Did you have your first picnic over the weekend?
On Saturday, May 17, 1948 the Diocese sponsored a Lenten Mite Box Offering and Church School Day at the Cathedral. These small, blue, cardboard boxes are used to collect funds for the United Thank Offering, sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women. The mite is based on the “widow’s mite” story from the Gospels (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4).
The day began with the annual Presentation Service of the Lenten Offerings, an innovation in the diocesan calendar. Held from 11:30 a.m. -3:30 p.m., they hoped to bring in as many children as possible from the missions and parishes outside of the city. The service was held at the end so that those from far away might reach home before dark.
They made careful plans for a recreation and educational program, with the assistance of a parishioner who was the Director of the Division of Neighborhood Centers of the D.C. Recreation Department. Trained leaders were present to direct games and activities for children of all ages. Tours of the Cathedral were arranged with specially trained guides and included parts of the Cathedral which the “children can best understand.” Everyone was asked to bring their own lunch, after which there was community singing, while choirs, crucifers, and torch bearer prepared for the service.
The evaluation comments after these Days would sound familiar to anyone who has ever been part of a big event: “make more of an effort to get clergy to participate in service; loudspeaker difficulties; have the service moved to the beginning of the day; hymns and tunes chosen for the service should be familiar; have a band and parade (eventually the Boys’ Club Band did perform one year); put the service in children’s terms and language; the offering…could be dramatized by the use of a large reproduction of a mite box (which apparently St. Patrick’s had!).” Other observations included: “we had no choirs from the Negro churches…attendance was heavy in the rural areas and light in the city parishes.”
After seven years, it was decided in 1954 that there would be three regional services for mite box presentations. The Children’s Day turned into a Festival for Singing Children in 1955 with a festival of junior choirs, a picnic lunch, and games and contests.
Is your parish having an end of year festival or picnic? Take photos, print them out, and, using a blank address label, put the names of the people in the pictures, date, and occasion on the back. Future generations will bless you!
Feel free to contact me with any questions about this article or your church records.
Mrs. Susan Stonesifer
Historiographer, Episcopal Diocese of Washington