Broadway Sweater Girl
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2. Broadway Sweater Girl

Lana Turner

Wall StreetThe little procession of the Church Army, clergy, and laypeople arrive on Wall Street in New York City. Being early enough to hear Daddy Hall, the self-styled Bishop of Wall Street, dealing with hecklers is worth a joke at our expense. Daddy Hall is a well-known street preacher who addresses the lunch hour crowds every day. One day, someone in the group tries to distract him by shouting, "What do you think of the Pope?" With a hearty laugh, Daddy replies, "I've never met the gentleman!" When he had finished speaking of the Savior, whom he had met, Church Army's turn came up. Our youth and the fact that we represent a well-known church in New York keep our listeners' attention. On another occasion, thousands unexpectedly pour out unto Broadway. Van loads of police also arrive and television cameras too. Though we have no idea who these people have come to see, we are not about to miss our chance to preach to a bigger crowd. That evening, we see ourselves on television with the commentary, "Over here is a little group preaching about sin" The star attraction is sadly not our Savior, but the famous and glamorous Lana Turner known as the "Broadway Sweater Girl!"✞

Ray's Insatiable Wanderlust

Electrified BibleRay's insatiable wanderlust wins over the Church Army Recruiting Officer in Hartford, Connecticut. My first attempt to enlist in the Church Army is not very successful. The recruiting officer, Captain Condor, asks me many awkward questions. He then leans back in his chair and pauses thoughtfully. "How do you expect to teach others about God?" he gently probed, "if you don't know his book for yourself? When you have read the Bible thoroughly and know what it says, come back and see me again!"

Insatiable Wanderlust

Hartford CathedralDiscouraged, but not broken in spirit, I return home for a whole year! When I apply again, I find to my relief that a very explicit reference sent to Headquarters is to my advantage. The letter explains that as a teenager, I had biked five thousand miles across America from New Jersey to California. "Ray is an unstable sort of character, possessed with insatiable wanderlust!" My insatiable wanderlust must have appealed to Church Army, for they accepted me for training! They ordered me to report to Hartford Cathedral, Connecticut, a beautiful Episcopal cathedral church in downtown Hartford to begin work. The church is one of the oldest Gothic-style churches in the United States, dating from 1827.

A Piece of Work

American FlagWhen God gives you a piece of work, immediately, the problems begin. Specific pressures started to arise, which tempted me to stay at home. My college friends decided to hold a reunion party, which promised to be a great time on the very night that I was due to report. God's call remained uppermost in my mind, and determinately I made my way up to Hartford to join up, filled with my "insatiable wanderlust."✞

Hartford Outdoor Work

Photograph of Hartford CathedralHartford outdoor work contributed to the Christ Church Cathedral team as we stood outside fishing for passing people. That Sunday evening, we began preparing for our Hartford outdoor work with a procession and open-air meeting down the street from the Cathedral. The Captain in charge gave the processional cross to one cadet to carry, another the Church flag, a third the Stars and Stripes. To my embarrassment, he handed me a bright red Crusader Shield on a broom handle, reading, "GOD IS LOVE." My face must have been redder than the shield itself as we marched down the streets that night. The fact that the other side explained, "SPONSORED BY CHRIST CATHEDRAL" didn't ease my embarrassment.

Brother Lewis' Witness

The Face of the Laughing JesusWe gathered on a corner for our open-air service and began to sing. The hymns and songs were all different from the ones I knew! Suddenly the leader announced, "Brother Lewis will give his witness," and summoned me forward. A raucous shout echoed above the screeching wheels of a passing streetcar. "Why don't you shut up and go to work?" "Go to work?" I thought. "This is my work!" The spirit of the men with whom I labored had brushed off on me. I didn't want to be quiet about the joy I had experienced. God had called me to tell others about His Son, Jesus!✞

Outdoor Christian Fishing

FishingCaptain Ray participates in outdoor Christian fishing for people passing on the street in Connecticut like the Jewish store owners used to do. The Captain gave us our orders for the evening worship at the Cathedral. Wary of the Church Army's unusual methods, the Dean reluctantly agreed to chorus singing during the service. "But not that particularly outrageous one to the tune from the musical, 'The Pink Lady!'" In later years, "Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me," with its lovely lilting melody, became one of my particular favorites. Once we chose the choruses, the Dean suggested that we go outside to do some outdoor Christian fishing. When I was a New Jersey boy, the Jewish store owners would grab people by the arm and lead them into their clothing shops. "How about a crisp new shirt, Sir? We have a very good line, just in from Paris. Come along in and see." Our fishing soon engrossed the other cadets and I. Catching passers-by, we pushed invitations into their hands to welcome them to our service in the Cathedral.

