Like the rest of the nation, St. Paul's struggled through the 1930's with the effects of the Depression. Since many people had to reduce the amount of money they gave to the church, other ways of meeting expenses had to be found. To bring in more income, the upstairs rooms in the parish house were rented out to students. In 1932 the Rector agreed to a 10% salary cut, and all other salaries and programs were reduced by 20%. In 1933, still faced with a deficit budget and finding no other ways to economize, the vestry had the church phone disconnected. By the next year, however, the vestry had become more creative. They sponsored a spelling contest between two teams of twenty men and twenty women. The twenty-five cent admission fee charged participants and audience alike raised enough money to pay a large portion of that year's coal bill.
Other happy parish events in the 1930's included the annual Christmas party when Santa Claus, looking remarkably like Bernard Chamberlain, arrived through the back window of the parish hall, carrying a large bag of candy and greeting everyone with hearty ho-ho-ho's. Another was the great improvement in the church's music that began when a young student volunteered to be organist and choir director. When he left Charlottesville after serving at St. Paul's for several years, the parish extended him their deepest thanks because he had ". . . transformed the choir into one which is the pride and joy of this parish. For six years we have at long last been privileged to hear nothing but the best in church music. . . . selected with fine discrimination and rendered with rare taste, artistry and reverence. . ."
During the 1930's St. Paul's continued its historic mission to the University in a variety of ways. The newly formed student vestry called on other students welcoming them to St. Paul's and inviting them to Sunday suppers served by the women of the congregation in the parish hall. The Brotherhood of St. Andrew was still a very active student organization. In addition to conducting services at the rural missions, they were now responsible for a small chapel in Fifeville. When the new St. Paul's church was being built in 1926, the Women's Auxiliary had paid to have the original wooden structure torn down and rebuilt at Fifeville as The Virginia Mason Memorial Chapel. Each Sunday evening, members of the Brotherhood went there to conduct Sunday School classes and lead Evening Prayer.
The church's ministry to the 850 Episcopal students was greatly helped by the appointment of the Reverend Alfred Seccombe to serve as assistant minister and chaplain to the University. The money for his salary was contributed by students, their parents, The Church Society for College Work, the Bishop of Virginia, and St. Paul's. After two years he left to become chaplain to Episcopal students at Yale, and in 1941 the Reverend Stephen Davenport came to St. Paul's as assistant minister and chaplain. Once again, the money to pay an assistant's salary was raised by contributions from students, parents, the national church, the diocese and St. Paul's.
The parish "weekly" newsletter, The Messenger, was published off and on as funds permitted until 1938, when it became The Quarterly News whose first issue described the parish as having a membership of 420, an average Sunday attendance of 257, and a Sunday School that was". . . the largest and most flourishing that the parish has ever had." The article about the women of the church described the Annual Bazaar, a series of three one-act plays, and a garden tour as successful fund-raising activities. The money was used to support missionaries and to help pay the debt on the parish house. The Quarterly News also had a somewhat erratic publication schedule, appearing when money was available.
By 1940 the parish finances were definitely improving, although the treasurer did report some losses caused by transfer of a few members to the new Westminster Presbyterian Church. Because of this stronger financial condition, the parish agreed to a plan proposed by Bishop Henry St. George Tucker to reduce St. Paul's bonded indebtedness of $44,000. By that plan, if St. Paul's could raise $10,000 then the diocese would raise the remaining $34,000 from other sources. However, once again the Diocese was faced with a serious financial crisis and the plan had to be abandoned.
The St. Paul's tradition of presenting excellent choir music during church services continued under the guidance of the new organist and choir director, James Constantine. However, the congregation was content to leave all the singing to the choir. After many complaints that hardly anyone in the congregation sang any of the hymns, the vestry recommended that Mr. Constantine stick to more familiar hymns and schedule a few singing practices for immediately after Sunday morning services.
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