We had the pleasure of framing Pleasantville United Church of Christ’s WCTU banner. The WCTU banner has a lot of history that senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Hilary J. Barrett was nice enough to share with us.
This WCTU banner represents a fascinating part of our history dating back to 1886. The banner was undoubtedly pieced together by women from this congregation who were members of the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union). The WCTU began in 1874 and is now considered the oldest voluntary, non-sectarian women’s organization in continuous existence in the world. It was organized by women who were concerned about the destructive power of alcohol and the problems alcohol caused their families and society. The WCTU met in churches to pray and then marched to the saloons to ask the owners to close their establishments.
The Temperance Movement, the country’s first serious anti-alcohol movement grew out of a fervor for reform that swept the nation in the 1830s and 1840s. Many abolitionists fighting to rid the country of slavery came to see drink as an equally great evil to be eradicated – if America were ever to be fully cleansed of sin. The temperance movement, rooted in America’s Protestant churches, first urged moderation, then encouraged drinkers to help each other to resist temptation, and ultimately demanded that local, state, and national governments prohibit alcohol outright. These efforts ultimately resulted in national Prohibition (1920-1933).
Pleasantville United Church of Christ (Pleasantville German Reformed Church back then) must have had a Chapter of the WCTU. Here at Pleasantville, we continue to have an ‘artifact’ from those days which goes beyond the banner. The use of grape juice in communion dates back to temperance days. Today, we continue the practice so as to keep the table ‘safe’ for all — including those who are in Recovery from drug and alcohol abuse.