Every year, the Civitan club shows appreciation to clergy of all faiths during Clergy Appreciation Week by inviting them to an evening of dinner and appreciation.
Clergy Appreciation Week was inspired by an event that occurred during World War II.
On Feb. 3, 1943, the USS Dorchester was traveling through the North Atlantic with 905 American servicemen on board. The ship was being tracked, undetected, by a German submarine which fired a torpedo and hit the ship in the boiler room. Many soldiers were killed instantly, while others were jolted awake. Taking on water rapidly, the ship began to sink.
Four men of God, Army chaplains George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling and John P. Washington quickly moved through the sinking ship, trying to bring calm to the confusing and frightening situation. The four men directed soldiers to lifeboats and distributed life jackets. Soon, the supply of life jackets was exhausted and there were still four young soldiers who stood, waiting and afraid, without life jackets.
The chaplains quickly stripped off their own vests and gave them to the four soldiers. While the men in the lifeboats paddled away, they reported seeing the chaplains on the deck of the ship with their arms linked together and their heads bowed in prayer. The Dorchester sank, taking the four chaplains and 675 servicemen to an icy, watery grave.
This sacrifice is the moment the Civitan club pauses to remember at their annual Clergy Appreciation event. The club shows appreciation to the clergy of all faiths and aims “to promote world brotherhood and religious understanding among all people, regardless of religious persuasion. It is a time to reflect on our individual religious beliefs and to promote an understanding and acceptance of the rights of others to participate in a religion different from our own,” the Civitan website said.
“As Civitans, we honor the clergy each year for their dedication in making a better world through service to God and humanity,” said Richard Martin, former Civitan president.
At this year’s event, several churches were invited to attend the event but due to scheduling conflicts, only two were able to participate.
The churches represented were Cameronian Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Rockingham.
Civitan International is an organization of community service clubs that work together to fulfill the needs of the community with special emphasis on helping people with developmental disabilities. For more information, visit www.civitan.org, or call 1-800-CIVITAN.
— Staff Writer Laura Edington can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.