Daddy Hall's Preaching

Cathedral CityCaptain Ray Lewis engages in house visitation campaigns in New York and later hears Daddy Hall preaching on Wall Street. My sales skills came in useful later that summer during our house visitation campaigns in New York City. A group of cadets and I went to Brooklyn and New York to conduct house to house visitation. Some doors opened a few inches, or a pair of eyes appeared through a letterbox. When we asked, "Have you a church home, sir?" Some Jewish immigrants, remembering the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, replied with fearful tones, "Ve ave no church ome!"

Catholics Next Door

American FlagOne Roman Catholic householder thought that the Priest had sent for a donation and handed me a dime! Someone whispered through another letterbox, "We are Protestants!" Then with great secrecy, as if to warn me of some impending threat, added, "There are CATHOLICS next door!"

Broadway March

BroadwayLater, on Wall Street, we addressed ourselves to Catholic and Protestant alike. I had often listened to midday open-air services there, but now I was to take part myself. Resplendent in our dark gray uniforms, we proudly marched out onto Broadway from behind Trinity Church's high iron gates. One cadet carried the church's ornate processional cross, another the Stars and Stripes, while I held the crimson crusaders' shield aloft. We did feel like soldiers on the march until the size of the milling crowds suddenly hit us.

Cox's Army

WashingtonThousands of office workers were relaxing, having time out during their lunch break to hear the speakers. At the old Sub-Treasury Building, a statue of George Washington (1732 - 1799), the former first American President stared down icily from his marble pedestal. Beneath his critical eye, Daddy Hall, a famous open-air preacher, was still speaking. Seeing our uniforms and banners, he turned and shouted, "Here comes Cox's Army!" Cox's Army was a protest march of 25,000 unemployed Pennsylvanians led by Father James Renshaw Cox, an American Roman Catholic priest who marched on Washington in 1932. He founded "The Jobless Party" and even ran for President of the United States.

Providence Training College

ProvidenceCaptain Ray experiences an early morning cold bath and later praising the Lord in the Providence Training College named after Bishop McVicar. Then, I arrived at Bishop McVicar Providence Training College, where the emphasis was on spreading the Gospel in places other Christians would not usually go. The English modeled our training. Life was made so tricky at the college that any future work would seem easy by comparison! Each morning, at first bell, we emerged from our little rooms, lined up, and plunged one by one into the same bath of icy cold water! Awake and alert, we were then ready for our daily prayers and orders. In the quiet solemnity of our plain chapel, with the simple polished brass cross glinting in the early morning sunshine, we learned to meet our Maker at the beginning of each day.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

God blessed some of the students at the college with the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit." The Training College staff, however, didn't share their enthusiasm. "It doesn't make sense to me!" complained one irate teacher. They make the Christian life attractive with their love of praise and desire to tell others about Jesus. Forbidden from saying, "PRAISE THE LORD," the cadets called out "P. T. L." along the corridors! They told me one day of their blessings and observed my reaction. My spontaneous reply, "PRAISE GOD!" told them I fully understood. Broad smiles split open gleaming faces.

One Spoonful Lewis

Green PeasCaptain Ray was known as 'one spoonful Lewis' by his friends downstairs at the Church Army Training College in Providence. There was one special secret I had kept hidden even from the other cadets until the very eve of our Commissioning. I was busy dressing upstairs, and some of my friends were downstairs in the kitchen, showing our group photographs to the cook and her son. Looking casually at the faces, the cook's son suddenly grinned and burst out, "Hey, that's One Spoonful Pea Lewis!" The others, mimicking his words, trooped upstairs and jeered, "One Spoonful Pea Lewis!" My secret was out! I had worked with the cook's son at the West Cheshire Mental Institution in New York. While there, I was meticulously careful to count out the same number of peas on each plate, much to the staff's amusement!

Commissioned Evangelist

One Spoonful was a happy memory on that day, April 5, 1931. The Church Army was commissioning me to a new and wonderful task as an Evangelist. As we marched down the aisle in Providence Cathedral, the choir sang heartily, "Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave, Tell them of Jesus the Mighty to save!" God was to give me many such beautiful opportunities to speak for Him and to rescue the perishing.

"Broadway Sweater Girl"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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