Domestically and abroad, World War I was an unprecedented and highly profound experience for Minneapolis’ Plymouth Congregational Church and its parishioners. In addition to sending dozens of men overseas to fight in the Great War, the Church itself became a center for what was known at the time as “war work,” symbolizing the period as an era of sacrifice. Doctors who attended the Church were also sent overseas, while on the homefront, the Church became a center for preparing supplies to send overseas by its female parishioners.
On June 12, 1921, two monuments and one memorial were dedicated at Plymouth Congregational Church to its parishioners who served overseas in the Great War. One monument and one memorial were erected in the Church foyer, and one outside its entrance. Today, the interior monument and memorial are still visible to the Church’s parishioners. The exterior monument, however, was destroyed in 1957 in a car accident and was never replaced.
The interior monument is a plaque in a wooden frame with bronze inscriptions. Listed alphabetically are the parishioners who served overseas in the Armed Forces, with one name listed above the others. This name represents one of the Church’s two Gold Star parishioners who made the ultimate sacrifice “over there”. Above the parishioners’ names reads the inscription, “Soldiers of Freedom: Members of the Congregation of Park Avenue Congregational Church who served their country in the Great War, 1914-1918”.
The memorial is a wooden tablet with each parishioners’ name carved into it in alphabetical order. In its bottom right corner, one notices a gold star carved next to the Church’s only other Gold Star parishioner killed overseas in the Great War. At the top, the memorial includes the symbols for the United States Army and Navy; the two branches of service for Plymouth men during the Great War. Next to these symbols reads the inscription, “In grateful remembrance of these men who served in Army or Navy in the Great War, 1914-1918”.
Prior to its destruction, the Church’s exterior monument was simple in nature, yet equally elegant in appearance. The monument consisted of a granite statue of a cross. As one considers the fact that it was never replaced, one cannot only help but conclude that World War I has become nothing but an afterthought overshadowed by World War II.
As was the case with the exterior monument, the two located inside the church possess a simple design, but nonetheless made through detailed craftsmanship. As aesthetically pleasing to look at as they may be, they are less noticeable due to their location in a dimly lit corridor. Perhaps this placement was intentional with the goal in mind of portraying World War I in a dark light, given the unprecedented experience which these four years were for the world.