Dearest Siblings in Christ Jesus,
“1936 should be remembered for long years in our Parish because of the visit of the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his two sons, and his daughter-in-law, occupied the fifth pew from the rear on the right hand side of the Church. There were about forty members in all in the President’s party, secret service men, reporters, etc. This event was given wide publicity and pictures of the Church and choir appeared in all the leading daily papers of the country as well as in leading magazine weeklies, along with accounts of the service.”
- Written by Rev. Mr. Jerome Pipes for Emmanuel’s 50th Anniversary booklet in 1937, the year following President Roosevelt’s visit.
It’s easy to be lulled into the belief that America and the world was living in an idyllic time compared to our current situation. The truth is that things were as chaotic, uncertain, frightening, and dire as they appear to be today. Here are some things that were going on at the time of President Roosevelt’s visit to Emmanuel on August 30, 1936:
- Spain was engaged in a vicious civil war as its government fought rebels. Refugees fled in droves to neighboring countries in search of safety and protection. The stability of Europe was uncertain.
- Jesse Owens had just won four gold medals for the US in the Berlin Olympics where he was shunned by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party for the color of his skin. Hitler’s intentions were not yet clear, but there was a prevailing sense that trouble in Europe was on the horizon.
- A severe drought had swept through the Dakotas and the rest of the plains, leaving people penniless and starving. Being on the heels of the Great Depression, America’s economic future seemed dire.
President Roosevelt’s visit was primarily to survey the drought conditions in the Great Plains. The unveiling of the Thomas Jefferson face on Mt. Rushmore was his specific reason for being in the Black Hills. As a faithful Episcopalian, he attended Sunday worship at Emmanuel. The recently added picture in our hallway shows Rev. Mr. Pipes, the choir, the President and the President’s family next to him. That picture appeared in many newspapers around the country the following day.
President Roosevelt’s visit provided hope and encouragement in a time of great uncertainty. On August 30, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. we will hold an ecumenical Prayer Service officiated by Bishop John Tarrant. The Prayer Service is not only designed to commemorate the visit of President Roosevelt, but it’s also to take time and acknowledge our need for community-wide prayer for the state of our nation. With a presidential election this year, there is no better time to gather for prayer and demonstrate our dependence on God alone than now!
“Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, for there is no help in them” (Psalm 146:2). As people of faith, we are to put our trust in the providential care and eternal love of God our creator and our only Savior, Jesus Christ. Uncertainty and fear about the human situation on earth is not new or unique to our generation. Joshua, the successor to Moses, was told “be firm and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Let us gather together as a people of faith and place the fullness of our trust in God. Join us at Emmanuel on Tuesday, August 30 at 11:00 a.m. for our community-wide prayer service. A luncheon will follow.
Trusting in Christ’s Peace,