2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the merger of three Hinesburg churches with historic ties to three different Christian denominations. Here’s the United Church of Hinesburg’s origin story:
Hinesburg was settled in the late 1780’s by a group of families from Connecticut. They were drawn to the area by the fertile ground, hardwood forests and streams that were suitable for building mills. The leader of this original group was Abel Hine, the namesake of our town.
At times, for the support of the church, members pledged themselves to pay cash, and donate livestock, grain and dairy products. The church music was mostly by the choir. There were a few hymn books, without tunes. At times some of the congregation would sing, but it was not common. There were three services on Sunday; the morning service at half-past ten; in the afternoon at one, and the Sunday night prayer meeting at ‘early candle lighting.’
By the 1860 census, the population of Hinesburg was 1,702 and the three churches were well established. According to Erastus Bostwick’s 1861 History & Tales of Hinesburgh, Vermont, the Methodist Church had 118 members, the Congregational Church had 132 members and the Baptist Church approximately 75.
December is for many the busiest time of the year. It’s a month that can stretch our budgets, our patience, and after a solid month of feasting, our pants as well. Some travel to be closer to family and friends; others provide home base for family time together. And there are cards to get out and trees to decorate and presents to buy and wrap all while playing Christmas music in the background or watching Frosty the Snowman and It’s a Wonderful Life.
The season does feel like it comes with some difficult expectations. And one of the most difficult ones has to do with “holiday cheer.” We are supposed to be happy during the “Most wonderful time of the year,” aren’t we? In the life of the church, baby Jesus is coming, and how can we be sad or in grief while picturing the bucolic setting of the Jesus wrapped and laying in the manger among the on-looking stable animals.
These images of the good old-fashioned family Christmas, however, work better on the screen or in our loveable but shmaltzy Christmas music. Many in our church and in the wider community will spend this holiday time away from their families. Others will not have enough to buy presents this year. Some will spend the holiday alone. And for many of us, this time is a mixed blessing - a time when we are blessed to be around our loved ones and a time when we acutely feel the loss of those who are no longer with us.
Written in 1879, Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms has, for the most part, passed into obscurity. A guide to writing and general etiquette, this book, however, has one recommendation that has become stuck in the American way of life:
Do not discuss politics or religion in general company. You probably would not convert your opponent, and he [sic] will not convert you. To discuss those topics is to arouse feeling without any good result.
It’s likely that this is the first written version of this old maxim in the United States. And this maxim is prevalent. Around this time each year, publications from The Atlantic to Readers Digest compile lists of topics never to discuss at family gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Along with money and unsolicited parenting advice, politics and religion headline every list out there. The advice is usually followed with recommendations like, “keep it light,” “be positive,” and “don’t stay too long.”