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City Story

City Story(1954)

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Remind Me

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As people migrate to major urban areas, many of the older churches find they are constantly surrounded by new people from different backgrounds--strangers starving for spiritual guidance. At a police station, an officer asks Pastor John McWilliams to escort one of his parishioners, teenager Betty Bates, to her home. The officer explains that Betty was in a car with a drunk driver and fought with the arresting officer. Betty is released into McWilliams' custody after which the charges are dropped. While he drives Betty home, the pastor asks her why so few young people attend his church. She replies that the church does not appeal to her, or her friends, and adds that she and her parents attended once, but felt unwelcome. At the Bates's apartment, McWilliams talks with Betty's mother Ruth, who tells him that Betty has become very rebellious and fights constantly with her father Joe, a bus driver on the night shift. Ruth reveals that they have only recently arrived in the city from a small town where she was very involved in church activities, but Joe now refuses to go to church. McWilliams placates the Bates's landlord, Mr. Ingram, a church board member, who wants to evict them because of their constant, noisy arguments. The next day, after Ruth tells Joe that she feels the family is falling apart without God in their lives, Betty has another fight with her father and leaves, saying she will not return. That evening, at a meeting of the church board, McWilliams, himself a recent arrival, proposes that the church expand its community services in an effort to become less isolated from many segments of its constituency. McWilliams wants to introduce neighborhood fellowship programs, a boys club, a day nursery and a job clinic. Jennings Randolph, a longtime board member, argues that the church cannot afford these innovations and that the area is going downhill. Randolph then proposes that they sell the building and create a new church in the affluent area in which he now resides. Ingram also inveighs against opening up the church to "these people." Although McWilliams points out that there is more to Christianity than Sunday services and prayer meetings, the board's vote on the pastor's proposal is split with one member, Mrs. Redmond, abstaining. After the meeting, the recently widowed Mrs. Redmond explains privately to the pastor that she is unwilling to continue in the church because she dislikes change. During their meeting, Ruth comes looking for Betty and, while the pastor checks with his wife to see if Betty has gone to his home, Ruth talks with Mrs. Redmond. When Ruth mentions that she has been inspired by the church and, particularly, by a stained glass window therein, Mrs. Redmond tells Ruth that her late husband sponsored the window. Although McWilliams has no news for Ruth about Betty, Ruth's devotion has inspired Mrs. Redmond to continue her service to the church with a new dedication. Several months pass and the church becomes a living, dynamic force in the community with innovative programs for young and old. Ruth and Mrs. Redmond become close friends and work together on several committees. One night, at a meeting of the finance committee, its chairperson, Dr. Wilson, states that the programs are facing a financial crisis. Although McWilliams believes that he can secure more funding from the Mission Board and its supporters, he personally is troubled that he may have overextended his purview. His doubts are dashed and his resolve renewed, however, when a distraught Betty suddenly reappears at his door and says, "I need help so badly and I don't know any other place to find it."