11 November 2016 – a Veteran’s Day Reflection
As we remember those who have offered themselves in service and made sacrifices for their country on this Veteran’s Day I find myself thinking about Mildred (McAfee) Horton, our neighbor when my family lived in Randolph, New Hampshire, and our church colleague in the Gorham Congregational Church.
I guess you could say Mildred grew up in a religious household; her father was the Rev. Dr. Cleland McAfee, a leading theologian and activist in the Presbyterian Church. Her parents ensured that she received a good education including a degree from Vassar where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1920. In 1934 she became dean of women at Oberlin College and in 1936 was named the seventh president of Wellesley College.
In our many conversations Mildred shared receiving a call in 1942 from Eleanor Roosevelt. The war effort needed someone to organize and lead a women’s auxiliary. It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone that the traditionalist congressmen of the time feared for “the future of the family and Western civilization” by calling women into service. But their fears were allayed when Mildred was appointed as the new director of the U.S. Women’s Reserve and the special assistant to the director of the Bureau of Personnel given her professional style and gentle spirit. She was sworn in at the rank of lieutenant commander in August 1942, a service attended by both the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, and the chief of Naval Operations, Ernest King.
Mildred spent the war years touring the country, inspecting facilities and making speeches appealing to parents to allow their daughters to join the WAVES in the name of patriotism so that they could release a man for sea duty. In all 150,000 women joined; at the peak there were 86,300 WAVES. In November 1943, Mildred was promoted to captain. One of her claims to fame as the Director of the WAVES was to support the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, in forcing the Navy to accept a few dozen black WAVES. In March 1945, Mildred’s portrait appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
Mildred returned to Wellesley in 1945 and in August of that year married the Reverend Douglas Horton who later became the dean of the Harvard Divinity School. You may also know that he was the religious leader who facilitated the creation of what became known as the United Church of Christ (UCC).
In her retirement speech when she left Wellesley, Mildred denounced the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which had demanded the reading lists for all social science courses at 107 elite colleges. She said its action was one of the symptoms of “the fear which permeates our modern age” (New York Times, 14 June 1949). When President Dwight Eisenhower appointed her to a UN commission in 1953, HUAC’s friends had their revenge by mysteriously losing the paperwork in the State Department.
After retirement, Mrs. Horton was active in charitable and educational projects in Boston, as well as national and international church activities. She also served as a vice president of the National Council of Churches. In a major breakthrough for women, leading New York corporations added her to their boards, including the New York Life Insurance Company, Radio Corporation of America, and National Broadcasting Company. When her husband retired from Harvard in 1959, they settled in Randolph, New Hampshire, and started a retreat center which is where I attended summer camp and also where my church youth group went on winter retreats. She later served as a long-standing trustee of the University of New Hampshire, becoming the first woman to chair its board.
Like the leaders of other women’s services, Mildred McAfee Horton had an ambiguous relationship with the military. She repeatedly characterized the navy as “a man’s world” and expressed relief when it shut down its training facilities at Wellesley. On the other hand, patriotic duty was important to her. In February 1951 when American forces were in retreat in the Korean War, she called for drafting women for noncombat roles. She criticized the “folly of a national policy of discussing manpower in a national emergency as though it were only male power,” complaining that such an attitude “put women in the category of a national luxury instead of a national asset.” She argued that “the skills needed behind the fighting lines of all the armed services are not distributed on sex lines. They are shared by men and women” (New York Times, 11 Feb. 1951). It was the women serving in the field, not at headquarters, who made an impression on key military leaders such as Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. After the war, they teamed up with the senator Margaret Chase Smith to secure a permanent place for women in the U.S. military.
We owe Mildred McAfee Horton a major debt of gratitude not only for her service and leadership during WWII, but for her academic leadership, her challenge to traditional male models of authority in society, and to a deep spiritual devotion that led her to work for justice and become a major contributor to society.
Mildred, we remember you on this Veteran’s Day and thank you for all of your effort and perseverance to make this world a better place.
*sources include the American National Biography, Naval History & Heritage Command, www.military.com/navy, Wikipedia, and family.
14 October 2016
I’m writing to you about stewardship at Grace Church. Too often we only speak of Christian stewardship during the traditional stewardship season and only in the context of the church budget. But stewardship is actually a way of life, a re-ordering of our priorities to reflect that we follow Jesus, and a way to continue to express our appreciation to God for our many blessings.
As we think about stewardship, we’d be remiss to think only about money. When the Vestry met on a Saturday in September to think about long-term planning for Grace Church, we began our time evaluating our blessings. We noted our sanctuary, buildings and grounds, music program, website, and finances. We then noticed a pattern emerging in which we noted things like being a welcoming place, with people who enthusiastically share their talents, and a place with heart where people are loving and caring and willing to share of themselves. In short, we noted in our discussion that one of our major blessings is us … the community of Grace Church. While we were appreciative of the financial and physical blessings we have, those things were second to the many people that make them possible.
As you begin your own reflection on stewardship and what the community of Grace Church means to you, I encourage you to spend time focusing on what you’ve received from God … a loving life partner; a good education; a nice home; a comfortable life; a good job; good health; a wonderful family; a loving community that is there for you in times of need; and much more. As you contemplate and pray over what you’ve been given by God, and what you will be giving back to God, keep in mind that stewardship isn’t a duty or obligation as much as it’s a thankful response to God.
