Monday, April 17, 2017

The Great War: April 16, 1917

In 1917, nearly everyone went to church, and newspapers often reported on church services. On Monday, April 16, 1917, the front page of the Hudson Evening Register ran a story about the service the previous day at Church Christ Episcopal. Because the report gives interesting insight into life and attitudes a hundred years ago, in a country newly at war, it is transcribed below.

The patriotic service which was held in Christ Episcopal church Sunday evening was largely attended, the church being filled to its capacity. During the closing processional, "America" was sung. Special music was rendered during the service of which two of the numbers particular pleasing were "O Worship the King," "Gloria," from Mozart's Twelfth Mass. A choir of fifty voices, under the leadership of Prof. Ernest T. Bond, was heard.
Before the close of the service the pledge of allegiance was given to the flag. At the recessional, which concluded the service, a temporary processional cross was carried and the flag in the middle of the line in accordance with an order received by an officer of the United State army. Another flag hung on the epistle side of the altar and the processional flag was placed on the left-hand side of the choir. A large flag also draped the gallery.
The rector, the Rev. Thomas L. Cole, in his sermon outlined the ways in which the church and the State were somewhat alike and also the manner in which they were dissimilar. He touched upon patriotism and declared he could not accept the motto, "My country, may she be right, but right or wrong, my country." A nation should always strive to be morally right, for if it was not it was no better than the Prussian government, who calls upon its citizens and seeks blind obedience whether right or wrong.
The rector referred to the past wars, the War of the Revolution with Washington at its head, the Civil war with Lincoln at its head, and then paid a high tribute to the present leader--President Wilson, referring to him as a high-minded, patient statesmen with a breadth of view and high ideals which were not surpassed by those he had named. The Rev. Cole held up to scorn the theory that the individual must retaliate with a blow if some low man struck him on the street. We were not to stoop to this level of the individual or national life. If we did we were no better than Prussia, which we accuse in its submarine warfare, and which that nation claims is simply in retaliation. The United States enters this war not with an object of gain or any selfish ends, but simply for service to mankind. He did not believe that the flag must follow and subjugate weaker nations because of some capitalists and their ends. Conquering nations have come and gone--Babylon and Egypt, Spain had been humbled, England had been at one time in this conquering colonial path, but had learned better, and now the Prussians were seeking to conquer the world, but the United States were entering this war purely for service and its chief purpose was not only to maintain rights of its citizens but to bring about peace. The preacher predicted that the day would come when the league to ensure world peace would be a reality. . . .
In closing he made a plea for tolerance. We should not speak of a foreigner as a Dago or some like appellation. We should forget the differences as far as possible and remember that we are all one as children of God. God's love is not for one race, it extends to the Japanese, the Chinaman, the German, as well a the Anglo-Saxon. We should overcome any low, bitter prejudices, should be courteous to the foreign born and not descend to the level of the brute tribes of old.
Christ nearly 2,000 years ago had sown the seeds of democracy, and now President Wilson as spokesman of a mighty country for the first time in the history of any great nation stands up and enters the field purely in the interest of humanity.

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