World War I in Lawrence: Anti-German sentiment creeps into churches
Editor’s note: Local writer Sarah St. John compiles reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence 100 years ago during World War I.
National and local anti-German sentiment, which had been increasing steadily since the beginning of the war, had now infiltrated the Lawrence church scene. According to the Daily Journal-World in September 1918, the younger congregants of the German Methodist Church, where services were conducted “auf Deutsch,” now objected to the use of the language and caused the church to be abandoned: “Because they desired to hear services in the ‘American’ language and because they refused to attend the German Methodist church where services were being conducted in the German language, the younger members of the church have forced the abandonment of the church in Lawrence. The members of the German Methodist church are now being taken in as members of the First and Second Methodist churches here.”
The exodus from the Lawrence church was symptomatic of a larger movement, according to some of the congregants: “The German Methodist churches were regulated by a conference of their own…. The dissolution of the German church here is but a part of the gradual dissolution of the entire conference, several members of the local German Methodist church declare. They say that the desire of the younger people to hear services in the ‘American’ language is so strong that they attend other churches rather than their own where services are in the German language. The only distinction between the German Methodist church and the Methodist Episcopal church is in the language in which the services are conducted, they declare, and if the German is no longer used from the pulpit, there is no need of continuing the German conference…. So far fifty of the eighty members of the German church here have entered the two Lawrence Methodist congregations. The Second Methodist church of Lawrence was until a year ago the Centenary Methodist church. A year ago the name was changed to the Second Methodist church, dividing itself from the German Methodist conference and aligning with the Methodist church.”