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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 10: “What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?”

My dad’s sister, Marie, was active in her church and it became her life’s calling. She traveled from Coshocton, Ohio to New York to attend the Salvation Army College in the Bronx. My Aunt Marie served the Salvation Army, rising to the position of Major before her death at the age of 101 in 2010. While she didn’t become an officer in the church, my great-grandmother, Mary Angelina (Werts) Amore, believed that helping and taking care of those less fortunate was her calling – especially late in life. I wrote about this in an earlier post – “Mother” Amore.

Trinity UCC

Trinity UCC

My maternal grandmother (Vesta Wilt Johnson) came from a family who were members of the Church of the Brethren (the Stern side). My maternal grandfather’s (Glen R Johnson) parents were members of Central Christian Church in Anderson, Indiana (a Disciples of Christ congregation). After Vesta and Glen were married and moved to Ohio in the early 1920′s (after my mother and her two older siblings were born), they joined Trinity Evangelical and Reformed Church in (present day) Fairborn, Ohio. When the E&R churches joined with the Congregational & Christian (not Disciples of Christ) churches in the early 1950s and became the United Church of Christ (not to be confused with Church of Christ), Trinity’s name became Trinity United Church of Christ. My mother had been a member and then later, after she had been away from the church due to military moves, etc., she re-joined Trinity in the early 1970s. That was the church I was baptized as an older child and then in eighth grade became a confirmed member. In eighth grade, I joined the church choir and participated in the youth group all through high school – serving as the President of the Youth Group when I was a senior. Trinity provided the foundation for my Christian education and faith. Through my church camp experience, I met friends – one of which I remain connected to via Facebook. Several other friends from my youth group have remained friends as we approach (maybe are now “beyond”) middle age.

My mother served Trinity in many capacities: member of the Women’s Guild and hostessing meetings at our home and many terms on the church council as well as President of the Congregation. For her Trinity was “home” – her connection with her childhood, her parents, and people she had known in her adopted hometown of Fairborn most of her life. It is where we celebrated her life after she had passed away.

My mother, especially, modeled “serving” the church for me. As an adult, after I had drifted away from worshp – but never God – I found that something was missing from my life. I had a wonderful husband and four beautiful kids. I was no longer working full time outside of the home. It was time to get back to church and give back to others through service. We began attending the church where my husband and I had our reaffirmation wedding (as we didn’t have a “church” wedding when we were married). Our youngest was just a little more than a year old on that Mother’s Day when we walked in to Round Grove United Church UCC in our city. That “baby” is now a 23 year old mother of a three year old, and we are still there. I have served on the Christian Education Board, been Sunday School Superintendent, served on the Cemetery Board, taught VBS and Sunday School, served as Women’s Fellowship secretary, ushered, greeted, served refreshments and worked in the kitchen for meals, and fifteen years ago, I was offered a position as the part time administrative asisstant. It’s a position I enjoy.

Round Grove United Church

Round Grove United Church

When my mom’s sister got married, she converted to Catholicism so her children were raised in the Roman Catholic faith. The oldest daughter decided to take steps in order to become a nun. Divine intervention ensued when she met the man she was destined to spend her life with, raising a daughter, and enjoying their two grandsons – a man who was about to take his vows to become a priest! Even though they didn’t take “formal” positions within the church, both of them were very active in lay ministry and serving in other areas.

Religion, faith and church have been very important in the lives of so many of the women in my family and in my ancestral past.

(Photo of Trinity UCC courtesy of General Preservation Corporation; Photo of Round Grove United Church in possession of Wendy Littrell)

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As referenced in the post “A Butcher, A Baker, a . . . Harness Maker?” my family consists of several ministers.  My great-uncle, Rollo Werts Amore, was commissioned in the Salvation Army in 1918.  He performed many duties as an officer in the “Army”.  One of those was to officiate at my parents’ wedding in 1943.  He retired as a Senior Major in 1950 after serving in several Ohio cities.

