Social Aspect of Churches

Original Airdate: June 7 (2011)

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.

In addition to offering spiritual guidance and support, churches
provide a social community, and this was especially true in the early part of the twentieth century.

Baylor history professor Tom Charlton, founder and long-time director of Baylor's Institute for Oral History, recalls attending First Baptist Church–Beaumont:

"It was such a large church there. There were—there were just numerous kids my age, male and female, and there were many,
many weekend programs developed and sponsored by that church. I also participated in a lot of church activities at the First Methodist Church that was just two or three blocks from the First Baptist Church, and there were a lot of Saturday night dances there and social activities for young people. And so I got to know a lot of the kids who—who went there. They weren't all Methodists, by any means."

He mentions a favorite activity:

"I was a softball player and played in church leagues all the time, every year."

Woodrow Carlile was reared in Edgefield Baptist Church in Waco, where he also participated in church softball leagues. He talks about the games in a 1995 interview:

"The thing about it, even our pastors played. And there's some pretty potent, well-known pastors of today who in their younger years were pretty competitive on the softball diamonds."

Cathryn Carlile describes events at the Episcopal and Baptist churches in the Edgefield neighborhood:

"We had Camp Fire activities. We went to Bible schools at both churches in the summer. That gave you a month's entertainment with woodworking and all of the other things related to Bible schools. I remember the intermediate years. We had parties on Friday night where we played games. We had—were led in the right direction. (laughs) We stayed out of trouble."

The Carliles name another social activity at the Baptist church:

C. Carlile: "I think it was every Tuesday night they had a—it was called the Mother's Club, and this was a time for the women to come for social gatherings. And they did handwork; they probably quilted, did embroidery work. It was just a time to visit. The women looked forward [to] every Tuesday night—their night out."

W. Carlile: "That was my mother's big night."

Helen Geltemeyer remembers the Clay Avenue Methodist Church of her youth:

"And then Mrs. [Gladys] Johnson, whose husband [Floyd E. Johnson] was sent there to be a preacher, she would have some of the prettiest parties for us. Always had dessert of some cute thing, and we just thought that was wonderful. And we played volleyball. We—right there behind the church there. We had a good court. And we really did a lot of singing—singing, singing, and sing songs. And my mama always had big groups of women who were always having luncheons."

Today, the social aspect of churches remains as important as ever, as churches strive to find ways to adapt to the changing culture and reach out to the community.

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