious instruction in the church school, all members of the congregation either contributing to the church or being excused, and a formal dedication of the new church. The deepening Depression gave Dr. Schwarze some concern over achieving this last goal. He noted on November 16 that “the Campaign to lift Calvary’s indebtedness seems to be doing our people a great deal of good in spite of difficult times financially.” The goal was missed by one month: On January 25 of that next year Calvary was dedicated.Highlights of 1931 included in addition to the dedication of the new church building, Salem Congregation’s decision to subdivide and develop its holdings in west Salem: The “Granville Development” was advocated as having “large lots, water, sewage, gas, lights, sidewalks, wide streets and shade trees.” Yet, the advertisement continued, it was “outside of the noise and dust of the City and yet inside.” The area was “served by 3 jitney (bus) lines and good bitulithic streets.”

Then, as now, our congregation was inordinately fond of internal politicking: The June 7 diary reports cryptically that “Sunday School was well attended but the Mens’ Bible Class consumed most of the session in a discussion of the method of electing new officers.” That summer Dr. Schwarze, having been elected a delegate to the Unity Synod, in Herrnhut, extended the trip to include a visit to the Holy Land. When he returned he brought back a large bottle of water from the Jordan River. As a result, a generation of Calvary’s babies were baptized in the River Jordan! Kenneth Hamilton, home on a year’s furlough after 7 years in Nicaragua, served as pastor during Dr. Schwarze’s May 10–September 10 absence.

On August 23 the congregation presented a historical pageant “A Victory of Faith” with some 100 members of the congregation participating in a series of tableaux depicting scenes of the history of the Moravian Church. The duration was 1½ hours. Hamilton reports that it went off “without a hitch,” playing to a packed church. The offering received was $38.00. Expenses were $20.00.

The 1930s were years of steady growth for Calvary, largely because of the efforts of our pastors and a morale brought on by pride in what the congregation had accomplished in capital expansion while simultaneously continuing to support our missionary endeavor. On April 3, 1932, their furlough over, a congregational lovefeast bid farewell to Reverend and Mrs. Kenneth G. Hamilton as they returned to Nicaragua.

1933 began with an Anti-Saloon League “Field Day” on January 29. Then on May 21, Calvary joined with 2,000 other Moravians at Bethabara Graveyard for a service to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Moravian Mission to Greenland. Membership had grown to the point that 2 additional communion trays were purchased, bringing our communion capacity to 360. Even so, at the October 1 service, 40 extra communion fillings had been required. This year was the first that communion was served in the balcony.

The Reverend Charles B. Adams was called to assist Dr. Schwarze in 1934 with special duties as assistant pastor in the Sunday School, working with the youth and as Director of Music. It was this year that the console of the organ was moved from the side of the choir loft to the center. Brother W.S. Miller did the carpentry, Peter W. Blum and Son, the tin work, and Brother Adams himself did the organ disconnecting and connecting—all at no cost except for some lumber.

The Depression deepened. Dr. Schwarze noted in his November 29, 1934 entry in the congregational diary that the Trustees are “straitened” because of unexpected needs for funds and the fact that a balance of unpaid pledges remained from the previous year. Calvary kept plugging away—and growing: 1935 communicant membership had risen to 870 and the Thanksgiving offering of food and money proved larger than in previous years.

In addition to being a dynamic leader of Calvary congregation, Dr. Schwarze had a variety of additional interests: He grew some of the first tea roses in town in a small garden between the parsonage and the church, he was in demand by other churches and civic groups as a speaker, he was a splendid photographer, and there remained in him something of a youthful spirit as well. His Christmas putz filled his entire parlor and a visit to see his putz (then more elaborate than the one at the Salem candle tea) was a special treat for Calvary’s children and grown ups too. Moreover, when something needed to be done at the church, he was working along with the rest. Once Dr. Schwarze and Will Miller went out to North Winston in Dr. Schwarze’s car to cut Christmas trees for the church decorations. They separated as the cutting proceeded, each bringing the trees he cut up to the road. When the sun set, Dr. Schwarze began calling for Will. No answer. Finally, hoarse from calling, he drove to the Miller residence alone, and, crestfallen and embarrassed, announced “I’ve lost Will.” In an quandary, they were about to call the Sheriff to help find him when a cheerful Will Miller arrived: When he saw the trees were gone he had caught the street car home.

