From Jay Moore: A Churchless Sunday
Jay Moore’s newest book, “Abilene Daily: Snapshots of Home,” contains one or more vignettes from Abilene’s history for each day of the year. Periodically, stories with some connection–however loose–to Abilene’s religious life will be featured in Spirit of Abilene. The book can be purchased at Texas Star Trading Co., 174 Cypress St. www.texasstartrading.com or call 325-672-9696. Books are $27.50.
Following is an excerpt dated Oct. 13, 1918, from Jay Moore’s book, Abilene Daily: Snapshots of Home. It may evoke a sense of déjà vu.
A Churchless Sunday
For the first time in anyone’s memory, Abilene churches did not open for Sunday services. Four days earlier, the ministerial alliance decided to forego worship in order to keep people apart at the height of the deadly Spanish flu pandemic. (However, all were invited to come to the Red Cross offices at the courthouse from 9 until 6 to help fill an order for 500 face masks.) Pews were empty again the following Sunday as social-distancing (a term not yet invented) was the order of the day. Simmons College reported that the flu was under control on campus and the City-County Health officer stated that the influenza epidemic was “decidedly on the wane with only three or four cases reported daily.” He estimated that 16 to 18 Abilene citizens had succumbed to the flu.
Following a two-week hiatus, church doors swung open again, offering services on October 27 with First Baptist drawing a larger-than-average turnout. Pastor Millard Jenkens, earlier in the week, announced he would present his decision about remaining in Abilene or moving to Waco to accept the pastorate at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. (He stayed put.)
The next time Abilene experienced a churchless Sunday came 102 years later in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.