A Story from the Past

Over the weekend, I attended services at First Unitarian Church of Des Moines, IA. It was quite a weekend! They were celebrating their 130th anniversary year, they were dedicating their newly renovated building, and they were asking members for financial gifts to continue the unfinished work from the project. Spirits were high, and the enthusiasm wasn’t dampened by the icy roads outside.

As part of the anniversary celebration, the service included the telling of some short vignettes from their history. This is, after all, a congregation that once had as its minister the Reverend Mary Augusta Safford, one of the Iowa Sisterhood!

The story that I loved, however, was the story that involved buttons. Yes, buttons! Here’s how it goes. After World War I, the Unity Circle [a women’s group that included but was not limited to members of the church] received notice that several thousand wool coats were in storage near Des Moines, new coats left over from the Army. The ladies were told that they could have the coats to be distributed to needy people. But there was one catch — all of the buttons on the coats — the buttons with the Army insignia — would have to be removed. What to do!?! Well, the ladies got busy. Through the newspaper, they let people in the area know about the project. Soon, packages of buttons were arriving from all over, some from as far away as Alabama. And soon, ladies from around Central Iowa arrived to start stripping buttons off and sewing new buttons on. In the end, more than 7,000 wool coats were shipped to Europe to meet the needs of people suffering from the cold. What a wonderful thing!

Are there interesting stories in your congregation’s past? Is someone recording them? Let’s give our future UUs something to marvel over, shall we?


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