Many in the congregation today remember Sunday School in the 1930s. A little bar pin was awarded for perfect attendance and after 5 years of perfect attendance these were exchanged for a 5 year bar. In the primary department, Mrs. W.E. Shore and later Mrs. John Nisbet stressed memory work. Each class member had a ribbon hanging in the class and when a pupil would successfully recite a memory work task (such as the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, Luke’s Christmas Story, the Ten Commandments, etc.) a symbol of colored craft paper would be attached to the ribbon, each symbol (crescent, star, cross, etc.) represented a different task and no one was permitted to “graduate” until his memory work ribbon was complete.

The Beginner’s Department had a birthday arch covered with flowers. On the Sunday nearest to a child’s birthday, he or she would be seated by Mrs. Shore under the arch and, while the rest of the class sang “happy birthday,” a little cupcake with a lighted candle would be given the birthday child. Each department had its own character, and all were wonderful. In the primary department we were taught to sing from texts laboriously printed on white window shades, which would be pulled down as needed. On promotion day every primary child graduating to the junior department received a Bible. Many of us still cherish ours.

Of course, the whole Sunday School attended “opening exercises” where everybody—adult as well as children—would sing to the accompaniment of the church orchestra. John Harrison remembers how, if the assembled Sunday School didn’t sing to suit the director, he would stop and make them start again! Other memories include how Mrs. Nisbet would hang cocoons on the curtains in the fall, and the class would be excited to see what type butterfly or moth would emerge; how at Christmas every child would receive from the Sunday School a little cardboard box of hard candy and an orange; how the boys in Mr. J.A. Jones’ class would sit in a pew with him at church, these and so many other things flood the memories of Calvary’s members when they reminisce. Is it any wonder our members are so loyal and resist any change from those happy days of memory?

On June 5, 1936 the Winston-Salem Journal reports “the pageant of the young people is the traditional close of the Christmas season at Calvary Moravian Church and the service on Sunday night featured another such presentation to an audience that taxed the capacity of the large auditorium.” The cast included Byron B. Mason, Beulah Dizor, P.E. Wood, Lindsay Petree, P.G. Reniger, Hazel Conrad, Ruth Miller, Margaret Schwarze, Master James Williams, Mrs. F. C. Abernathy, A.E. McElveen, and Anne Nisbet. The Calvary choir appeared as the angel chorus. The Reverend Charles B. Adams was organist and Frank Jones provided the lighting effects.

A sad occasion that spring was the death of “Granny Schaum” on Whitsunday. At that time she was the oldest member of the church. Dr. Schwarze notes “for 20 years she attended to the communion table. How fitting that on communion Sunday she could enter the higher fellowship of heaven.”

1937 was a year of change. The Province bought the Bethabara distillery for use as a parsonage for that congregation. That same year the congregation approved the appointment of Reverend Harry Trodahl as our missionary pastor, succeeding the Reverend Kenneth G. Hamilton who had held that post for 18 years. Trodahl served in our Alaska mission field.

And on June 27 a farewell lovefeast was held for Brother Charles B. Adams who left Calvary “called to full-time service in the Province.” Miss Flavella Stockton succeeded him as organist and choir director.

Meanwhile the church was being renovated. It reopened after repairs and redecorations of both church and parsonage: Walls and woodwork were repainted and refinished, exteriors repainted, and the sanctuary painted a cream buff with light stenciling.

