The Merging Thirties
The depression that began in late 1929 was at its worst in the early thirties. National bodies were as hard hit as local, perhaps ever harder; church organizations were as much hampered as secular, perhaps even more so. In 1932 the AES interrupted its series of annual meetings for the only time in its history, omitting a session already scheduled for Detroit in June. "All our councils and federations are having financial difficulties which would greatly limit the attendance.1 By March it was clear that the AES ought to concentrate on getting state and local executives to attend the Indianapolis FC Quadrennial in December. June 28 Dr. Guild wrote to the field, "If you are having difficulties in the financing of your work . . . we are all in a large and splendid company . . . (splendid because) the secretaries are courageously meeting the issues that are at hand." September 23, 1932, Dr. Guild reiterated to Dr. Cavert, "The whole federation movement is in a very serious condition." Extension cost the Federal Council only $9,851.36 in 1932,2 and the Field Department budget for 1933 was fixed at $10,000--obviously a depression figure.3
In the autumn Dr. Guild said again, "The first nine months of this year have tested the councils of churches severely. (But) of the 50 councils with employed leadership, only two have temporarily given up that policy."4 Yet 1932 saw the publication of three significant volumes: Zahniser's Interchurch Community Programs,5 Hartshorne and Miller's Community Organization in Religious Education,6 and Rethinking Missions (the Laymen's Foreign Missions Inquiry).7
From 1933, when in many ways the depression was deepest, to 1937 there was drought on the Great Plains;8 the cities also in the middle thirties saw rough days. But in 1933 it was said that "only three (council of churches) secretaries have resigned with the knowledge that a full-time successor would not be employed." "Other secretaries have wondered how they would carry on, but while wondering, have carried on just the same."9 This was the first year of "The New Deal."