Archived Page: 175 Anniversary
Celebrate the Journey 1827-2002
Third Presbyterian Church
Celebrates 175 Years of Ministry
Dr. Paul Moore Strayer (1903-1925, continued)  

Dr. Strayer With Dr. Strayer's great concern for the larger community, he also wanted to make Third Church a place of gathering, of social action and of responsibility. In 1910 the parish house was built. Church School rooms on the first floor which were attractively decorated and furnished to make a place of rest and socialization. The basement contained bowling alleys, used until 1976, provision for pool and billiards, and a large kitchen and dining room. In 1905 he said that it would give point to our creed if we took as our church name All Souls Church to stand for liberal Presbyterianism in the city. The suggestion was met with a mild response, as was his suggestion that an apartment house be built where the current chapel now stands. The first every member canvass was held in 1911. In 1916 pew rents were abolished. In eight years church membership more than doubled to 800.

Like Rauschenbusch, Strayer was a pacifist, and for them World War I was a difficult time in an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, hatred and greed. Some left the church. Dr. Strayer found it difficult to sympathize with the war in Europe, but the ruthlessness and brutality of Germany and the moral issues forced a reevaluation. When America entered the war, he felt it his duty to support the allied cause. Many of his strict pacifist friends were unforgiving. It must be said that whatever he did, he supported wholeheartedly. He volunteered for YMCA religious work and spent some months in a training camp in South Carolina. In 1917 he led the denomination in setting up a committee to plan for a time of reconstruction. Though asked to be the permanent leader, he would not leave Third Church.

After Dr. Strayer had served as the sole minister of the church for nineteen years, it was decided that there should be someone to help bear the load, and in 1922 Philip Swartz was called as assistant. This was fortunate because in 1923 Dr. Strayer was stricken by a baffling illness. He took a leave of absence and seemed to improve, but on his return he had a relapse and submitted his resignation which was finally accepted in 1925. His illness was diagnosed as a form of sleeping sickness. Though his mind was clear, he lost the power of speech and of facial expression. He continued to attend church and provided weekly meditations for the church bulletin until his death in 1929. He was fifty-seven years old.

In 1912 he had married Emily Betts Loomis, a widowed church member. After his death Mrs. Strayer lived on attending church regularly, a beloved and forceful figure, living at the Normandy residence hotel until her death in the 1960s. In 1927, at the time of the church centennial, Mrs. Strayer presented an echo organ and chimes to the church in her husband's memory with the hope that "they may carry his message of fatherhood and brotherhood and love throughout the years." The tablet is at the entrance to the west balcony stairs.

It may well be said that Paul Moore Strayer made Third Church and its ministry a vital force embodying a dynamic faith for contemporary problems, a tradition which has continued through succeeding years.  


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