Highlights of the next several years included in 1938 the 80th birthday of Pauline (Mrs. Lemuel G.) Cherry, a member since 1895. Her husband had been in the left wing under Major Bentwine at Custer’s Last Stand, and was one of the few who had escaped. That Christmas Eve a 750 attendance at the lovefeasts “broke all records.” In 1939, Mrs. Mary Prather, a charter member and beloved teacher, was called home on January 24. In his memorabilia of 1939 Bishop Pfohl recorded that “in spite of the increasing difficulties of a downtown church” Calvary had had a good year. Easter was early in 1940, but Calvary had its largest Maundy Thursday communion ever, with 389 communicants, including 16 who partook the sacrament in their homes that afternoon. Three days later, on Easter, it began snowing and snowed all day, perhaps a fitting prelude to the departure of Miss Anne Dills, R.N. who left for service at the Kuskukwim Orphanage in Alaska after a reception in her honour on March 27.

In 1941 Mrs. N.F. Fulton celebrated her 90th birthday. She was then living with Mrs. L.C. Bruce and remained amazingly active “crocheting constantly” according to the Winston-Salem Journal. She had by then crocheted 4 table cloths and 2 bedspreads for her children.

This year the nation was girding for yet another world war—the second during Schwarze’s pastorate. He noted in the church diary that during the weeks of October 11 and through November “our City is host to soldiers coming to spend weekends from the maneuver area. Many soldiers are being entertained in the homes of our Calvary members in this period and we were happy to see many of the boys in our church services.”

December 7, 1941 was the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. It was also the second Sunday in Advent, celebrated at Calvary in the 11:00 o’clock liturgy, and with a lovefeast at 2:30. The “Messiah” was presented at Centenary Methodist Church at 4:00 p.m. that afternoon with many of Calvary’s choir participating. No mention was made in the church diary of Pearl Harbor. On December 14, however, Dr. Schwarze laconically recorded “in view of the outbreak of war with Japan, had a special order (of worship) this morning.”

Church membership had leveled off by 1941 with 853 communicant members, slightly less than the 1930s figures, suggesting an aging congregation, and a number of newer neighbourhood congregations in the increasing suburbs, and the “difficulties of a downtown church” alluded to earlier.

1943 was our 50th Anniversary year, an occasion celebrated at the Festival of November 13 with Brother Kenneth G. Hamilton as guest speaker. (The actual organization date of Calvary was April 20, 1893, but this date interfered with Holy Week).

Shock waves went through Calvary when Dr. Schwarze had a sudden heart attack on April 29, 1945. As he himself recorded, he was “put to bed” for a month, then, when his heart improved, “extreme nervousness” set in. He entered Tucker’s Hospital in Richmond in June but there was no improvement until electric shock treatments were resorted to in the fall. He was discharged from Tucker’s in December 1945, ordered to rest for another two months. The Reverend John W. Fulton, a son of Calvary, served from October 1945 as supply pastor during Schwarze’s absence. John Harrison recalls the day when the beloved Dr. Schwarze returned to Calvary on February 8, 1946 as the only day the church has ever been absolutely full. Dr. Schwarze wrote in the congregation diary, “what a day of days. Never has Calvary seemed so wonderful nor the privilege of preaching the gospel so great.”

Those of us brought up in Calvary during Dr. Schwarze’s pastorate recall his church services as dignified, liturgical, and traditional. He himself usually wore a black sack coat, striped trousers, and a boutonniere. The “sanctuary” during his pastorate was just that: No Sunday School programs, no sales of texts could take place in the sanctuary.

The service would commence with the litany, followed by the appropriate seasonal liturgy. (He assumed his congregation was literate and hence eschewed the irritating habit of too many ministers of telling the congregation when to rise and when to sit and where to find the hymns and liturgies. He knew we knew.) The epistle would be read from the epistle side of the church, congregation seated, followed by the appropriate choral Ascription of Praise. He would then walk to the gospel side of the church and read the gospel, congregation standing, followed by the appropriate Ascription of Praise. The offering would be received, during which the choir sang an anthem. Following this a pastoral prayer, and during an appropriate hymn he would ascend to the pulpit for the sermon. He never sat in the center chair behind the pulpit (why, no one seems to know. Fred Hege remembers thinking as a child that maybe that’s where God sat).

His sermons were solid, slightly evangelical, and, to a child like me, long. I remember being startled when my mind drifted off, by his shout, “are you listening?” as he prepared for a major point.

