Did Grandma’s Parents Attend Church or Sunday School?

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, July 27, 1913:   Went to Sunday School this afternoon.

Grandma would have walked down Main Street in McEwensville to get to the Baptist Church.

Grandma would have walked down Main Street in McEwensville to get to the Baptist Church.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Across the two and a half years that I’ve been posting the diary, most Sunday’s Grandma wrote that she went to Sunday School. She rarely mentioned Church.  Why? . . . Didn’t she attend the church service?

Did Grandma go alone to Sunday School a hundred years ago today, or did other family members also attend? What about her parents?

In the past, sometimes the diary entries suggested that her sister Ruth may have at least occasionally accompanied her to Sunday School. And, if I remember correctly, Grandma mentioned one time that her 7-year-old brother Jimmie went to Sunday School. But her parents are never mentioned in the context of church or Sunday School.

Today I think that parents are more likely to attend church than their teen-aged children. It almost seems like it was the opposite for Grandma—she attended, but her parents didn’t.

19 Responses

  1. I think it all depends on what church it is and what the time period is. In some places there are separate Sunday Schools for young people, and in others they are together with the adults for worship. We have a class period every morning and then a worship service with a sermon where everyone comes together.

  2. When I was a kid, my whole family went to church except for my Grandmother. She stayed home to cook and we’d all go over there for the day after church and into the evening. At nighttime we’d crowd into her little den and watch Sonny & Cher on her tiny tv. The joke was, we’d want to see what Cher *wasn’t* wearing. :) Your blog makes me think of my Grandmother.

    • I love the story about watching Cher. I can also remember watching her when I was young–and Sonny and Cher singing “I’ve got you babe”–and then they separated. Whew, that all seems like a long time ago.

  3. Perhaps her parents were too busy with farm chores to attend church on Sunday. We went to Sunday School but my parents didn’t go to the church service that was on at the same time as Sunday School. My mother went to another church service once a month in the evening time.

    • Your comment reminds me of when I was a child, and how difficult it was for my father on Sunday’s to get the cows milked in time for him to make it to the church service.

  4. In the uk, Sunday School began as just that, children from poor families not being able to afford the penny required for normal schooling, used to receive learn to read and write for free at Sunday School, now a hundred years ago, a building in the village set apart for that, began to be used as the kind of Sunday School we know today, when the Vicar in those days, sent all the children attending church down the hill to be taught there, claiming the young people were too noisy in church. Came to be his undoing, since those about your grandmas age went on to form a separate church down there which is still in existence today!

  5. Maybe since she just says “went to Sunday School”, she means the entire family.. ???

    • Hmm–on future Sunday’s I’ll see how she words her entries–and whether they provide any hints about whether other family members went.

      I suppose the times she mentions other family members
      names it could be the exception rather than the norm like I was thinking.

      Here’s an example, of a post that mentioned a family member (her little brother Jimmie) by name. One March 12, 1912 she wrote:

      “Went to Sunday School this morning. Took Jimmie along with me.”

  6. Today at her age, if she was active in her church, she might be referring to a youth group; but the phrase “Sunday School” even seems out of place for her age from that time too.

    • There are churches that have ‘adult’ Sunday School – even today!

      • Yes. My church does too; however I guess the adults are attending church service before or afterwards if it is on Sunday. My church also has various bible studies at other times during the week. Her grandmother appears very lonely to me and I do find it uncommon for the times to not have a least one parent involved with the church.

  7. This resonates with me. The Sunday ritual was church, Sunday School (that my mother taught), home for the Sunday roast. Sunday evenings we would go to my grandparents for dinner and watch TV. We watched Disneyland and Swamp Fox.

  8. I still think back then, Church was one of the main social gatherings where you got a chance to visit with folks. Perhaps a lot of the other teens also attended Sunday School?

  9. What I’ve become more aware of lately, is that teens rarely mention details about their parents (even teens 100 yrs ago)… they talk about their lives, their siblings, their friends, but parents are only rarely mentioned. It’s interesting that whether we look at old journals or new ones, the same is true. Teaching high school students, I found this to be true in conversations, too. Unless you ask them a specific question about their parents, you probably won’t hear anything about them. If we think back to when WE were that age, I think we’ll find the same was true. Some experts say that it’s because at that age we have the view point that “our parents don’t lead exciting lives and couldn’t poossibly relate to what we’re going through.” :)

    • Thanks for sharing the very insightful information. I’d never thought about it, but It makes sense when you explain it that teens often don’t talk (or write) much about their parents.

  10. My Husbands Grandma wrote the same thing. Sunday School was every Sunday, but Church was usually only Sunday evening once a month. At least in rural Iowa. Not enough Ministers to go around back then:)

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