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[Chalice] The Tenth Anniversary [Chalice]
of Rev. Dr. Rob Manning's Ministry

This service was also recorded live.
35:00 minutes - 14.0 MB - The Tenth Anniversary .mp3 file.

Presented May 27, 2007, by Frieda Marshall

One portion of our celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of Rev. Dr. Rob Manning's ministry, was presented by Frieda Marshall:


The sub-title of my presentation is "Longevity." It is by good luck and good health and perseverence that I seem to have become the on-premises, senior active member of this congregation. Of course, I am aware that Nancy Winters and Ted Morrison were born into Unitarian families. As they are younger, however, they became members a few years later than I signed the membership book.

My parents learned about the Unitarian Church when I was a Dewey School child. The minister of that time invited and urged my father to come to the church. Papa said, "All right, I will go once." His previous association with a Quincy church had been disappointing. My older sisters told me that he came home elated. "The members are people I already know--my business customers, our family doctor. They never told me there was a church like this in Quincy." Soon the entire family: father, mother and five daughters were completely involved in church activities. The enthusiasm for the church changed our lives. Bertha and I lived in Quincy and were active in this church. As adults my other three sisters were influential in Unitarian churches in their other locations. Anna Louise, however, returned to Quincy in later years.

The first ministers I knew about were Daniel Sands (1928-1933) who chose to live in a depressed Quincy neighborhood and to help the unfortunate, and Ward Burgess Jenks (what a name!). During his short ministry (1934-1936) he and his wife had a daughter whom they named "Lovea" or something like that.

At high school age I became a church member during the ministry of Robert Murray Pratt, who was here from 1938 to 1946, about 9 years. He was born in England and had had previous United States pastorates in his earlier years. He was about seventy when he retired to live in California, where he died in 1958 at the age of eighty.

(repeat) Mr. Pratt died in 1958. Imagine my surprise last October when Rochell, our church administrator, forwarded to me an e-mail from a professor of American Religious History at Georgia State University, Atlanta, asking for information about Robert Murray Pratt, The professor, Christopher White, was writing a book on the history of liberial Christianity, psychology and science. Through a Google search he had accessed our church website. There he found the November, 2004, service of our celebration of 165 years of continuous existence and influence in Quincy. Our webmaster, Mike Flanagan, had included the responsive reading that I fashioned from identifications of past ministers. These identifications accompany their portraits in our Ministers' Gallery in the upper landing area, outside the minister's office. So Mr. White quoted back to me this identification about Robert Murray Pratt: "At the Centennial Celebration in 1939 he (Mr. Pratt) said: "The church is united in loyalty to a continuance of the fine work begun by the founders and carried on by devoted, liberal men and women."

The centennial booklet continued: "He (Mr. Pratt) successfully brought a sixty percent increase in membership and transformed the Sunday School into a Junior Church and saw the church placed on a sound business basis with all debts paid." Professor White agonized, "As far as I can tell there are absolutely no other records or information on him."

In the role of church historian, I sent him a packet of information, to which he responded, "I really appreciate the wonderful articles you sent. I can't thank you enough." And he asked further, "What was he really like? Handsome? I said, "No." Tall? "No." Humourous? "Not, really." I asked Ted and Pauline. (Pauline, who knew the couple well, remembers that his wife had a good sense of humor.) The younger Robert Murray Pratt was called a lecturer, psychologist, entertainer and chalk artist. It's possible he was a Chautauqua lecturer. We did not see that in his Quincy years. There were the war years: 1939-1945. He was very British. I summed him up by saying, "He was slim, trim and prim."

Following Mr. Pratt there was Rex Aman (1949-1952) who came to Quincy from Nebraska and a Methodist background. During his ministry here, the congregation purchased a parsonage at 1435 Hampshire. You'll recognize the brick house with rounded front steps.

Now, for the second time in this talk, I have to say, "Imagine my surprise" at hearing last Sunday that two of our members happened to be here when two women, walking by, seemed to be examining the church with great interest. They did not give their names, but one of them said only that she was the daughter of a former minister, she now lives in Wisconsin and she has two younger brothers. She also said that she was a four-year-old when her family came to Quincy and they lived in the church! With those clues I knew she was Frances Aman and her brothers were Jimmy and John.