My dad’s first cousin, Raymond E. Amore, son of Herbert Irwin Amore, went to seminary and received his theology degree in 1953 from the Olivet Nazarene College in Illinois.  He served the Warsaw Church of the Nazarene for about three years and the Hebron Church of the Nazarene for at least ten years.

My dad’s sister, my Aunt Marie, went to the Salvation Army Training College in New York in the late 1930’s and became an officer.  She is currently (I believe) a Major.

 A great-niece of my maternal great-grandmother went to school at the Ursuline Academy in San Antonio in the early 1930’s and went on to take her vows and become a nun.  A first cousin of mine was all but short of taking her final vows to become a nun when she and a man about to take his final vows to become a priest ended up getting married.  They serve the Lord now as lay persons in their parish.

My great-uncle, Isaiah “Zade” Henderson Amore, was a minister in the United Evangelical Church and the Methodist Church.

 

My paternal side – the Amore and House families – was pretty consistent on what churches they attended and the denominations they affiliated with.  William Amore – the first of my family of Amore ancestors I have located – attended the Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Coshocton County before switching over to the Salvation Army.  That became the primary denomination within that family although others attended churches that were Baptist, Methodist or Nazarene.  One thing is for certain – there was a calling within members of the Amore family to attend seminary or theological training to minister to others.  My House ancestors primarily were affiliated with the Nazarene Church.  My paternal grandmother, Ella House Amore, devoted much of her life to the Nazarene Church. 

The Johnson family on my maternal side was primarily of the Reformed or Christian faith.  In 1957 the Evangelical and Reformed churches and the Congregational and Christian Churches merged to form one denomination – the United Church of Christ – of which I have been a member since my confirmation in the mid-1970s. 

The Stern side of my maternal branch came from the old German Dunkards or the Church of the Brethren.  The men grew their beards and were conservatively dressed in dark clothes.  The women didn’t cut their hair, wore no make-up, little or no jewelry, and wore modest dresses and covered their heads.  They didn’t conform to the world’s ways nor didn’t allow instruments in worship.  They frowned on those who enjoyed frivolity for its own sake or women who dressed “immodestly”, and those who enjoyed alcoholic drinks. 

 

In my previous post, I questioned how our ancestors’ views on religion and faith shaped our lives and the lives of their descendents.  I can only say for sure how my grand and great-grandparents’ views have played a part in my own life.  From the more conservative traditions of the Brethren, I was taught by words and actions that your reputation can be ruined just by one improper deed.  That a person could and probably would be judged by the way they dressed, wore their hair, how they spent their leisure time, and talked to their elders.  I learned at a very early age to speak to those older than I with respect and that persons in authority were to be held in high regard.

My father with both the Salvation Army and Nazarene background, attended some sort of church or religious service more days of the week than not.  He learned by listening to the strict doctrine of what to do, what not to do, how to behave, how not to behave and then once leaving the place of worship seeing all those rules broken, that there is much hypocrisy within the church.  To hear a sermon on how to love everyone and that God should be the only judge and then being faced with gossip and judgments behind others’ backs, was what prompted him as he got old enough to decide that organized religion wasn’t for him.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t ever been able to find that “happy medium”. 

 

My mother’s sister converted to Catholicism upon her marriage so many of my cousins are members of the Catholic Church.  From that, I’ve learned tolerance for other denominations.

 

While the United Church of Christ (UCC) seems quite liberal, there are many congregations that are still very conservative.  Our Synod meets every two years and votes on items that have come up for review.  Some of those items are very controversial and unfortunately the press reports on the votes as if the delegates at Synod are speaking for the entire UCC – they are not.  Our denomination is autonomous on each level.  The Synod doesn’t tell the prior levels what the “creed” is, the Conference level doesn’t speak for the Association or the individual congregations nor does the Association speak for the churches within it.  In the UCC we are primarily free to follow our Christian faith based on our previous faith experiences.  My congregation consists of families whose members have come from different denominations yet neither will “give in” to the other’s creed or doctrine. 

