By Frances Stebbins, Correspondent
[This is a memory from the many decades the author has been privileged to write for daily and weekly newspapers circulating in Western Virginia.]
After being closed down for the past 18 months, many small clubs, enjoyed especially by retirees, are making plans to start up again – maybe.
Two of these, of which I am a member, are the Philo Club and the Wednesday History Club. Each has around a dozen regular attendees and is focused on a particular interest.
The Philo Club is mainly for ordained males from denominations roughly classified as moderate/liberal in their approach to Scripture interpretation. A few women who are not clergy but have some interest in and are stimulated by theology, are invited to join, as I was 25 years ago. Meeting with bag lunch on the Second Friday during the school year from noon to 2 p.m. at Windsor Hills United Methodist Church, members make a small donation for a human service cause.
In rotation, we “present a paper” on a subject generally related to religion and stimulating to discussion. This takes about 30 minutes. No attempt is made to control the content. Often a relevant book is reviewed; I have sometimes used columns.
Membership is inclusive now that the group has evolved over ten decades to take in, not only women like myself, but non-Protestants, rabbis and people of color. The fellowship is valued, and those who die are missed and commended to God.
More information is available from the convenor, Robert Goldsmith. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The Wednesday History Club is somewhat more formally organized. It dates from World War I days when women were starting to be recognized as people with enough sense to vote and – very rarely then – hold professional or executive jobs. Even we senior adults cannot imagine a time when the options for those in skirts were so limited!
When I was invited to become a member more than 15 years ago, the group of a dozen white women – religion was not a factor in this group though a majority were United Methodists – gathered in each other’s homes for refreshments and a program lasting about two hours. The programs were scheduled in advance by a committee who followed a general topic such as “Notable Women Composers” or “First Ladies of America.”
As intended by the founders in 1917, I learned from each program as I gathered information on the aspect of the general subject which I had chosen or listened to another member’s paper.
Among topics I recall were Eleanor Roosevelt, Fannie Mendelssohn and Washington Park in Northwest Roanoke when the overall topic was that city’s public spaces. I learned then that the park is named for the Black pioneer in education, Booker T. Washington, not George Washington as I supposed. It dates from 1923, the year the educator died.
Members, as in the Philo Club, came by invitation and dues were nominal although each year a secretary and treasurer were chosen who made careful reports at each meeting. Most who attended lived in the Southwest quadrant of Roanoke City or County.
One could choose to present a paper or to serve as hostess. In time, most of the history club women did not have the space nor energy to provide “heavy refreshments.” The facilities of the many retirement homes were available, but at a cost.
As the decades passed, the old clubs gradually changed. Few younger people were interested in such daytime groups with the several “service clubs,” taking some men and with so many women holding jobs outside their homes. Increasingly, both Philo and Wednesday History Club dwindled in membership.
This summer the long period of absence has forced a decision on continuance.
I wish I could predict their future.