Yes, the congregation did not supply housing; and until the parsonage was purchased, the family lived in the church. The guests were invited in to explore the premises. So the parsonage served various ministers from 1950 to 1972 when the newest minister preferred to own his home.

Rex Aman, the minister father, now living in Ft. Worth, has requested being on our newsletter mailing list "for life." he is 94 years old. He telephones me several times a year -- most recently early this month. "Hello, Frieda," he says, "This is Rex." (Texas drawl)> And I sit down, knowing it will be at least a half-hour call. He asked that the newsletter be sent during the summer to his cabin in northern Minnesota. He used to drive on that trip. Now he flies and keeps his '77 Dodge for transportation up north. He reads every word of our newsletters, and tells me that we are doing wonderful things in the church. He also praises Rob Manning, whom he has never met.

Other ministers served short periods of time. Two UUA men each stayed three years. Now and then this church has functioned without a minister. Two retired ministers filled in as interims: Lester Mondale, brother of Walter "Fritz" Mondale (Vice-president with Jimmy Carter) and Robert Hoagland, who preferred to be called "Pastor Hoagland." He was a fanatic for starting the service on time, urged people to come in and sit quietly before the service -- and not in the same pew location every Sunday. Do you know what? Our people wouldn't do it!

George Crist(1960-1968) left the Lutheran ministry. He came to Quincy, his home town, to be employed as a Herald-Whig reporter and for four years also was serving a small, nearby church. Our committee coaxed him away from the Bluff Hall Congregational Church and he stayed as our minister for nine years. We often do better in inviting our ministers from outside the UUA pattern.

Calvin Knapp, former minister of the local Methodist Melrose Chapel, was working for an ecumenical group in Peoria when he began to understand Unitarianism. When the Peoria Unitarian minister recommended him to the Quincy search committee, he came here. As he preferred to have his own home, the parsonage was rented for a while and then it was sold, giving some needed funds to support a full-time minister.

Many in today's membership know Cal Knapp only by name. He inspired the first Plant Sale in 1973. It was a modest endeavor compared with this year's 35th annual plant sale extravaganza. Our church is identified in Quincy as the Plant Sale church. This is not the only good influence of Cal's ministry here. Along with other information in the ministers' gallery, I wrote, "He taught us churchmanship." He worked hard for the church and we members worked hard under his guidance. During those 5 or 6 years the membership grew to the highest in recent times.

Cal might have stayed longer, but the sudden death of his father compelled him to go back to Southern Illinois to take charge of the family farming and livestock operation. He served small Unitarian congregations in that area until he became ill. He died in March, 2004, at the age of 78. I miss him. Of the various ministers I've known, he is on my short list of favorites.

Cal Knapp was our last full-time minister. Then we had three who were educated, ordained and approved by the UUA. They each partnered with either the Burlington UU Fellowship or the Macomb UU Fellowship, being here or there on alternate weeks and maintaining two residences. They were:

John W. Brigham (1976 to 1982 / 6 years) -- now deceased.
Eric Haugan (1982 to 1987 / 5 years) -- Eric is now serving the Faith United Methodist Church in Winthrop, Minnesota.
Lynn Smith Roberts (1989 to 1995 / 4 years) -- Lynn returned to her previous career as a librarian in California.

There were some awkward moments during these 6+5+4 years. Besides serving on the board and on committees, I was preparing the weekly orders of service and the monthly newsletter and sending notices of guest speakers to the Herald-Whig -- single-handedly -- and in a voluntary capacity. I learned to step softly in my associations with those particular ministers. In their individual ways, they were often quite difficult.

One of our older members, now deceased, asked, "Just what is so great about this young Rob Manning?" I told her, "You may not be able to attend church very often. Just be patient, but be observant. You will come to appreciate his intelligence, attitude, compassion and personality. Also his sense of humor."

That is what I told my friend. This is what I'll tell you, "Calvin Knapp and Robert Manning complete my short list of favorite ministers of this church. With Cal I could be and with Rob I can be myself, feeling at ease and comfortable. I can even indulge in outrageousness when the spirit moves me.

Congratulations to Rob Manning for being able to associate amiably with this congregation for over ten years!

Rob, you are special!

-- Frieda Marshall

©2007 Frieda Marshall

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article:
Marshall, Frieda. 2007. The Tenth Anniversary, /talks/20070527.shtml (accessed July 16, 2020).

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