Rationing and Parish Life

From the Archives

Edited by Richard J. Mammana, Jr.

A letter to the editor, an editorial, and two news articles from early 1942 describe the effects of wartime rationing on parish life in the Episcopal Church. Passenger-car manufacturing ended in February 1942, and production did not resume until the end of World War II. Tire rationing began on December 31, 1941. Rationing of both automobiles and tires ended on October 30, 1945. The Rev. Francis C. Lightbourn (1908-91) served as literary editor of TLC in the 1960s.

Letters to the Editor
January 21, 1942, p. 2

I have two small missions in two small Southern towns, 35 miles apart, where I have been trying slowly to teach the Catholic Faith. In A, where I live, the congregation are mostly elderly people who object to anything other than a late morning service. In B my congregation are college faculty and students, accustomed to an 8:30 said Eucharist every Sunday as the only service.

Tires are being rationed, and I do not know how long mine are going to last. Nor have the clergy yet been placed on the preferred list, along with doctors and others. My present service schedule cannot be maintained without use of my car, as neither bus nor train runs at the right time. If I alternate, my people will be sure to get the Sundays mixed. A 5:45 or 6 a.m. celebration at A would be all right with me, and I could make bus connections for the 8:30 parish Eucharist at B. But who except my wife would come at that hour?

I have considered the matter from every possible angle, lining up on paper every conceivable arrangement, with advantages and disadvantages of each. The inescapable conclusion is that a 10 o’clock Eucharist at A and a 4 o’clock Eucharist at B alone will enable a majority of both congregations to take part in Eucharistic worship every Sunday. As a Catholic, I naturally hesitate about afternoon Communions. But surely it is better to have the Blessed Sacrament at any time than not at all. And why should people be deprived of the Lord’s own service which they have learned to render well and to sing (though with no choir and a congregation of seldom more than 10), and be given a man-made form of worship never intended as steady diet for general use?

… I shall be most grateful for comments and suggestions, pro and con, communicated either through these columns or to me personally; for I know that I am not the only priest who will sooner or later be faced with the same problem.

(The Rev.) F.C. Lighbtourn.
Mt. Sterling, [Kentucky]

Tires and the Clergy
January 21, 1942, p. 11

The Church and its clergy are entirely willing to undergo, with the general population, any reasonable restrictions and sacrifices that may be necessary for the winning of the war. But the Church must also carry on its work, and has a right to expect the ready coöperation of a government that is waging a war in the name of Christian principles.

The strict rationing of new tires, forbidding entirely their purchase for ordinary uses, is a case in point. The priority accorded to physicians who use their cars principally for the exercise of their profession is a wise provision. The same priority should be given to clergymen, when they use their cars primarily for the exercise of their profession. Surely the ministry to souls is at least as important as the ministry to bodies, as the government itself proclaims when it asks the people to place their faith in the things of the spirit above their personal safety.

A letter in our correspondence columns this week indicates how the ministry of one priest is curtailed by inability to buy new tires. The government will probably not be interested in the technicalities of fasting Communion, or the question of afternoon celebrations, and the Bishop is the proper person to rule on this phase of the Church’s discipline. But it is clear that, if the tire restrictions are not relaxed or priority given to clergymen who must use their cars to reach distant missions or isolated families, the work of the Church will be greatly hindered, particularly in the “great open spaces” of the West.

We respectfully call this situation to the attention of the proper authorities in Washington, and ask that the clergy be given proper priority for the purchases of new tires in cases where it is necessary to the exercise of their ministry in service to the people committed to their charge.

Clergy Allowed Priority on Tire Purchases
January 28, 1942, p. 10

Clergymen will be allowed priority on the purchase of new tires on the same basis as doctors, according to a new ruling announced January 17 by Leon Henderson, price administrator. Apologizing to the nation’s clergy for their omission from the original order, Mr. Henderson stated that clergymen of all denominations who use their cars in carrying out their religious duties would be permitted to buy new tires.

“As amended,” said Mr. Henderson, “the tire order will place the needs of clergy on a par with those of doctors, nurses, and other occupations or professions whose services are essential to public health and safety.”

In order to be eligible for the purchase of new tires, clergymen must certify to their local tire rationing boards that they actually need their cars for the effective carrying out of their ministerial duties.

“Practicing” Clergymen to Get Priorities on Autos
March 11, 1942, p. 5

Under revised rationing regulations issued by Price Administrator Leon Henderson, “practicing” clergymen will be permitted to purchase new automobiles as well as new tires and tubes.

The auto rationing order, scheduled to go into effect on March 2d, states that “regular practicing ministers of a religious faith” are eligible to receive automobiles on the same basis as professional men.

Regulations governing the rationing of tires to clergymen follow a policy laid down several weeks ago by the office of the Price Administrator.

According to rationing officials, it must not be assumed that all clergymen asking for new tires are to be permitted to have them. Clergymen, they point out, are subject to the same requirements now being applied to physicians, in that they must show, among other things, that they absolutely require new tires for the performance of their duties, and that their old tires are no longer safe.

Richard J. Mammana, Jr., is TLC’s archivist.

Image: A chart shows a schedule for food rationing during World War II. Image from The British People at War (Odhams Press Ltd., published in the 1940s). • Licensed under Creative Commons

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