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Local Columnist

by Ronald R Johnson (

During the last two school years Lloyd Douglas was at the University of Illinois, he wrote a weekly column in the Daily Illini, the student newspaper. In 1915, when he accepted a call as Senior Minister at the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor, he widened the circle. Since he was no longer strictly involved in campus ministry, he knew he also had a responsibility to reach out to the larger community. One way he did that was to write a weekly column in the Ann Arbor Times-News. The column was called “The Saturday Sunset Sermonette,” and it began in September of 1915. Despite the word “sermonette,” the topics were quite down-to-earth. Here are some examples:

On your kid’s first few weeks in elementary school: “Be very patient with him. He is learning a new craft. His little world is being melted and stirred and shaken… all the fences are being torn down and rebuilt after a different pattern and for a different purpose, around his small domain…. No wonder if… he seems distracted; forgets the errand he promised to run; omits doing his customary chores. Be patient. If you were going through any such radical revision of your life-processes, just now, likely they’d have you in a straitjacket with an ice-pack on your head.”

From an extremely tongue-in-cheek essay on why women should not be allowed to vote: “In the first place, Providence never intended woman to be man’s equal, as is clearly proved by the fact that the first woman was made of the first man’s rib. Anybody can see that this disqualifies her for citizenship. The first man, it will be remembered, was made of dirt. This gave him such a fine start that woman has never been able to overtake him in ability to manage politics, which is pretty dirty business in many localities.”

On sending Christmas cards: “Among the people we should plan to remember with a card or a note of good wishes are the old friends whom we seldom see and from whom we rarely hear: our teachers, back in the old days, who wonder if we have forgotten that they exist; the schoolmates of long ago; the men and women, now aged and infirm, who used to take a kindly interest in us as children; the nurse who pulled us through scarlet fever; the man who fished us out of the river that day we were unsuccessfully attempting the ambitious aquatic performance. To be sure, we have lost track of many of these good angels of our youth. We are not sure they are alive. But, by beginning, early, to make inquiries, we may be able to locate some of them.”

From an essay entitled, “The Hated Job”: “To touch humanity with the power of an uplifting personality; to make it think, make it act, make it want to live four-square and above the fog because you do – because your character is contagious – this is the secret that transforms many a humdrum house of merchandise into a temple and many a common workbench into a shrine.”

By just such humorous and practical essays, Douglas reached out to people in the community who might not step inside a church. It was through this column that Douglas also rallied the people of the city around a charity case during the 1915 Christmas season. I’ll tell you about that in the next blog post.

For a free PDF copy of the booklet, The Secret Investment of Lloyd C. Douglas, fill out the form below: