Minute for History #3
Today we have the third in our series of Minutes for History, from the work of the Archives Committee. We would especially like to thank those who have dug up some historic documents for us – especially Fred Cortelyou, who donated the magazine that was the source of this morning’s document. This article is from a 1950 Farm Journal, published in Washington Square, Pennsylvania. It features our church and its brand new kitchen in Memorial Hall. Although they call our church the “Millstone Chapel” you can see many familiar sights in these pictures. There are two pages in your bulletin, back to back.
Let me read a few excerpts for you: “Nobody quite remembers how long there have been harvest suppers at Millstone Chapel. But the congregation reckons it’s been a mighty long time – harvest suppers have been a tradition ever since Pilgrim days, and Millstone is an old church. Their mellow old building was erected in 1790 after the British burned the first one during the Revolution.” They don’t exactly have their history right, this building is from 1828, not 1790, but -- it’s the spirit that counts.
This document is significant in one way because it is the first one that we have brought to you that may be in the living memory of some of you in the congregation. Henry Hotaling was the pastor at that time. Some of the people pictured in the article are Mrs. George Wyckoff, Mrs. John Van Cleef, Mrs. Charles Cortelyou, and Mrs. Hotaling (I imagine all of these women had first names of their own, but you wouldn’t know it from the magazine). Is there anyone here this morning who was a member of this church in 1950? Is there anyone here this morning who was here for the Harvest celebration in the fall of 1950?
For those of you who were members of this church back then, these pictures would mean more than we can know. The clothing the people in the pictures are wearing. The china. Lighting the oven with a match. The way the church looked before the holly trees were planted. It must all bring back very specific and vivid memories.
Their ritual of thanksgiving in the fall is one that we re-enact today, this very day, with our Homecoming Sunday. This community 57 years ago was much like it was 200 years ago – mostly farms and small villages. They lived in an agricultural economy where the rhythm of the growing seasons and harvest were much more the rhythms of life than they are today when few of us grow our own food. But we are just as grateful as we gather again this year for our Homecoming Sunday. It is a very special thing to see the roots of the things we do today stretching far back into the past.
This article illustrates what the people of this congregation have always done very well – they have built well and strong and beautifully, to give a lasting and useful gift to the generations who would follow them. The kitchen that is used every week is older than most of us, and still holding up pretty well!
Come next door and see that kitchen in action right after the service. And in Memorial Hall look for an extra bonus from the Archives Committee – the exact recipes for the food they served at that supper 57 years ago: Southern barbecued chicken, and Virginia spoon bread.
Let me close with a poem that I found on another page in that issue of the Farm Journal. Although it was not connected with the story about Millston, it might well have been written about the meal we are about to eat together. It is called Thanksgiving Table, by Jane Merchant.
How joyously I offer praise for all These dear hands folded now in thankfulness In their familiar places; large and small Well knowing in their own way how to bless Square little-boy hands; butterfly-deft ones Of little girls; old hands whose touch instills Quiet wisdom; strong hands warm with many suns, And mother-hands adept in tender skills –
Oh, I am thankful for the touch of these Loved hands on mine, for all the wealth they hold Of gentleness, and love, and healing ease; And thankful, most of all, that all who fold Their hands in reverential, thankful prayers May feel the hand of God enfolding theirs.