The 1960’s was a period of rapid, intense, often divisive social change in Walnut Hills, mirroring some of similar changes in America. By the early 1970’s the relatively stable, integrated middle-class neighborhood that had been here since the 1860’s had morphed into areas of concentrated poverty with a majority Black population. In the 1950’s, Church of the Advent had decided to remain in the city rather than moving to the White suburbs as many affluent churches did. At the heart of this decision was a commitment to outreach in Walnut Hills, even while recognizing that most members did not live in the neighborhood.
At the beginning of the period was the work with the Mountain People beginning in 1957 (see previous bulletin board), while the start of Open Door in 1973 marks the other end. Our research has been to try to understand how outreach at Church of the Advent changed over the intervening years in such a way that Open Door could develop with such vigor at the end. What was Advent doing before Open Door? Who was involved? What areas of outreach had ended during the period and what new ones begun? How did changes in the neighborhood, in Cincinnati and in America influence the shape of Advent’s outreach? These are the questions that motivated our work.
Using Annual Reports and Vestry Minutes – as well as personal recollections – we have put together a picture of outreach at Advent from 1959 to 1972, categorizing each area in the following 3 ways:
- Leadership: Clergy or Lay
- Method: Face-to-face or Indirect
- Association: Advent/Diocese Alone or Advent in Partnership with non-church Organizations
Our thesis is that Open Door grew out of Church of the Advent’s tradition of face-to-face outreach begun with the Mountain People, but relied on lay leadership and partnership experiences which developed in the 1960’s.
Even though the 24×7 contact with Mountain People that Mike and Sally Hamilton had started by living in the “Red Hell” ended after they left in 1959, the impact of that ministry remained to guide the church into the ‘60’s. From 1957 to 1966, Friday night meant a dance for neighborhood teens at The Advent. Led by Church Army staff assigned to The Advent the Canteen relied on Adventers for chaperons – primarily drawn from the Couples Club which started in the 1950’s.
“Attendance [at the start of 1964] was at a very low ebb until we decided to welcome boys and girls from other areas of the city, at the request of the teen agers. … The average attendance has hopped from 30 to 55 persons per Friday evening. … The room is still smokey, the music is still loud, and the new dances are even ‘farther out’, but the teen agers now attending are different. It is a rare occasion nowadays for us to find a wine or beer bottle in the men’s room or hidden in a trash can (empty naturally). Fighting and brawling are things of the past also.”
Annual Meeting report for year 1964
Murray Hastings succeeded Dud Higbie as rector in 1960. Hastings continued to support some of the outreach programs started by Higbie, but his influence toward more spiritual congregational activities was seen in the dissolution of the Couples Club. Nevertheless, the congregation – under Hastings’ leadership – continued to support lay-led, direct outreach work such as the Canteen.
From 1963 to 1970, there were several clinics housed at The Advent: Well-Baby, Maternal and Child Health, and Pre-natal. Staffed from the Cincinnati Public Health Department, these clinics relied on significant volunteer hours from The Advent. Church of the Redeemer also paid for a psychiatrist to lead a Child Guidance group. By 1970 all clinics had found other locations to handle the growth. After the move, there are no further records of Advent involvement in the Annual Reports.
“The Advent Well Baby Clinic … really hit its stride in 1964. Thirty-four volunteers, of whom 21 were summer substitutes, put in a total of over 700 hours. There are now more than 800 babies in our files.”
Annual Meeting report for year 1964
Volunteer work at the clinics by (primarily) women at The Advent continued the tradition of face-to-face outreach to neighbors. The on-going location in the church facility of these clinics required the Vestry to open the building to a regular, daily traffic of non-church people.
Equally important, Hastings participated actively in the Walnut Hills Area Council and Victory Neighborhood Services Agency and used those contacts to keep up on neighborhood developments and opportunities for partnership. Church/government work such as the clinics was a new development in the ‘60’s and The Advent was at the forefront of this kind of outreach. Since the Vestry was composed of business men well connected in Cincinnati, Hastings could rely on church support and guidance for involvement in community activities.
Another opportunity for partnership emerged in the 1960’s. Government money was made available to non-profits to develop low-income housing. A federal response to perceived state reluctance to provide for the poor and elderly, the programs offered below-market interest loans, insurance and rent-subsidies, and encouraged churches to sponsor housing projects.
From 1968 to 1972, several Adventers (including Dorothy Curtis and Jim Haven) formed a Corporation to provide low-income rental housing in the neighborhood. The Advent Neighborhood Housing Corporation used some seed money from the Lee Fund and also secured federally guaranteed loans for the work. They served as board for the management companies. In all, 58 units of low-income housing were made available thru this work.
“The Term ‘seed money’ represents the investment of the sponsoring group in the cost of complete rehabilitation of an existing building. The seed money is returned to the sponsoring group upon the completion of the project. … The sum of $2,000 has been invested in the first project.”
Annual Meeting report for year 1968
There were 3 housing units sponsored by The Advent:
- Advent 1: 2128-2136 Fulton. 10 apartments.
- Advent 2: 2338 Kemper Lane. 12 apartments.
- Advent 3: 2363 Kemper Lane. 36 apartments, designed for elderly and people with disabilities.
Involvement in housing affected outreach at The Advent in other ways as well. As members got to know the situation of elderly and disabled people – now neighbors – the need for direct support of these people became evident. Libby Higgins, Prue Stanton, Carol Davidson, and Yvonne Carson led the discernment process which resulting in the founding of Open Door and Stitchery in the early 1970’s. Open Door continued the face-to-face outreach of the clinics, but this time in a fully lay-led ministry. The Stitchery group was a response to the social isolation experienced by many elderly women in the neighborhood.