No, I do not keep my head covered as my great-great-grandmother, Nancy Caylor Stern, did.  Nor do I wear remarkably conservative dresses.  I do wear (sometimes) flashy jewelry and I enjoy hearing the piano, organ or other instruments during Worship.  I like to dance and just have fun – just for the sake of having fun.  However, I respect my elders (and not just those who are related to me), I strive to serve the Lord in word and deed, and I hope my actions speak toward my reputation.

For it is not those around us who will have to judge us – but the Lord, Our God, has that final say on our lives.  He is the One who knows my heart and He is the One I serve.

For more information on the denominations from above click on any of the following:

 

 

United Church of Christ (UCC)

Dunkard Brethren

Church of the Brethren

United Methodist Church

Methodist Episcopal Church

Reformed Church

Evangelical Church

United Evangelical Church

The Salvation Army

(Picture 1: Rollo Werts Amore; Picture 2: my Aunt Marie; Picture 3: Isaiah (Zade) H. Amore; Picture 3: Central Christian Church, Anderson, Indiana where my Great-grandparents John & Katie Johnson were members; Picture 4: Nancy Caylor Stern with her grandchildren, John and Clarence Wilt) 

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Whether or not you are a religious person or attend any religious service on a regular basis, it is a known fact that our ancestors’ religious views shaped our heritage.  Persecution due to their views concerning God, Christ, Buddha, Nature, or Atheism defined where they lived, where they traveled, how they dressed, who they married, what they celebrated, and even how many or how few children they had.

 

Everyone who has attended a U.S. History class in high school or college knows some of the reasons the Pilgrims chose to leave King George’s England for the shores of the New World.  They wanted to practice their own brand of religion – not one dictated by the King.  We all know the atrocities committed during WWII against the Jewish people because of their race and their beliefs.  During the Cold War we heard the stories of how people were fleeing their homes from behind the Iron Curtain in order to continue to practice their religion.  We also know how divided the country has become over the right to prayer in schools, the right of some members of religions to stop work and pray several times a day, and what exactly our forebearers meant as they worded the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. 

 

If you have traveled through Lancaster, Pennsylvania or any of the Amish or Mennonite communities in the Midwest, you’ve seen the men driving their horse and buggies, perhaps tasted the bounty of their harvests in the Farmer’s Market, or heard the stories of “rumspringa” when the Amish teens are allowed to live amongst the outside world for a period of time.

 

Maybe you’ve taken a trip and followed the “Mormon Trail” and heard the stories of the difficulties Joseph Smith’s followers had as they set up their homes at each new place before finally moving farther west and transforming Salt Lake City into their own.  All because they believed in their religion so passionately.

 

How we celebrate holidays certainly extends from traditions that we were accustomed to as we grew up.  Christian church services on Christmas Eve?  Good Friday Mass?  Passover Seder?  Fasting for Ramadan?  There are other traditions as well – arranged marriages, bris for newborn male children, a menorah lit during Hanukkah, sitting “shiva” upon a death, not eating meat during Lent . . . all of these are a part of our vastly different heritages and ancestry.

 

When you are doing your research, make sure to learn what you can about the places of worship your ancestors attended (or didn’t attend), what type of community they lived in (melting pot or one made up of similar race and culture), what their celebratory or holiday traditions were, and also if they converted to a different religion (Christian/Jew; Catholic/Protestant; Christian/Atheist; Wicca/Christian; etc.) and why.  Did they emigrate from their home country to America for religious reasons?  Did they migrate from one place in America to a different one – such as the Mormons did? 

 

This information will give you a little more detail into your ancestors’ lives and the ideals they had.  What beliefs and traditions are you passing on to your children or grandchildren?  Do they reflect your religious beliefs or non-beliefs?  Do you want to allow your children to grow up learning and practicing all different forms of traditions and beliefs so they can choose for themselves where they fit in the grand scheme of things?  Do you have relatives or ancestors who were “cast out” of their parental home due to a religious conversion?  Dig deeper to see if you can grasp the bigger picture.

 

My next post will reflect my ancestral religious roots. 

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