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A UNIQUE FIGURE DOING A UNIQUE THING
IN THE SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH By Wade C. Smith, Campaign Manager Presbyterian Progressive Program THE REPRESENTATIVE M. E. CHURCH, SOUTH, WASHINGTON, D. C. Erected at a cost of $400,000. Shall not Southern Presbyterians have a worthy edifice in the nation's capital? Some history recently enacted in a populous and fashionable section of Washington, D. C. lends force to the saying that "Truth is stranger than fiction." Can the reader visual ize a scene made up of unusual element? like this: a group of striking plasterers, suddenly diverted from their war-time demands on the U. S. Government for $1.00 an hour, now work ing with might and skill upon the walls of a church, without charge, having cement mixed and brought to them by the Church officers, the pastor himself in overalls carrying a hod? Can you picture these disgruntled strikers mer rily plying their trowels on a church wall, anon pausing to receive a sandwich and cup of coffee from the gentle hand of a Woman's Auxiliary worker? Can you believe that a little church, crowded beyond its seating limits, yet without funds for building could successfully resort to such means to enlarge its borders and increase its capacity for service ? transforming its very elements of disorder into a constructive force of life and Christian fellowship? Well, reader, you will have to crank up your imagination to follow this story, for it is de cidedly out of the ordinary. This young man, Rev. Andrew Bird, the Pas tor of the Church of the Pilgrims, is a rare mixture of conquering faith and grace. Trans lated into business terms it would be ex pressed as unmitigated nerve and energy. Animated by the vision of a great communion magnificently witnessing in our National Cap ital to the power of our glorified Saviour, this man for ten years, through perhaps every known disappointment in church building, made doubly difficult by the well-nigh suffo cating indifference of local surroundings, has battled with a persistence and heroism that would challenge the support of people far more cold-blooded than Southern Presbyterians ? who, by the way, are not half so cold blooded as they are in some ignorant quarters cracked up to be. They are just Scotch enough to want a bit of argument. For Mr. Bird and his little group of associated workers it. has been a "long, long trail awind ing, and a long, long night of, not weeping, but working;" but they are emerging into the clearing and there is dawning the day of success and reward of faith. The thing which gripped the hearts of Mr. Bird and his associates ten years ago was the appalling need of a great city gone mad with diversions and rendered spiritually uncon scious by the transient character of its busi ness, professional and social life. It was the matter of saving a drugged society and rous ing it to the consciousness of both its spiritual danger and its opportunity. More than 60,000 young women and young men occupy ing government positions, thousands of army and navy men, thousands of professional men temporarily located at the National Capital, all are released from the usual restraint of home influences. It was a case of detached spiritual life, in dangerous suspense and sub ject to every attractive device of the forces of evil to ensnare lonesome beings seeking diversion in leisure hours. The idea was conceived that the Church was a divinely ordained agency for reaching out a kindly hand of helpfulness and spiritual health to drifting lives, dragging their an chors through treacherous seas. Vision is usually followed by seemingly insurmounta ble difficulty. The vision of the Church of the Pilgrims was no exception. The little band was simply financially unable to enter upon its broadly conceived task. It is a sur prising fact that there is less money available in Washington city for a distinctly religious cause than in the average small town. And here it was that the resourcefulness of Mr. Bird showed itself in such a remarkable way that we are obliged to believe (Jod has been defi nitely guiding. Imagine some little church building that you have seen by the roadside trying to cope with the fascinating life of a gay and crowded city. There were about one hundred seats. Half as many more were squeezed in. The limit was reached on one level. The men of the Church were called to meet at the church one night. A load of lumber had been de livered that afternoon. After a few weeks there was a home-made gallery, and closer fel lowship. Now the limit was reached verti cally as well as horizontally. But the brick walls fall down before faith. High School boys were interested to contribute muscle,- contractors loaned picks and shovels. An unknown man contributed two old frame buildings. A municipal street gang loaned crowbars and picks for a few days. A mem ber of the Church brought his auto truck. The old buildings were wrecked, transported and erected into an addition to the church. To gain permission to erect this frame structure within the fire limits, Mr. Bird had to promise to tear it down at any time, with thirty days notice from the city, and that he would cover it with three coats of cement and pebbledash. The promise was made in faith that the notice to demolish would not come, and it has not yet, in two and one half years. Also in the faith that somehow the outside plastering and pebbledash could be done. But workers had reached the limit of their (Continued on page 13.) "I PRESENT HOME OP "THE CHURCH OP THE PILGRIMS," WASHINGTON, D. O. On a beautiful lot admirably located, two block* west of Dupont Circle, but with pitifully Inadequate facilities.