I thank all of you for all that you do to make Grace Church a vibrant community, giving so generously of your time, energy, talent, and resources. If you’re not currently a pledger, I invite you to spend time in conversation with God and others in your household to determine if this might be the year you’ll make a pledge. We’ll be having our in-gathering of pledges on Sunday, Nov. 13. I look forward to seeing you at one of the services and to another year of celebrating our many blessings. In the meantime, I am and always will be
Your brother in Christ,
2 September 2016
At times our world seems to be upside down. Daily, the Middle East and various other places around the globe seem to threaten to pull us into another world war. On a regular basis we learn about another violent act, financial disaster, or political crisis. We’re inundated by political intrigue of all kinds, whether it’s about the governor or the presidential candidates. But in the midst of all the noise of this world we have a sanctuary where we can be refreshed, where we can be both spiritually uplifted and challenged, and where we can be among others on their respective faith journeys.
That place is Grace Church. Your Vestry and committees have been working diligently over the summer even while entertaining friends and family. We’ve been addressing building safety codes by bringing them up to date, exploring our sound system limitations and options for improvement, as well as strategic planning for the long-term maintenance and improvement of our property. Committees have been organizing and reorganizing and groups of individuals have been focusing on fall programming. Now that the summer months are behind us, we’re shifting into the fall and into a new program year. So I’d like to share with you a little about what to expect in the coming months.
Over the summer, a task force for adult education formed. When we met we discussed a number of program ideas, possible venues, and potential facilitators. We decided to start the year by offering a book study under the leadership of Reg Smart to begin on Sunday, September 25, at 9:00 am in the lower parish hall. The book we’ll be reading is Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg. If you’d like to participate, please make arrangements to read the first chapter BEFORE Sunday, Sept. 25. Sessions will be as follows:
- September 25: Chapter 1
- October 2: Chapter 2
- October 9: Chapter 3
- October 30: Chapter 4
- November 13: Chapter 5
- November 20: Chapter 6
You’ll note that October 16 & 23 and November 6 are missing in the book study schedule. The October Sundays have been reserved for Stewardship Committee presentations and programming, and on November 6 we’ll be having a special All Saints celebration. We’re also planning to host a one-day event on a Saturday sometime in early 2017 entitled Aging with Dignity and co-hosted by a number of Bath area support services. We’ll be opening the program to the wider community and hope that anyone who has questions about their own aging or concerns about options for a loved one will consider attending. This will be an opportunity to spend time with professionals and think about issues such as living independently as long as we can, what kinds of services are available to us, talking with family about our health and finances, and thinking about our legal needs.
Our Worship Committee is working on a number of items, beginning with a service for the Blessing of the Animals which is scheduled to be in the park at the gazebo in front of the library at 1:00 pm on Sunday, Oct. 2 (assuming we don’t get rained out!). We’ll be spreading the word and hoping many of you, along with your friends and neighbors, will participate. We’re also working with a subcommittee of interested folks to put together a festive All Saints combined service at 9:00 am on Nov. 6. We’re planning to creatively include children in the service and if possible, incorporate our Memorial Garden.
Plans are currently underway for us to host a holiday craft fair on Saturday, November 19 (10-2). We anticipate including a luncheon, activities like face painting for the children (or the young at heart), various craft sale tables, a white elephant area, a used book table, fair trade products such as coffee, chocolate, and nuts, and a variety of fair trade gift items. It should be a great opportunity to gather as a community to have some fun, provide us with alternatives for the holidays, and to invite others to come join us for the day. Watch for flyers and announcements.
The Communications Task Force has been working hard on how we manage our overall communication, considering various constituencies, different types of messages, and our branding. If you were in church last week, you’ve already experienced some of our efforts with the worship bulletin. We are experimenting with a new format that we hope will aid people’s ability to participate in the service and make it easier to produce. The insert section of the bulletin will contain announcements, calendar updates, church contact details, and a list of Vestry members. We’re hoping you’ll take it home each week. As the internet is the first stop for most visitors and prospective new members, we’ve spent a great deal of time redesigning our website. We’ve explored including a regular post by the Rector, recordings of sermons, important announcements and other news items. We anticipate launching the new site within the next week or two and hope you’ll visit it often to get updates, read postings, and listen to sermons.
The Vestry has been working hard on several fronts and is planning to pull all of the pieces of our efforts together in a September workshop on Saturday, Sept. 24. Our focus has been on developing a strategic plan to provide guidance to our decision making. In our Vestry retreat last February we developed a number of goals. The Property Committee has been evaluating a number of property/building issues so we can prioritize, evaluate overall finances in light of long-term needs, and try to stay ahead of deferred maintenance challenges. As mentioned previously, a great deal of work has been done in evaluating our communication vehicles. It’s our hope to bring all of this information together in a strategic plan.
As you can see, there is a great deal happening at Grace Church, more than can be fully developed in this letter. Leadership training, prayer groups, Bible Study, potluck suppers, outreach volunteer opportunities, task forces, committees, and more. I encourage you to experience it for yourself, or as Marcus Borg would say, “Experience Grace Church again for the first time.”
I’m excited about the upcoming program year and hope you’ll find something that interests you … whether it’s joining us for weekly worship, serving as a volunteer at the Food Bank, or participating in adult education. Whatever it is you’re searching for in your spiritual journey, I hope you find it with us at Grace Church.
In the meantime, know that I am and will always remain,
Your brother in Christ,
The Rev. Ted J. Gaiser