On this Day:
In 1851, the 1st Young Men’s Christian Association in North America was set up in Montreal.
YMCA, sometimes regionally called the Y, is a worldwide youth organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, with more than 64 million beneficiaries in 120 countries. It was founded on 6 June 1844 by Sir George Williams in London, originally as the Young Men’s Christian Association, and aims to put Christian principles into practice by developing a healthy “body, mind, and spirit”.
From its inception, it grew rapidly and ultimately became a worldwide movement founded on the principles of muscular Christianity. Local YMCAs deliver projects and services focused on youth development through a wide variety of youth activities, including providing athletic facilities, holding classes for a wide variety of skills, promoting Christianity, and humanitarian work.
YMCA is a non-governmental federation, with each independent local YMCA affiliated with its national organization. The national organizations, in turn, are part of both an Area Alliance (Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada) and the World Alliance of YMCAs (World YMCA). Consequently, all YMCAs are unique, while following certain shared aims, such as the Paris Basis.
Imitator organizations include the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA), and the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA). YMCA is also the subject of Village People’s 1978 song “Y.M.C.A.”.
The YMCA spread outside the United Kingdom in part thanks to the Great Exhibition of 1851, the first in a series of World’s Fairs which was held in Hyde Park, London. Later that year there were YMCAs in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Hong Kong, and the United States.
The idea of creating a truly global movement with an international headquarters was led by Henry Dunant, Secretary of YMCA Geneva, who would later go on to found the International Committee of the Red Cross and win the first Nobel Peace Prize. Dunant successfully convinced YMCA Paris to organise the first YMCA World Conference. The Conference took place in August 1855, bringing together 99 young delegates from nine countries, held before the Exposition Universelle (1855). They discussed joining in a federation to enhance cooperation amongst individual YMCA societies. This marked the beginning of the World Alliance of YMCAs. The conference adopted the Paris Basis, a common mission for all present and future national YMCAs. Its motto was taken from the Bible, “That they all may be one” (John 17:21).
Other ecumenical bodies, such as the World YWCA, the World Council of Churches, and the World Student Christian Federation have reflected elements of the Paris Basis in their founding mission statements. In 1865, the fourth World Conference of YMCAs, held in Germany, affirmed the importance of developing the whole individual in spirit, mind, and body. The concept of physical work through sports, a new concept for the time, was also recognized as part of this “muscular Christianity”.
YMCA has cooperated with camping organizations such as Camp Fire (organization), and Girl Scouts of the USA, and Boy Scouts of America. This lasted from 1989 to 2015.
Two themes resonated during the first World Conference: the need to respect the local autonomy of YMCA societies, and the purpose of YMCA: to unite all young, male Christians for the extension and expansion of the Kingdom of God. The former idea is expressed in the preamble:
The delegates of various Young Men’s Christian Associations of Europe and America, assembled in Conference at Paris, the 22 August 1855 feeling that they are one in principle and in operation, recommend to their respective Societies to recognize with them the unity existing among their Associations, and while preserving a complete independence as to their particular organization and modes of action, to form a Confederation of secession on the following fundamental principle, such principle to be regarded as the basis of admission of other Societies in future.
The first YMCA in North America opened in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on 9 December 1851 (per YouTube.com)
First, a Story:
A cop, a cowboy, and a construction worker walk into a bar….
The bartender says “Hey fellas, the YMCA is down the street.”
Second, a Song:
Village People is an American disco group known for its on-stage costumes and suggestive lyrics in their music. The group was originally formed by French producers Jacques Morali, Henri Belolo and lead singer Victor Willis following the release of the debut album Village People, which targeted disco’s large gay audience. The group’s name refers to Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, with its reputation as a gay neighborhood. The characters were a symbolic group of American masculinity and macho gay-fantasy personas. As of 2020, Victor Willis is the only original member of the group.
The group quickly became popular and moved into the mainstream, scoring several disco and dance hits internationally, including the hit singles “Macho Man”, “In the Navy”, “Go West” and their biggest hit, “Y.M.C.A.”. In March 2020, the US Library of Congress described the last as “an American phenomenon” and added the song to the National Recording Registry, which preserves audio recordings considered to be “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.
“Y.M.C.A.” is a song by the American disco group Village People. It was released in 1978 as the only single from their third studio album, Cruisin’ (1978). The song was written by Jacques Morali (also the record’s producer) and singer Victor Willis. A medley with “Hot Cop” reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart, while the song reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in early 1979, placing behind both “Le Freak” by Chic and “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” by Rod Stewart. Outside the US, “Y.M.C.A.” reached No. 1 in the UK around the same time, becoming the group’s biggest hit. It is one of fewer than 40 singles to have sold 10 million (or more) physical copies worldwide.
The song remains popular and is played at many sporting events in the US and Europe, with crowds joining in on the dance in which arm movements are used to spell out the four letters of the song’s title. In September 2000 “Y.M.C.A.” was used as the Space Shuttle wake-up call on day 11 of STS-106. In 2009, “Y.M.C.A.” set a Guinness World Record when over 44,000 people danced to Village People’s live performance of the song at the 2008 Sun Bowl game in El Paso, Texas.
“Y.M.C.A.” is #7 on VH1’s list of “The 100 Greatest Dance Songs of the 20th Century.” In 2020, “Y.M.C.A” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. In its official press release, the Library noted that “back in its heyday, ‘Y.M.C.A.’ was a hit around the world, going to No. 1 on the charts in over 15 countries, and its ongoing popularity is evidence that, despite the naysayers, disco has never truly died.” (per Wikipedia).
Here are The Village People performing YMCA. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“We live and breathe the four core YMCA values of honesty, respect, responsibility and caring. We try to build strong families, children and communities. We promote character development and high self-esteem on the team. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe in those values. I pick my coaches with the values in mind.” – Dave Richards
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky