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4-H Sunday

National 4-H Sunday

The Country Church
In some great day The Country Church Will find its voice And it will say: I stand in the fields Where the wide earth yields Her bounties of fruit and of grain, Where the furrows turn Till the plowshares burn As they come round and round again; Where the workers pray With their tools all day In sunshine and shadow and rain. And I bid them tell Of the crops they sell And speak of the work they have done; I speed ev'ry man In his hope and plan And follow his day with the sun; And grasses and trees The birds and the bees I know and I feel ev'ry one. And out of it all As the seasons fall I build my great temple always: I point to th skies But my footstone lies In commonplace work of the day; For I preach the worth Of the native earth– To love and to work is to pray.

Liberty Hyde Bailey

From the March 1953 issue of National 4-H News

Liberty Hyde Bailey was born in 1858 and graduated from Michigan Agricultural College in 1882. He founded and was Dean of the Cornell University College of Agriculture and helped create the science of horticulture. He was a superb botanist, teacher, administrator, visionary, writer, poet, philosopher, and environmentalist.

Bailey's Nature Study movement counteracted the idea that learning must be about remote things an encouraged rural youth to accept the challenges of life around them. Bailey was selected by President Teddy Roosevelt to chair a National Commission on Country Life in 1908, and he authored the report that led to the Cooperative Extension system.]

For many years the most important "Heart H" activity of the year was the observation of Rural Life Sunday, also called 4-H Sunday, the fifth Sunday after Easter each year. Rural Life Sunday was first observed in 1929.

4-H Sunday is an outgrowth of Rural Life Sunday. It was a major event for many clubs after World War II, through the rest of the '40s and all of the 1950's.

The April 1949 issue of "National 4-H Boys and Girls Club News" announces that program materials for National 4-H Sunday can be obtained from Miss Gertrude L. Warren in the 4-H Office, USDA. Gertrude Warren authored a booklet "4-H Sunday in Church" during this period.

In 1948 (revised in 1953), T. A. Erickson (former state 4-H leader, Minnesota) authored a booklet for General Mills, Inc. entitled "The Church and 4-H Clubs". This is one of the best resources relating to 4-H Sunday and the spiritual aspect of the Heart H. Traditionally, when 4-H members gathered for 4-H Club Sunday, they joined in seeking the blessing of God upon the land, the seed, the cultivation of the earth, and the enrichment of home and community life.

In a late 1949 issue of "National 4-H Boys and Girl Club News" Julia Knapp, secretary of a 4-H Club in Lowman, New York reports about their 4-H Sunday activities which were fairly typical for the times:

Our club is one year old, and with the cooperation of our minister, the Reverend Mr. Frederick Turner, and our leaders, Mrs. Gertrude Warren and Franklyn Bartlett, we took over the services for 4-H Sunday. We selected songs from the Hymnal about God's gifts to us, such as earth, sunshine and rain. The scripture reading and responses were on the "Talents," and the sermon was on the "Good Earth. Prayer and scripture readings were both by 4-H'ers, and a short skit on preparing the soil for produce was given by the boy 4-H'ers. The girls gave a skit on the meaning of the four H's on the banner. The "Ploughing Song," "Dreaming," and "America, the Beautiful" were sung.

In a recollection about 4-H Sunday, Larry Krug, a member of the National 4-H History Preservation leadership team, retired from National 4-H Council, relates:

I was in 4-H in Winnebago County, Illinois between 1948 and 1956. I recall 4-H Sunday as a big event in most rural communities. Our local club was the Burritt Winners 4-H Club, thought to be the oldest club in Illinois. We met at the Burritt Grange Hall, right next to the Burritt Community Church. Burritt Winners was a large club and on 4-H Sunday most of the members, if not all, participated in planned services at the local church. On that particular Sunday, it was "our" service! 4-H members served as greeters at the door. We made up the team of ushers, seating people in their pews and taking up the collection. On that particular Sunday, 4-H members comprised the entire choir, sitting up front. Our members read the scriptures, gave the sermon, provided the music... and promoted 4-H and rural life. It was our time to shine! The club's 4-H members took this role very seriously. It was one of the major events on our annual calendar.

The March 1953 issue of "National 4-H News" carries several stories about National 4-H Sunday. One success story comes from Mrs. George Milne, adult leader of the Scotland Merry Workers 4-H Club of Harmony, Minnesota:

The past three years our club has participated in a 4-H Sunday program. As an adult leader and program advisor, it has been my pleasure to watch the interest in and fruits of 4-H Sunday flourish. The first two years our 50 members and another club gave a combined program, but last year interest had grown until we had 150 members from six clubs cooperating.

Our president acted as chairman and arranged the program with leaders of the six clubs. They appointed flower and usher committees to represent each.

The program was held in the high school auditorium. Sunday evening, May 18, the date set for national observance. The townspeople joined us and learned more of the great objectives of 4-H work.

We used some ideas suggested in "National 4-H News". "Fruits of God's Word are 4-H Members' Characteristics" was our theme. A tree, with branches and fruits represented the theme on the covers of our mimeo programs done in the county Extension office. Roots of the tree were God's word and the fruits were loyalty, patience, action, clearer thinking, self sacrifice, and helpfulness.

The text was St. John 15:5 "I am the vine, ye are the branches, he that abideth in me, and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing."

To enlist all denominations our president addressed nine invitations to pastors and their congregations. May 18 was a beautiful evening and several hundred of us went to the lovely flower-decorated auditorium. These flowers were later given to the local hospital. --Mrs. George Milne

Many rural communities in the '50s were still very homogenous... everyone knew everyone else, went to the same school, the same church, and belonged to the same 4-H club.

However, by the 1970s, federal court actions more narrowly defined the separation of church and state, and 4-H had to reassess its policies. At the same time, the observance of National 4-H Week was changed from spring to October, observed during the week starting with the first Sunday of that month. For those 4-H clubs and rural communities desiring to continue to observe 4-H Sunday, the National 4-H Sunday would be observed that first Sunday of October, the first day of National 4-H Week.

While National 4-H Sunday is not observed in many states, nor most communities, it still remains a scheduled event in some localities. The 2016 Bates County (Missouri) 4-H Handbook, for example, states: "One Sunday is set aside each year to call attention to and emphasize the spiritual "H" (heart) of 4-H. The local club decides how they want to observe 4-H Sunday. Some clubs attend church together, have a part in the church service, hold a 4-H family picnic, or conduct some other activity. 4-H Sunday is the first Sunday in October and is the start of National 4-H Week."

In another more modern observance, "4-H Sunday and Blessing of the Animals" is featured in the Morrow County Sentinel (Ohio), as written by Alberta Stojkovic.

"4-H members from Happy Hemstitchers and Haymakers joined the congregation of First Presbyterian Church in Mount Gilead last Sunday. They had a beautiful, sunny day for the outdoor event on the lawn where they received blessings for their animals and projects before the Morrow County Fair next week. A few members of the community also brought their dogs to receive a blessing. Tent awnings were set up on the lawn behind the church for worshipers to enjoy the sunny morning breezes and to allow the animals some freedom outdoors. Rev. Deb Browsher led the service that wove many references to the beauty of nature and creation into the program. Former Morrow County Extension Agent, Charles (Chuck) Reutter commented that the 'Head, Hands, Heart and Health' of the 4-H motto were all included throughout the service. Music included 'All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small' and 'All creatures of our God and King'..." -- August 21, 2015.

Principal author: Larry L. Krug

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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