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This blog is maintained by the History and Archives Committee of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Peoria, Illinois. To learn more about our church, visit www.peoriauuchurch.org.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More 1950s Memories: Interfaith Interaction

In an earlier post, Dick Macdonald shared memories of the Peoria UU church youth group in the 1950s. Here are some additional stories from Dick about those days, this time focusing on the interaction between youth of different faiths.

The late 1940s and up to the middle of the 1950s, when I left Peoria for college, were interesting times for a UU living in Peoria. Separation of church and state was overlooked, with religious education classes being given in public grade schools. If one was in high school, a “religious” day off from school was offered to attend the downtown churches, where forums were given on religious topics. Students could choose which subjects to attend in the different churches. Even our minister, Rev. Richard Knost, led one of the discussion groups.

I remember Rev. Knost leading a discussion at the United Methodist Church on Hamilton. He started the discussion by asking the question, “As God took Adam’s rib to make Eve, do men still have one less rib than women?” I sat in the front row and immediately raised my hand and was given a hidden swift kick by Rev. Knost, forcing me to shut up. This simple question led to a deep discussion by the rest of the group as to whether the boys in the church’s forum really did have one less rib than the high school girls who were present.

Religious education was considered common in Peoria public schools, similar to my experiences in Boston, where verses of the Bible were read at the opening of each school day in the public school system. During these Peoria religious education classes, being the only Unitarian in my grade, I joined all my Jewish classmates out in the hall. We sat on the cold marble floor having to act like we were in a study hall. The advantage of these “study halls” is that I was invited to several Bar Mitzvahs.

As a UU, it was a challenge to explain one’s religion to fellow students. Fortunately, being born into the faith and having religion discussed openly many times in the Macdonald household, it was easy to quote sources outside of the Bible. I consider these discussions among fellow students at school more open than in these modern times. As Rev. Knost would say at the start of each Sunday service’s readings, a UU could always quote from “humanity’s ever growing Bible.”

Dating was very interesting, especially if one’s “steady” was Catholic. The first problem was one’s parents, who frowned very much on their son’s relationship with a Catholic girl. All Catholics were prevented from going to a Protestant church, but Catholics worked hard to have me attend Midnight Mass and other important services given, especially at St Mary’s Cathedral.

The funniest separation of the faiths was at Agatucci’s, which was the first pizza place in town. Everyone went there, especially after ball games in high school during winter. Since Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Friday, everyone would order their first pizza with only cheese. Next we would order a sausage pizza, which would fly out of Agi’s kitchen at the stroke of midnight, as all Catholics could then eat meat again.

Dr. Richard G. Macdonald (Dick)

How does this description of interfaith activities compare to your own experiences as a youth or adult? Post a comment to let us know.

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