Racial Equality in Church Education

March 2023
Anna Louise Bates, Church Historian

New Paltz Methodists have a mixed record on race issues. While on one hand, the church had no qualms about hosting black-face minstrel shows during the 1940s and 50s, they remained committed to race equality in matters of church education.

The church had a flourishing Sunday School in 1940, with various classes for children and adults. The church also had a thriving relationship with the Children’s Aid Society, a national organization formed by social reformers in 1853, a time when the only social services available for poor and homeless children were almshouses and orphanages.  The minutes from the church’s Official Board in September 1940, included a request from the pastor, Rev. Elmer Bostock:  “Mr. Bostock stated that the colored girls from (the) Children’s Aid Society desired to come to Sunday School,” at the New Paltz church, and he encouraged the board to allow this.  Members of the board discussed the matter and responded affirmatively. The Board moved to “prepare the Sunday School for this event by giving a preliminary talk on the matter.” The motion carried. While we do not know the contents of the “preliminary talk,” we know that the children did indeed come to our Sunday School. How many came and for how long remain items for future research, but we know from the Board’s minutes that our church demonstrated a commitment to equal education for all children who wanted to attend our Sunday School.  Quotes are from the “Regular Meeting official Board,” September 9, 1940.