He would never dream of wearing his surplice (always starched so stiff it could stand by itself) except during the actual sacrament. When the time for a baptism, for example, would arrive in the service, he would discreetly leave the service during a hymn and return in his surplice. After the sacrament, another hymn and he would return in his sack coat and striped trousers. Communion was celebrated by itself: No sermon, etc. At the conclusion we were enjoined to remain quietly standing until the consecrated host was removed from the sanctuary by the ministers officiating. Heaven help the organist who began the postlude before that side door closed behind the last of the officiants. In short, when you left Calvary in those days you knew you had been to church. Such was the liturgical legacy of Dr. Schwarze, who set high standards for all who followed.

In 1947, the Board of Elders and Board of Trustees, feeling that the work load was simply becoming too great for Dr. Schwarze, now 60, began the process of calling an assistant pastor. Brother Joseph H. Gray, then pastor of Leaksville Moravian Church, received and accepted the call from the Provincial Elders Conference effective August 1. At this time Schwarze had been at Calvary 31 years.

The church diary records further for 1947 that “new hymnals were put to use” and that the Boards tried to encourage greater attendance at the Annual Church Council by having it on Sunday morning at the close of the 11:00 o’clock service. It was unsuccessful: Several groups walked out as the noon hour approached.

1947 was the high water mark year for Calvary’s membership: 934 communicant members.

The Christian Education quarters of Calvary had seen some two decades of hard use by 1948 and the Boards felt remodeling was due. Twenty thousand dollars was needed—a substantial sum in view of the fact that the total church budget that year was $23,576.25. The congregation came through again, however, and by May of that next year remodeling of all 3 floors was begun. Frank L. Blum (who grew up across the street on Holly Avenue) was selected as contractor.

A polio epidemic during the summer of 1948 hit piedmont North Carolina especially hard. Bible School was called off and Sunday School discontinued from July 19 through September 19. During this hiatus, a weekly mailing called “The Junior Visitor,” containing a home worship service and lesson study, was sent to each child.

Also during 1948 the Moravian Church adopted a uniform Sunday School curriculum published by the Presbyterian Church but with editorial and historical input from the. Moravian Church, including a booklet on Moravian history.

Calvary celebrated her anniversary with communion on November 21st and a feature present on the communion table was “the silver chalice and cups used at Calvary in the early days.” Fifteen members could remember having used them. These items seem at this writing to have disappeared. It would be interesting to know if any of our present members know of their whereabouts.

Reverend Joe Gray had proven to fit in well as Assistant Pastor, was popular with the youth and an immense help to Dr. Schwarze. So it was a blow when he accepted a call to Nicaragua in May of 1949. Dr. Schwarze noted his regrets in the church diary “…but for the fact that he has a deep conviction of a call to the mission field, would consider his leaving Calvary after so short a pastorate here as untimely.” Brother Gray had found time to court Lahoma Poindexter, a Calvary member, and on June 3, 1949 they were married, shortly before the couple departed for Karawala, their first post. Not only did Gray achieve remarkable success as missionary during a difficult period of Nicaraguan history, he also mastered the Miskito language and translated the New Testament into Miskito for the first time.

1950 brought an era to a close. Dr. Schwarze proposed on January 4th that the joint Boards take the matter of his retirement from the Ministry to the PEC. At this time he had had the longest service at any one congregation in the entire Moravian Church. The PEC made an inspired choice for his successor: John F. Fulton a son of Calvary, former Assistant Pastor, and interim when Dr. Schwarze was ill in 1945. He knew the Calvary congregation’s quirks, knew its strengths, and was able to effect a remarkably smooth transition after Dr. Schwarze’s 34 year tenure. On June 30, Schwarze made a poignant last entry in the congregational diary:

“As we close our pastorate at Calvary, it is with praise to Him, the Head of the Church, whose grace has led us all through the years and with thankfulness to our dear people who have cooperated so loyally. Our prayers shall continue to go for the new chapter to be written and Brother Fulton’s Pastorate.”

Another sad note, Brother J.A. Jones who had taught Sunday School for 38 years was called home. He was adored by generations of Calvary boys.

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