Then and now: from 1949 to 2009

The world was quite a different place in 1949. These were the years of the Baby Boom as U.S. Servicemen returned home from World War II with a new perspective on life. The population of the U.S. was just under 150 million, and the life expectancy for men was 60; for women it was 68. With the advent and use of the atomic bomb and the surrender of Germany and Japan, the United States and Russia had officially been labeled “Super Powers.” Russia tested its first nuclear weapon in 1949 and the cold war officially began. In the late 40’s and early 50’s, the ideology of communism was the greatest perceived threat to American Democracy.
Here at home, technology was advancing. The first digital computer, named ENIAC, had been finished in 1945. It weighed 30 tons, stood 2 stories high, and was not even capable of basic functions that cell phones have today. The commercial television, which had been introduced in 1947 with a grand total of 13 channels, was all the rage. Most families still did not have a TV by 1949 (radio and newspaper were still the dominant media outlets), and those that did could only pick up one or two of those channels. Also of historical significance is the fact that just over half of all Americans had indoor plumbing by the end of the 1940’s.

In sports in 1949, the New York Yankees faced the Brooklyn Dodgers in the world series, Notre Dame was the NCAA football champion, and Kentucky defeated Oklahoma A & M for the NCAA Basketball championship. Some of the most popular songs were “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Gasoline was 26 cents per gallon, stamps were 3 cents, bread was 14 cents per loaf, and minimum wage was 40 cents an hour. You could by a house for about $14,500, a new car for $1,650, and the average annual salary was $3,600. As far as the stock market in 1949, it traded at a low of 161 and a high of 200.

American churches were undergoing a revival at this time when compared to the decline of faith during the Great Depression. About 43% of Americans attended church before WWII, but by 1950, the figure had jumped to 55%. By the end of the 1950’s it would be at 69%. Southern Baptist Churches added over 300,000 new members from 1945 to 1949, and by 1950, Americans had spent an astonishing $409 million to fund new church construction. Pollsters revealed that in 1947, religious leaders were the most esteemed persons in public life, more than business-men or politicians.

It was in this cultural climate that our church was founded. On April 4, 1949, a group of 152 dedicated Southern Baptists met at Capitol Heights Elementary School and organized Morningview Baptist Church. Soon after, property was purchased on the corner of Calhoun Road and Pelzer Avenue for the construction of the church building. Reverend S. Louis Armstrong was called to pastor Morningview on May 25, 1949 and on April 12, 1950, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new building. The building (the “old” North wing) was completed in December and held its first service on Christmas Eve of that year. God blessed Morningview with growth, so in February of 1955 another structure (the South wing) was completed to house additional Sunday School Departments and a large and beautiful worship auditorium.

Now here we are, 60 years later, poised to celebrate what God has done through Morningview. I am thankful to be its fifth pastor, and I cannot help but be proud of how our church has navigated many cultural changes and many storms to arrive at where we are today. It is indeed a different world that we find ourselves in when compared to 1949. The church has definitely lost a lot of ground in American culture. Though the forces of worldliness are more daunting, our mission is still clear – serve the glory of God by lifting up the truth of Christ and making disciples of all peoples. That was the mission on April 4, 1949, and it is still our mission today.

As we celebrate our history and rejoice in this milestone, it is my hope that we will continue to look beyond ourselves to God and His purpose for Morningview. If the Lord tarries, and our children are here to celebrate Morningview’s 100th, I hope they will do so standing on a heritage of biblical faith and conviction that has continued to make our church a great force for God’s glory. I love you all!