Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Closed houses of worship served during 1918 flu pandemic

From Pittsburgh-

The faded, single-spaced letter from the fall of 1918 has a jolting immediacy to readers today.

“A very unusual opportunity has come to Calvary Church,” the clergy of the Episcopal congregation in Shadyside wrote to its members. “To meet the present emergency of our pandemic-stricken community, the Vestry (governing board) has tendered the use of the Parish House to the United States Military authorities. The rooms will be used as a convalescent hospital” for military trainees recovering from influenza.

The global influenza pandemic of 1918 known as the Spanish flu peaked in Pittsburgh in October and November, ultimately killing more than 4,500 people and infecting more than 60,000 throughout Allegheny County, according to historical accounts. Worldwide, it claimed at least 50 million lives, according to estimates cited by the Centers for Disease Control.

Though far deadlier than the current pandemic, the influenza competed on newspapers’ front pages with the American military’s grinding progress in World War I and a relentless campaign to buy war bonds. Yet the headlines have a familiar feel. Houses of worship were shuttered as pastors urged people to worship in their homes, and faith-based groups rallied to help those affected by the illness.

More here-


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