Centennial History

Volume 19

"Country Gentleman " – February 1943 (Part 2)

"Church Builds a Community " by William F. McDermott

Religion in Everyday Life

They cleaned up the old cemetery, once a thicket, reset the tilting headstones, and helped to provide perpetual care. Twice a year they have a "bee" to repair and varnish the church furniture and to fix up the interior—girls bring the lunch and boys do the work.

Their life, in spite of all this activity, is not devoid of religion. They are faithful to church and to Sunday School, and in addition they have Tuesday night as their own. The fact that five young men have gone into the ministry—most of them to serve rural fields—indicates that he doesn't neglect his main job.

In eight years there has not been a single case of juvenile delinquency in homes of the parish. Taverns get no business from Ramsey youth, and divorce is unknown. Schnucker conducts a 12-week class each year in sex education and doesn't hedge on plainness in instruction. He counsels young people about to get married, stressing that marriage is to establish a home and begat children. If a baby hasn't arrived in a couple of years among his newlyweds, he doesn't hesitate to inquire why. If it is deliberate evasion, he rebukes, if medical advice is needed, he secures it for them. He won't marry elopers from other communities. The result of his strict policy is that not one of his marriages has blown up.

Another striking thing is there have been no court cases in eight years in the whole parish. The people settle their disputes, if any, among themselves. They feel it isn't seemly or consistent with their religion to go battling at law.

The community found before many years that Ramsey Reformed Church had simply burst out of the walls of the antiquated structure. Nothing would do but a spanking new church. So they went to it—members and nonmembers alike. Carpenters and bricklayers did the bulk of the work, of course, but eager volunteers got in their licks. They constructed the basement, laid the walks and made pews. Parson Schnucker got into his overalls and did all the wiring, saving the congregation $700.

 

A World-Wide Example

When construction was done, the parish had an edifice 107 feet long and 44 feet wide, with a sanctuary to seat 500 people, two stories at one end devoted to Sunday School and religious education, and a basement auditorium for plays, dinners and recreation. The auditorium can seat 300 people and has a stage and collapsible dressing rooms. There's a big kitchen, of course—a real Ladies' Aid dream—and the hall can be stretched out to seat 300 or 400 at a church supper or banquet. On one festive occasion they fed 700 persons. The building has been rated worth $35,000 even at rural building rates, but it cost the congregation just $17,000 and is paid for. Families belonging to the church have increased from 72 to 144 in nine years, and Sunday School has jumped from 70 to 375 in attendance. Church attendance has been octupled—from 50 to 400.

The story of Ramsey Church has been presented to church leaders representing hundreds of communities at conferences in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Jersey and South Dakota. Recently Schnucker spent ten weeks studying rural churches and outlining programs for them. The land-ownership scheme has spread to other states. The Ramsey program has been described in bulletins of the Agricultural Missions Foundation—representing 17 denominations—which have gone all over the world. The Christian Rural Fellowship of India sent a man across the Pacific to investigate. A congressional committee on rural problems has studied the Ramsey Church program and its findings appear in the Congressional Record.

Now the Rev. Mr. Schnucker has a new job. This past fall the University of Dubuque, Iowa, called him to head up a new rural-church department in its theological seminary—the "veteran" country parson, now ripened into 37 years of age, will devote part of his time to training young ministers for service to country churches and the rest to studying rural-church problems and ad-vising the parishes how they can work out their dilemmas.

"I don't want to waste time or effort on city-bent young preachers who take a rural pastorate simply as a stopover or gap-filler until they get a big-parish call," he told me. "A country church is big enough for any man who really wants to serve. He can gel all the fried chicken he can eat, but he can also have a hand in developing the world's first industry, agriculture, and can enjoy the company of the world's finest folks, the farmers."

 

Church Bulletin – May 23, 1937

For Sale:

Now doesn't that sound odd in a church bulletin and on a Sunday at that? But your pastor has two hundred Leghorns for sale at five dollars a hundred. These chicks have been given to the church by the Hamilton Hatchery as a donation to the Building Fund. If there is anyone in the congregation who wishes to buy more chickens here is your chance to get the chickens and at the same time know that the money goes toward our church building. The chicks are at the hatchery in Bancroft. Tell the pastor if you want them.

 

Ramsey Home Visitor, May 1943

Farewell, My Soldier

We've reached the crossroad, son,
And I must say goodbye.
I've walked too far,
And now, alone, I must return
Along the weary mile;
But see, my son, I'm not afraid
Your mother still can smile

 

I have no tears today.
Our God has made me strong
Goodbye, my lad,
I'll look for you each evening
In our secret meeting-place
And hold your hand and kneel before
The Father’s throne of grace.

 

My Jesus, as Thou wilt:
All shall be well for me;
Each changing future scene
I gladly trust with Thee.
Straight to my home above,
I travel calmly on,
And sing, in life or death,
"My Lord, thy will be done."