As noted earlier, Church Army members Edna Brooks and Earl Hoffman followed up on the work started by Michael Hamilton, especially organizing children and youth activities such as The Canteen and summer programs. Often programs included other churches in the neighborhood and in the diocese.
In addition to these programs, however, Edna and Earl dealt directly with people in Walnut Hills in need of services. They listened, sought out government agencies, served as advocates and gave money to help in emergencies. The Women of the Advent regularly apportioned some of their budget to Edna and Earl for this work.
“Thanks to the Women of the Church of the Advent, a sum of $500 is given annually to the Church Army workers to be used, at our discretion, for ‘on the spot assistance’ to needy people in the community. It is just unbelievable how far this money stretches … . Temporary assistance is given in the ways of food, clothing, lodging, rent, carfare (tokens), lunch money.”
Annual Meeting report for year 1965
While the face-to-face contact was primarily done by the Church Army members, the needs of the neighborhood were regularly brought before the Vestry and Congregation. Attending Advent in the 1960’s meant prayer and opportunities to support Walnut Hills, even if you didn’t live in the area.
The Advent had a Girls Friendly Society from the late 1870’s, so this outreach continued a long tradition. During the 1960’s, there were 2 groups of the GFS: The Married Women branch and the Evening Branch (made up of now elderly members). Both branches used most of their weekly or bi-weekly meetings to sew for other charitable institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, children’s homes and veteran’s homes. They also held dinners, sewed for the Church and organized fund raisers for charity.
By the end of the 1960’s the group had declined in numbers and the type of work they performed was not in as high demand. Nevertheless, the GFS continued to meet regularly during this period. The Evening Branch adjusted its meeting schedule in the late ‘60’s due to changes in the neighborhood.
“We previously met on the first and third Tuesdays of the month in the evening, which we have always done until out Summer Vacation. Since, then, due to the uneasy conditions in the city, we are now meeting on the first and third Saturday afternoons … .”
Annual Meeting report for year 1966
NOTE: A subsequent bulletin board will be devoted to Woman’s Work at The Advent and cover the Girls Friendly Society in more detail.
The reference to “uneasy conditions in the city” is one of only a few notes we have found to the perceived growth of crime in Walnut Hills. That perception of Walnut Hills as dangerous did not deter those who chaperoned the Canteen, helped at the Well Baby Clinics or met neighbors living in the houses Advent supported. Outreach based on direct contact was clearly a support to a wealthy, white church trying to find its way in the demographic, social and political changes of the 1960’s. The GFS continued into the 1970’s but with declining membership.
Open Door, the ministry which both sustained and defined The Advent into the 2000’s, was started in 1973. Stitchery was also started at this time and continues today. Both ministries are:
- Lay led
- Face-to-face contact
- Advent only
By contrast, much of the outreach work into the 1950’s was clerical led (except for women’s work), indirect and channeled thru Diocese organizations. While the change in The Advent’s orientation and character during this period clearly had roots in the outreach to Mountain People of the late 1950’s, the experimentation, exuberance and creativity of the programs of the 1960’s have left a lasting imprint on the church.
However, one major movement of the 1960’s seems not to have had much impact on The Advent: Civil Rights. The church did continue neighborhood outreach as Walnut Hills – and the streets immediately around the building – became predominately Black. Nevertheless, the records do not show the church taking a lead in the Civil Rights protests or activism in Cincinnati or the diocese. Indeed, such activism seems to have been a point of controversy within the Vestry. While The Advent officially supported equality for Blacks and Civil Rights, local and national work was not a focus for the church, and the congregation remained almost entirely white. The Advent’s outreach approach shaped by the 1960’s – face-to-face, Advent-only, lay-led – complements this distance from the Civil Rights Movement.
Barbara Haven and JoAnn Morse, March, 2018
 The Church Army is a faith-based organization which trains and supports lay people in long-term mission work, primarilyh in the US and focused on Evangelism. The Advent had two Army workers during the 1960’s: , Earl Hoffman and Edna Brooks.
 Starting in the min 1960’s, Hastings led a Thursday evening Bible Study/worship service that drew people well beyond Advent members. These evenings, along with Hastings’ dynamic worship style and personal charisma, were crucial for the spiritual development of many at The Advent, which in turn was expressed in involvement with outreach programs.
 The Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965, which founded HUD at the cabinet level, enacted several of these programs.
 In 1968, the Vestry established a special fund using the gift from the Charles Lee Estate. The fund was to support both internal church programs and outreach. The Housing Corporation was the first of the outreach programs made possible thru the Lee Fund; later, Open Door also relied on these monies.
 The Vestry minutes from the 1960’s have almost no references to major events in the Civil Rights movement. In general, The Advent allowed the Diocese to handle encounters with Black organizations, such as the Black Manifesto — see Vestry Minutes, May 20, 1969 (a copy of the Black Manifesto is available in the Advent Archives). See also June 17, 1969 on the response to a letter from Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati (MARCC); September 16, 1969, on support for a Black Economic Development Conference (The Advent did support a conference on Spiritual Healing in the same year). During 1968, the Vestry reached out to a Black congregation, United Christian Church, but nothing seems to have come of this effort.
In these years, however, the establishment of the Housing Corporation, including legal and financial arrangements, were of continuing interest to the Vestry, and it is clear that the Corporation was intended as Advent’s Christian response to issues of urban renewal and community development – issues which had overtones at least of the Civil Rights movement.